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2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: Road Trip Review

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is largely unchanged from the 2019 truck. This is generally a good thing, however, as the Tacoma still dominates sales in the midsized U.S. truck market. I got my hands on this year’s truck and took it out for an adventure with my family to see what the off-road-focused TRD Pro is all about.

TRD Skid Plate

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

The Toyota Tacoma started off as a compact pickup truck when it debuted in 1995. By the time the second generation came around in 2005, it bumped up to a midsized pickup truck. The Tacoma remains in this midsized American truck category through the current third-generation, which started in 2015.

The TRD Pro version of the Tacoma hit the market in 2015 with the launch of the third-generation. It has been the range-topping off-road-focused version of the Tacoma ever since. There are only a handful of vehicles on the U.S. market that have the off-road chops that this truck has. The TRD Pro package includes 2.5-inch off-road-tuned Fox internal bypass shocks, 16-inch black alloy wheels with P265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires with Kevlar, a 1/4-inch thick aluminum skid plate, multi-terrain monitor camera view, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, and options like the Desert Air Intake (snorkel, more below) over the standard Tacoma pickup. Plus all of the TRD Pro branding, so even while picking up groceries everyone knows your tough.

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro offers very little over the 2019 truck—they are the same under the hood. Across the Tacoma trims, the most notable changes are in the infotainment system which went from a 6.1-inch screen to a 7 or 8-inch screen (depending on the trim) and the 2020 Toyota Entune suite includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Specific to the TRD Pro, the 2020 model includes Toyota’s new Multi-Terrain Monitor and Panoramic View Monitor standard (optional on the other off-road specific trims). The 16” black TRD Pro wheels are four pounds lighter than the 2019 wheels. And, the driver seat now gets 10-way power adjustments. The review truck I received is in the 2020 only TRD Pro specific Army Green color.

We already know that little will change for the 2021 TRD Pro Tacoma, over this 2020. For 2021 there will be a limited production run of a Trail Edition Tacoma, based on the SR5 trim. While we won’t get the Army Gren TRD Pro color in 2021, we will get a new special color called ‘Lunar Rock‘.

As driven, our test truck, adorned with a few factory upgrades, specced out at $49,559. The 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro MSRP starting price is $46,665.

Tacoma TRD Pro raft launch

Tacoma TRD Pro Testing

To test the 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro, I loaded up my family of four (kids now 6 and 3 years old) and a truck bed full of gear and headed out on a road trip to do a six-day river rafting trip on the Green River. We drove nearly 400 miles from Boulder, Colorado to Vernal, Utah, where we rented our raft. From Vernal we pressed on to Sand Wash Launch Area on the Green River and floated through Desolation and Gray Canyons.

On this trip we drove on Interstate freeways at speed, up and over an 11,000-foot mountain pass, along twisty canyon roads, down 35 miles of dirt road, and onto a rocky dried out river bed to load the boats. The drive was in mostly hot (90F+) temperatures, so we had the A/C blasting the whole way. It was a long day of driving with kids—both to and from the river.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro off road

I also took this off-road machine into the steep loose and rocky mountains above my home in Boulder, Colo. to see what it could really do in technical terrain. All in, for only having the truck for less than a fortnight I was able to get a pretty good feel for the truck in a wide variety of situations and environments.

Tacoma steering wheel

Handling

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro with 2.5-inch off-road TRD tuned Fox internal bypass shocks offers a good balance between comfortable street driving, taking the bumps on dirt roads at speed, and solid slow-speed off-road prowess. It feels like a truck but isn’t awkward and stiff on paved streets like some off-road-focused vehicles. It’s also not the silky luxurious feel of street only worthy SUV’s.

The 40.7 curb-to-curb turning radius was fine for our use getting to and from the river.  Only once while out crawling the trails above Boulder was there a turnaround loop at the dead-end of one trail too tight for me to make in one go.

Off-road the Tacoma did incredible. Not only did it handle the last 35 miles of well-graded dirt road at speed to get to our boat launch with ease, it also handled the gnarly rutted and boulder-strewn dirt trails near my home in Boulder with equal effortlessness. I worked my way through 2WD, 4H, 4L, and finally engaged Toyota’s Crawl Control mode. I slowly ratcheted that up as needed—it has five levels.

The tires slipped some in places. But there wasn’t anything adding a little more momentum didn’t solve. In fact, the tires slipping was probably mostly due to the stock entry-level off-road Goodyear Wrangler tires. However, I do credit not getting a flat out there to the Kevlar reinforcements in these OEM tires. The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is certainly one of the best stock off-road trucks on the market.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro truck bed

Hauling

The Tacoma TRD Pro only comes in a Double Cab and Short Bed configuration. For our rafting trip, the 5-foot bed was pretty well filled up and we used tie-downs from The Perfect Bungee to hold it all in place. The raft we rented came with a cooler (designed to fit properly in the raft frame) and since the bed was already all packed the easiest thing was to strap the rented cooler, full of the six blocks of ice needed, on the dropped tailgate. The payload limit of the 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro is 1,155 pounds, which we probably got pretty close to.

