Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Review: Off-roading prowess for less but it’s still pricey

Toyota offers a value-focused version of the Tacoma that leverages its off-road prowess , the Tacoma TRD Off-Road.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck in the country. Why? Besides the Toyota badge up front, there's not many compelling reasons to pick the Tacoma over another midsize truck - until you get into the top tier trim levels. Then, the Tacoma proudly wears its prowess. But, it's at a steep price.

Toyota sent over the 2020 Tacoma TRD Off-Road for testing. It's a mid-grade model that has slightly more equipment to make it more off-road worthy than the Tacoma base model including a terrain mode selector and crawl control. It's a good balance of equipment and value when you look at the Tacoma lineup as a whole.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road The model offers a good balance of capability and value.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

None of the trucks in this segment are particularly plush with the exception of the Honda Ridgeline and the Tacoma fits in right alongside them. There's plenty of hard plastic in the cabin, which adds to the feeling of ruggedness, but there's also a lot about it that's dated. Still, there's evidence that Toyota has taken steps to bring it more up to date.

The infotainment system got a size upgrade for 2020 and now Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa are standard. But, the steering wheel and digital clock are from another design era.

So is the powertrain. The thirsty 3.5-liter V6 is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission to deliver less than satisfying performance despite the truck's listed 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This model's powertrain suffers from the same hit-or-miss shifting that the 2020 Toyota 4Runner's does.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road While the screen is new, some of the controls are dated.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

All-in, the 4x4 version of the tester comes out to near $40,000. Which is where the biggest problem with the midsize truck segment lies. Have you seen what you can get for $40,000 in the Ram, Chevrolet, and Ford full-size truck lineups?

The best bang for your buck may be the 2020 Ram 1500 Big Horn, with an upgraded mild-hybrid 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and package add-on to include heated and power front seats, remote start, and an 8.4-inch infotainment screen. Add the Sport Appearance package and 20-inch wheels and you're still below $40,000.

But then the argument is that the Ram isn't small enough for trails or maneuverable quite like the Tacoma. Sure, the Tacoma wins there. But, have you heard about a little thing called the Bronco? The 2021 Ford Bronco Two-Door Outer Banks comes in at $38,955 and the 2021 Ford Bronco Four-Door Black Diamond starts at $38,545. They don't have a bed like the Tacoma, I'll grant you that.

If you want a plusher interior and a bed, why not consider the Ridgeline instead? Yes, it doesn't look like the typical truck, but it's a really good option. Seriously. Don't like that? Wait for the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which looks like it's being designed to be a proficient daily driver with weekend warrior capabilities.

Where Tacoma makes its best argument for ownership isn't with the daily driver crowd. It's with the enthusiast bunch who like their Tacoma tricked out and tuned, and don't mind shelling out well over $50,000 to do so. They take it off-road and through mud pits, up trails, and keep it for 10 years or more, despite the scratches and dents. And there's nothing wrong with that.

In the mid-grade, the Tacoma makes a compelling argument for buyers to cross-shop other trucks and perhaps take a chance on a new SUV.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Twisted NAS-E California Series is a new all-electric 4x4.

Photo courtesy of Twisted

Earlier this year, a luxury 4x4 retailer in Austin, Texas showed off the Twisted NA-V8, a vehicle based on a classic Defender that comes in five different body styles. Now a limited run of 30 Twisted NAS-E all-electric 4x4 is bowing.

The NAS-E is born of the classic Land Rover Defender 90 body with a soft top and features an electric powertrain, a luxurious interior, and impressive off-roading capability. Each model is compliant with all North American EV Regulations and California CARB regulations.

Twisted NAS-E and NAS-E Plus

Photo courtesy of Twisted

"As the world moves steadily toward mass electrification, the Californian market has been missing a uniquely stylish electric 4x4 option that can stand out at the beach, off-road and at stoplights with a level of exclusivity and prestige that can only come from the timeless British Defender form," said Bruce Riggs, COO, Twisted North America. "With color schemes reflecting the natural beauty of California, a removable soft top shape to fully live the elements, advanced electric powertrain engineering exclusive to Twisted, zero-emission power, practical battery range and luxuriously modern interior touches, the Twisted NAS-E is the ultimate expression of the American coastal lifestyle."

The model is the first hero vehicle of the Twisted Legacy collection. It will be sold in two trim levels: NAS-E and NAS-E Plus. The difference mainly comes down to the power allocation. The NAS-E will be powered by a Remy Borg-Warner motor delivering more than 280 pound-feet of torque and 214 brake horsepower. The NAS-E Plus sees its output upped to 309 pound-feet of torque and 320 brake horsepower.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

Twisted says that the model has a 200-mile range from its 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

The SUVs have custom-valved dampers, six-piston front brakes, four-piston rear brakes, hard-use RS29 brake pads, and a traction control system. Four-wheel drive is standard. There are Sport, Eco, and Off-Road drive modes.

The model will be offered in three color options: Malibu, Yosemite, and Tahoe. They will make up the California Series of the models, a limited time 30-vehicle offering.

Twisted NAS-E Tahoe Photo courtesy of Twisted

The NAS-E comes with a good list of features: cream leather seats featuring Alston Alcantara inserts, a three-seat bench across the front row with detachable headrests, 4x tip ups located in the load area, Twisted Sport Wheels finished in silver, a Twisted Stage One front end, NAS roll cage, Bimini hood, an infotainment system, EV management system touch screen, raptored 'spray down' unique flooring, eight-channel audio system, rearview camera with wideview angle, GPS tracker, immobilizer, and air conditioning.

The NAS-E Plus builds on that to include a NAS brush bar, NAS side steps, roll-bar spotlights, NAS-E body stripe decal, and black side sills.

Twisted offers the model with a comprehensive 24-month/20,000-mile warranty. Extensions are available.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

The Twisted NAS-E starts at $185,000 while the NAS-E Plus comes in at $210,000. Each has a lead time of approximately nine months and requires a fully refundable deposit to reserve. Limited test drives will be available early October 2020.

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This image of a young child was considered so perverted by some that Audi decided to apologize for it.

Photo courtesy of Audi A

Audi has apologized for an advertisement that shows an image of a young girl eating a banana while she stands in front of an Audi RS 4 Avant.

The apology was issued after outcry from critics on Twitter who pointed to perceived numerous flaws in the ad from the overt sexualization of the child because of the banana involved to the potential danger the child was in because she was standing in front of a parked vehicle that can go up to 174 mph.

In the three-part apology, Audi stated, "We care for children. We hear you and let's get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS 4 is a family car with more than thirty driver assistance systems including an emergency break system. That's why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign."
The statement continues, “We hoped we could convey these messages, showing that even for the weakest traffic participants it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone's feelings. We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future. We will also immediately examine internally, how this campaign has been created and if control mechanisms failed in this case.“
Some of Audi's Twitter followers said that, in their view, the criticism was likely unwarranted while others chose to concentrate on the fact that the model in the photo features a potent power plant. Others pointed out that they felt that the image was pro-pedophilia writing, in German, “I see a pedophile ad here. And child abuse. Disgusting and reprehensible.“

Though this is the first advertising slip up this year for the Audi brand, it's the second major ad folly for Volkswagen Group, Audi's parent company. In May, the company became embroiled in a controversy surrounding an advertisement that features a dark-skinned man being maneuvered around by the hands of a white woman. As the ad developed, the dark-skinned man ended up being flicked away from a yellow Volkswagen Golf, all while upbeat music played in the background.

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