By on January 25, 2018

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road front quarter

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4x4 Double Cab Long Bed

3.5-liter V6, DOHC (278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 265 lb-ft @ 4,0000 rpm)

Six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

18 city / 23 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

19.7 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $36,475

As Tested: $40,617

Prices include $960 freight charge

I was 15 or so, basking in the heady scents of Armor-All, Windex, cheap suits, and desperation. Mom was waiting for the salesman to “check with the manager” as she negotiated for her second of six Corollas. I wandered off, as I typically did when presented with rows of shiny new cars.

You’d think I’d have gravitated to the Supra, or perhaps the Celica, considering my youth and love of motorsports. Nope. The brand new first-generation Tacoma 4×4 is what caught my eye that day. Taut lines and purposeful flares made it look so much more aggressive than the old nameless Toyota Truck. Not that I hated the classic HiLux – while other kids of my era gravitated toward the DeLorean in the Back To The Future series, I lusted after Marty’s black Xtracab 4×4.

It seems that every time I’m looking for a new vehicle, a Toyota truck ends up on my shortlist, but I’ve yet to pull the trigger. I’ve never really needed the capability of a traditional pickup, so I was interested in seeing how the modern midsize crew cab works as a family hauler. This 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad appeared at my door just as I was doing my periodic rationalization of the current fleet. Can this minivan family live with a truck?

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road profile

I’m not a truck owner, and have never been a truck owner. I didn’t grow up around trucks, either – my dad had a standard cab, short bed, two-wheel drive Toyota in the mid-Eighties for a few months, and then (again for but a few months) an early 2WD Dodge Dakota. Both trucks were incredibly Spartan – manual transmissions, AM radio (maybe FM on the Dodge), but I know the Toyota didn’t even have a clock. They were cheap, sturdy, and bought to do a job.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road front

This Tacoma, like all modern trucks, is still built to work, but as more truck owners use them as their daily commuter vehicles, the bells and whistles have ratcheted up commensurately. I hesitate to call this TRD Off-Road package plush, but heated front seats, parking assists, and wireless phone charging are little luxuries that are well beyond what one could have imagined in a pickup truck a couple of decades ago.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road rear

I’m a bit ashamed as a member of the Brown Car Appreciation Society (hi, Sajeev!), but I’m not a fan of the Quicksand paint on this Tacoma. It’s unique – and I’ve ranted about automakers not expanding their palette beyond the usual shades of gold, grey, white, and black – but this beige is simply not striking. It makes me recall a misspent youth in high school theater – it’s basically the color of the pancake makeup I’d wear on stage.

Still, in TRD Off-Road trim, the Tacoma looks appropriately butch. I love that Toyota has resisted the big rim trend, at least in its more trail-focused packages. 16-inch wheels give plenty of sidewall, protecting the wheels and absorbing impacts – and looking rugged. The 18-inch alloys on higher trim levels are absurd. Ride quality diminishes, and the wheels take a beating when the truck is used as a truck.

I don’t often have a need to drop a cubic yard of gravel from six feet up into the bed of a pickup, so I didn’t get a chance to test the Tacoma like trucks are shown in TV commercials. The heaviest load I hauled was two pails of kitty litter. The optional folding, locking hard tonneau cover was welcome, as I’m always concerned about kitty litter thieves in my rough neighborhood.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road interior

I was a bit surprised that the ride was indeed trucky – that is to say, a bit unrefined, bouncing a bit over rough pavement, with a bit of a buzz about the cabin when the big V6 reached higher revs. I’m used to more genteel crossovers, of course, and the Tacoma is most certainly not a crossover. It’s not an unpleasant truck to drive daily, by any means – it just required a recalibration of my expectations. The controls are appropriately weighty, giving plenty of feedback through the steering wheel.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road front seats 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road rear seats

I could drive all day in the Tacoma, honestly. The seats were perfectly supportive, giving me an ideal driving position. The raised ride height meant the kids had a bit of a climb to get in the back seat, but once there they had no complaints. The goofy geometric pattern in the hardy cloth seats reminds me of the Nineties – it only needs simulated splattered neon colors to properly fit the decade in which I became enamored with the original Tacoma. I’m still trying to decide if the factory windshield mount for a GoPro camera is genius or frivolous, however. I suppose that living the Proper Off-Road Lifestyle require documentation of said lifestyle.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road dashboard 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road gauges

The midsize pickup market has been growing lately, and the newly announced 2019 Ford Ranger has taken clear aim at the Tacoma. I look forward to seeing how a turbo four-cylinder stacks up against a traditional big-bore V6, but there’s no question why Toyota remains the standard for this segment. I wouldn’t hesitate to put a Tacoma in my driveway.

