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2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road vs Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Review: Closer Than You Think

On the trail, these two pickup trucks are closely matched. One just barely squeaks a win, though.

byJames Gilboy|
2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road and 2024 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
James Gilboy


The 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road and 2024 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X couldn't be more different. One's based on a new platform that fits hybrid power, the other's a rehash of an old truck that's the only six-cylinder holdout in class. By all measures, the newer Toyota should trounce the older Nissan. But it doesn't, and in back-to-back off-road tests, the two performed more similarly than different. In the end, the choice between them comes down to a handful of areas that still aren't quite decisive.

I tested the two trucks together at a temporary off-road course at The Ridge Motorsports Park outside Seattle, Washington. The course was short in length but featured a fair range of obstacles to represent a variety of off-road driving scenarios. There were mudded ruts, long gravelly trails, a bumpy path you might follow while overlanding, and an obstacle course with a breakover ridge, a water pit, and some moguls. Mainly, I'll focus on how the trucks handled these, though I'll also touch on how they handle on-road as their handling characteristics there influence their behavior off it.

But first, a mechanical reintroduction of these trucks, starting with the Toyota.

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road. James Gilboy

The new 2024 Tacoma is based on the TNGA-F platform shared with the Tundra, Sequoia, Land Cruiser, and 4Runner, and it features an all-new 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. Both an eight-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmission are offered on the TRD Off-Road trim, which mates them to a two-speed transfer case. It's loaded with trail tech, from remote sway bar disconnects and an electronic locking rear differential to an array of camera angles and a new crawl control setting that works like off-road cruise control. There's an emphasis here on making things easier out on the trail—and it's close to the opposite of the Nissan's ethos.

By contrast, the Frontier is a far simpler truck; an old-school one as my colleague Andrew Collins put it. Its underpinnings are just a mild tweak from the previous model, which dated back to 2004. Its engine is a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6, which is fixed to a nine-speed automatic and its own two-speed transfer case. Its hand of off-road tricks is a small one, featuring only a trail cam, hill descent control, and an electronically locking Dana 44-derived rear axle. That's about it.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-RoadNissan Frontier Pro-4X
Base Price (as tested)$44,790 ($54,829)$41,375 ($45,730)
Engine2.4-liter turbo-four3.8-liter V6
Horsepower278 @ 6,000 rpm310 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque317 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm (auto)
310 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm (manual)
281 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual9-speed automatic
2024 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. James Gilboy

Whether such a small hand is a winner depends on whether you're playing Uno or poker, and when I drove the Pro-4X at launch, I found it to be an engaging analog truck. Just like some people prefer mosh pits to box seats, some people want a rawer experience off-road. But regardless of experience, some also just want to know which truck will take them further, and a comparison of these trucks' specs foretells the winner.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-RoadNissan Frontier Pro-4X
Ground Clearance9.4 inches9.5 inches
Tire Diameter31.6 inches31.7 inches
Approach Angle32.5 degrees32.3 degrees
Breakover Angle24.7 degrees19.6 degrees
Departure Angle26.6 degrees23 degrees
Payload RatingAt least 1,380 pounds1,230 pounds

There doesn't appear to be much in it in a bench race (or bench crawl), with the Tacoma slightly beating the Frontier's ramp angles and payload rating. Note that while most spec sheets say the TRD Off-Road has 11 inches of clearance, that's the truck's "running" clearance, which Toyota treats as separate from ground clearance, where it about equals the Nissan. Both use Bilstein shock absorbers and have skid plates protecting the front of the vehicle, the transfer case, and fuel tank. Toyota uses an unspecified "composite" material, while Nissan uses steel.

As you'd expect, both trucks performed interchangeably across most obstacles. Low-range four-wheel-drive, locking rear diffs, and all-terrain tires put them on similar ground when it came to traction. On particularly uneven terrain, though, the Toyota's optional sway bar disconnects gave it much more articulation than the stiff Nissan. This also made it more comfortable over anything rougher than a gravel road, where the Frontier tends to jostle the driver around. This is especially pronounced while crawling.

The Tacoma further edges the Frontier there with its trail speed control, which lets you focus on where to place your tires. This is further aided by the Toyota's superior camera system, which better communicates where your rubber is. The Tacoma also outperformed the Frontier in a braking distance test.

But it's not a full-spectrum Toyota win, because the Tacoma still comes up short in a few categories. Its handling isn't as agile as the Nissan, probably owing to the Frontier's stiff sway bars. Though the Toyota's seat is improved over the awful one in the previous model, it's still not great, and I absolutely prefer the Nissan's. (Too bad the Iso-Dyanmic seat is a TRD Pro exclusive.) Then there's the huge price gap to consider: The Pro-4X I tested rang in at $45,730, whereas the TRD Off-Road was more than $9,000 dearer at $54,829.

On balance, I would unquestionably say the Toyota is the superior truck off-road. Its sway bar disconnects, superior torque, and extra tech make it easier and more comfortable to take down a trail. But I don't think it's as good on the road, as I prefer the Nissan's seat, its heavy hydraulic steering, and its interior styling. Toyota's is a bit chaotic by comparison. Price is a sticking point too, as is the approaching mid-cycle update for the Frontier. We don't know what's in store for it, but if it adds sway bar disconnects, choosing between the two becomes a lot trickier.

As it stands, Toyota takes the crown on the trail. Yet there are still reasons to choose the Nissan, and there may be more in the near future. No matter your preference, though, they're both solid choices for most adventures.

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