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Is The Toyota Tacoma Good For Off-Road?

Tacoma parked in canyon landscape

While American trucks are generally considered some of the best on the market, the Toyota Tacoma is an exceptionally good truck. Well-regarded by almost anyone who likes pickup trucks, the Tacoma is a very popular choice for everyone from suburban house-dads to ranchers to campers. But is the Toyota Tacoma good for off-roading?

The Toyota Tacoma is an excellent truck for off-roading. Of course, stock Tacomas make good platforms for building your own off-roader, but the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models are highly capable off-road trucks that require little to no modification before you hit the trails. 

So is the TRD lifted? Does it come with skid plates? Is it really as good at off-roading as an American truck or a Jeep? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.

The Toyota Tacoma: Rugged, Beautiful, Fun

The Toyota Tacoma was born in 1995 as the next generation of the classic Toyota Hilux, sometimes just called the Toyota Pickup. Toyota recognized that people wanted a truck that could offer them both comfort and capability. So over the years, they have refined the Tacoma into one of the most popular trucks on the market.

Today’s Tacoma offers consumers tons of choices in terms of trim and configuration, so your Tacoma is comfortable whether it’s going to be working on a job site or hauling groceries back home.

Most importantly, the Tacoma offers two manufacturer-built trim levels that are engineered explicitly for off-roading. The TRD and TRD Pro models are designed from the ground up to get off the road and go play in the woods.

The TRD Pro even comes with a snorkel to keep your engine breathing clean, dry air! The Tacoma has a solid reputation as a durable, capable truck that will go pretty much wherever you tell it to with no issue.

Automatic transmissions are great for driving in traffic and even for some off-road activities. However, the ability to exercise fine control over your vehicle is essential for off-roading, and many off-road enthusiasts prefer driving stick. Plus, driving a stick is way more fun! 

The Tacoma TRD and TRD Pro come with an available six-speed manual stick shift for those of us who like to run through the gears.

The snorkel and the option for a manual transmission are nice, but the Tacoma TRD and TRD Pro have several other options that make them exceptional off-road vehicles.

Silver Toyota truck on highway

The Tacoma has part-time four-wheel drive, so you can engage all tires when needed in rough terrain. The TRD models also sport a specially tuned suspension, improved shocks, and a locking rear differential.

Not only is the Tacoma a great off-roader, but it also has enough manners to drive on the highway or in the neighborhood without attracting undue attention.

The Tacoma is tall enough to provide a good view without being massive, and the cabin is roomy enough to bring friends along for the ride. In addition, it makes a great daily driver, so you can enjoy an off-road vehicle without needing to assume a separate car payment.

Another feature that makes the Tacoma such a good off-road truck is the dual-range transfer case. What the heck does that mean? In simple terms, it means that the Tacoma’s four-wheel-drive system has special gearing that helps it perform better at low speeds. So, for example, if you’re crossing a muddy creek or driving on new snow, having better low-speed torque output will help you keep control of your truck.

Is TRD Off-road Lifted?

The 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro comes with a factory-installed 1.5-inch lift kit. Other Tacoma models don’t come lifted but can be modified with a TRD lift kit. The kits cost about $1,450 and can be installed by your Toyota dealer. If you’re a mechanically-inclined person, you could probably DIY it, but be aware that this will void the warranty.

Does the TRD Off-road Sit Higher?

All of the stock Tacomas have a decent height to them. The Tacoma TRD sits at the same height as the stock Tacoma, about 70 inches off the ground with about 9 ½ inches of ground clearance. The TRD Pro does have about two inches of additional height and clearance over other Tacoma models. Of course, if you need a higher viewpoint or more clearance, you can always install some after-market lifts.

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Which is Better, TRD Sport or TRD Off-Road?

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road have a lot of things in common. Both come with Toyota’s 3.5-liter V6 engine with about 278 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque. In addition, both have rear-wheel and four-wheel drive options and can be equipped with a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.

The TRD Sport is more focused on ride quality. It comes with an air dam and a hood scoop. The sport’s suspension is tuned for street driving, so if you’re planning to primarily use your Tacoma for driving to work and back with occasional trips to the wilderness on the weekends, the TRD Sport may be a better option for you.

The TRD Off-Road is built for off-road conditions. If you do serious off-roading, this model is better for you. Instead of the hood scoop and air dam, it comes with a locking rear differential, improved shocks, upgraded traction control, and Toyota’s crawl control, which is essentially a low-speed cruise control option. In addition, the suspension of the TRD Off-Road is tuned for off-road driving, so it may feel a little stiffer on the pavement.

Cream colored Toyota truck parked on dirt

Do all Tacomas Have Crawl Control? 

Not every Tacoma has crawl control, but the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models do. Crawl control is Toyota’s low-speed cruise option that is designed to be used in rough conditions. Driving over large rocks, boulders, logs, or other unimproved and bumpy terrains can be very challenging for drivers. Crawl control manages the throttle and braking for each wheel independently so that the driver can focus on steering the vehicle through the obstacles.

Crawl control works through a series of sensors in the vehicle’s electronic stability control (ESC) system. These sensors feed data to the Crawl Control computer, which then applies power and braking to specific wheels to keep the truck moving forward. Drivers set their speed from one to five miles per hour, and crawl control does the rest.

Do all TRD Tacoma’s Have Locking Diff?

differential is a component that helps cars turn corners. When a vehicle turns a corner, the outside wheel has to travel farther and faster than the inside wheel. The differential is a special kind of gearbox that helps wheels turn at different rates as the vehicle negotiates turns. This works well in normal turns.

Unfortunately, if you are off-roading, you will find many situations where your tires don’t all have traction. In this case, the differential will continue to push power to the wheels that are stuck, which is a waste of power and can end up digging your wheels down into mud or just spinning a tire for no reason.

Tacoma truck in front of sand dunes

Locking differentials are designed to push all available torque to the tire that has traction. For example, if your Tacoma is out on some slippery fall leaves or in a muddy environment, you might encounter situations where some of your tires don’t have any traction. Without a locking differential, the truck will still deliver power to that wheel, which is useless since the wheel has no grip! With a locking differential, all available torque is routed to functional tires.

In other words, if you have a wheel in the air or in the mud, your locking differential will know not to send power to it. Instead, the power will be routed to whichever wheel or wheels have traction, which helps move your truck out of slick situations.

Does TRD Off-road Come with Skid Plates?

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro comes with stock skid plates, but the TRD Off-Road model does notSkid plates are metal plates that are installed along the undercarriage of a truck or jeep to keep sensitive components like the differential, the oil pan, and the transmission from suffering damage while off-roading.

You can off-road without skid plates, but you can also drive without a seatbelt on or consume a gallon of coffee in one sitting. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. We would strongly recommend that you install skid plates if you plan on off-roading.

The Tacoma: Road Tested, Off-Road Approved

Toyota has a reputation for excellence. The Toyota Tacoma is one of their most popular vehicles, especially among outdoorsy folks and people who like to travel off the beaten path. If you’re looking for a truck to take off-road, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro are two of the very best trucks you could buy.

You’ll enjoy your Tacoma whether you’re on the way to the office or heading to the moguls for a fun weekend of off-road trekking. The Toyota Tacoma is an excellent truck for off-roading!

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.