Inside, the double cab provided enough room in the front seats for my wife and I. But our two kids in the back in car seats were a little squished. The one issue some people have with the geometry of the Tacoma is how close the seat is to the floor. I never had a problem with this on our 800+ miles of driving, but folks with longer legs may not be as keen on it (I have a 33-inch inseam). Where things got really cramped was in the second row. Our kids in their inserted car seats had to sprawl their legs to fit. There’s some cargo storage under the second-row seats, but with kid’s car seats in place it made that space useless for us. Otherwise, it would be a good spot to keep emergency-related items.

The Tacoma is rated to tow 6,400 pounds with up to 640 pounds of load on the tongue. Unfortunately, we did not have something to haul to test this out.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Efficiency and Power

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Even with our load of gear in the back of the truck, the onboard computer says we still managed to average 21 mpg. I was pretty happy with that.

The Tacoma is known to be/feel a bit underpowered but I never really had a problem with the 3.5-Liter V6 DOHC 24-Valve direct-injection Atkinson-cycle engine that comes in the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro —especially when remembering to engage the ECT (Electronically Controlled Transmission) Power button. The 278 hp with 265 lb.-ft. of torque on tap got us up to speed just fine (even on the on-ramp to the freeway at 7,200 feet) and easily held freeway speed with our full load as we crested 11,000 feet in the thinner air to reach the famed I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel. I would probably feel differently if I was in the 2.7-Liter DOHC 16-Valve 4-Cylinder that comes as the standard engine on the non-off-roading Tacoma models.

TRD Pro Snorkel

Amenities

The TRD Pro trim is the top of the line off-road spec for the Tacoma. Our review truck even had a few optional extras, like the Desert Air Intake Package ($725). This is a raised air intake but isn’t fully sealed at the airbox, so does not increase the river fording depth capability. It does, however, allow the engine to draw cleaner air, which is especially helpful when traveling in convoy in dusty conditions. We also had some optional tie-down points in the bed which proved useful for our particular load heavy adventure.

2020 Tacoma center consol screen

In the cab the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system was easy to use. It is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, which I’m a big fan of. While the truck has cameras all around to assist with backing up, parking, and avoiding off-roading obstacles, the display shows a pretty low-resolution image compared to other modern vehicles which have very crisp images.

There’s a Qi charging pad in the center console as well as a single USB-A port—sadly the 2020 Tacoma has not picked up on the USB-C trend. There’s also a 12v plug in the front console and two additional USB-A ports in the center armrest storage space. That, however, was a great space to store snacks—a constant demand from the kids.

truck bed plug with 12v fridge

In the bed of the truck is a 100w/400w AC plug which worked out nicely for us. We hauled all our food in an electric Dometic fridge to transfer to the cooler that came with the raft we rented. The in-bed plug only runs at 400w when in Park, however. This is handy on a job site when you might want to run power tools. Once shifted into Drive, the plug drops to 100w, which was totally fine for our cooler. The catch with hauling a fridge, however, is every time the vehicle was turned off and on again, say to fuel up, I had to remember to turn the AC socket back on to keep the cooler running. It would otherwise warm up pretty quickly in the 90+ degree heat we were driving through.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro rear seats

Comfort

The Tacoma does not make any strong efforts towards comfort. It’s fine, but it’s not plush. That’s probably OK with most folks considering this vehicle. Over the big trip, the hard plastic armrest on the door did become noticeably uncomfortable for my elbow to rest on and I found myself avoiding resting my arm there while driving. Slightly softer was the top of the center armrest—but only slightly softer.

The seats were fine, the driver side with 10-way adjustment (new for 2020) and the passenger seat with 4-way adjustment. As mentioned earlier, the seat is pretty close to the floor and the second row is very tight. The smooth black leather-trimmed seats showed any dirt on them, but they were also easy to wipe down with a damp towel—especially after my 3-year-old son, who loves to pretend to drive, has mashed his grubby shoes all over the seat.

Family Friendly

For being a vehicle that is probably not what many families are considering, the Tacoma has some notable family-friendly features. As usual, the second-row doors had the child lock-out option. My son made sure we were glad we set that up from the start.

Also, even though there’s not much room in the second row for kid’s car seats, all of the LATCH anchor points are included and the rear u-bolt anchor tucked behind the seat isn’t too awkward to get to. Something we’ve found to be a pain in other 2-row pickup trucks, like the Honda Ridgeline.

The rear glass is tinted which is great for keeping kids comfortable (and not blinded—they’re not always the best at protecting their own eyes) and the sunroof is always a hit with kids.

As mentioned before, the lack of any power ports (or climate control) in the rear seats is an issue. Kids, and adults, these days have all sorts of electronic gadgets that need to be charged. This is especially true for long road trips, or when getting back into civilization after a week on the river.

2020 Tacoma TRD Pro Overall Impression

As mentioned above, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is easily one of the most capable stock off-road vehicles on the U.S. market. It’s a good looking truck and has a proven track record for reliability. It’s also a reasonably comfortable ride on the pavement for getting to those gnarly off-road adventures. Where it comes up short is the hard plastic interior touchpoints, low-resolution cameras, lack of charging ports, and the scrunched second row.

truck bed picnic with a view

Does all that add up to this midsized off-road-oriented pickup being worth about $50,000? Value is in the eye of the beholder.

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