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One Year in a Quicksand Tan Tacoma TRD Off-Road

Posted in Features on May 16, 2017
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The Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road won our Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road 4x4 of the Year in 2016 (May 2016). Every year we drive the winning 4x4 for a whole year to live with it and really verify its winning attributes. So we accepted the Tacoma TRD Off-Road in Quicksand Tan color and put it straight to work.

The year started out a little rough when Quicksand had a fender bender with a slow deer. It went back to Toyota for a facelift, and then it was back in action. The double-cab Tacoma is designed for that owner looking to haul stuff, haul people, go exploring, and try different terrain. And we did just that. Our Taco hauled everting from dog food to tires. We had parts for projects in the back and trash for the scrapyard. We cleaned up the Taco for date nights, and we explored deep into the desert for camping and rockcrawling. The Tacoma fulfilled every task with ease.

The new Tacoma uses an Atkinson-cycle direct-injection engine with 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. We found that the engine likes to be wound up, but it will rev all day. The 3.5L V-6 averaged 18-19 mpg over our one-year test in a variety of driving situations.

Since we have returned the truck, we really miss having a midsize do-everything machine. Sure, we have other trucks, but most are on massive tires and we never realized how nice a reliable not-too-giant daily driver could be. Don’t get us wrong—we will always modify our vehicles for more off-road capability, but the Tacoma packs so much capability from the showroom that we found it hard to leave at home. The mixture of locking differential, Crawl Mode, and skidplates meant we could take the Tacoma where most stockers don’t go.

So how does the Tacoma score after 12 months of driving? Quicksand is like a microwave oven. It’s reliable, versatile, and does its job so well we often ignore its capability and take it for granted. And maybe that’s our only real complaint—Toyota products have become appliances because they are so dependable, but they sometimes feel soulless. Personally, the styling doesn’t elicit excitement until you get behind the wheel and take them off-road and then see what they are really capable of. Eventually you find a use for them every single day. And by the end of that first year you’re not sure how you’ll live without it.

This is one of those things every truck should have: storage cubbies in the bed. The space between the bedside and fenders is often just wasted. We think every manufacturer should put storage there. We stashed our ratchet straps in these bins so we always had them for tying down our payload. The covered 110-volt plug powered by an onboard inverter is another great idea we’d like to see in the bed of every truck.
The Tacoma navigation and infotainment center worked great. The pushbutton start is something we quickly got used to; just leave the key fob in your pocket. We’re still not fans of transfer case shifters that look and feel like heater or A/C dials. Give that gearbox its own special switch or lever.
Toyota retained the low-to-the-floor seating that some drivers enjoy and others despise. Even if the ergonomics are not your favorite you will find the seats comfortable and easier for cleaning up spills, pet hair, and trail dust.
The Tacoma TRD Off-Road is not Toyota’s top-of-the-line 4x4 truck—that would be the TRD Pro—but the TRD Off-Road does have Bilstein shocks and skidplates. The skidplates do their job, but we know the TRD-Pro skids are beefier and the suspension is head-and-shoulders more sophisticated than the TRD Off-Road. Overall we found this upper-midlevel suspension more than adequate for most of our exploring and truck use.
We had the opportunity not only to test the Tacoma for a year but also go on a few adventures with Tacomas in the past 12 months. We took a TRD Off-Road to Baja Mexico on a surfing adventure and had a blast bombing around on the dunes down there. Plus, we got to ride in a TRD Pro built by Camburg Engineering in the Mint 400. Both of these adventures were filmed for our Dirt Every Day show on the Motor Trend OnDemand website and Youtube, so go check it out.


Torrance, CA 90501

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