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2018 Ford F-150 vs. 2018 Toyota Tacoma: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill September 2018
  • The Ford F-150 is the best-selling full-size truck.

  • The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck.

  • Both offer fun off-road versions.

The 2018 Ford F-150 and the 2018 Toyota Tacoma are both pickup trucks. Both also offer fun off-road trim levels. But that's about where their similarities end, as these vehicles compete in totally different classes. Still, each one is the best-selling vehicle in its respective class, so we can appreciate wanting to know the main selling points of both before deciding on a new pickup. Below, we'll outline the main differences between the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tacoma, and try to give prospective buyers a clear picture of which vehicle is best suited for their needs.

Background

Since Ford sells so many of them (close to 900,000 in 2017), the F-150 is an always-changing, always-evolving and always-improving vehicle, with each model year seemingly adding more and more modern features. The current-generation F-150 was introduced for the 2015 model year and was updated for 2018. The F-150 is offered with a wide range of engines tailored to a number of different needs, from a humble 3.3-liter V6 making 290 horsepower, to a new diesel option, all the way up to the raucous twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 found on the Raptor, which makes 450 hp.

The 2018 Ford F-150 starts at around $28,000 in simple work truck form, while fully-loaded Limited and Raptor models can exceed $70,000.

The Tacoma was last fully redesigned for 2016 and is known for its reliability and excellent resale value. The Tacoma is smaller and less utility-oriented than the F-150. Not as many engines are offered with the Tacoma either -- buyers should really only consider the 3.5-liter V6 which makes 278 hp -- and towing capacity won't be near what it is with the F-150. Still, buyers wanting a personal vehicle to fit their active lifestyle will find a lot of advantages when it comes to the Tacoma.

The 2018 Toyota Tacoma starts at just over $25,000 and reaches around $45,000 in TRD Pro guise.

Powertrains

The F-150 offers a range of potent 6- and 8-cylinder gas engines making between 290 and 450 hp, along with a new diesel that makes 250 hp while returning around 25 miles per gallon in combined driving. Even the lowest-end F-150 engine is more powerful than what is found in the Tacoma, and most F-150 engines also earn better overall fuel economy.

While the Tacoma offers an entry-level 4-cylinder, the engine most buyers will want is the volume-selling 3.5-liter V6, which makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. On four-wheel-drive Tacomas with an automatic transmission, this engine makes around 20 mpg combined.

Altogether, the F-150 offers a wider variety of powertrain options, each of which makes more power than the Tacoma while returning similar or better fuel economy. While one could argue that the reliability of the Tacoma's V6 is a strong selling point, it's really no match for the F-150's modern powerplants.

The least capable F-150 will tow up to 7,700 pounds while the most capable Tacoma can tow up to 6,800.

Both vehicles are available with either rear or 4WD and offer a 6-speed automatic transmission, though only the Tacoma is available with a manual.

Reliability

If you're going to sell three quarters of a million units every single year like Ford does with the F-150, the vehicle had better be reliable, and the F-150 is. The Tacoma is reliable too, and is known for being an industry leader when it comes to resale value. This one is a close race, but the nod goes to the Tacoma thanks to that aforementioned resale value, along with Toyota's reputation for building some of the highest-quality vehicles in the industry.

Safety

In crash testing conducted by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both the F-150 and Tacoma earn scores of Good across the board in all categories.

Both also earn additional points for their available driver-assistance safety features, and are leaders in their respective vehicle classes when it comes to adoption of this technology.

The F-150 offers forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and parking assist. The F-150 also offers a unique trailer-assist system which can be helpful when loading, unloading or backing up with a trailer attached.

While the Tacoma offers its driver safety features as standard across the board, it leaves out a few features that are offered on the F-150. For 2018, all Tacomas come standard with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

While the two vehicles perform similarly in crash testing, the F-150 offers more in the way of active safety features than the Tacoma, so it has a leg up here.

Technology and Infotainment

The F-150 offers a considerably better infotainment experience than the Tacoma. The current generation of Ford's Sync infotainment system is regarded as being pretty good, and offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, giving buyers three total options for their infotainment experience, all of which are highly competent.

The Tacoma offers a dated and limited infotainment setup. Like most Toyota products, the Tacoma lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, forcing buyers to tolerate Toyota's cumbersome and antiquated Entune interface. It'll get the job done, but this infotainment experience is tough to swallow in 2018.

Dimensions

As the F-150 competes in the full-size class and the Tacoma in midsize, the F-150 is bigger than the Tacoma in every way. Below, we'll compare the two vehicles based on the dimensions of their largest available cab configurations.

