2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road review: A properly rugged midsize truck

For 16 years, Toyota Tacoma has remained at the top of the midsize pickup sales charts thanks in part to its excellent reputation and excellent resale value. Although the midsize truck class has grown in recent years to include a reborn Ford Ranger and a new Jeep Gladiator, Toyota continues to dominate the roost with a Tacoma range that includes more than 30 configurations, all of which feature beautiful looks, a lot of utility and adequate on-road and off-road capability. And after spending a week with what is now a 6-year-old truck, all the things that contribute to the Tacoma’s enduring appeal come to mind again.

Like it

  • Robust style
  • Smooth V6
  • composed turn

I do not like

  • Limited headroom
  • Not great fuel economy
  • It gets expensive

Robust appearance

Even though the current Tacoma generation is aging, it is still an attractive rig. The blockier looks are even more reinforced on my TRD Off-Road tester with a very interesting military green paint job and a contrasting black fender trim. Mounts on 16-inch slick wheels wrapped in meaty Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires, black tube steps and TRD skid plates, and this truck looks more than ready to play in the dirt.

Inside the Taco, the square dash continues the sturdy design theme and much of the cabin is built with acres of hard, pleasantly grainy plastic that is easy to clean and should look good for years to come. Don’t worry, it’s not always all hard plastic, with key points like the leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob and padded vinyl-covered armrests. The front seat cushions are firm and their minimal support allows them to adapt to a variety of body types.

Being a 5ft 6in shorter person, I have no problem with space or finding a comfortable sitting position behind the wheel of the Tacoma, however, I can understand why my taller colleagues have had no problems here. There isn’t a ton of headroom in either row, and the rear legroom in my Double Cab tester isn’t lavish. Again, if four or five Jon Wongs have to go somewhere, they’ll be fine. Four or five Craig Coles or Andrew Kroks, however, will be a different and less comfortable story.

Storage space is admirable with large door pockets, center console compartments, a decent-sized center armrest console, huge glove box, and a couple of storage boxes tucked under the lower rear seat cushions. Of course, there is the 5ft long bed at the back, which comes with a molded cover and an attached side rail that is sure to come in handy for supplying household items or running flat-packed furniture.

Adequate technology

Most Tacoma models are equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The base Tacoma SR models are the only ones that don’t have this screen and instead get a 7-inch unit, while goodies like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa are finally standard across the board. Also, my tester comes with a JBL audio setup, navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, and Bluetooth.

Nothing fancy to look at, but it now has standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

The TRD Off-Road’s 8-inch touchscreen takes a significant second to cycle through menu screens and calculate navigation routes. The menu layouts themselves are simple to elaborate, but far from visually compelling. My favorite aspect of the system is that Toyota retains physical shortcut buttons flanking both sides of the screen for easy access to popular menus such as home, audio, and map screens.

To power up any smart device, the TRD Off-Road has a 12-volt socket and wireless charging pad at the base of the center console, while there are USB-A and USB-C ports in the center armrest. Unfortunately, rear seat passengers don’t have power ports within easy reach.

On the safety technology front, the Toyota Safety Sense feature suite is standard on all Tacomas. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beam. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts are available as options and installed on my TRD Off-Road.

The Tacoma’s cabin has a variety of power outlets in front, but nothing within easy reach behind.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

Ride like a truck

Toyota offers two engines in the Tacoma, with a base 2.7-liter I4 churning out 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque providing adequate horsepower. The TRD Off-Road and other taller trims come with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft. The V6 offers enough grunt from the line but feels the most energetic from around 3,500rpm and up, making the job of casting and freeway passing quite easy. And when it’s time to do some real work, my test truck can pull up to 6,400lbs with a 1,155lb payload.

Traditionalists will be happy to know that Tacomas you can have it with a six-speed manual transmission, but my tester is equipped with an optional six-speed automatic that helps to return 18 mpg estimated by the EPA that is less than spectacular in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. In real-world tests, I observed 19 mpg.

For the most part, the shifter returns smooth, sufficiently quick and timely gear changes suitable for a pickup. However, an awkward and awkward downshift occasionally occurs when you slow down and turn the throttle back on before coming to a complete stop.

Bilstein shock absorbers give the Tacoma TRD Off-Road an edge when venturing off the pavement.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

The highlight of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is all the hardware to make it handle better, well, off-road. The list includes part-time all-wheel drive (two-wheel drive is also available), a lockable rear differential, specially tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, Goodyear tires, hill start assist and Crawl Control which is essentially low speed. -road cruise control to allow drivers to focus on steering through rock obstacles.

Unfortunately, extending my off-road vehicle involves rolling on unpaved lots, but I can say it’s not bad on the road at all. Sure, things get unstable on the bumps before the body recovers and around corners the Tacoma doesn’t shift noticeably. The steering is direct (for a truck), the brakes are strong and sticky at first, and there’s some tire noise to speak of, but all in all, the Tacoma is completely reasonable for daily drives. If driving quality on the road is a top priority, perhaps don’t buy the TRD Off-Road trim. Or maybe go buy a Honda Ridgeline instead.

How would I specify it

As much as you love the look of the Tacoma TRD Pro and the interesting factor of knowing that it can go almost anywhere out of the way, the $ 45,000 base price tag attached to the King of the Hill model is steep. Instead, I’d stick to a military green TRD off-road double cab with four-wheel drive and a 5-foot bed like my test truck. I would also keep the automatic transmission as it would be a daily driver, with a price starting at $ 38,705 including destination.

This Tacoma TRD Off-Road as stickers tested for nearly $ 47,000.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

From there, I’ll be launching a $ 2,790 Premium Audio and Navigation package that also includes the tech package for must-haves like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic warning, a nicer sound system, and LED headlights to replace the Standard Tacoma Halogen Set. To further dress up the exterior and add functionality, I want the $ 469 oval tube steps, the $ 499 TRD front skid plate, the $ 160 black emblem overlays and the $ 129 fenders. And finally, inside. , I’ll be giving away $ 169 for all-weather rubber floor mats, bringing my Tacoma’s bottom line to $ 42,921. Far from cheap, but it’s cheaper than the $ 46,894 truck pictured here.

True to its roots

While some of the Roadshow staff continue to be baffled by the Tacoma’s popularity, I think I have a good understanding of why it’s so successful. In addition to reliability and resale, the Tacoma is a simple and straightforward truck. It looks like a truck, drives like a truck, and offers respectable towing and hauling capabilities, while having enough comfort to make it livable. Nothing more. Nothing less.