2020 Toyota 4Runner and Tacoma take on Moab and the Colorado high country

First thing I did was climb into a new 2020 Tacoma Off Road. This one had the cave man-approved exterior color name of “cement.” Mongo like. As you know, the Tacoma hasn’t really been redone since about the end of the Pleistocene epoch. It did get a new 3.5-liter V6 in 2016, with that cool direct and port injection system you first saw on the Scion FRS/Toyota 86. On the Tacoma its variable valve timing-intelligent wider intake and variable valve timing intelligent exhaust allows it to run on the Atkinson Cycle if it chooses to, depending on load and demand. It also got a six-speed automatic, part-time four-wheel drive with low range, and mine got an electronically controlled locking rear differential.
Thus equipped I joined a string of Toyota trucks and we caravanned out of Moab to the southeast, a column of Toyota technology aiming straight for the 12,000-foot-plus La Sal Mountains. I’d seen them poking up there many times, rising incongruously out of the Roadrunner-vs.-Coyote red and beige sandstone of their surroundings like snow-capped sirens. No matter how hot it was in Moab, and it was dang hot, the La Sals always stood there, beckoning with cool green meadows and snowy peaks.
The dirt roads of the Manti-La Sal National Forest were well-graded and easy to drive, but the altitude sapped the V6’s 278 hp and 265 lb ft of torque by 30 percent at the 10,000-foot pass. Otherwise the smooth road didn’t challenge the Tacoma too much. I could have towed a trailer up there using the V6’s 6,400-pound towing capacity (though towing capacity would have been sapped, too).
Down into the rolling pastureland of the Dallas Divide, a place increasingly dotted with yuppie ranchero horse farms every half-mile, the mighty San Juan Mountains rose on the horizon to the east, far more formidable than the languorous La Sals. Undaunted, we drove up into them in two-wheel high.