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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Family-friendly three-row SUVs

Three of our favorite three-row SUVs for 2022

The Grand Cherokee L is available with two different powertrain choices.

Jeep

There are more three-row SUVs on sale than ever before, so it can be tough to make a choice between them. You need to balance space, performance, safety, and tech to make your decision, and doing your homework is important. To help you get started down the right path, we've selected three of our favorite three-row family haulers. These are SUVs that bring the latest features and excellent design features to help keep you and your family rolling. Let's get started.

2023 Toyota SequoiaThe Sequoia is all-new for the 2023 model year, and finally stands on level ground with its rivals.Toyota

Toyota Sequoia

Toyota gave the Sequoia a much-needed overhaul for the 2023 model year that brought it up to speed with its competitors. The thirsty V8 and outdated styling are gone, and in their place, Toyota installed a twin-turbo V6 with a hybrid system that produces 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or four-wheel drive are available.

The Sequoia’s update brought a new infotainment system with a much more intuitive, fluid interface. It runs on a standard 8-inch or an optional 14-inch touchscreen. Toyota’s new software offers voice controls, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and much more.

Inside, the Sequioa’s interior feels much more upscale and modern than before, and there’s plenty of room for the entire family and all their gear across its three spacious rows. Starting with the Limited trim, Toyota gives luxurious standard features, including heated and ventilated front seats, a larger touchscreen, a hands-free liftgate, and a heated steering wheel.

2023 Kia TellurideKia updated the ultra-popular Telluride for 2023 with refreshed styling and features.Kia

Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride is easily one of the best family vehicles from the last ten years, and it offers great value on top of its functional characteristics. Kia updated the SUV for 2022 with a new 10.25-inch infotainment system and a highway driving assistance system.

The Telluride comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The SUV’s engine may not be the most powerful or thrilling, but it gets the job done and offers refined, smooth operation.

Kia equips the base Telluride with seating for eight, but the optional second-row captain’s chairs reduce capacity to seven. Interior fit and finish, materials, and styling are all far more upscale than the Telluride’s price tag would suggest, making the SUV an excellent family companion for longer road trips.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee LThe Grand Cherokee got a third row for the first time with the new L.Jeep

Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Jeep completely overhauled the Grand Cherokee for 2021 and added a new three-row “L” model shortly after. The new Grand Cherokee L features boxy, muscular styling that works with its stretched profile. Even with a new shape, the SUV is immediately recognizable as a Grand Cherokee.

Jeep offers two engines in the 2022 Grand Cherokee L. The base mill is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is available that produces 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the V8 comes standard with four-wheel drive.

The L is more premium inside than most likely expect from a Jeep, but at the top end of the model line it’s deep into luxury territory, both on price and design. The Jeep is just shy of its competitors on interior space, but there’s still plenty of room for up to seven people. Top trims get luxury finishes like leather and woodgrain, and available tech like a rear-seat entertainment system helps keep everyone happy for the long haul.

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New minivan

Honda announces new Odyssey Sport

Sport is a new trim for the Odyssey minivan.

Honda

The Honda Odyssey may not be the most exciting vehicle in the world, but it's getting a new Sport model that at least makes it look the part. Honda will release the model for the 2023 model year, and the Odyssey line overall will be offered with a new Honda Service Pass, which includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.

The Odyssey Sport slots into the Honda catalog between the EX-L and Touring trims. It comes with gloss-black exterior trim and black 19-inch wheels outside, and black leather with red stitching inside. The cabin comes with red accent lighting on the dash and in the footwells, and the roof pillars and headliner are both black. Under the hood, the Odyssey Sport gets the same 3.5-liter V6 from years past. It makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a ten=speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

2023 Honda Odyssey SportThe Sport comes with dark exterior trim and unique leather upholstery with red stitching inside. Honda

All Odyssey models come with Honda Sensing safety equipment, which includes adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection. The 2023 van hasn't been crash-tested yet, but the 2022 model earned a Top Safety Pick + award, so it's likely the new model will be rated similarly.

Honda Service Pass is a new program for 2023+ Honda vehicles. It covers routine scheduled maintenance for up to two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under the program, buyers get free oil changes, tire rotations, and multi-point inspections.

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