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

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Fresh from a Toyota dealer, a red 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, is shown driving off-road on a rocky hill.

Tacoma vs 4Runner: Which Fearless Model Delivers Maximum Thrills?

If you’re a Toyota fanatic, you know that their models deliver some of the best performance in the industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re coasting down the highway or taking on a heavy haul—Toyota is a brand that delivers time and time again. When it comes to adventure, though, not just any Toyota will do, especially when the terrain becomes treacherous and the journey requires features tailored to epic exploration.

Passing by a local Toyota dealer, two models will stand out more than the others—the Tacoma and the 4Runner—and as far as off-roading is concerned, both the best-selling midsize pickup and the midsize SUV boast legendary capacities. When determining which is the absolute best for adventure, however, this issue is under heavy debate—so let’s dive in to see which model showcases more capabilities, finesse, and agility for unwritten roads and unnerving terrain.

Adventuring in the Tacoma

The midsize Tacoma is so popular that it outsells its full-size brother, the Tundra, which is somewhat of an oddity in the auto industry. You see this truck on plenty of job sites across the nation, and when adventuring is on the agenda, this truck is unsurprisingly found on trails far and wide. Of course, you already know that if you want to make the most out of your time off the beaten path, you need to arm your off-road vehicle with specialized features; that’s why the Tacoma is available in a few fierce off-road trims—for imbuing extreme exhilaration into the journey ahead.

Opting for the TRD Off-Road trim will take adventuring to a whole new level, with durable design features and specialized performance elements to help it propel off the grid with confidence. A locking rear differential and Bilstein shocks help maintain control and precision, even when the terrain beneath becomes overly challenging.

To further navigate treacherous conditions, the TRD Off-Road trim features a Multi-Terrain Select system with Crawl Control, which makes it easy for this fearless truck to climb over uneven terrain like it’s nothing, as well as maneuver through various conditions with five drive modes at-the-ready. A Multi-Terrain Monitor helps drivers navigate the changes in the terrain with finesse, while durable elements found on the Trail Edition—including a lifted suspension—help you clear obstacles effortlessly, allowing you to venture into the unknown with confidence.

For 2024, the Tacoma unleashes the Trailhunter trim, which takes off-roading to an all-new level of excellence. Rugged and ready for anything, the Trailhunter boasts Old Man Emu shocks, reinforced underbody protection, an ARB steel rear bumper, a high-set air intake, and more unbelievable features to make time spent in the wilderness absolutely epic. With 33-inch Goodyear tires, an ARB modular sport bar for enhanced roll protection, and other trail-ready design and performance features, the Tacoma Trailhunter is the first of its kind; to put it simply, the Trailhunter trim is ready to make this midsize truck even more thrilling.

A pair of dogs are shown seated in the hatchback of a red 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road.

Exploring in the 4Runner

Not to be outdone, the 4Runner midsize SUV isn’t just able to hold its own in the wilderness; it’s able to offer a one-of-a-kind ride that has adventurers clamoring for more. It’s powerful with an impressive towing capacity, plus it’s rugged, durable, and willing to take you off-road with profound confidence.

Like the Tacoma, the 4Runner family also includes the TRD Off-Road trim, which takes off-roading very seriously. It has an electronic locking rear differential to help maintain control and traction, even in tough environments, and multi-terrain modes—complete with rock crawling capabilities—help the 4Runner keep up with some of the fiercest adventurers on the market. It also showcases a variety of specialized design elements to add even more pageantry to the ride, including red-stitched badging in its cabin, TRD Off-Road floor mats, and external badging to make it stand out from the crowd.

Opting for the 40th Anniversary Special Edition will allow drivers to enjoy an ultra-durable body-on-frame design to heighten control and stability, even when driving through some of the most difficult terrain. The 4Runner’s available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System helps those riding rough do so with added precision, decoupling its sway bars to improve overall articulation, making even the most challenging scenarios easier to navigate. TRD-tuned FOX shocks, specialized front springs, and strong underbody protection allow the 4Runner to cascade over rocks, mud, and more without hesitation—plus, with Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires, venturing anywhere you please is a given for this ready-for-anything adventurer.

The 4Runner doesn’t just perform like a seasoned off-roader; it’s also armed with features to make any adventure more convenient. With power rear glass, loading up and hitting the trails is effortless for the 4Runner; you can lower the glass with the push of a button and load your gear inside rather than pop the whole trunk.

Available third-row seating also comes in handy when traveling with others—or, if you need to handle more cargo, the seats fold so you can enjoy a massive cargo hold. The 4Runner also includes a 120-volt power outlet in its cargo area to help juice up everything from phones and tablets to lanterns, grills, and other camping equipment when you’re seeking to get out into nature for a while. There’s no doubt about it—the 4Runner is ready to hit the trails, armed with some of the best off-road features in the business, as well as helpful design elements to make the most out of your time off the grid.

A white 2023 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition is shown parked off-road.

The Best Toyota for Going Off-Road…

Is it even possible to choose between these two extraordinary Toyotas? There’s no clear-cut winner between the Tacoma and 4Runner because both models showcase impeccable qualities that set them apart from their rivals. It’s more likely that your trails and biomes of choice will inform your decision, especially since their off-roading trims put them almost dead even.

For the pickup-minded, the Tacoma features more available off-road-oriented trims than the 4Runner, with its all-new Trailhunter trim boasting unbelievable features to not only add excitement but durability to take on some of the most dangerous parts of the wilderness. It also includes more powertrains in its lineup than the 4Runner, and it can tow more, which means being able to take larger campers and trailers with you as you embark on the next leg of your adventure.

The 4Runner is built with ruggedness at its core. It’s not only loaded with desirable features for today’s modern adventurers, but it’s also able to accommodate more gear and more people than most other off-roaders. Able to maneuver through difficult environments while also providing the necessities as you explore nature makes the 4Runner ideal for those who may choose camping over an afternoon off-road jaunt.

The Tacoma is more in tune with extreme off-roading, and although it features plenty of space for gear in its bed, the 4Runner offers a covered cargo area to protect your things from the elements. Both vehicles are absolutely in tune with adventuring, which makes either the Tacoma or the 4Runner ideal for taking on an extreme excursion.

From undeniable performance features designed specifically for adventure to durable builds, as well as that legendary Toyota-brand reliability coursing through their chassis, the Tacoma and 4Runner can take off-road exploring to a whole new level.

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