The Goldilocks Effect

Review: The 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Is the Sweet Spot of Pickups


Cars By Photo by Sung Han
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The original mission of the pickup truck was to be a bare-bones utilitarian workhorse. But seeing as how over 2 million people this year alone have purchased a pickup, it’s clear the blue-collar automotive poster child has taken on a broader role. Not all truck buyers are ranch hands, farmers, or construction workers, so it begs the question of whether or not a full-size, work-ready truck like the Ford F-150 (also the long-running best-selling truck in America) is necessary. At nearly 19 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and weighing just shy of 5,000 pounds, the F-150, like most popular pickup trucks, is quite a lot of truck to be a lifestyle choice. The logical remedy is simple: the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road.

Massive pickups that rival small commercial rigs in terms of both torque and towing capacity are in overabundance in the marketplace. But when it comes to small-ish pickups that neither require a step stool to get in and out of nor take up your entire driveway, the choices are slim. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road, with the V6 Tow Package — a small truck with big capability — sounds like a niche vehicle within a niche category, but its balance of size and capability both on- and off-road makes it all the truck the average person would ever need without becoming an impractical behemoth.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Specs
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Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 278
Torque: 265 lb-ft
Drive System: 4×4
0–60 mph: 7.3 seconds
Fuel Economy: 18/23 mpg

Heading out to the Valley of Fire state park for Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Three, I flew into Las Vegas and then drove 60 miles to Moapa Valley to set up camp at the Logandale Trails trailhead to find that the Taco’s practicality comes in waves. You don’t realize how good it is in any given situation until you toss it in, headlights first.

Its biggest party trick is that it doesn’t feel like a four-wheelin’ pickup at all, or at least not until you want it to. Navigating the streets of Las Vegas, the Tacoma felt more like a large sedan with a big trunk than an off-road-ready 4×4. Even climbing in and out felt easier than I expected it might be. Out on the pin-straight highway, I couldn’t imagine the standard four-cylinder engine being much use of anything on its own, let alone if it were dragging over 4,000 pounds off the trailer hitch. Which is why the V6 tow package is a must when making a case for the Tacoma. Finally, out on the trails, where a gravel road gave way to lumpy boulders and sand pits, the Tacoma took it all in stride with the electronically locking diff, terrain-specific traction control and crawl control gently reminding me: Yes. This is, despite its size, a serious truck for the practical man.