2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: The punisher
The smaller Tacoma TRD Pro’s shocks may also say Fox on them, but the smaller of Toyota’s two pickups is a different animal entirely. Its suspension is firm and uncompromising. Certainly there’s plenty of wheel travel, but the Tacoma is less eager to stuff its tires into its wheel wells than the gentle giant Tundra.
That stiffness makes the Tacoma more fun to whip around at higher speeds than the Tundra, but it jostles passengers. Given the Tacoma’s tight interior, that means a lot of bouncing around in not much space.
Unlike the Tundra, the $43,000 Taco has a locking rear differential. Tap a button and the rear wheels do their own thing while in four-wheel drive low-range, a boon for rock-crawling and getting out of the muddy situations I saw at the off-road park.
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro: Goldilocks, your off-roader has arrived
The surprise of the day is the 4Runner TRD Pro. For about $44,000, it’s well-equipped for battle. Its Fox shocks are as gentle as those in the Tundra, but the 4Runner’s coil-sprung rear suspension provides it with vastly better driving dynamics than the leaf springs in the pickups.
The 4Runner is no nimble machine, but it’s significantly smaller than the other two, which means it can snake down a tight trail with relative ease. Like the Tacoma, the 4Runner has traction control modes for most situations and a push-button rear differential lock. Its transfer case is even operated by an old-fashioned lever rather than a knob that might as well control the air conditioning system.
Maybe it’s the 4Runner TRD Pro’s impressive momentum game that helps it scrabble up a rocky hill that endears it to me so quickly. As an out-of-the-box exploration rig, it’s hard to imagine a better all-rounder. The latest Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a fancier touchscreen and will ultimately go further, but it’s costlier with equivalent options and still a chore to drive around town.
I’ll have the 4Runner TRD Pro—with a Dr Pepper in its cupholder.