Jeep Gladiator Rubicon vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro ― 2020 Off-Road Truck Comparison Test

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro has long been the top choice among midsize-pickup buyers who prioritize off-road performance, but the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon looks like it might just give it a run for its money. The only way to find out which truck has the upper hand is to compare them, so Edmunds editors Dan Edmunds and Kurt Niebuhr cooked up an off-road adventure on a rocky trail to put them to the test.

In the end, the Tacoma TRD Pro proved once again that it is no slouch when the going gets rough thanks to its suspension flexibility, underbody clearance, locking rear differential and clever electronic traction aids. Compared to any other midsize truck, it's still got it. Trouble is, the Gladiator Rubicon isn't just any other midsize truck. Its beefy solid front axle and disconnecting front stabilizer bar give it even greater suspension articulation, and the classic Jeep hood and fender design provides the driver with superior trail visibility. It also has otherworldly front and rear bumper clearance, along with a more effective and comprehensive set of skid plates and rock rails. Our fear that the Gladiator's longer wheelbase would cause problems proved to be largely unfounded — it was just as often a help as it was a hindrance. The moral: Never bet against a Jeep in an off-road contest.

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling truck in its segment for a reason. Foremost, it enjoys a long-standing reputation for durability and go-anywhere capability. But it's also smooth, efficient, and easy to get along with on the road.

Off-road is where the Tacoma truly shines and stands above all others except the Gladiator. The Tacoma has the clearance, gearing and traction to tackle serious terrain, and the brakes and throttle prove to be brilliantly precise and controllable in low-range crawling situations.

The Tacoma's truck bed is ideal. It's made of a composite material that needs no bedliner, and it has an enviable combination of fixed and movable tie-downs. Loading is easy because the tailgate opens low and its bedsides aren't comically tall. The Tacoma's 6,800-pound maximum tow rating does lag behind some others, but the deficit isn't large.

The Tacoma TRD Pro is sold only as a crew cab with a short bed, and it's only available in four-wheel drive. It's equipped like a loaded-up TRD Off-Road. But it sets itself apart with special styling details, including a black grille and LED headlights, plus performance upgrades such as Fox internal bypass shocks, all-terrain tires, a thicker front skid plate, an upgraded exhaust, and a ride height that's an inch taller.

Toyota's Tacoma manages to deliver fun in a right-size pickup package. Its TRD Off-Road packages are the real deal, not sticker packages inflated by marketing hype. The Tacoma is great for those who want the look and feel of an off-roader even if they'll never get it dirty because it's also an easy-driving and dependable pickup truck.

See our full Tacoma TRD Pro Review:

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

The introduction of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator gives midsize-truck shoppers an intriguing new option to consider. Simply put, the Gladiator is a four-door Wrangler Unlimited with an extended wheelbase and a 5-foot cargo bed instead of the normal cargo area. This Wrangler DNA promises to give the Gladiator off-road performance that no other truck can match.

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is very easy to like. This burly off-road machine does almost anything the Jeep Wrangler can do, but it's also a practical pickup with a useful bed design and healthy payload and tow ratings. Inside, the cabin is nicely trimmed and easy to live with, and its back seat is more spacious than any of its closest rivals. The Rubicon benefits from a well-matched engine and transmission combination, and it has no equal when the pavement turns to dirt.

The Gladiator excels compared to rivals with a strong tow rating (even the Rubicon) and ample payload capacity. Its bed is thoughtfully designed, with low bedsides and a power-locking rear tailgate, and the rear seat's volume and folding strategy make it good for cargo and child seats alike.

The Gladiator Rubicon trim provides the most off-road capability with higher fenders to accommodate larger 33-inch all-terrain tires, locking front and rear differentials, an electronically disconnectable front stabilizer bar, Fox shock absorbers, body-protecting rock rails and skid plates, and a different transfer case that provides a lower crawl ratio for better climbing and crawling. Even if you're just cruising around town, you can have fun with the Gladiator's removable top and doors. It's the only convertible pickup on the market.

See our full Gladiator Rubicon review:

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