I admit it – I’m just a weenie when it comes to getting dirty and getting close to nature. Mountain biking may be one of my favorite sports, but a hot shower and wall-to-wall carpeting underneath my bare feet awaits me upon returning to my clean suburban home with its soft feather mattress and biodegradable citrus cleaners. Today I took the opportunity to shed my dirt phobias and got an intro to off-roading at the Toyota Trail Teams outdoor demo at the Sea Otter Classic in beautiful Monterey, CA. Essentially, the Sea Otter Classic is northern California’s largest cycling event and I was at Laguna Seca for four days covering the event for our sister sites – mtbr.com and roadbikereview.com.
Now, how does a bicycle race fit in with a car review site? Some car manufacturers are smart to tie in with the cycling crowd, such as Subaru does with and Gary Fisher Bikes and the Volkswagen/Trek team up. Toyota uses the Sea Otter Classic and similar outdoor events to promote their trucks and SUVs. Last year year was the redesigned Tundra. This year the Toyota Trail Team constructed a small course so that anyone can test the 4×4 abilities of the FJ Cruiser and Tacoma trucks.
The setup is fairly simple. You walk up to the demo area, register, hop into an FJ Cruiser or Tacoma, and an instructor helps you navigate the course while demonstrating the vehicle’s off-road capabilities such as the limited slip differential and vehicle’s maximum lean angle. Turns out this is a great hands-on introduction for first-time noobs like me and drivers of 4×4 vehicles who have never taken their SUV or truck beyond anything more extreme than a gravel road while visiting their favorite winery.
The FJ Cruiser and Tacoma trucks used for the outdoor demo are purely stock, with only a few minor upgrades such as a 2″ RevTech lift kit, ARB bull bars, and 33″ BF Goodrich all-terrain tires. Oh yeah, the Trail Teams decided to pull some parts from the TRD shelf and give the Tacoma a little more horsepower. The supercharger outfitted in the Tacoma is available from the Toyota Racing Development catalog and boosts the 4.0L V6 engine to 304 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Factory specs for the Tacoma V6 are normally rated at 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.
My co-pilot and instructor for my brief session on dirt was Garrett. This manly-man is one of the instructors that travels with the road show and outdoor demonstrations. While on the tour, Garret lives in a trailer and is out on the road (and off-road) 9 months out of the year. Last year Garrett logged over 60,000 miles traveling across North America and teaching noobs, like me, how to have fun and be safe traversing treacherous obstacles that look as menacing as a 25 foot wave does to a surfer.
Sadly, the driving demo only takes a few minutes to navigate the course. I had a lot of fun maneuvering through the course in both the supercharged Tacoma and FJ Cruiser. This off-road stuff is definitely worth exploring further. Where can a noob like me sign up to learn and drive more rock crawling trails?