GARAGE -A- BILLY GOAT: In an American world the crew cab half ton pickup trucks garner all the the heavy towing and glamour accolades. However, praise for the full size pickup truck ends in front of a typical Yankee house garage, perpendicular parking space or narrow rutted dirt road where mid-size pickup excels.
MAKE AN UPDATED RUN FOR THE BORDER: Among middle pickup truck children the Tacoma perennially leads the segment’s charts. Credit that to the brand’s reliability and the platform’s readiness for off road tuning unlike any other. With a visual refresh just a year gone, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 arrives just short of the factory’s most capable water fording TRD Taco.
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WHAT: 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4×4 Double Cab. This year’s new trim offering for last year’s mid-cycle refresh of 3rd generation mid-size Toyota pick-up truck. The N300 series Tacoma debuted in 2016, when it was tested by sibling outlet, ChicagoNow “Drive…He Said”. One year ago the 5th generation of [formerly known as Dodge] RAM pickup truck was unveiled to the North American market with a designation code of DT, replacing the
Standard Powertrain: 2.7L 16V SEFI DOHC VVT x2, gas I-4 + 6-speed torque converter planetary automatic transmission = 159 hp, 180 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm.
Optional Powertrain: 3.5L 24V DI DOHC VVT x2, gas V-6 w/ Atkinson cycle capability + 6-speed manual helical transmission or OPTIONAL: 6-speed torque converter planetary automatic transmission = 278 hp, 260 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm.
Optional Drivetrain: 2-speed part time electronic transfer case 4-wheel drive to an open front & E-limited slip rear differentials.
- 2021 Tacoma 3.5L V-6 @ = -3 hp, -45 lb-ft vs. Ford Ranger 2.3T -17 hp, +2- lb-ft; vs. GMC Canyon 3.6L
+1 Gated center console transmission gear selector = Suits traditionalists perfectly fine
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE(S): This mid-cycle refresh of the original 3rd generation Tacoma consists of the subtlest of facelifts. The trapezoid grille either gains an extra horizontal bar for SR5 and Limited trims, goes all dark lattice in TRD Sport and TRD Off Road, or dons a single taller bar with bold TOYOTA lettering on TRD Pro. Bumpers and lower fascia corners also receive lattice trimmed revisioning. It’s topped off with headlights housings with revised C outlining LED DRLs. Nothing aft of the visage has changed from the wide flared wheel arches, the bold mid body creasing, the boomerang wrap around vertical taillamps, to the lower liftgate arched recess containing a “TACOMA” lettering imprint
- The Tacoma Off Road 4×4 tester was dipped in a rather military “Army Green,” and added tubular running boards, body colored wing mirrors and bumper covers, darkened window framing, wide mud flaps, machined contrast darkened alloy wheels and a composite box liner.
WHY: In 20 years will any other brand be able to boast that 80% of their mid-size pickup trucks are still running strong on the road?
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2021
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: High four-wheel drive on the fly is but a twist of the electronic two-speed helical gear transfer case selector knob. Where paved roadway ends, the amply articulated all-terrain Goodyears dig in while a TRD alloy skid engine plate protects below.
- ALL TERRAIN SELECT: adjusts throttle + transmission for Loose rock, Mud, or Sand conditions
- CRAWL Mode automatic acceleration & braking in rough terrain – overhead console dial
HOW STRONG: Throttling intake noise gas from 3.5L twin-cam V-6 is amplified by the high flow washable gauze air filter. A fitted TRD exhaust is lends a gravely voice 24/7. None of these performance dressings actually increase the power and torque bottom line. The powerplant is tied to a manumatic 6-speed planetary automatic transmission, which hangs on momentarily before upshifting. Blessed be Taco’s gated shift lever pattern, for it is intuitive. Electronically actuated though it is, the chain rotated helical two-speed transfer case whirs a bit loudly. Stroke reducing Atkinson cycle low demand throttling can’t pluck the fuel economy from a half-ton pick-ups consumption.
HOW LIMBER: The double wishbone front end and leaf springs supported by a solid rear axle deliver on some reasonably sharp turn despite riding on all-terrain Goodyears with tall sidewalls. Bilstein monotube dampers successfully tame jitter and jostle, the setup works hard to rebuff lean. in for something with so much suspension travel. Leaf springs holding up the back Combined with active grille shutters this drag reduction helps slow the fuel sipping. One of the last of the conventional hydraulically assisted pinion steering racks is weighted for slow windup. Since front brakes do most of the slowing the twin piston front disc calipers are up to the task despite rear drum binders.
