Off-Roading With a 2WD Toyota Tacoma (Is It Feasible?)

It may seem unusual that Toyota offers the TRD Off-Road trim in a 2WD configuration. Can you go off-roading with a 2WD Toyota Tacoma, or should you opt for a different configuration instead?

Before you spend money on your dream Tacoma, you may want to read through some of my insights first. I tested out the TRD Off-Road 2WD Tacoma for a week, and I have some important insight to share. 

2WD vs. 4WD

How does 2WD differ from 4WD? The difference is how many wheels are driving the truck. However, 4WD doesn’t mean the truck is using all four wheels all of the time. Instead, it is put in 2WD for on-road travel and only manually switched into 4WD when it’s needed.

With the 2024 Toyota Tacoma, these are the trims that are available with 2WD:

  • SR
  • SR5
  • TRD Sport
  • TRD PreRunner

These Tacoma models also offer a lot of similarities, whether they are 2WD or 4WD. Consider these similarities:

  1. Suspension configuration
  2. Low-range gearing
  3. Only minor differences in approach, departure, and breakover angles, based on the trim level and configuration
  4. Available locking rear differential

Yet, here are some of the most important differences between the two.

  1. 2WD has a rear-wheel drive configuration with an Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto LSD). In comparison, the 4WD has 4WDemand part-time 4WD with an electronically controlled transfer case and Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto LSD).
  2. 2WD features a smaller turning radius than 4WD trucks.
  3. There are no drive modes to switch between with 2WD models. The 4WD Tacoma has crawl control with multi-terrain select (MTS). 

Additionally, the 2WD Tacoma is going to be cheaper upfront, get better fuel economy ratings, and should have lower maintenance costs.

With both models, you may have noticed the Auto LSD. What is this, and how does it benefit the Tacoma? This advanced system improves traction by controlling engine performance and braking once a rear wheel starts to spin. This system is only meant to be used when the wheel is spinning because of a rough surface or because it’s stuck in a ditch. 


2WD Off-Roading Capabilities

toyota tacoma trd off road in mud

My Thoughts on Off-Roading with a 2WD Tacoma

After driving the Tacoma 2WD model, I’ve gotten a first-hand look at what some of the capabilities are and where the truck struggles. Overall, I believe this Tacoma is fine on some forest roads and moderate rock roads. However, it may struggle in sand and mud. It may also have trouble going up steep inclines.

However, the TRD Off-Road does have some benefits which help with off-roading even if it is restricted to 2WD. These include:

  • Coil-spring double-wishbone front suspension and stabilizer bar
  • Leaf spring rear suspension with staggered outboard-mounted gas shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
  • TRD Off-Road tuned suspension with Bilstein® shocks

Because the two-wheel drive Tacoma only sends power to the rear wheels, you have a higher chance of getting stuck. Yet, there are some great benefits to driving a 2WD truck, including these factors:

  • Costs less than 4WD
  • More fuel-efficient since power is only transferred to the rear wheels
  • Truck is lighter, making it more agile
  • Trucks with 2WD often have better towing capacity because of the lighter weight

Online Reviews from 2WD Tacoma Drivers

Aside from my thoughts, there are several opinions available to us online. 

User BBC2020 wrote tips on the Tacoma World forum.

  • “Dirt/Gravel back roads don’t take much skill or capability to drive on.”
  • “Soft/Deep sand requires a little bit of experience, and LOW air pressure (7-15), and a good set of tires. But there’s different types of sand (fine grain, how deep it is, if it’s fresh, etc), and some of it isn’t the best to try in 2WD unless you have someone to pull you out. You’ll want to remember not to gas it too hard and not get stuck all the way down to your frame. Bring shovels, lol.”
  • “Mud is typically done best with mud terrains, but there’s also varying types of mud (how gunky it is, depth, etc.) Depending on the depth or how your tires clean out themselves, you might [want to] air down in mud too. 
  • “Rock crawling isn’t the best to do in a 2WD with independent front suspension in the first place, but if you’re feeling brave and don’t care about rock damage, just take it super slow and air down a lot.”
  • “The locker adds equal power to both rear wheels and should only be used offroad. It doesn’t affect how fast you go or how slow you go. You can go as fast/slow as you want to with it on. Some people will tell you there’s a 15mph limit, but that only applies to when engaging and disengaging it.”

