Confidence in the Wilderness

By Derek Price

Miles past Murders Loop, there’s some great hiking near Jessieville in Central Arkansas.
You can get to places like Big Bear Shelter and Crystal Prong — along with countless similarly secluded spots across America — on foot. And you can make the trip a lot easier with a truck like this, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.
I took the Tacoma on my hiking trip to test what it could do in real-life adventures. While I’m still more of a sports-car person than an off-road person, the appeal of a truck like this becomes clear 10 miles down Trail 86, an hour since the last time you had a cell phone signal.
It’s all about confidence.
The only other truck I saw on the trail, which is really more of a gravel road, happened to be another Tacoma. That makes perfect sense.
Knowing you’re driving a Toyota, and one of the most reliable Toyotas ever made, at that, feels great when you’re stepping over snakes and brushing off ticks in the Flatside Wilderness.
If you don’t make it home, it won’t be the truck’s fault.

The Toyota Tacoma, pictured on a trail near Jessieville, Arkansas, is designed for durability and capability away from pavement. The Lunar Rock paint color is exclusive to TRD Pro models this year.

The Tacoma is nearing the end of its current-generation design, but you wouldn’t know that based on the sales numbers and enthusiasm of its rabid fan base. Even as it’s aged and faced new competitors from Ford and General Motors, it’s remained the top-selling mid-size truck year after year, an automotive Mick Jagger.
It has some obvious downsides, including a thirsty engine and dated cabin, but it also gets the things that matter spot-on right.
It’s the right size, for starters. The Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado both feel big and flabby in comparison, almost like full-size trucks of just a few years ago. Trucks keep getting bigger, but trails don’t.
The TRD Pro also feels nimble and incredibly capable on those narrow trails, yet it doesn’t punish the driver with a noisy, harsh highway ride, either. It’s a purpose-built off-road truck that’s easy to live with every day.
Changes for 2021 are minimal, essentially a victory-lap year for the Tacoma before its widely anticipated redesign sometime soon.

The solid build quality of the Tacoma’s cabin is one reason this truck has been the top-selling mid-size pickup in America for years.

Lunar Rock is the custom TRD Pro color this year, and I loved the paint on my test truck. It’s absolutely gorgeous, looking unlike any other truck on the road without crossing the ostentatious barrier, with its tasteful but unique greenish-gray hue.
Two new special editions, the Trail and Nightshade models, bring the grand total of Tacoma configurations to 33 this year. There are six different grades to pick from, along with two engines, two cab styles and two wheelbase lengths.
Pricing starts at $26,400 for the base SR grade, while the more full-featured SR5 starts at $28,190. TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited grades add more content for more money, while the TRD Pro tops the lineup at $47,030.
Toyota has announced that the next Tacoma TRD Pro will have a higher suspension lift, redesigned upper control arms and FOX internal bypass shocks, among many other changes for 2022.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4×4 Double Cab ($46,780). Options: Bed mat ($120), door sill protector ($79), D rings ($55), spare tire lock ($75), TRD air filter ($90), bed light ($149). Price as tested (including $1,175 destination charge): $47,815
Wheelbase: 127.4 in.
Length: 212.3 in.
Width: 75.2 in.
Height: 71.6 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (278 hp, 265 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 22 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 8
Ride: 4
Comfort: 6
Quality: 8
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It’s the best-selling mid-size truck for a good reason, with impressive capability and a reputation for rock-solid reliability.

Posted in Toyota