What it's like owning a 2020 Tacoma TRD Off-Road
This new Tacoma TRD Off-Road is the banana split with extra sprinkles - the cherry can be added later.
In the way-way back, I was once a youthful college student with a 1992 Nissan 300zx. The car was an absolute nightmare to fix and it quickly drained my wallet to the point of poverty. This somehow was not the worst part of ownership.
The worst thing by far was the incessant questions of passerby's of, "Is it a Twin Turbo". No. No it wasn't. I always felt like I was cheated. I didn't have all the bells and whistles - so then why did I just buy the SECOND highest trim level Tacoma?! Have I learned nothing?! As it turns out, I've learned quite a bit.
How did I end up here?
My search for a truck did not start at the Tacoma. It began with a desire for a new Ram 3500 Cummins, wound its way around to a Ford Raptor, and by eventually I was grounded by monthly payments and the MSRP to the Tacoma. None of these trucks were likely to lose their value at meteoric speeds, but the Tacoma was a full $20,000 MSRP cheaper than the other two (at the trim levels I desired).
Twenty-grand?! It was a hard argument to discuss. I didn't need a diesel nor a desert jumping machine. The Tacoma ticked all the NEED boxes with a few WANTS omitted in the interest of wealth-preservation.
Deciding on the TRIM level.
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma has trim levels that span a wide breadth of time and space. There is the poverty-spec level SR at $26,000, all the way up to the BRO-tastic TRD Pro at $43,000. Peeling away the layers, I soon found a common theme with each trim and quickly decided the Pro was for me.
I wasn't going to mess around with the 'tire kickers' with questions of "Is that a Pro?" I needed the top-level trim level. I wasn't going to let anyone show me down with a Pro on the trail. I was going to be their equal. I wanted the Pro. Why didn't I buy one then?!
Finding a Pro ended up being more trouble than I'd thought. The price of $42,000 MSRP was a bit of a fallacy too. The Pro I found was $54,000. I was closing in on the price of a base Ford Raptor or even a moderately equipped Ram 3500 Cummins. When you spend tens of thousands of dollars, what's another ten thousand on top? Chump change?
Ten-grand is still TEN-grand.
I had no intention of justifying the Pro. At $54,000, I was having the argument to spend a bit more and get the Raptor. The point was to save a little bit of money, while still getting a highly desirable pickup with hero-capabilities.
Just shy of the Pro is the Limited which is exactly what you're familiar with - more chrome and leather and a nice sound system. The Limited isn't a stripped out Pro, it's something else entirely. The Off-Road is the stripped out Pro. You can get all the electronic do-dads with the Off-Road that would be impossible to swap in later. The remaining parts the Pro gets are bolt-ons.
What's the difference between Pro and OR?
It is true, you don't get an as capable truck with the Off-Road as you do with the Pro. The Off-Road is about 80% of the Pro with the remainder being BOLT ON PARTS.
No one would ever swap in the electronic harnesses for the Multi-terrain Select (MTS), Crawl Control, or the Multi-terrain Monitor (MTM). What any gearhead would do is change the shocks, add skid plates, maybe an exhaust, or even different lights - which is almost exactly what a Pro has over the Off-Road.
The Pro receives the FOX shocks, Rigid fog lights, special skid plates, special exhaust, different badges, and even different stitching on the front seats, different wheels, but that's about it. The Pro does get a standard 'Premium Package' that is available for the Off-Road - a no brainer decision in my mind as you get the leather seats, JBL stereo, LED lights, HomeLink, moonroof, and dual-zone climate control.
Always be thinking upgrades.
The Pro is the truck you'd never want to upgrade, whereas the Off-Road is the perfect candidate. I have a gut feeling the Pro will be the collector's item one day everyone will want unmodified. No one is going to be hermetically sealing Off-Road model trucks into a collection - you will see this happening to the Pro. The Pro is the perfect truck for no mods, but where is the fun in that?!
The Off-Road gives you everything you couldn't or wouldn't swap in. It has all the electronics, the available lighting, and cameras to cover all angles of the trail. It comes stock with Bilstein 4600s that are better than standard, yet not as competent as the Pro's FOX shocks. This difference gives the Off-Road a slight disadvantage in the Approach/Departure/Break Over stats with 32/23.5/21 vs. the Pro's 35/19.1/23.9. Ground clearance is the same at 9.4.
There are plenty of cars and trucks that contain a trim level you couldn't build with any sane budget. Think about all the people with a 3000gt SL that wanted the VR-4, or anyone with a gasoline pickup when they wanted the diesel, even worse with the e30 325is vs. the e30 M3. Drivetrain swaps are typically the "easiest" yet they're not always cost-effective. Anything requiring numerous electronic harnesses, sensors, and body modifications will make the upper trim levels especially unique and desirable.
Pet peeves of this truck.
The interior - by far is the worst part of this truck. It is cramped. This is a small truck. I was a bit proactive by installing covers over the back of the front seats to prevent my kids from destroying them as they enjoy resting and kicking their feet. And by kids I mean those still in booster seats. As they get older this will be less of a problem, but you don't want to sit in the back as an adult either.
It isn't fuel-efficient. Apparently small truck - a relative term for today - doesn't mean superior fuel mileage. I'm getting around 18 miles per gallon which isn't much better than the 1992 Ford Ranger four-by-four we had when I was a kid. In the last near 30 years we've increased the mileage on a midsize pickup by two or four miles per - we shouldn't be happy about this.
The Toyota tax. I paid $46,000 for this truck out the door. It felt like highway robbery. I didn't fight back as I wanted a specific truck and I'd be damned if I let my better financial sense tell me otherwise. This doesn't have to be you though - there are more affordable options. If you want to spend less consider the 4wd SR5 or a non-Premium Off-Road.
It feels gutless. The truck wants to sit at 1800 RPM anytime you don't have your foot stuffed to the floor. It does scoot along when you really give it the beans, but I don't like the lack of urgency anytime you have a momentary lapse in spirited driving. I've already been looking at the aftermarket for a supercharger - unfortunately, it isn't CARB approved for California yet...
The Toyota Tacoma is a good truck. You won't lose a ton of money, they're desirable, handsome looking, and capable of conquering the great American west in even lower-trim specs. It needs more power and a bit more interior room. These however are everyday complaints.
Mine won't stay as a daily driver for long. I bought mine to eventually turn it into a toy. A toy to tackle the famous four-wheel-drive trails - including but not limited to Black Bear and the Rubicon - I've always wanted to complete. Someday... soon.
If you're in the market for a midsize truck, I personally don't see a better overall option. If I had to eliminate the Tacoma, I'd be looking at the Gladiator or even the diesel Colorado. The Ford Ranger Tremor might be the right truck IF they finally give us a diesel with it. The Toyota would be near perfect in my mind if they'd offer it with a diesel. I can forgive the lack of speed for gobs of torque.
I don't think I'll be bothered much by comments of "Is that a PRO?" either. I'll never be that guy with the best possible trim spec. I'd rather take something very close to the best, and improve it to my own higher standard.