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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A red 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown from the front at an angle after leaving a dealer that has used trucks for sale.

Midsize Off-Roading Warriors: Trucks Built for Tackling the Trails

You are a person who wants to feel the rush of the wind through your hair, experience places beyond the pavement, and enjoy the rush of excitement that comes from navigating terrain others wouldn’t dare cross. That’s why you need a midsize truck that is designed to handle off-roading with ease. You would be wise to get a used model, so that when you decide your truck can, in fact, go over that boulder or fit through those two really close trees and it gets a scrape or two, you won’t mind as much. There are plenty of used trucks for sale, but not all models are created equal. Many midsize truck models are only really good for driving on pavement and occasionally hitting a well-worn trail, and you need to get a unique trim or package to make them truly fit for exploration.

For example, the Toyota Tacoma, in most trims, is an excellent daily driver. But if getting down and dirty is the goal, only the TRD Pro trim is the one with the equipment you need. Likewise, even a known off-roading brand like Jeep still has trims that are better for off-roading than others. While the Jeep Gladiator may be okay for handling locations that go beyond the pavement, it is the Gladiator Mojave that actually has the off-roading chops you need to handle more than just a dirt path that has already been explored by countless other drivers. So, what are the midsize off-roaders you need to look for?

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

This iconic midsize pickup truck has been around since 1995 and has consistently stood out from the competition with its long-lasting reliability and unbeatable style. In 2015, Toyota launched the TRD Pro trim level as part of its off-road lineup. This trim was designed to give drivers greater control over challenging terrain. Toyota launched a new generation of the Tacoma TRD Pro for the 2022 model year, which means if you want a model with great tech and a slightly lower starting price that will soften the many blows your truck is likely to take as you cruise over logs and around rocky landscapes, then you are going to want to check out a model from 2021.

2021 saw the introduction of a factory-installed TRD lift kit, which gives Tacoma TRD models with the 3.5L V6 and four-wheel drive a two-inch front lift and a one-inch rear lift. This lift was done in a way that was compatible with Toyota Safety Sense technology, so getting a little extra height did not come with reduced performance of other important features. With this lift, the breakover angle increases to 22.6 degrees, the approach angle to 35.5 degrees, and the departure angle to 32 degrees. That means taking on larger obstacles will be much easier (and less damaging). A big part of this lift is thanks to the Bilstein monotube shocks to improve control and comfort when driving the lifted body. These shocks have special “Tuned by TRD” graphics and feature TRD red dust boots.

A white 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is shown from the front at an angle.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Let’s say that you aren’t into trails covered in trees and mud. Instead, your off-roading excursions take you to sandier locations. Luckily for you, 2020 brought the reintroduction of the Jeep Gladiator pickup that brought with it the first-ever Desert Rated Jeep 4×4: the Gladiator Mojave. Jeep took the same principles it used when creating its Trail Rated badge to distinguish Jeep models that were especially suited for off-roading and applied them to creating a high-performance model that could outperform others in the sand and desert.

One of the biggest highlights of the 2020 Gladiator Mojave that makes it so well suited for flying over loose sand is the 2.5-inch FOX shocks with external reservoirs and FOX front hydraulic jounce bumpers. These shocks allow fluid to bypass the piston to create a smooth ride when driving on paved streets and increase damping force when pushed to the limits on loose surfaces. The external reservoirs keep the shock fluid cool, preventing decreased performance when running over hot desert sand at high speeds. The jounce bumpers are there to soften impacts as you fly over dunes and help prevent bottoming out.

The Gladiator Mojave has an approach angle of 44.7 degrees, a departure angle of 25.5 degrees, and a breakover angle of 20.9 degrees. This is plenty of height to get you up and over obstacles, and the silver front skid plate helps protect against damage from the sand. This model is truly one to consider if you are more of a sand runner.

2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison

Chevy introduced the Colorado ZR2 to the lineup back in 2017. It is still a relatively new addition to the model, which means that you are going to get all the best features when you purchase used. However, if you truly want the best that Chevy has to offer, the 2019 ZR2 Bison is the way to go. The Chevy ZR2 Bison holds the distinct honor of being named the first Overland Truck of the Year by Overland Journal.

The ZR2 Bison is the result of a collaboration between Chevrolet and American Expedition Vehicles (AEV). This truck has five AEV-designed skid plates made of hot-stamped boron steel to protect crucial elements of the vehicle from damage caused by fallen trees, rocks, or uneven terrain. The front and rear bumpers are also made of steel, with the front bumper ready to have an aftermarket winch attached. AEV also designed large wheel flares for the 17-inch Bison-specific aluminum wheels and an available snorkel to help cool down the engine.

A white 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor is shown from the front at an angle.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

How can we even mention trucks without mentioning the best truck brand in America, Ford? The 2021 Ford Ranger came with the addition of a new off-road-oriented package known as the Tremor Package. This package can be added to the XLT and Lariat trims, so you have a few more options available than the models with off-roading-specific trims.

The Tremor Package adds 2.0-inch FOX monotube dampers, rear piggyback reservoirs, and specially tuned front coilover and rear leaf springs for improved off-road handling and ride comfort over any terrain. With all of its off-roading equipment installed, this midsize marvel has a 25.5-degree departure angle, a 24.2-degree breakover angle, and a 30.9-degree approach angle. Keeping with the Ford theme of tough construction, models equipped with this package have a frame-mounted steel front bash plate and underbody skid plates to protect against damage when the path is less than clear.

The Ranger Tremor also features Ford’s Terrain Management System. This system offers four driver-selectable modes, so you can tailor your Ranger’s output to the conditions you are in. Choose from Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand modes. You’ll also have Trail Control, which is essentially a form of cruise control meant to be used while trail riding that takes control of accelerating and braking so you can focus on steering through and around tough obstacles.

These Midsize Off-Roaders Are Only the Beginning

If you are an avid off-roader, choosing any of these used models will be a wise decision. However, these options only scratch the surface of what is and will be available. Many of these midsize options have been available for a while and are continuing to improve year after year, so you never know what unique features may be hitting the used market next. Not to mention, as the demand for capable recreation trucks continues to increase, new models keep being announced. For example, 2022 saw the introduction of the Nissan PRO-4X trim, a four-wheel drive only off-roading version of the Frontier that is equipped with an electronic locking rear differential and Bilstein shock absorbers. Whether you prefer trails covered in dirt, rocks, and trees or the wide open environment of a sandy desert, having a used truck that you can really push to the limits without fear will serve you well.

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