2016 Toyota Tacoma: TRD Off-Road vs. TRD Sport
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on January 26, 2016
My head moved as if on a swivel as I wheeled our 2016 Toyota Tacoma into the parking lot of my local Costco and scanned for the nearest open spot. As luck would have it, the first and best one I saw was alongside my truck's doppelganger.
Crew cab? Check. Magnetic Gray Metallic paint? Uh-huh. 3.5-liter V6? Present. Optional 2-inch receiver hitch? Ditto. Brand-spanking new with temporary tags and no license plate? Yes, even that, too.
TRD Off-Road? Hang on a second. That one's a TRD Sport.
Together they represent at least 40 percent of Tacoma sales. The two are identically-equipped as far as interior trimmings go. And they cost exactly the same when the cab, engine, transmission and drive-type selections match. The differences boil down to things we can see here in the parking lot — mostly.
The rear bumper end caps jump out immediately. They're chrome on our TRD Off-Road and painted body-color on the Sport. The fender flare difference is subtle, owing to the particular color of these trucks. They again match the body color on the Sport, but a TRD Off-Road wears textured and unpainted black ones that are more resistant to stone chips and better at concealing the "desert stripe" you get from driving on narrow brush-covered trails.
Up front, the headlights and grille are identical. But the TRD Sport has two things our TRD Off-Road does not have: a hood scoop and an air dam. The hood scoop is pure visual decoration that doesn't connect to anything. The air dam, present on all Tacomas except the TRD Off-Road, is there to bolster the Tacoma's official EPA fuel economy rating.
It's not fitted to the TRD Off-Road because of its negative effects on the approach angle, which on paper is 29 degrees for the TRD Sport and 32 degrees on our TRD Off-Road. Those numbers are measured at the truck's centerline, but the practical difference is far more dramatic (and arguably more meaningful) out where the TRD Off-Road's front tires are exposed to any rocky terrain you may attempt to surmount.
Speaking of tires, the wheel and tire package is perhaps the most impactful functional difference you'd notice at first glance. Both share the same 31-inch rolling diameter, but that's where the similarities end.
The TRD Off-Road rides on 16-inch wheels surrounded by P265/70R16 Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires with Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls and an all-terrain tread pattern. In contrast, the TRD Sport wears 17-inch wheels shod with P265/65R17 Toyo Open Country tires with a more pavement-oriented crossover SUV-style tread pattern.
Behind each we can see the dust covers of the shock absorbers peeking out. That splash of blue indicates that our TRD Off-Road is riding on Bilstein monotube dampers. Meanwhile, then plain black dust boots of the TRD Sport indicate it has conventional twin-tube shocks with a more pavement-biased tune.
The stuff we can't see here in the parking lot is not insignificant, and all of it is exclusive to the TRD Off-Road. It has an extra skid plate. It comes with a lockable rear differential, an enhanced stability control system with multiple terrain settings, and a new crawl control system. Switches for these are found inside the cabin in the overhead console area. In the TRD Sport, that space is a sunglasses storage bin.
Trim differences aside, what it comes down to is that the TRD Off-Road comes with a suite of functional off-road equipment while the TRD Sport has a non-functional hood scoop and a more pavement-oriented suspension and tire tune.
For the same money.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,298 miles