What Is the Most Capable Version of the Toyota Tacoma?

The midsize Toyota pickup offers a dizzying array of off-road configurations.

2022 Toyota TacomaToyota

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If you’re looking for a durable pickup truck, it’s hard to beat the Toyota Tacoma. These rigs have a reputation for providing years of worry-free utility. For 2023, the Trail and Nightshade Editions return along with the same six trims from 2022. If you’re looking to take your Taco off-pavement, you’ve got several options to get your heart racing.

Under the Hood

Starting with the basics, every Tacoma is available in two- or four-wheel drive. Lower trims come with a standard 2.7L four-cylinder engine. The 3.5L V6 is a better choice here, with more power. The six-speed manual ekes out the most power, while an ancient (in automotive terms) six-speed automatic is also available. As in the Toyota 4Runner, the powerplant is not the star here. The Tacoma shines thanks to its features.

Just a Warm-Up

The SR5 represents a great value with its manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) starting under $30k, though it does rise as you check the option boxes. Topping out at just over $40k, the Trail Special Edition Package includes a locking rear differential for better traction over the rough stuff and a front air dam delete for better ground clearance. There is a 1.1-inch front lift for a better approach angle while the rear gets a small half-inch lift, improving departure angle. Added goodies include skid plates, nifty 16-inch bronze wheels for a slightly wider track and more aggressive all-terrain tires. This is a great starter package.

The TRD Off-Road steps it up a notch. This truck is well-equipped with the Multi-Terrain Select technology offering five drive modes to help the truck get through a variety of terrains. You’ll also get crawl control, which functions as an off-road cruise control, keeping the truck at one of five low-speed settings so the driver need only focus on tire placement. A rear differential locker, skid plates and specially-tuned Bilstein shocks finish out the trim.

The Big Boy

If you’re after serious off-road shenanigans, you’ll have to step up to the TRD Pro. Only available with the double cab, four-wheel drive and a 5-ft bed, you’ll get everything that comes with the TRD Off-Road trim with the bonus of a front skid plate. Although ground clearance remains the same at 9.4 inches, a suspension lift gives the TRD Pro approach, departure, and breakover angles of 36.4 degrees, 24.7 degrees and 26.6 degrees, respectively.

Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with rear remote reservoirs soak up the bumps. While this isn’t a long-travel setup, these components are tuned a bit softer and allow for faster speed over tough desert terrain. Rounding out the package are 16-inch lightweight wheels that increase track width, and are wrapped in beefy Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. Some might find the standard, forward-facing Multi Terrain Monitor helpful, but the camera resolution isn’t great. You’ll find a clearer picture from Ford and Jeep.

Should you be up for the TRD Pro, you’ll pay close to $48,000 for the privilege. A similarly equipped Ford Ranger with the Tremor package is a few grand less, as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is comparable in price and also features a front differential locker. Still, the Tacoma TRD Pro represents stellar build quality and has a history of holding its value.

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Emme Hall
Emme Hall loves small convertibles and gets out to the canyons in her 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata whenever she can. You can also find her in the dirt in her lifted (yes, that's right) 2001 Mazda Miata, or racing air-cooled Volkswagens in races like the Baja 1000. She's taken first place twice in the Rebelle Rally — once driving a Jeep Wrangler and then a Rolls-Royce Cullinan the second time. She was also the first driver to take an electric vehicle to the Rebelle Rally when campaigning the Rivian R1T to a top-five finish