Quick Spin

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Drivers' Notes Review | Facing the heat

Toyota's icon is no longer the obvious go-to truck

  • Image Credit: Toyota
Autoblog Rating

Extremely competent off-road, the Tacoma's on-road performance is hampered by a lackluster lineup of engines and some significant ergonomic limitations. Its styling divides the staff, but Toyota's infotainment system is universally panned. Safety and projected reliability are high points.

  • Engine
    3.5L V6
  • Power
    276 HP / 265 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    Four-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    4,480 LBS
  • Towing
    6,400 LBS
  • Seating
  • MPG
    18 City / 23 Highway
  • Warranty
    3 Year / 36,000 Mile
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
For years, the Toyota Tacoma ruled the midsize truck roost. Sure, the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon and Nissan Frontier had some success, but they were mostly bit players. The Taco was king in both performance and sales figures. That's not the case anymore. Since Chevy introduced the second-gen Colorado and variants like the Colorado ZR2, the Taco has had some serious competition. Sales are still strong, but it's facing competitors that are stronger than ever.

Our test truck is a Tacoma TRD Off Road 4x4 Double Cab Long Bed, meaning it's the biggest Tacoma Toyota builds. Only the TRD Pro trim sits above it. Standard features include a two-speed transfer case, a limited-slip differential, a locking rear diff, Bilstein shocks, crawl control and 16-inch wheels with relatively knobby tires. This truck has a few options, including a $650 factory tonneau cover, a $120 bed mat, $129 mud guards and a $3,035 premium package. The latter includes a JBL audio system, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, automatic headlamps and a moonroof.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: Toyota must be selling these Tacomas on name, style and off-road ability alone because I can't think of any other good reasons to buy this over something else. Seriously, this truck feels about 15 years behind the times when it comes to on-road driving. The engine feels underpowered and noisy, the transmission takes longer to shift than me when I'm getting out of bed, and the handling, oh the handling. Turn-in is slow, the steering is vague, and there's no grip. The body lists, the whole thing feels more ship-like than road vehicle.

It's a real bummer because the truck looks quite good inside and out, especially in the solid light brown color of our test vehicle. It manages to avoid having the thick slab sides of most other modern pickups. It actually looks somewhat nimble and small(ish), it just doesn't drive like it. The interior is attractive, too, with chunky, beveled designs all over that feel like someone actually cared about the look, which is more than I can say for most midsize pickups.

Even here, though, there are issues. Like almost every Toyota, it's way behind the times when it comes to infotainment. It does basic stuff fine, but it's still missing standards such as CarPlay and Android Auto. The seating position isn't particularly comfortable, either.

But hey, if all you want is a good-looking truck with a high resale value and likely solid reliability, then the Tacoma will be fine for you.

Video Production Manager Eddie Sabatini: The TRD trim makes the Tacoma one of the best-looking midsize pickups on the market. I also found the acceleration to be good on this truck, and I did like the feel of the cloth interior, but the admiration stops there. I'd prefer any Colorado or Canyon to the current offering of the Tacoma. No, I didn't take the Tacoma TRD Off Road off-road, but I didn't need to take the Colorado ZR2 off-roading to enjoy driving it. The 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road felt in desperate need of updating — from the infotainment system to the driving dynamics. Pass me the tacos, but I'm gonna pass on the Taco.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: Man, what a bummer this truck is. I want to love the Taco. I want to be head over heels for it. Frankly, it's underwhelming in nearly every aspect, from handling to the powertrain to the subpar infotainment system. Like Joel said, Toyota has to be making sales on name recognition and resale value, because this truck is kinda miserable anywhere that doesn't take advantage of its sizable off-road prowess.

The engine, despite being new when the truck debuted, is coarse and sluggish. Part of that is the abhorrent transmission. I can't remember the last time I despised an automatic as much as this one. It's so eager to save fuel that it's constantly upshifting. That means you need to wait for a downshift if you want to pass. Sport mode fixes this a bit, but I'd love to drive a manual-equipped Taco and skip the auto altogether.

The brakes are grabby and the travel is too short. Because the suspension is so soft, the truck experiences more nosedive than an oxcart. The steering is slow and heavy, and the wheel itself doesn't telescope enough. The sitting posistion — always an issue in Tacomas — is awkward. The cab is short in height in order to improve ground clearance, but it means you're forced to sit further back than you'd normally prefer.

It's not all bad. Aside from the chrome grille on our tester, I dig the exterior design. It's rugged and sporty and far more handsome than most of the full-size competition. There are some interesting paint colors, too. The interior has a nice layout, though it's not perfect and I'm not a big fan of some of the materials, especially the weird rubber in the doors and dash. And of course it's excellent off-road. I've driven various Tacos over the past few years, and all of my complaints about on-road performance don't matter when you're crawling along in four-low.

If you value off-road capability over everything else (and can't shell out for the Colorado ZR2), then the Taco is the truck for you. For everyone else, stick with the GM twins or maybe hold out for the new Ranger or Jeep Scrambler.

Related Video:

Toyota Tacoma Information

Toyota Tacoma

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

Share This Photo X