The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a dated truck doing battle with a squadron of modern competitors.
Tacoma rides on an aging platform. Its cabin is small and cramped and its ride quality ranges from tolerable to not-at-all-good.
Nevertheless, Tacoma ($26,050) easily outsells fresher rivals and has for well over a decade.
Toyota’s reputation for building rugged and durable trucks is a factor. Beyond that, Tacoma scratches an itch that drives owners far off the beaten path.
It embodies a no-frills ethos and a damn-the-torpedoes focus on off-road competence. And, with rare exceptions, extreme off-road chops run counter to civilized behavior.
The Tacoma was last made-over in 2016, though its fundamentals have remained largely intact since well before that. A constant stream of updates keeps Tacoma viable.
Big-time infotainment upgrades
This year, a mid-cycle refresh includes a mild facelift — a new grille and redesigned taillights, mainly — and big-time updates to its cabin electronics. For the first time in any Toyota, Tacoma’s Entune infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and even Amazon Alexa smartphone integration.
The central touchscreen grows larger this year, to 7 inches in the base trim and 8 inches in all others.
Thicker glass for the windshield and side windows cut wind noise and, in another first, Tacoma can now had with a power-adjustable driver’s seat.
Other updates include new LED headlights for top trims. And Toyota’s Safety Sense P driver-assist suite is now standard on all Tacomas
Six model grades include the SR, SR5 ($27,875), TRD Sport ($32,785), TRD Off-Road ($34,000), TRD Pro ($43,960) and Limited ($38,790).
Buyers choose between two cab types — Access Cab and a four-door Double Cab; two bed lengths; two engine choices and two transmissions (six-speed manual/six-speed automatic).
Tacoma’s base engine is a 2.7-liter four that makes 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The up-level engine — available on SR5 and above — is a 3.5-liter V-6 that churns out 278 hp and 265 lb-ft.
On 4WD six-cylinder models, buyers choose between the automatic and a six-speed manual.
Six-cylinder Tacomas can tow up to 6,800 pounds. Four-cylinder models are rated to 3,500 pounds.
Four-wheel-drive Tacomas have a driver-selectable, part-time 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case that provides low-range gearing.
The TRD difference
The TRD models are developed by the Toyota Racing Division. They integrate technologies derived from Toyota’s experience in high-speed desert racing. Together, they account for nearly 60 percent of Tacoma sales.
TRD Off-Road and Pro models are eligible this year for a pair of new monitors: one provides front, side and rear views of the surrounding terrain during low-speed maneuvers; the other displays a ground-level view of the immediate upcoming path of travel.
We tested the top-level TRD Pro. It’s available only as a 4x4 Double Cab trim with a short bed. It adds an inch of ground clearance to Tacoma’s already lofty 9.4 inches of ground clearance.
With its aggressively tuned suspension and extra-firm shock settings, the TRD Pro transmits the impact of potholes and broken road surfaces into the cabin.
Is luxury overrated?
Other TRD Pro get includes LED headlights and daytime running lights. Black bezels embellish all exterior lights. Wheels are lightweight black alloys shod in Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires.
One sits low to the floor in the Tacoma, legs stretched out to the pedals. Its low ceiling and wide door sills make a chore of ingress and egress. The front seats are firm and comfortable, though some drivers may not find a comfortable driving position.
Ergonomics are just so-so — the reach to the touchscreen is a long one — and a deficit of soft-touch surfaces telegraph the message that opulence is sometimes overrated.
Admittedly, the Limited and TRD Pro trims nod in the direction of luxury, with their heated and leather-clad front seats.
No one is fooled, of course, but it makes no difference; this truck is about one thing above all else. If you’re serious about off-roading,
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2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Automatic
Vehicle base price: $26,050
Trim level base price: $46,665
As tested: $49,638 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Desert Air Intake; TRD Pro graphics package; TRD Pro air filter; door-sill protector; mini tie-down loop; tailgate emblem
Tow rating: 6,800-lb maximum
EPA rating: 20 combined/18 city/22 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified