Adventure: Tacoma TRD Off Road

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As many of you know, I had a six-month saga with Subaru that did not end well. Oddly enough there are things about the Subie I miss, but the truth is that baby is long gone. Bought back by Subaru after an “unfixable” issue. Whew. So I bought a Toyota Tacoma, TRD-Off-Road, four door 4×4, long bed. This is not my first Tacoma. Well, it is because my last Toyota pickup was a 1992 which was prior to them being named the “Tacoma.” That older truck was awesome, and for all I know it’s still out there. I put 100,000+ miles on it then gave it to my brother who put another 100,000 it. The Tacoma, historically, is one of the most dependable vehicles of all time. So when it came to getting the 2017 I didn’t hesitate. I did however look long and hard at used Tacoma’s but the problem is they actually do not go down in value. In fact, I found several 1-2 year old models that were more expensive than the 2017.

The TRD Off Road has an upgraded suspension, but still might go away as I begin to upgrade the truck. I’ve probably driven 250 miles of solid, off road miles so far, which in the grand scheme is not that much, but these miles-mostly in Wyoming-were a good test. And I have to say, this baby was unreal off road. Deep mud, twisting off camber tracks, hills and slow and rocky stretches. One section of New Mexico was so rocky and rough it took me about an hour to navigate three miles.

Phase one of the upgrades will begin soon, and I’ve got plans to do a Dispatch interview with the company who is doing the work. Sliders, skids, lights, bumpers are scheduled for round one. These might seem like major upgrades but in the truck world they aren’t that out of the ordinary. If you spend anytime in remote, 4×4 areas things like skid plates and sliders are essentials. The bumpers help with approach and departure angles and offer far more protection than the stock bumpers which are PLASTIC. Yes, plastic. And, I’m often in areas with massive deer populations, which means the reality of drilling one of these babies is not only within reason it’s actually quite likely. My sister, brother and father have all hit deer, and even a small whitetail will total a vehicle. The lights, well, when you are in the middle of nowhere it’s nice to be able to brighten things up.

Future build upgrades include extra gas containers, water containers, potentially that suspension upgrade I mentioned…and……a supercharger which will increase my horsepower by over 200+. This truck is a tool to get me where I want to be so that I can launch my hikes, bikes, rods and reels and general exploration needs. I want to see the remote parts of the country before they go away. I did NOT buy this truck to specifically go four wheeling. I have no intention of rock crawling or doing extreme off road driving. If I’m in those areas I’d rather be on my bike, or on foot. I’ll drive whatever it is to get me where I need to be but that’s all. Eventually my aim is to get a van but that’s when life takes it’s next turn.

A few quick takes on the Tacoma in general.

1. It’s a blunt instrument. I would not call this truck refined, but for what it’s designed for it’s potentially the best option made.
2. A little underpowered. Most noticeable at highway speeds, which is where the supercharger comes in.
3. Shifts A LOT. The 2017 is a 6-speed automatic or manual, and I got the auto. At highway speed the truck is constantly shifting. Toyota has taken a lot of grief over this transmission and I can see them making changes in the near future. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who said “I wanted the truck but can’t stand the transmission.” I’m learning to love it, but it will take some time.
4. I like the size of the truck. The modern Tacoma is far larger than my 1992 model, but it’s not TOO big. I can still drive it and park it around a place like Los Angeles without too much trouble.
5. My mileage has varied from 18mpg, with completely full load doing 75 on the Interstate, to 26mpg driving from Santa Fe to Wyoming on backroads. I’ve done 400 miles on a tank. Not great, not terrible.
6. This truck is so overdue for a diesel it’s not even funny. In the truck world there might be more talk of this single issue than any other issue.
7. This truck has a crawl control feature that is truly remarkable. When off road you can dial in your settings and the truck takes over control of the vehicle. You take your foot off the break and it just goes, slowly of course, but makes micro adjustments that allow the truck to climb, navigate and descend things you can’t possibly imagine. And it works.
8. I bought the long bed because I can sleep in the back without being at an angle. I can also store three bikes inside the camper shell, upright, and still sleep with plenty of room.

One of these days I’ll make some better images, but so far I’m jazzed with this baby.

Comments 14

  1. So nice to see a Tacoma used like this! When I bought my Tacoma one of the first family trips I did was into the Jemez in early December to get a Christmas tree. 12″+ of snow covering ice and my stock Tacoma kicked ass. I was out with modified Jeeps and they were all over the place. My 2015 doesn’t have the crawl control, but the A-TRAC system, locker, and hill decent control make it very capable.

    I’ve specifically went out to try and see how the rear locker works and with A-TRAC on was unable to because it just got me through. On a week long elk hunt near Tres Piedras I didnt even let air out of my tires and was comfortable driving hundreds of miles of dirt “roads”.

    I do want to upgrade my tires. In size and to an all terrain. I am thinking BFGs but also have liked what I’ve seen from General Tire’s ATs. I am thinking of putting “skinny” tires on too. The 235/85R16 to be exact. More sidewall = more cushion on the dirt roads.

    I look forward to seeing the process you take.

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      Tire upgrade will happen as soon as stock tires are gone. BFG’s are hard to beat, but Grabber AT’s are good too. Cheaper as well. I have locking rear dif as well, but it was amazing what this truck would go through even in two-wheel-drive. Air down is essential, but I don’t yet have a compressor so I need to figure that out. I have a feeling I’ll be with other folks who do have compressors if I get in that arena. I like 31×10.5 tires, which is what I had on my original truck. Not sure what size I have now or what one size up is but I was happy with those old tires.

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      QUICKSAND baby. That’s the color….I’m getting a light bar too. My headlights are good however….

    2. EEK. Sorry i messed the colour up. I wish that colour was offered on my 4Runner.

      Send pics when you’ve installed the lightbar and your first stage of upgrades.

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      Nah. Even though Subaru could have done the right thing from day one, and instead forced me to endure six months of nonsense, I don’t hold any ill will. My mom has a Crosstrek and loves it.

  2. A few other things to consider, if you haven’t already – a Hi-lift jack and a good tow strap. The jack can be used to lift or winch yourself out of some pretty bad situations, and you will undoubtedly come across folks who have underestimated their vehicles and/or driving skills and have become seriously stuck.

    I’ve probably gone thru 3-4 sets of BFG AT’s on different Jeeps over the years. Best tire I’ve used for combined off/on road use. I hear General’s are very good also.

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      Tow strap is already onboard and jack is on list. My bumper has winch capability so might add at some point. Agree about BFG’s.

  3. This makes me chuckle uncontrollably. I still have the emails where you said you wouldn’t sucked into the mod rabbit hole. You’ll do this work then realize how much more capable the truck is. Then you’ll want to do a little more. Get to someplace a little further off the grid. It’s okay. Embrace the sickness. I did a long time ago. Things are easier now.

    I would love a Cummins diesel swap in my Tundra.

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      Who me? What’s a rabbit hole. Sorry, gotta run. My 35-inch buckshot mudders are being delivered.

  4. Congrats! I rolled a 2004 Tacoma three times and into oncoming traffic thanks to someone making an illegal u-turn. The Tacoma held together and I walked away with only glass in my nose. Truly, they are great vehicles for all types of adventures and misadventures 🙂

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      WOW. You are one lucky dude. Sorry to hear about the wreck. That is above and beyond. A friend bought one for his son and a friend drove it over to the school where his son was attending. On the way he got hit by someone going 80, rolling him into oncoming traffic. They had to jaws of life him out. He’s fine…

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