HOW FAR: 18 mpg combined fuel economy; 485 miles highway range on 87 octane unleaded gasoline
- vs. Ford Ranger = -18% mpg; vs. GMC Canyon = same mpg
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ Fits inside a 20 foot garage; √ Totes five average sized elders; -1 Short floor to seat cushion height demands knee bending.
HOW USEFUL: √ Power sliding backlight window; √ Box J-Channel sliding cleats; √ standard Composite bed liner; √ Wide full cab length running boards; √ Folding wing mirrors with embedded directional lamps; √ Easy action tailgate hinges; √ White LED overhead bed & under-rail lights ; √ 60:40% split 2nd Row bench w/ fold-forward cushions, fold-down channeled hard backs; √ Cargo bed 1 x 115V, 400W outlet; √ 1st & 2nd Row door pocket management. OPTIONAL: ♦ Folding bed tonneau; -1 No 2nd Row subfloor storage
TOWING & CARRYING: Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Double Cab 4×4: √ Tow Rating (at tongue) = 6400 lbs.; √ Payload Rating = 1175 lbs.
- Towing = -1100 lbs. vs. Ford Ranger FX-4 ; -600 lbs. vs. GMC Canyon
HOW SAFE: IIHS Top Safety Pick; STANDARD: √ 8 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; SAFETY SENSE P: √ Audible front & rear park warning; √ Roll mitigation; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; √ Adaptive cruise control, partial; √ Forward collision avoidance braking w/ pedestrian detection; √ Lane departure warning, audible w/ slight tug.
AVAILABLE (included in test vehicle)
- ♦ Surround view cameras; ♦ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic warning; Front & rear sonar audible/ visible park warning
HOW FRIENDLY: Tacoma’s cabin controls are spelled out in sensible Toyota ergonomics. Switchgear is work glove operable. Surface are robust while little beyond the circular climate vents is visually captivating in shape or finish. Decent cushion comfort is only held back by a tight seat to pedal distance.
√ Leather seats, heated front, driver: 6-way power; √ Pillar grab handles x 2 (front row); √ Dual analog gauge cluster flanking colorized multi-function LCD display; √ Power locks, windows, express driver’s; Proximity keyless entry, push button ignition; √ Tilt/ telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel w/ horizontal spoke ventral side MFI & driver assist controls; √ 2-zone auto climate control; √ 2nd Row privacy glass; Cupholders x 4, Door bottle holders x 4; √ Power moonroof
Details Done Right: +1 Simple to master gauge cluster MFI display; Row -able during slumber gated transmission shift lever; Dash mount rotary electronic transfer case dial control; Work related controls work glove handed operational
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Partly hidden and sunwashed LCD climate display; Hard dark large grain plastics dominate below the belt; Powertrain noise and vibration penetrates cabin; Ceiling rather than pillar grab handles in 2nd Row.
HOW CONNECTED: √ Dash embedded tri-pane 8.0″ touch LCD media screen; √ Voice command, hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD cloud Navigation + voice guidance; √ SMS text messaging; √ Siri Eyes, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto mobile app projection; √ 7-speaker, 400 Watts JBL premium HD radio streaming audio; √ USB-Ax 2, USB-C x 1, 12V x 1; Qi inductive wireless device charging tray.
- +1 Middle dash embedded media display
- -1 USB-C buried in center armrest storage bin; No in cabin 115 VAC power outlet; Muddied audio system high frequency
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:
Free Apps: ♦ Entune 3.0 = limited to Amazon Alexa (NOW DEFUNCT: XLive, I-Heart, NPR One, Yelp, Sports, Fuel Prices, Stock values, Facebook, Movie Tickets)
By Subscription (trial): ♦ Sirius XM radio (3 mo.); ♦ WiFi by AT&T (2 GB trial); ♦ Toyota Connected Services (3 yrs.)
- +1 Good resolution media touch screen; Android Auto, cheers, IS HERE!!
- -1 No 2nd Row USB ports
HOW MUCH: $46,464 for a 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4×4 Double Cab
WHAT’S MISSING: How about an AC power outlet in the cabin.
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Ranger 4×4: +1 fuel economy, quicker; GMC Canyon 4×4: +1 cabin comfort, powertrain sound isolation
FINAL SAY-SO: Princely portable off-road pickup truck drafted into military garb
(Contributing Editor: S. Frissell)