Paint mine black, though. With some KC Daylighters, of course.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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79 Comments on “2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Review – Conquering the Most Challenging Tarmac...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It kind of looks like the new Ford Ranger.

  • avatar

    For $40k I wasn’t expecting cloth seats in here. And I hate the color as well, it makes the black trim stand out way too much.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I was reading an article somewhere that referred to the Canyon/Colorado/Frontier/Tacoma/Ridgeline as “lifestyle vehicles” – meaning, I drive this everyday and then use it to get my mountain bikes to the trail head, skis to the resort, etc.

    I only chuckled because I thought of a former student who I’ve remained in contact with. He’s in the Marines now and has an extended cab Tacoma TRD. He’d say: “I use it to pick up chicks.” Lifestyle indeed.

    (Not judging anyone but I think that speaks to why there’s a GO PRO mount on the windshield.)

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Any truck I buy will definitely be primarily for posing and lifestyle purposes. However, that’s basically true of anything I buy over a Cruze L.

      That said, if I had something like this, I’d still do some recreational off-roading just for the fun of it.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        People with Chrysler experience.. (paging Danio)

        Would a 2012 RAM, with the Hemi, 6AT with console shift, Auto AWD transfer case, non-sport headlights, double din head unit with BT but no touchscreen screen, cloth seats, manual climate control, theoretically be the best bet to try and avoid some of the gremlins that RAM and Jeep can suffer when they are heavily optioned?

        There are a few 2012 RAMS in Calgary that are this really sweet trim I just described, and they are an awful lot of bang for the buck. I figure the powertrain should be solid, and limiting techy options should be a good idea.

    • 0 avatar
      dont.fit.in.cars

      Jarheads and their priorities.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I was every kind of all over buying a 2017 Tacoma TRD Sport… until I drove it.

    Slushy throttle response, unwillingness to rev or hold a gear or downshift, terrible engine sound. My first merge onto an expressway doing 80 kph and I looked for the next exit to return. I knew I’d go insane driving it every day.

    Shame, because I like the looks, content, size and packaging.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Edmunds did a review of the Tacoma TRD, driving out to Racetrack and back in Death Valley and they blew the suspension out on it. The rear shocks couldn’t take driving over the washboard. Not just some leaking of overheated, oil, destroyed them with some other damage.

    A Nissan Titan XD fared even worse, literally losing parts over the terrain.

    I drove out to Racetrack and back in a RAV-4 and had no issues – and there were sections on the washboard were I drove FAST. Basically getting enough speed to skim the top so I didn’t feel beaten to death.

    Review is a video.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      Triple Tech frame means it’s not fully boxed. The suspension is primitive and it lacks the KDSS and X-TRAC of the 4Runner. It is a bad vehicle!

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        A-TRAC.

        And that isn’t why it happened. Toyota cheaped out by putting the narrowest Bilstein shocks they could on this rig and they didn’t have the cooling capacity to handle the heavy axle bounding up and down a bazillion times on a heavily washboarded road. Easily fixed with a shock upgrade, but you shouldn’t have to on a forty thousand dollar off-road truck.

        I’m far more concerned about the mismatched motor and poor transmission programming.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          This, although if he was referring to X-REAS (on the Limited 4Runner only now), the added fluid capacity could arguably have kept the shock cooler.

          More of a function of not airing down, and a ton of un-sprung mass flying up and down finally just overwhelming the hardware. On that same trip, the IRS Ridgeline apparently fared better, although it too ultimately ended up getting the shocks replaced (started to leak).

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I see now. Acronym pandemonium!

            I do wonder if that Racetrack road excursion was a big outlier or if shock failures in Tacomas and Titans (and any other solid axle truck for that matter) are more common than I realized on washboard. Airing down seems prudent. You’ll be more comfortable anyways.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’m not a fan of the new Tacoma. It appears to be a step backward and I keep hearing negative comments about the drivetrain.

    I’ve sat in both the new Tacoma and Colorado. The front seats and layout are much better in the Colorado. My sons both around 5’10” at the time preferred the seat layout in the back of the Tacoma.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Hey Lou,

      Its pretty interesting to me. Despite my long held theory that the Coloranyon needs the 4.3L, I’m actually pretty impressed at how the “car engine” 3.6L drives in the truck application. Same with the Pentastar, I LOVED it in the JGC.

      So Toyota’s 3.5L is either just too peaky for a truck, or the throttle and trans calibration is terrible, or both.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @davefromcalgary – I drove a Pentastar Ram. I liked the engine characteristics. The transmission down-shifted into first really rough and there was an odd rattle coming from somewhere in the back of the box.

        I’d like to test drive a Colorado. I’m lusting after a grey ZR2 at my local dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        C&D clocked a 4X4 4-door Colorado at 6.1 seconds to 60–it looks like 2017MY trucks received a new 3.6V6 and 8spd auto and they seem to work quite well. The ZR2 package blunts that performance by a full second, but it still sounds like a real improvement over the Tacoma and combined with the more normal seating height that’s where I’d be looking at this point.

        • 0 avatar

          That Colorado is faster than the Alfa Romeo Montreal from Rare Rides the other day.

          Such impressive power strides between the onset of Malaise and now.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Seriously, we’re spoiled.

            And hotshot Granny in her sky blue V6 Camry jack-rabbitting from light to light isn’t going to embarrass that Colorado driver anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Woah, that is seriously fast. I had written off the 3.6 Colorado as another under-motored non-starter, but it sounds like the transmission really makes it work. For what its worth, I though the diesel+6spd auto was a fantastic driving truck, just $10k dearer than I’d ever consider paying for such a thing.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I’ve driven a friend’s 2016 with the 3.5, and it’s noisy, wheezy, and gutless compared to my 2013’s 4.0. They’re part of the same GR engine family, but the 3.5 isn’t the same. They should have just stuck with the 4.0 and added the 6-speed auto. They “upgraded” to the 3.5 just to pick up another 1 mpg in ratings. A waste of effort IMHO.

      There were a lot of complaints (read the ToyotaNation and TacomaWorld forums) about the 2016 models related to vibration coming through the steering wheel and floor (even causing tingling or numbness in the hands). Toyota has looked into it (posters reported meeting with Toyota engineers at the dealers who drove their trucks and gathered information), but as far as I know, no fix yet. Some owners even traded theirs in for Ridgelines or Colorado/Canyon models because they were tired of the problem.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “With some KC Daylighters”

    Be careful what you wish for

    I had 3 KC Daylighters mounted on the pushbar of my 1984 Ranger. They were 150 watt bulbs which translates to 12.5 amp draw per light. I had to use an industrial circuit breaker and an industrial relay switch to run them. The standard “light duty” relay and fuse kit common to most driving light installs would not hold up to the juice.

    • 0 avatar
      Waterview

      I’m bad at electricity, but like a lot of available light. How does all of this change with LED lights?

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        They should draw a lot less with LEDs, but I’d want the LEDs in combination with the reflectors from the halogens (for beam pattern and throw) rather than the goofy light bars and LEDs “lamps” that seem to be popular these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Waterview – I have not looked closely at LED’s but my understanding is that they draw little power.

        The standard formula for conventional driving light bulbs is watts divided by volts equals ampere draw.

        @dukeisduke – from what I’ve observed with LED light bars, they put out quite the ball of light but without much range.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I wired two 6″ LED bars in line with my stock Dakota fog lights. It didn’t even blow a fuse. They only draw a tiny amount of amps, yet are brighter then my headlights. I forget the current draw but given the laughably thin wiring (16-18 gauge?) it can’t be much, or maybe like most aftermarket accessories they are so cheap this was just the crap wire they included.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Lou,
      I’m currently using a pair KC Highlighters on my BT50. I put them on in 2012 and not had an issue with them. They are 130W Halogens. I choose them because of the beefy shock mountings system and the steel construction of the body of the lights and glass lens.

      There are better lights out there, but from what I can gather nowhere near as durable. LEDs and HIDs suck as I don’t light the spectrum of light they use.

      I’m using a 30amp fuse and relay.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    This thing stickers at about eleven grand less than what I paid for my Silverado… which would rip its head off.

    You gotta be a real Taliban otaku to buy this.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      If the Taco had a decent engine (and wasnt this TRD Pro tan BS), I would be totally willing to pay a premium for an otherwise fully equipped truck in a more manageable size. If the TRD Sport came with the 4.7 for example.

      I’m constantly going back and forth on halfton swiss army knife type utility vs midsize manageability.

      But we’ve all had this discussion before in these hallowed halls: “I’m here to look at a Colorado.” “Oh yes sir, but have you looked at the Silverado?”

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I wonder how that Silverado would fare down a tight rough trail?

      • 0 avatar
        silentsod

        It would fare poorly. Raptors don’t do well on technical trails either due to their size and turning radius.

        I am aware the Raptor is wider than a Silverado would be but the turning radius is going to be fairly similar.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I’d like to see the Venn diagram of trails that fit this wide-assed crew-cab longbed Toyota but won’t take a Silverado.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “I’d like to see the Venn diagram of trails that fit this wide-assed crew-cab longbed Toyota but won’t take a Silverado.”

          My comment specifically mentioned “tight rough trail”.

          The Tacoma is 5 inches more narrow and the wheelbase is 25.6 inches shorter than a 6.5 box crew Chevy.

          The Tacoma is vastly superior when it comes to approach and departure angles but the biggest killer is breakover angle.

          I’ve owned both regular cab and extended cab Rangers and regular cab 3/4 ton trucks. They all can go places my SuperCrew can’t and dimensionally it is very similar to a Silverado.

        • 0 avatar
          silentsod

          I am specifically thinking of trails that are not width limited, per se, but have tight switchbacks which make navigating the turns themselves difficult. The Taco SRD has a 41ft turn radius, Silverado is at 48ft. A Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited is at 41ft as well and that seems to be pushing it in some places.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            silentsod,
            There ain’t many trails that aren’t gouged out by vehicles.

            As for turning circle, 41 to 48 feet is a huge difference. It means the difference between making it and not making it in many instances.

            If you need to lose momentum on inclines to do a several point turn you sometimes get stuck.

        • 0 avatar

          Quite a few in my experience. My Ramcharger used to take a beating on trails in the northeast most were cut for Jeeps. My friends running fullsize reg cab long beds had the same width issues as me plus trouble making turns the ramcharger could pull off with ease. My Dakota (which is about the size of the Tacoma) was OK width wise but still caused some issues with length and turning circle.
          Some of this goes away on certain offroad places like parts of the SW etc. But anywhere there are trees I think width issue is a big one. Honestly if offroading was a main point I would go Taco or smaller.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Lou,
        Poorly. US full size pickups are not the good off roading. Even the Raptor requires a lot of real estate.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      When you get into $40k+ territory, a full-size becomes a no-brainer, especially when you take into consideration incentives like those offered on the Silverado, not to mention the dismal fuel economy offered by the Tacoma, even with the 3.5l – the Silverado is pretty close there. My ’13 Tacoma with the 4.0? It gets 15-17 around town (15 lately, with the cold weather). Toyota has completely blown it by not offering a turbo diesel to compete with the Duramax 2.8, or at least a more efficient gas V6.

      I remember all the anticipation in the runup to the launch of the 2016 Tacoma (I’ve been a member of the ToyotaNation forums for several years, and I even paid for a premium lifetime membership). Then the chief engineer in the US for Tacoma did an interview with TN, and answered the questions we posed to him.

      So what happened in the interview? He basically blew off Tacoma owners.

      A turbo diesel option? Nah, you don’t need that. Instead, here’s a warmed over minivan engine.

      Four-wheel disc brakes, like the Colorado/Canyon, or even the Frontier? Nope, rear drums are good enough you.

      So what if the cab sheet metal is basically the same as a 2005 Tacoma? Suck it up, buttercup. We’re busy resting on our laurels.

      But hey, we added a GoPro mount inside the windshield! Aren’t we awesome?