In SuperCrew form, the F-150 offers 40.8 inches of front seat headroom and 43.9 inches of front seat legroom. In the back, these figures are 40.4 inches and 43.6 inches, respectively. The F-150 offers the largest back seat you can get in a pickup in 2018.

The smaller Tacoma double cab offers front seat passengers 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom. Things are tight in the back, with 38.3 inches of headroom and a meager 32.6 inches of legroom for back seat passengers.

It's more of the same when it comes to the beds of these two trucks. The F-150 is available with a 5.5-foot, 6.5-ft and 8-ft bed. Tacoma buyers have their choice of either 5.0-ft or 6.0-ft boxes. To put things into perspective a bit -- the F-150's smallest available bed actually offers more overall space than the Tacoma's largest bed.

Trim Levels

The F-150 offers luxurious King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trim levels, which bring features such as high-quality, leather-trimmed heated and ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof and a high-end audio system.

The Tacoma doesn't quite reach the same level of luxury as the F-150, with its best trim levels emphasizing off-road applications rather than high-end leather and features.

Speaking of off-road, both of these trucks offer trim levels designed for the dirt, which we'll discuss below.

Off-Road

We have to think that many of you were brought to this particular comparison for a look at the Ford F-150 Raptor versus the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, so things wouldn't be complete here without mentioning the off-road versions of both of these pickups. The F-150 Raptor is a bona fide performance truck, the only one of its kind in the entire truck market at this point in time. Under the hood is a high-output version of the F-150's top engine -- the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. In the Raptor, output of this mill has been increased to 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, insane figures for an insane truck. Other additions to the Raptor include bodywork that differs significantly from that of the standard F-150 and encompasses a wider wheel track. The Raptor incorporates heavy-duty off-road underpinnings with long-travel suspension and remote reservoir shock absorbers front and rear, along with other performance-oriented features like paddle shifters and various drive modes. To put it simply, the Raptor sets the standard in the off-road truck market.

While Ford advertises a starting price of under $54,000, the average Raptor you see on dealer lots will have a sticker price of between $65,000 and $70,000.

The Tacoma TRD Pro isn't as hardcore as the Raptor. Starting with a Tacoma TRD Off-Road as its base, Toyota leaves the Tacoma's engine untouched, but does add a delightful TRD catback exhaust. Outside, the TRD Pro gets Fox performance shocks with coilovers up front and remote reservoirs in the back, resulting in a modest 1-in lift. Additionally, the TRD Pro gets a front skid plate, TRD wheels with a slightly wider offset, the much-loved black plastic Toyota wordmark grille, a non-functioning hood scoop and a number of trim pieces that give the vehicle a more aggressive appearance. The Tacoma TRD Pro is available only in four-door short-bed configuration and is not available with a sunroof. It's biggest selling point is its upgraded suspension.

Since it doesn't offer as much as the Raptor, the Tacoma TRD Pro doesn't require buyers to pay as much of a premium either. Starting price on the Tacoma is listed at $41,720, but add an automatic transmission and destination fees and this number rises to around $45,000.

When it comes down to it, the Raptor is by far a higher performance machine than the Tacoma TRD Pro. Still, the TRD Pro's modest powertrain and smaller size mean it's still great fun to throw around in the dirt while being easier to handle and maneuver than the Raptor, not to mention lighter on your bank account.

Conclusions

Overall, while the F-150 and Tacoma are both pickup trucks, the two vehicles compete in entirely different classes and are very different beasts. The F-150 is America's best-selling vehicle and is suited for a variety of applications, from work truck duty, to towing and hauling, to acting as a personal vehicle. In line with this, the F-150 is available in a number of different trim levels and with a variety of engines, all of which are powerful and well-suited to a full-size pickup truck. The Tacoma, on the other hand, is a midsize pickup. Its engine tech isn't up to par with the F-150, as the Tacoma's most powerful engine is less powerful than the F-150's least powerful engine, and also earns weaker fuel economy. It can't tow and haul as much as the F-150; it offers fewer available cab and bed configurations; and its list of available features is much shorter than the F-150's. Still, the Tacoma is great as a personal-use vehicle and is still well-suited for a variety of applications, just to a lesser degree than the F-150. The Tacoma also offers excellent resale value.

In the end, the Tacoma and F-150 compete in different segments and are targeted at different customers. Buyers interested in an F-150 but also willing to consider a Toyota product should check out a Toyota Tundra, while buyers interested in the Tacoma would be wise to take a look at the new 2019 Ford Ranger.

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2018 Ford F-150 vs. 2018 Toyota Tacoma: Which Is Better? - Autotrader