2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad Double Cab Review
By Jakob Hansen, 8/24/2020
Can an aging truck play off its old school feel to stay relevant in 2020?
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Toyota trucks, especially the mid-size variety, come with a certain amount of clout. Known across the globe for their unrelenting reliability, they have proven themselves time and time again as the workhorses of the world.
Here in the States, we have a different mentality towards Toyota trucks. Their unrelenting reliability isn’t trusted by businesses, farmers, and other members of the proletariat as they are in other countries. Here, middle-class America and backwoods boys have grown to love Toyotas for their daily driver reliability and off-road powerless. America’s use of Toyota trucks is far different from that of the rest of the world.
And on that note, we cue the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad.
This truck has a difficult role to fill. As a global platform, it is pervy to the needs of the majority of its customers, the workers of the world, using Tacomas as economy work trucks that will simply never break down. But here in the US and some of Europe, Toyota’s customers require a different set of needs entirely. The rugged, simplistic nature that a farmhand needs are no longer a major part of the priority.
Photo: Jakob Hansen
To fully understand what the point of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad is for, you have to first look at how the truck looks. It’s mean, it’s aggressive, it’s in your face. You are well aware that the truck is capable of crawling up a mountain and not thinking twice about it.
The slight 2-inch lift raises the truck up to a more aggressive stance and levels the front end to make it sit even higher and more pronounced.
Our particular example came equipped with the Cement Gray paint job. What is surprising is how much the primer-gray paint job actually stands out. People notice the truck and I was surprised to see how many people would check it out. It’s a good looking truck, but I did not expect it to get the same attention that a high-end sports car would get.
Here is where the Toyota Tacoma really let us down. When you first hop into the Tacoma (and we mean hop), you immediately notice the very orange trim work. While we loved the orange trim in the Toyota RAV4 Adventure, it doesn’t work as well in the Tacoma. The RAV4 was designed from the start with the orange trim in mind, on the Tacoma, it looks like someone popped off some panels and hit them with some Wal-Mart spray paint.
Next, you notice how confused the interior is. There are zero focal points on the dash and your eyes have no place to land, and there is no organization to the button layout. It is clear to us that since the initial launch in 2016 several factory options have been added, but little thought was put into the layout of their buttons.
Under the infotainment system sits three climate control dials. Directly next to that is the dial for the 4x4 controls. Directly next to that is another circle for the push-button start. Within a one foot distance, there are three different styles of circles that have nothing to do with each other. Tossed right in the middle of that are the heated mirror controls. Which is weird that there is a standalone button for that entirely (though typically the heated mirrors are roped in with the rear de-frost controls, and since the truck has no re-window defroster, they required a standalone button). Under these controls are an array of buttons that are at least shaped the same, but all look slightly different. The unthoughtful layout and cheap plastics are fairly typical for Toyota, however, and we aren’t all that surprised or disappointed with the results.
Besides the aesthetics of the interior, it’s actually quite useful. There are plenty of options including heated seats, auto climate control, comfortable seats (despite the odd extremely low seating position), and many more. The infotainment system utilizes the latest iteration of Toyota’s Entune, which is not great, but at least has all the features one would be looking for. When compared to an infotainment such as Hyundai’s, however, it’s clear Toyota has some updating to do.
For the customers that are looking at these trucks, the interior layout doesn’t seem to be a major concern. Let’s be honest, no one has ever bought a Toyota for the superior interior, you buy it for the superior reliability and mechanical peace of mind.
Driving the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad is where its clear why these things are so popular. The driving experience is simply perfect for what this truck is. It incorporates the right amount of suspension stiffness, road feel, and comfort.
Photo: Jakob Hansen
The trucks feel is how you would want a truck to ride, without any of the negatives. The engine is an old school V6 with an old school feel. Stout performance with a linear powerband, the engine is perfectly fitted for the truck. The transmission is definitely old school, and in my opinion, could use an update. However, it feels stout, strong, and shifts in a predictable fashion, just like the customers of this truck want. An update to the trans would lose this feel and lose the positive feel of the truck.
What’s nice is even with all of this old school feel, the truck still exhibits new school tech. Toyota Safety Sence is Toyota's safety suite that includes advanced features such as pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control (which turns off under 20 miles per hour which is bogus), lane departure alert (without lane keep assist), and automatic high beams.
We love that there is a truck available today that still is able to give the old school feel that the Toyota Tacoma offers with the new school tech that we have grown to expect in every new car.
No surprise here, offroad is where the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad thrived. In a world that is full of fake-offroad styling and adventure marketing, it’s refreshing to find a vehicle that is still capable out of the box.
Photo: Jakob Hansen
The Tacoma TRD Offroad has some legitimate offroad kit. The suspension lift gives the truck enhanced ground clearance, allowing it to transit over some serious terrain. There is also a solid steel skid plate under the front and in select locations to protect the precious drivetrain components from any damage.
Four wheel drive with a 4low option is expected on a truck such as this, but a locking rear differential can separate the trucks with truly ambitious offroading clout. The Tacoma then takes it one step further and allows for Multi-Terrain Control to optimize the drivetrain for any ground type, and even a Crawl Control which acts like cruise control for ultra slow offroad maneuvers. The system sounds like the truck is breaking itself to pieces when being used, but is very effective at controlling both up and downhill speed through rough terrain.
Photo: Jakob Hansen
What really impressed us was we were able to take the truck up an actual rock crawling course made for trucks with thousands of dollars of offroad accessories, and the Tacoma was able to crawl up the rocks with little to no drama. We were able to make it to the top of a very difficult crawling course with no scraping, little wheel slip, and no bottoming out.
Overall the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad is a truck for those of us that still want the feel of our first pick up, but are looking for modern tech to go along with it. It’s difficult to find a truck that can automatically stop itself when someone walks out in front of you and can crawl up the side of a mountain.
Photo: Jakob Hansen
The interior may have an odd layout, and the infotainment may need some updates, but all of that is forgiven when you drive down the road feeling like you can take on an entire zombie outbreak by your self, or run to the nearest mountain top if you can’t.
There would be little excuse for the way the Tacoma feels if it wasn’t so capable offroad, but knowing that this vehicle can take on obstacles meant for trucks or Jeeps far beyond the Taco makes up for any quibble we may have.
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Jakob is our writer with a love for all things automotive. He comes from a dealer background with experience on both sides of the fence. Knowing the system inside and out, he knows the best cars and the best