      The Tacoma continues to sell, so maybe he was right, at least where some buyers were concerned. But I wouldn’t buy another one – I consider the third-gen Tacoma to be a downgrade from the second-gen, even with all the driver aids.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The GoPro thing is actually a decent idea. Or maybe I’m just saying that because my brother lost one on track already. Honestly its not like this option required much thought or money… I bet the marketing guys at Ford and Chevy thought: “darn, why didn’t we think of that”! Off roading is a recreational activity so hey why not.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “You gotta be a real Taliban otaku to buy this”

      Taliban might be disappointed in the powertrain as well. Terrorizing the populace with a machine gun mount requires predictable throttle response.

      Apples to apples, though. If I’m looking at a Tacoma TRD, my primary goal is an off-roadable 4×4 in a tidier size that can also serve family duty. It’s not getting cross-shopped with a 6.2L towing & luxury liner that costs 25% more after negotiation. I’m cross-shopping against a 4Runner or the equivalent Colorado, both of which arguably are a better fit and better vehicles.

      Those who do inexplicably choose this over a half-ton for reasons not entirely driven by off-pavement capability and width? I don’t get that either.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I hope the next 4Runner isn’t a downgrade. The current one lacks some of the tech in the previous one.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The lack of multi-mode T-case was a bummer, but the return to high clearance and wider availability of a true mechanical locker, and availability of a real manual transfer case lever is kind of an unexpected bonus these days. X-REAS being restricted to Limiteds, no huge loss in my book, just another expensive system you have to deactivate once the pricey factory shocks wear out.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Were approaching our next purchase as our beater nears death.

    If I go midsize, I’ll go lightly used 16 or 17 Frontier Pro4X. I love the aesthetics and packaging, and the VQ40DE is a stout V6. 6200 lbs towing should be enough.

    If I go fullsize, it will be a 2012-2014 double cab from the big 3. We do want to be able to pull a 20′ RV, and the halfton will just do it better than a Frontier.

    If I could find a well kept 1st Gen Colorado V8, that would be the trick. Throw in a double din with BT for taking work calls and enjoy the SBC under hood.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Sounds like a time machine to go back and buy a 2nd gen (mini-Ram) quad cab Dakota with a V8 (LA-V8 or 4.7L Powertech) would be just the ticket for you.

      I’m already starting to window shop (much cheaper) trucks as well for the spring, the debate in my mind centers around how seriously I’m entertaining the notion of partially finishing our basement, and the corresponding requirement to be able to haul 8x4s between the wheel-wells. If yes, then it’s GMT400 time. If no, options are almost unlimited and I’ve looked at everything from well preserved Mighty Maxs to Quad cab Dakotas, etc. Something comfy enough to haul my motorcycle 8 hours to my bro’s place in PA would be nice (read: extended cab, V6 or V8), and 4WD is something I’m debating as well, if only for resale’s sake assuming I sell in the fall.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Find a 2015 while they still have low mileage.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    @gtem,

    спасибо за идею, but those things are entirely used up around here, and the 3rd gen is…terrible. I’ve pretty much written off the Dakota for these reasons.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    Oh, that’s my truck, right down to the color. Except mine is the smaller access cab and has the manual transmission. Around our house its known as the Toyota Tramacet.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    “Conquering the Most Challenging Tarmac.”

    Glad you get it, or the editor writing the headers, sees the irony. That thing is a CAR – the new ImageMobile, jacked up to portray “toughness,” an open box in place of a trunk; with a wide gap to make it clear, this ain’t no sissy-boy Honda, son…

    I love trucks; but I like my trucks AS trucks. If you need space for six, you need a car – or a minivan. Back before an SUV was called an SUV, when it was called a utility rig…and you wanted “tough”…you bought a Suburban or an SJ Wagoneer, and put your ranch hands in it.

    Now, there’s not really that option. Nobody makes a rig you don’t have to worry about spilling a biological sample in the back. Nobody makes an interior with the bent-tubing back seat benches held in with six bolts; or the double-fold-up shotgun-rider’s seat.

    Now, I’m slowly setting into my new Montana neighborhood…I’m not native. Neither are thousands of others who relocated here. Interesting phenomenon, though…the seeming TRUE Montanans, the old ranchers with the weathered Stetsons, who you think might just be packing a rod under that denim jacket…they mostly seem to drive CARS.

    I like that. Because, now, if I can’t have my practicality…not cheaply, anyway…I can save money and just buy a beater.

    Which I have done. And I get about forty percent of the utility, having taken out the right-front seat.

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