Here are some comments from a Reddit post, as well. 

“Get some good tires and use that rear lock if you need it… I’ve been through mud, snow, ice, dirt, etc., in my 2WD Tacoma, and I had ZERO issues with handling or getting through”
– User Beersandloudbooms

“I have a 2wd 1996 with a lunch box locker and can do most of the moderate trails in So Cal. I would not take it through snow or mud trails. You also have to drive much differently than someone with 4wd when off-road. If you do get a 2wd, get a bumper with recovery points and a good shovel.”
– User Heckinseal

Basically, there are some limitations to be aware of, including:

  • Less power and grip in 2WD trucks
  • May not be suitable for sand, mud, or snow

Improving Off-Road Capabilities of 2WD

toyota tacoma on trail in rocky terrain

If you want to improve the capability of your 2WD Tacoma, here are a few tips. 

  • Upgrade the tires: The tires are meant for on-road travel. Upgrade with deeper tread for more traction. Choose bigger tires to create more surface area for better traction.
  • Upgrade the suspension: Lift the suspension to clear obstacles easier. Choose a lift that raises the suspension, not just the body of the truck. 
  • Install skid plates: These plates protect the truck from damage. 
  • Install a push bar (bullbar): This bar protects the front of the truck and helps you get through shrubs easier.
  • Add a hitch: The hitch makes it easier to pull the truck out if it gets stuck.
  • Modify the intake: Move the intake up higher so you don’t have to worry about water getting into the engine if you travel through water sources.
  • Regear the truck: This procedure is expensive and requires a professional, but it can make a difference off-road. You should consider this option if you add bigger tires. 

Additionally, make sure you have this vital equipment if you plan to off-road in your 2WD Tacoma.

  • Winch: Hydraulic winches are more powerful than electric. With a winch, you can easily get the truck out of a stuck situation. 
  • Plastic ramps or traction mats: These are placed in front of the wheels to get out of wet and muddy situations. 

What People Are Saying

You can learn a lot from how other people use their Tacomas. 

I use mine a lot in the rain even. I have good tires, but even still, there are some slippery roads in the rain, and in 2WD, my tires break loose without much throttle at all.
User Ariesgtturbo
Lowering the tires air pressure will help greatly. 2WD tire spin (climbing or crossing sand) is what halt 2WD in the traction department. Tire quality and type help… but all tires do better off-road with the air pressure dropped well below the street pressure. Get an electric pump to reinflate when you are back to the highway. Having that pump and a tire plug kit will be great for the flats you may get! 10-20 psi is the range for off-roading for most tires.
User David K.

Based on this information, it’s clear that upgrading the tires should be the first modification you consider.

Should You Choose 2WD for Off-Roading?

After reading all of the information, only you can decide if the Tacoma 2WD will work for your plans.

If you only intend to drive down some light dirt and gravel roads, you shouldn’t have trouble in a 2WD Tacoma. 

If you want to make the 2WD truck work in more intense off-road scenarios, consider investing in some of the upgrades we’ve mentioned. Yet, you may end up spending as much as having a 4WD truck when all is said and done. 

On the other hand, if your life is spent off-road, then a 4WD Tacoma is a better option. The 4WD Toyota truck is extremely capable and worth every penny. 

Related Content

What Tacoma Will You Take Off-Road?

The Tacoma is ready for your off-road adventures. It’s the perfect truck for everyday traveling down dirt and rocky roads.

The only thing left is to figure out which configuration you want and decide what equipment to add. You can easily customize your Tacoma to fit any need you have. 

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