2021 Toyota Tacoma: Is the TRD Off-Road Worth $5,000 Over the Base SR?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is the latest in the automaker’s popular series of midsize pickups. Indeed, it’s the best-selling midsize truck in the nation. Known for its quality, affordability, and reliability, the Toyota Tacoma has found its way into millions of owners’ driveways. And the latest version will likely enjoy the same success. 

Those who need a Tacoma for daily use or work will find plenty to like. And the 2021 model comes with an off-road trim that adds substantially to the base price. Is it worth it?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma base-model SR

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma base model — the SR — is affordably priced at $32,515. This attractive truck comes with a 2.7-liter inline-four engine producing 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. You get your choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with rear-wheel drive as standard. On 16-inch steel wheels, the Tacoma will get you moving through the city at 20 mpg and on the highway at 23 mpg. Those numbers drop to 19 and 22 if you choose the optional all-wheel drive.

Planning to use the 2021 Tacoma as a hauler? There are two bed sizes. One measures 60.5 by 41.5 by 19.1 inches, and the other is 73.7 by 41.5 by 19.1 inches. For better hauling, pick the longer bed and an upgraded engine. You can get an optional 3.5-liter V6 on the SR. And with that engine, the truck can carry 1,620 pounds — the highest payload of any trim level of the 2021 Tacoma, MotorTrend reports. As a tower, the SR can handle 3,500 pounds

The SR also comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and an 8.0-inch version is available. The infotainment system includes Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth integration. It also comes with a four-speaker sound system is included.

It’s a pretty good deal for $32,515. But should you pay nearly $5,000 more for the Tacoma TRD Off-Road?

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

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First of all, “TRD” stands for “Toyota Racing Development.” It refers to products and accessories that enhance your truck’s performance. Several trim levels, including the Sport, Pro, and Off-Road, offer TRD packages.

If you buy the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, you’ll get a package that boosts your Tacoma’s ruggedness and durability. This package comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, a dual-zone climate-control system, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and an upgraded suspension system. You’ll also be able to see your vehicle’s angles through a nifty inclinometer display. With a V6 engine powering the TRD Off-Road model and giving you 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, your truck will be ready to conquer all terrain.

The Tacoma TRD Off-Road can carry 1,175 pounds and haul up to 6,400 pounds. It also boasts Crawl Control, a feature allowing the truck to maintain a consistent pace while off-roading (similar to cruise control on highways). The Tacoma TRD Off-Road is better on backroads and trails than highways. But in either arena, it will get you where you need to go.

So is the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, starting at $37,380, worth the extra $5,000 over the base model?

The verdict

If you plan on taking the road less traveled, go with the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road. It provides the ruggedness you’ll need at a still-affordable price. Though the TRD Off-Road only comes with a smaller bed, it makes up for that limitation with more powerful performance and better handling.

However, great for work or daily use, the SR is a steal for $32,000. But it doesn’t boast the upgraded engine, wheels, or nifty Crawl Control feature. Other amenities, such as a touchscreen size upgrade and push-button start, merely sweeten the TRD Off-Road pot.

Sometimes upgraded trims fail to add real value. But the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road transforms the SR into a trail warrior. And that’s definitely worth an extra $4,865.