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Let me put all my cards on the table.  My wife and I own a 2006 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab Pre-Runner with 2WD.  My wife drives it, and I get to maintain it. This second-generation Tacoma is your basic truck, nothing fancy, no controls on the steering wheel, no lift kit.  The truck was built to last and I envision it will be the last vehicle I drive.  My teenage daughter fully expects it to be hers one day.  I hope my grandkids will drive it, too.

Toyota introduced the current third-generation Tacoma as a 2016 model. Although this was billed as a new truck, to most of us in the business the 3rd-gen Tacoma felt more like a heavy refresh.  Even though they swapped the venerable 4.0 liter V6 for a new 3.5 liter, they kept the same 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine.  It’s still a great truck that boasts some of the best residual values in the market.

I test drove an Army Green 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4×4 Double Cab, which is Tacoma’s top of the line, off-road capable trim. It came with a hefty $49,708 window sticker. For comparison, a base Tacoma SR 4×4 Double Cab has a $32,415 MSRP.  As noted, the TRD Pro is the top of the line off-road capable 4×4 Tacoma Double Cab, and it’s one macho-looking truck.  To make sure other drivers took a second look, it was outfitted with a Desert Air Intake, for an additional $725.  Imagine a tall snorkel emerging out of the right side of the truck.  

Under the hood, the Tacoma TRD Pro has a 278 hp, 3.5-liter V6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.  Fuel economy is nothing to brag about, with numbers like 17 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.  The ride is rough, even on pavement, but then this is a truck built to get adventurous off the beaten path, which means it’s not a truck if you don’t enjoy getting muddy.

Since the TRD Pro trim is designed squarely to go off road, it packs in the right equipment to take the driver safely out into the wild.  There’s a locking rear differential, hill start assist control, active traction control and crawl control.  The TRD engineers have included specially designed hardware specifically for the TRD Pro, including FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks, front springs with a 1-inch front lift, rear suspension with progressive-rate off-road leaf springs and an aluminum front skid plate with red TRD lettering.  It all makes for a very attractive package.

If you can’t afford the TRD Pro trim but you either have a second-gen Tacoma like me or you’re in the market for a new third-gen base model and you see off-roading in your future, adding some serious aftermarket upgrades is the way to go.  I found a great place to start is, which has a vast array of equipment for both the second and 3rd-gen Tacomas.  They’ve got lift kits and suspension gear to give your truck the clearance to stay safe over rough ground.  Want a winch-ready front bumper?  They’ve got that.  With way too much equipment to list, just point your browser and have fun.  It’s a more affordable way to take a stock truck and give it a little more testosterone. Or tacosterone.

Steve is a veteran automotive journalist and former head of Ford Public Relations in its South Central region. He’s a native New Yorker who fell in love with a Texan (and Texas) over 20 years ago. Steve’s been living here happily ever since. His current automotive ‘want’ is an early 3-Series convertible, while his daily driver is a 2006 Toyota Tacoma.

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