Road Test: 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

Being the best means never resting on your laurels, and in this case, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma gets another refresh shortly after it went through a redesign for the 2016 model year.

The Tacoma has been America’s best-selling mid-size pickup for 13 years in a row now. To stay ahead, Toyota designers and engineers are offering new tech, style, comfort, and convenience features. Toyota offered us the opportunity to evaluate a Tacoma TRD Off-Road in Barcelona Red with the top option package in order to understand all the improvements it underwent.

Trim levels aside, all Tacoma trucks now come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert, and Automatic High Beams. That’s a big deal and really makes the Tacoma feel part of the new decade.

Lane keeping assist isn’t available yet, and it’d be almost luxury-like if the DRCC could bring the Tacoma to a stop in traffic, but this is a major improvement for all 2020 Tacoma owners.

A Fresh Face

The 2020 Tacoma debuts a new, more chiseled front grille with detailing tailored to each trim level.

The big news is in the headlights, which are new, entirely LED and incredibly bright. When paired with the automatic high beams that use the standard forward-facing camera, this one of the most fantastic trucks to drive at night. LED foglights help illuminate the foreground well too.

The legendary side profile remains the same while the rear end gets new LED taillights. The bed is gets illuminated by new LED bed lamps mounted high at the center brake light.

The inner bed is made from a sheet-molded composite deck and tough, durable walls that are 10-percent lighter than steel.

The tailgate’s easy-lowering feature allows it to retract slowly to prevent it from slamming down. We highly recommend the available factory-installed tri-fold hard tonneau cover that secures gear out of sight.

The versatile bed deck features a two-tier loading and an integrated deck-rail utility system with four standard adjustable tie-down cleats. Toyota dealers offer a range of Genuine Toyota Accessories that work in conjunction with the deck rail system. The weather resistant 120V/400W power outlet at the back end of the bed is fantastic.

Comfort and Tech

In the Tacoma’s roomy cabin, and new larger multimedia touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The 8-inch touchscreen is crisp and looks fantastic!

Our smartphone felt right at home in the large Qi wireless charging area ahead of the shifter, juicing up our battery case while the cord plugged into the phone for CarPlay. What a difference in sound quality when audio is sourced over a cord versus bluetooth.

Music and podcasts came through loud and clear thanks to the JBL audio system channeling through six speakers. Spotify on Apple CarPlay in a Tacoma such a winning combo of utility and tech.

The fantastic new display also utilizes several camera inputs for the Panoramic View Monitor (PVM), providing a 360-degree view around the truck for easier, safer maneuvering in tight situations. The display lets you select front, side, or rear views for the ultimate in parking or off-roading capability.

Since we spend a lot of time in the driver’s seat, we’re glad to see 10-way power with 2-way power lumbar adjustment finally arrive. It’s a welcome addition for 2020, making long drives in the Taco much more comfortable. A power sunroof adds an air of luxury and warm weather enjoyment.

Enhanced door seals, a multi-layer acoustic windshield, sound-absorbing headliner, and a floor silencer pad help the cabin exudes a high-quality ambience with soft-wrapped trim and metallic accents.

A Smart Key sensor on the front passenger door is a welcome addition too; before only the driver’s door had the sensor.

60/40 split rear seats with adjustable headrests and under-seat storage are fantastic, look for yourself in the photo gallery at how much hidden storage the Tacoma has available.

Along with standard TSS-P, the Toyota Tacoma also touts the Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop brake override technology (SST). Every Tacoma has the driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and front and rear Roll-sensing Side Curtain Airbags.

Active head restraints for the front seats are designed to move up and slightly forward during a rear-end collision to help reduce the risk of whiplash. Additional standard safety features include a Tire Pressure Monitor System (with individual tire location alert on most grades).

TRD Off-Road

TRD engineers did a lot of tweaks to the shock and spring tuning to complement new lighter new wheels in order to improve off-road ride and handling.

On our Tacoma 4×4, 4WDemand part-time four-wheel drive uses an electronically controlled locking rear differential to provide supreme traction in off-road environments.

The TRD Off-Road uses Bilstein shocks and a fantastic Multi-Terrain Select system. With it, the driver can choose a drive mode to match different types of terrain such as loose rock, or mud and sand. Each input regulates wheel spin by adjusting throttle and brake pressure to provide optimal traction on almost any terrain.

The TRD Off-Road Locking Rear Differential, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Active Traction Control, and Crawl Control all mean the Tacoma is the most capable a truck can be. Engaging Crawl Control offers one of five low-speed settings to allow the driver to keep focus on navigating across challenging off-road terrain.

The Tow Package includes a Class IV Towing Receiver Hitch, engine oil cooler, transmission fluid cooler, power steering cooler, 130-amp alternator, 4- and 7-pin connector with converter, and Trailer-Sway Control. Tacoma can pull up to 6,800 lbs!


The 3.5-liter V6 employs Toyota’s innovative VVT-iW technology and Atkinson-cycle combustion to maximize efficiency. Toyota’s D-4S fuel injection system incorporates both direct injection and port injectors. The result is an impressive 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.

What’s still surprising is that the Tacoma V6 can be paired to either a 6-speed auto or 6-speed manual. We drove the manual two years ago and loved it, but it’s hard to beat the practicality and smoothness of a Toyota automatic. We also did better on the fuel economy front, averaging about 20 MPG in mixed driving, putting us in the middle of the 18 city, 22 highway rating.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling7
Powertrain and Fuel Economy7
Interior Fit and Finish10
Gauges and Controls10
Total Score89

Make: Toyota
Model: Tacoma
Trim Level: TRD Off-Road
Engine: 3.5L V6
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
Options: TRD Premium Off-Road Package (Double Cab A/T) with options, All Weather Floor Liners, Bed Mat, Door Sill Protectors, Glass Breakage Sensor

Base Price: $36,965
As-Tested Price: $44,267

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