Trucks & SUVs

Which Mid-Size Truck Has the Best off-Road Trim Option?

The recent crop of mid-size trucks gives buyers a range of choices with something for everyone. But if you want an offroad-capable truck, which one has the best trim option?

This year, Motor1.com compared the top seven mid-size trucks on the market. These include the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. Let’s go a step further and compare three of the most popular off-road trim options: the Colorado ZR2, Tacoma TRD-Pro, and Gladiator Rubicon.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison is on display at the 111th Annual Chicago Auto Show
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Chevy prepped the ZR2 for off-road challenges with a two-inch lift, front and rear electronic locking differentials, and massive 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires. It has additional skid plates, tubular rocker panels, and an automatic standby four-wheel-drive system that senses when more traction is needed.

The ZR2’s Multimatic shocks use spool valves that respond to the amount of force put on them. What this means for you is that the XR2 will land comfortably when it catches air compared to many other offroaders. A solid rear axle adds to the XR2’s off-road stability.

With 8.9 inches of ground clearance, this Chevy truck has a 30-degree approach angle, a 23.5-degree departure angle, and a 23.5-degree breakover angle. Its standard 3.6-liter V6 engine produces 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque and comes with an eight-speed automatic.

A Duramax 2.8-liter turbo-diesel version that makes 186 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque is available, too. Buyers can choose between an extended cab with a 6-foot-2-inch box or a crew cab with a 5-foot-2-inch box. The Colorado ZR2 starts at $41,300.

Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro

Starting at $42,960, the TRD-Pro option is the Tacoma’s most expensive trim level. But it also offers the most professional-level off-road features for the money. These include quarter-inch-thick aluminum plates, a 1-inch lift, and a larger front sway bar compared to last year’s model.

The Fox off-road suspension with front coilover springs prevents the truck chassis from bottoming out and generally improves the ride. The Tacoma’s other off-road features include the Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar-belted all-terrain tires, 16-inch wheels, and a nifty desert air intake snorkel that cools air and keep debris out of the air system.

The features that buyers can’t get as aftermarket items are its crawl control, multi-terrain select, and a locking rear differential. The multi-terrain select system is especially useful for improving performance on various surfaces. Selections include Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul and Rock modes.

With 9.4 inches of ground clearance, the TRD-Pro has a 35-degree approach angle, 24-degree departure angle, and 26-degree breakover angle. All of these specs are slightly better than the Colorado ZR2’s. 

This trim option is available only in the double cab style with a 5.5-foot bed. The Tacoma’s standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque paired with a six-speed manual transmission is the powertrain for this version. A six-speed automatic transmission is available too.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

The Rubicon brings even more oomph to a Jeep variant that already has a strong offroad instinct. Like the Tacoma TRD-Pro, this trim level is top-of-the-line for the Gladiator, starting at $43,740. At this price, it’s no surprise that it has all sorts of offroad goodies like an electronically disconnecting sway bar, off-road camera, high-strength steel skid plates, Fox shocks, and two front and two rear tow hooks.

It also features a transfer case with a 4-to-1 low range ratio that enables the Rubicon to crawl over just about anything.  Its Off-road Plus mode adjusts throttle response in high-speed off-road driving in 4-High mode and stabilizes the truck when it’s crawling 4-Low mode. Driver-selectable front and rear locking differentials on the Rubicon operate in 4-Low mode only. 

Its Dana 44 wide-track front and rear axles also have a 4.10 gear ratio that provides more low-speed torque. This Jeep truck has 17-inch wheels that are wrapped in gigantic 33-inch Falken off-road tires. It also has a high air intake and special water sealing that helps it to ford creeks up to 30 inches deep.

Although its wheelbase is nearly 10 inches longer than the TRD-Pro and the XR2, the Gladiator Rubicon has very good offroad metrics. Its approach angle is 43.6 degrees, breakover angle is 20.3, and departure angle is 26. It beats out both the TRD-Pro and XR2 with 11 inches of ground clearance.

Only one quintessentially Jeep configuration is available for the Rubicon: a crew cab with a removable roof and doors plus a five-foot bed. Its 3.6-liter V6 delivers 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available.

Which truck to pick?

The truck you pick will depend on your terrain of choice and other preferences since all three trucks have a lot to offer.

If you enjoy high-speed offroading on dirt or gravel, the Chevy Colorado XR2 has the horsepower and racing-quality shocks to handle the fun. And the XR2 gives you the option of getting the torque-monster Duramax.

On the other hand, if you want a dependable, all-round offroader with intuitive tech that helps it crawl both up and down slopes, consider the Tacoma TRD-Pro. It’s reasonably priced for the many offroad features that come standard.

Last, the Gladiator Rubicon is the truck to look at if rock crawling is your thing. It’s probably the most fearlessly offroad-capable of the three trucks, despite its longer wheelbase. Be prepared to pay more for this pickup, however, especially when you start adding on options.