The 2018 Toyota Tacoma and Tundra are both reliable, long-lasting trucks. While they compete in different classes, below we’ll explore any additional differences that exist between the two to help you to fully understand the dynamic between these industry staples.
The Tacoma was first introduced for the 1995 model year and was the recipient of a full redesign for 2016. Highly regarded for its dependability and reliability, the Tacoma offers some of the best resale value in the industry. Updates like available driver assistance features and a heavy-duty off-road ready TRD Pro model assure that it will likely hold this title for years to come.
The Tundra was introduced to the market for the 2000 model year as a successor to Toyota’s first full-size truck, the T100, which was on sale from 1993 to 1998. The Tundra was last fully redesigned for the 2007 model year — a full 11 years ago — and its age is starting to show. Nonetheless, thanks to Toyota’s conservative updates over the years, the addition of standard driver assistance safety features for 2018 and a focus on reliability and simplicity, the Tundra has remained competitive in the market over the years, although a fully-redesigned version will need to be introduced soon if it is to remain competitive for much longer.
The Tundra and Tacoma both wear tough, handsome styling, but the Tundra is significantly bigger.
Neither the Tundra or Tacoma offers a single-cab configuration. The Tacoma is offered as either a 2-door Access Cab that includes a small rear seat, or as a 4-door Double Cab with a larger back seat and more space overall. The Access Cab is available only with the 6-foot long bed, while the Double Cab can be configured with either a 5-foot short bed or the 6-foot long bed. The Tundra offers a Double Cab or what Toyota refers to as the "CrewMax." In the case of the Tundra, the Double Cab is similar to the Tacoma’s extended cab, but still offers four doors, although the rear doors are so slim that you might not realize they’re there if you don’t look closely. The Tundra CrewMax offers a cab design similar to the Tacoma Double Cab or Ford F-150 SuperCrew, with four full doors and a spacious back seat. The Tundra Double Cab can be configured with either a 6.5-foot standard bed, or an 8.1-foot long bed, while the CrewMax is available only with a 5.5-foot short bed. Oddly, the CrewMax is not available with a longer bed.
With the 5-foot short bed, the Tacoma has 38 cu ft. of rear cargo space; with the long bed it offers 47 cu ft. of room.
The Tundra offers 55 cu ft. from its 5.5-foot bed, 65 cu ft. from its 6.5-foot bed and a segment-leading 81 cu ft. from its 8.1-foot long bed.
The Tundra is larger inside than the Tacoma, but only barely, as the bulk of its interior size advantages are realized in terms of rear seat legroom. The Tacoma has 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom. In the back seats of Double Cab models, passengers are given 38.3 inches of headroom and 32.6 inches of legroom. Up front, the Tundra offers 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.5 inches of legroom. In the back seat of CrewMax models, the Tundra offers 38.9 inches of headroom and 42.3 inches of legroom.
Neither vehicle offers an exceptionally nice interior; the Tacoma’s is rather simple and cheap-feeling, while the Tundra’s is rather dated due to the vehicle’s advancing age. Still, both interiors are functional while offering most modern creature comforts available today, which is about all you can ask for from a vehicle whose primary mission is to offer utility.
Mechanicals and Capability
The Tacoma is offered with two different engines — a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, primarily reserved for base models, making 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The engine to get though is the 3.5-liter V6, which makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. Configured with the V6, 6-speed automatic and 4-wheel drive, the Tacoma earns 18 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
The Tundra is offered with two V8 engines. At the low end is a 4.6-liter V8 making 310 ho and 327 lb-ft of torque. The more powerful engine is the 5.7-liter V8, which makes 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, and is available with either 2- or 4-wheel drive. All Tundras are fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fitted with the 5.7-liter V8 and 4-wheel drive, the Tundra earns only 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. Overall, these are the least competitive figures in the full-size truck segment.
In terms of payload and towing capacity, the Tundra is more capable, offering between 6,400 and 10,200 lbs of towing capacity to the Tacoma’s 3,500 to 6,800 lbs. Payload capacity is more of the same; the Tundra offers up to 1,730 lbs while the Tacoma is capped at 1,620. Both vehicles offer trailer sway control, although only the Tundra offers an integrated trailer brake controller.
The Tacoma and Tundra both offer TRD Sport models with improved on-road driving dynamics, along with fun, off-road ready TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models, although the Tundra TRD Pro skipped the 2018 model year and will return for 2019. The off-road trim levels bring about very similar additions to both trucks. Highlights of the TRD Off-Road models include a Bilstein suspension, all-terrain tires, a locking rear differential and multi-terrain select and crawl control modes on the Tacoma only. The Tacoma and Tundra TRD Pro add to that a high-performance Fox off-road suspension that results in a mild suspension lift, a quarter-inch thick aluminum front skid plate, along with black TRD wheels, and perhaps most visibly, the much-loved black plastic "TOYOTA" wordmark grille.
In the end, the Tacoma is more suited for recreational off-road use thanks to its smaller size, lighter weight, better maneuverability and additional off-road features.
Features and Technology
In terms of infotainment, the Tacoma and Tundra are somewhat lacking. Both employ Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Most Tacoma and Tundra trim levels come with a similar 7.0-inch touchscreen. Neither offers Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a sorely missed feature, as Entune is a rather dated and cumbersome system.
Both the Tacoma Tundra are lacking in regards to outlets and connectivity ports. The Tacoma offers one USB port and two 12-volt outlets; one mounted under the dashboard and one in the center console storage compartment. The Tundra offers the same, although both of its 12-volt outlets are located under the dashboard.
Additional features of the Tacoma are an available wireless charging pad, a bed-mounted 120-volt outlet and a standard deck rail system.
The Tundra offers the high-end Platinum and 1974 Editions, which introduces high-end leather, nicer wheels and other luxury appointments.
Both the Tacoma and Tundra are available with JBL sound system on higher trim levels.
The Tacoma scores better than the Tundra in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is likely attributable to the Tundra’s age, as its core structural components were designed for a previous generation of safety standards. The Tacoma receives scores of Good across the board, while the Tundra receives a score of only Marginal in the small front overlap test and Acceptable in roof strength testing.
Both vehicles receive Good marks for their collision mitigation technology, which is thanks primarily to Toyota’s decision to include such technology as standard on both vehicles starting with the 2018 model year. The Tacoma offers adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning as standard, while blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitoring and rear parking sensors are optional. The Tundra offers the exact same features, plus front parking sensors. It should be noted though that while both offer lane-departure warning, neither offer lane-keeping assist, which enables the vehicle to steer itself back to the center of the lane in the event that the driver starts to drift.
Overall, it’s fair to call both of these vehicles safe, but the Tacoma’s better performance in crash testing gives it a leg up in this department.
Quality & Reliability
Both the Tacoma and Tundra are known for their excellent reliability, which contributes to their great resale value. Both offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Both the 2018 Toyota Tacoma and Tundra are high-quality trucks offering modern driver assistance safety tech. Both are known for offering great reliability and resale value thanks to the strong reputation of the Toyota brand. What sets them apart is their size. The Tacoma competes in the midsize segment alongside such competitors as the Chevrolet Colorado and upcoming Ford Ranger, while the Tundra is a full-size truck, competing with such stalwarts as the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500 and Nissan Titan. If you need a truck for towing and hauling heavy items, or to use for work purposes, the Tundra is probably the better bet, but if you’re looking a truck to support an active lifestyle, or only to engage in occasional hauling and towing of lighter weight items, the Tacoma is probably the better buy with its lower cost, better fuel economy and easier maneuverability.