The Toyota Tacoma has been cleaning up in the North American midsize truck market for years, but with both Ford and GM back in the game, and the Jeep Gladiator providing a new take on the formula – albeit at a higher price point – competition is as stiff as it’s ever been.
The 2020 model year has brought a host of upgrades aimed at keeping the Tacoma ahead of the pack. We spent a week with a Tacoma 4×4 Double Cab TRD Off RD Premium to see how it shaped up.
Toyota Tacoma 4×4 Double Cab TRD Off RD Premium pricing
Our test truck retails in Canada for C$46,750 (MSRP before taxes and charges). The model grades are different in the USA, but the closest model is the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, which has an MSRP of US$34,000.
By way of context, the cheapest Tacoma in Canada starts at C$37,450 (4×4 Access Cab) and rises to C$57,350 (Double Cab TRD Pro with desert air intake). In the US, the range runs from the 2WD SR Access Cab long bed (US$26,050) to the 4×4 TRD Pro Double Cab (US$46,665).
Click here for more on Tacoma pricing, which rose slightly for the 2020 model.
Tacoma exterior styling
Exterior changes to the 2020 model are minor so if you’re familiar with the look of the third-generation Tacoma, which has been on sale since 2015, you’ll still recognize the latest model when you see it.
There’s a new grille and new headlamps and LED daylight running lights, which lend a more modern look to the front end. Our test truck’s striking Voodoo Blue paint was complemented by the dark, 16in alloys.
The Tacoma remains a great-looking truck, with proportions that give it a low, wide stance – even though it’s considerably narrower and not much lower than the Ford Ranger, which has a more upright appearance.
2020 Tacoma interior
Climb inside the Tacoma and there’s generous headroom. We like the driving position and visibility is fine. The power slide/tilt moonroof keeps things bright and airy in the cabin.
The double cab configuration provides easy access to the rear seats, where legroom is however tighter than in a Ranger and nowhere near as generous as in a Gladiator. Rear-compartment storage is also limited, which leaves you with little space for everyday cargo like groceries, if you don’t want to put them in the bed.
The leather seats are heated in the front and have 8-way power adjustment for the driver. The material looks durable and easy to clean, and we were happy with the comfort. The dashboard neatly walks the line between function and style: the ergonomics are great, with everything important within easy reach, but don’t expect the design fireworks of the Gladiator. There’s an 8in central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility.
As you’d expect from a Toyota, the whole thing feels sturdy and well built – a step up from the Ranger in this area, in our opinion.
Drive impressions: how’s the 2020 Tacoma TRD on the road?
The Tacoma 4×4 Double Cab TRD Off RD Premium is powered by a 3.5-litre, direct-injection V6 that’s good for 278 HP and 265 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. We enjoyed the engine/transmission combo, which feels bullet proof and is torquey and smooth, without ever delivering a huge hit of power.
Also read: 2016 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab Review
We were impressed with the ride quality on Calgary’s roads from the Bilstein shocks and the Kevlar-reinforced, 265/70 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires. Meanwhile the old-school, hydraulically assisted steering provides a whole lot more feel – and therefore confidence – than some comparable electric setups we’ve tried.
If you’re heading off road then you’ll be glad of the Crawl Control, terrain modes, 2‐speed transfer case, locking rear diff and the new Multi Terrain View Monitor. The latter uses cameras around the car to provide useful detail on the central screen of the car’s immediate surroundings – perfect if you’re avoiding trees in a forest or backing a boat into the water, for example.
Tacoma hauling and towing
First stop for our Tacoma was the lumber yard for a couple of 8ft lengths of 8 x 2. This immediately highlighted the limitations of the test truck’s 5ft bed – a wagon or large SUV does a better job with this kind of load – although a ping-pong table we picked did fit perfectly in the bed!
Canadian customers who need a longer bed will need to opt for the TRD Sport Premium, as the TRD Off RD Premium isn’t available with the longer wheelbase. In the US, the TRD Off-Road comes in both lengths.
The remote release on the tailgate is a handy feature and the sheet-molded composite inner bed should prove durable.
We didn’t tow with the Tacoma, but the double cab tested here has a towing capacity of 2,900kg (6,393 lb). That’s one of the lowest in the midsize segment.
For more on the Tacoma’s towing capacities and payloads, see our full comparison here.
Takeaway: Should you buy a 2020 Tacoma TRD?
Driving around in the Tacoma, it’s easy to see that it was developed from the start for use in North America. The whole vehicle just feels right – from the way it rides and steers, to the intuitive cockpit layout, to the rock-solid interior quality. It’s a feeling we didn’t get from the Ford Ranger, for all that vehicle’s qualities, and it feels more at home on-road than the stylish, spacious Gladiator.
The 2020 updates keep the Tacoma up to speed with the latest technology trends while providing a mild refresh to the familiar exterior styling. With rivals snapping at its heels, Toyota has no room for complacency.
Pros: what we liked
Well thought-out ergonomics
Great to drive on-road
Rock-solid interior and powertrain
Cons: what we didn’t
Limited storage space
Not much rear legroom
No long-bed option on this trim level