The takeaway: Toyota’s Tacoma — or “Taco,” as it’s affectionately known — is one of the most iconic flat-bed vehicles the automaker has ever produced. Although it has changed relatively little over the years, it is currently the best-selling mid-size pickup on the market. This latest Trail Edition capitalizes on the Taco’s history while optimizing its off-road chops and aesthetics.
- The upgraded Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires — with Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls — provided excellent traction off-road while remaining quiet on the highway.
- Throttle response was smooth and easy to manage in difficult off-road situations.
- The suspension was super compliant over bumps without being extremely bouncy, saving my bacon the few times I rolled over unseen trail hazards.
- Base price: $39,620
- Engine: 3.5 liter V6
- Horsepower: 278
- Torque: 265 lb-ft
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic (low range)
- Drive: part-time four-wheel drive
- Fuel economy: 20 mpg (combined)
Putting the T on the track
While Toyota’s Tacoma SR5 Trail follows a simple recipe on paper, the nomenclature can be confusing. The optional accessory pack adds a myriad of off-road equipment to the SR5 spec Taco. So what exactly happens during its metamorphosis into a trail-ready machine?
For an extra $3,765, you get pretty good value for money. First and foremost, it adds a 1.1-inch lift in the front and a 0.5-inch lift in the rear, improving approach and departure angles. It also gives you bronze 16-inch wheels to make way for a hefty set of Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. Along with the flashy rims, you get a locking rear differential, which can be engaged and disengaged to keep the rear wheels spinning at the same speed; this will help you get through technical sections when the track starts to get lumpy.
As for aesthetic tweaks, the Trail package will give you classic Toyota front and rear badges – spelled out “Toyota” instead of the conventional badges – in the same bronze finish as the wheels. On the back you also get some black letters. And that’s about where the tweaks end.
Behind the wheel
Unsurprisingly, our tester felt just like any other Tacoma when riding on smooth tarmac. That said, his riding style isn’t one of its selling points. The handling of these part-time 4WD vehicles just doesn’t feel as smooth as a 4WD vehicle. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. One of my only complaints was that the steering ratio – how many revolutions it takes to go from lock to lock – was way too slow for my taste. This made low-speed maneuvers a chore with how much we had to turn the wheel.
While there were a few trivial issues when I had the Tacoma on the pavement, these paled into insignificance as the tarmac ran out. I took it to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, where the trails offered pretty much any scenario: a high-speed off-road track, rocky hill climbs that need momentum to get through, tricky rocky sections where it’s easy to get high centered, and more – to take the Taco out of its comfort zone. But all of these were an absolute drag for the Trail-equipped Toyota.
The suspension lift is by far one of the most useful additions. After taking a close look at the front bumper, I was sure it would get caught up in the hazards of the trail. While it sometimes took a bit of clever positioning to avoid scraping – often done by positioning the tires to roll over an obstacle before the undercarriage does – I’ve never had many problems. That said, when I lost focus, there were more than a few instances where the ORP skid plate protecting the underside of the vehicle made a living.
While the Tacoma’s engine often goes slack due to its lack of grit, I found it perfectly suited for off-road riding. The 3.5-litre V6 is far from the most powerful in its class (with 278 horsepower), but offers excellent throttle response for off-road situations where you have to be careful with the loud pedal. It’s also sturdy enough to tow up to 6,400 pounds. Its intuitive nature allowed me to crawl over obstacles with ease and let go of the accelerator when the wheels started to turn. Being slow and controlled in technical crawling situations will not only be easier on your vehicle, but your passenger’s skull and back will thank you.
Bed real estate
When you check the trail pack box, you get a range of storage containers that fit into the bed area, one of which can serve as a cooler. For a double cab truck it is a great addition to have passengers in the back seat. Whether you’re storing some cold ones for camping or just a few juices for your kids, you can open and close both compartments with the key ring. The driver’s side bin also has a drain plug for easy cleaning after the fun part of the adventure is over.
Luckily, when you need all 5 feet of usable space in the bed, these storage containers are removable. We didn’t have a chance to fit much more than a mountain bike in the back, but you’d have plenty of room for a dirt bike or really anything else you’d want to take with you. That’s all assuming you’re using your truck for its intended purpose in the first place.
It’s no surprise that the Tacoma’s interior has changed little over the years. In fact, it’s so unobtrusive that you’ll notice we never really talked about it. Like the 2022 4Runner, it’s a nice place to sit, but nothing groundbreaking for most buyers.
The Trail Edition is much more focused on driving dynamics and aesthetics. Compared to the TRD Off-Road trim, it looks better, and I’d also say it’s more capable of, well, off-road. However, it’s important to note that the first costs an additional $4,730 – $39,620 versus $34,890. Therefore, if you want to stand out from the crowd of countless other TRD Off-Road spec Tacomas, the Trail Edition is a great choice. But it will cost you.
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