2016 Toyota Tacoma: Best Off-Road Pick For a Daily Driver?
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor on March 10, 2016
Here's the setup: You're going to buy a new vehicle. You want something that can stomp around in the wilderness for recreation (hiking, camping/fishing, off-roading). But this will also be your daily-driver.
Ideally it's also versatile as well as easy and comfortable to drive.
What's the best new vehicle to get? Would it be a 2016 Toyota Tacoma?
Casting myself as a prospective shopper, I made a list of vehicles that I thought would fit my proposed criteria. (I realize there's a separate and quite valid argument for buying a used vehicle, but I wanted to stick to the new stuff since I'm reporting on our long-term Tacoma here).
Dodge Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Ford F-150 Raptor
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Land Rover Range Rover
Lexus GX 460
Toyota Land Cruiser
If you chose any of these 12 vehicles, I think you'd be in great shape. But there are a few ways that I'd have to narrow down the list. First, price. As cool as it would be to own a G500 or Range Rover, I don't quite have the bank account to support one. If I limit the list to vehicles that cost about the average transaction price for a new vehicle (figure low-to-mid $30,000s), that eliminates the Power Wagon, Raptor, Range Rover, G-Class, GX 460 and Land Cruiser. I could get a Grand Cherokee and a 4Runner for the low 30s, but if I ordered them with the necessary off-road trim levels/equipment, they would break the price barrier. Scratch them off the list.
That leaves us with the Cherokee, Wrangler, Frontier and Tacoma.
All of these meet what I set out to find. But I can narrow it down further. The Wrangler eats granite for lunch but it's the least refined new SUV you can buy. It's not enough of a balanced-use vehicle for me, so I'd take it off the list.
Then there's the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. Compared to the Tacoma, it's hard to say which one is more capable off road. They have similar dimensions, ground clearance, approach/departure/breakover angles and off-road hardware upgrades. I'll call it a tie. But I do like the Tacoma more for a truck I'd own. It's nicer, more comfortable to drive and has more of the latest available tech. It also enjoys a higher resale value and more aftermarket part support.
Cherokee Trailhawk versus Tacoma TRD Off-Road. Which one would you want?
It's a hard choice for me. The Cherokee Trailhawk is a bit more useful and comfortable on the street. It's better in the dirt than you might think. And it's likely less expensive than the Tacoma by a few grand. But the Tacoma counters with pickup truck utility and an ultimate edge in the off-road category.
My pick is the Tacoma. As my coworker Josh Sadlier says, tell me why I'm wrong.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,245 miles