MotorTrend wanted to see which midsize off-roading truck performed best in a variety of settings, so they took the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison, and the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to one of the most intense overlanding experiences in the United States: the infamous Mojave Road. With miles of desert, freezing mountainous stretches, and high-speed winds, the Mojave Road was the perfect place to test the true strength of each vehicle.
The Tacoma TRD Pro has built up an avid fan-base, with many touting the exceptional drivability on uneven terrain as well as the inexpensive price tag. But on this drive, MotorTrend found that the TRD Pro didn’t quite measure up. Read on to see what they found out.
Driving the Jeep Gladiator
When the MotorTrend drivers sat down after their drive to decide which vehicle performed best, the Tacoma came in last place. Why? Though it boasts many admirable features, such as “good ride quality,” “capable approach and departure angles,” and a reasonable price, its unfortunately small cabin just wasn’t an enjoyable way to spend hundreds of miles off-roading.
In comparison, the Gladiator’s large cabin was a decidedly better ride, including more modern finishes and more space for storage. Though this may not seem like the most important aspect of a truck, when you primarily use your truck for off-roading, the comfort of the cabin can make a big difference in how enjoyable your ride is. Between sitting for long distances and driving over rough, bumpy terrain, it’s important to consider how comfortable you’ll be during an off-roading experience.
The Tacoma’s poor transmission tuning and carlike engine are other reasons that the drivers for MotorTrend voted against it. They realized that an owner would have to make modifications after purchasing if the truck was going to keep up with the likes of the Jeep on rougher trails, and that adds an additional cost after buying, making for a very expensive hobby truck.
Tacoma TRD Pro vs Gladiator
The Gladiator’s versatility and lengthy list of off-road hardware made for a much more streamlined and capable driver experience. MotorTrend “also loved the smooth power delivery from the Jeep’s V-6, its well-geared transmission, and its ridiculous low-range crawl ratio.” Though the cabin could be loud, especially during particularly rough segments of the ride, in general it was much more driver-friendly and included modern touches.
Only two things held the Gladiator back from being the overall winner in the challenge. Despite being armored, the Jeep often dragged its belly over rocks and other ground debris during the ride, which MotorTrend testers called “disconcerting.” They recommended larger tires and a suspension lift to attempt to address this problem and raise the Jeep’s body up enough to lessen the amount of drag. The second issue is the price tag; the Gladiator driven during the test drive cost approximately $60,675. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a vehicle that is more than likely being used as a hobby truck and not your main ride.
The Jeep Gladiator is better
Overall, though, the price and the belly drag wasn’t enough to bring the Gladiator’s ranking down, and it secured a sound second place. The Tacoma TRD Pro, despite all its hype and large fanbase, just didn’t measure up to expectations. Our recent review of the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro breaks down the main problems with the mid-sized truck, detailing in particular how dated the interior of the vehicle is, especially when contrasted to its modern exterior.
It has been mentioned that the next release of the TRD Pro model will address the majority of its drawbacks, particularly the cramped and uncomfortable cabin — we’re excited to see how that rendition of the small-yet-mighty overlander looks and drives.