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2018 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2018

The 2018 Toyota Tacoma is the go-to midsize pickup choice for those who have every intention of getting their truck dirty. Very dirty. That goes for every model, but really, it's the three TRD off-road specialty models that really stand out, allowing the Taco to do things and venture places its frankly more civilized rivals wouldn't even dare. It also has a long, hard-earned reputation of doing so with near bulletproof dependability.

But this rugged capability does come with significant trade-offs. Bluntly, it's less comfortable, spacious and refined than rivals from GM and Honda, meaning it may get tiresome as a daily driver or during long road trips. The odd driving position alone may put you off. There's also the matter that it finally has a serious competitor this year in the form of the new Colorado ZR2, but that's really only on the table if you're considering the priciest Tacomas available.

Inevitably, whether the 2018 Tacoma is the right mid-size truck for you really depends on how and where you intend to use it. We really like its purposeful, uncompromised nature, but also acknowledge that it won't be for everyone.

What's New for 2018?

For 2018, every Tacoma comes standard with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. To say this is rare for pickup trucks is an understatement, though prices do go up accordingly for 2018. One other minor change is that the base 4-cylinder engine is no longer available with a 5-speed manual transmission.

What We Like

Legendary durability; more rugged and off-road ready than other midsize trucks; simple controls; reasonable pricing; standard accident avoidance tech

What We Don't

Awkward driving position with no height adjustment; sluggish base engine; rough ride

How Much?

$25,200-$43,500

Fuel Economy

The Tacoma is offered with two engines, both of which are offered with rear- or 4-wheel drive.

The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. It comes only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It returns 20 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway and 21 mpg in combined driving with rear-wheel drive (RWD). Those figures lower by one mpg with 4-wheel drive (4WD).

Interestingly, the V6-powered Tacoma gets virtually the same fuel economy. This 3.5-liter engine produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, while being paired to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission (4WD only). Fuel economy does differ based on drivetrain, transmission and even body style. The best is RWD with the automatic at 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. The 4WD Double Cab is lowest at 17 mpg city/20 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined. The manual paired to 4WD is only a smidge better.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Tacoma is offered in six trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited and the off-road-oriented TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims. Most models (SR, SR5 and the TRD models) offer an extended cab (Access Cab) or crew cab (Double Cab) variant, though the Limited is only offered in Double Cab guise.

The base-level SR ($25,200) comes with 16-inch steel wheels, power accessories, a composite bed liner, bed tie-down points, air conditioning, a backup camera, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a GoPro mount, one USB port and a 6-in touchscreen interface. The SR comes standard with the 4-cylinder engine, but it can be upgraded to the V6.

Next up is the midlevel SR5 ($27,000), which adds improved exterior trim, rear tinted windows, keyless entry, cruise control, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free for Apple iPhones and a smartphone app-based navigation system.

From there, drivers can upgrade to the TRD Sport ($31,900), which boasts proximity entry and push-button start, an off-road suspension, Toyota's Crawl Control system (a sort of slow-speed off-road cruise control), an electronic locking rear differential, LED daytime running lights, 17-in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming mirror, a wireless phone charger, a 7-in touchscreen including Toyota's Entune App Suite and an integrated navigation system. Crew cabs include a power rear window. TRD Sport models also come standard with the V6.

Drivers looking to get even further off the pavement can choose the TRD Off-Road ($33,200), which boasts off-road-oriented wheels and tires, further enhanced suspension, skid plates, the deletion of the front air dam for a better approach angle, a locking rear differential, an off-road-oriented traction-enhancement system (includes various terrain-specific settings) and revised styling.

The less rugged Limited ($37,100) is only offered with the Double Cab. It sheds most of the TRD models' off-road equipment, but adds 18-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system.

The TRD Pro ($41,500) is also Double Cab only and essentially adds to the TRD Off-Road special styling, upgraded shocks, extra ground clearance and the Limited's more luxury-oriented extras.

When it comes to options, many Tacoma models offer available equipment that's standard on higher trim levels. For instance, many of the Tacoma Limited's features are available on TRD models, many TRD features can be had on the SR5 and many SR5 features are optional on the SR. Note that the availability of options and model combinations can depend on where you live.

Safety

No other midsize pickup can match the Tacoma's standard safety equipment. Every truck comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, side-curtain airbags, driver- and passenger-knee airbags, a backup camera, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems are optional on the TRD Sport and Off-Road models and standard on the Tacoma Limited and TRD Pro.

The government gave the Tacoma Double Cab a 4-star overall crash rating along with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 4-star rollover ratings. The Access Cab was not tested, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave both cab styles the best possible rating of Good in all crash tests.

Behind the Wheel

When running errands around town or covering long distances on the highway, the Tacoma will feel a bit more rough and tumble than its GM and Honda rivals. You'll find the ride a bit bouncier and its driving position is, quite frankly, odd -- it's low to the floor and doesn't offer height adjustment. Plus, if you opt for an off-road model, its rugged tires will increase stopping distances and interior noise.

So, if you're looking for civility, look elsewhere. But what the Tacoma does offer is fun. It feels like a smaller, more agile truck than its competitors. Its steering is comparatively responsive and it feels like you can toss it about. Most importantly, though, the Tacoma is THE choice for off-roading in the segment -- how could it not be, with three different TRD specialty models to choose from? Unlike the GM trucks, the Tacoma isn't trying to be a miniature version of a full-size truck. As such, it stands apart as something special.

As for the powertrains, we find the 4-cylinder to be merely adequate. Most drivers will likely skip it and go straight for the new V6, which is a good move, as it boasts far more power and nearly the same fuel economy as the 4-cylinder.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Chevrolet Colorado -- The Tacoma's closest rival is the Chevy Colorado and its GMC Canyon mechanical twin. Both offer similarly appealing styling, ride comfort and interior quality. Both are more akin to a miniature half-ton truck than the more specialized Tacoma. The one exception would be the new Colorado ZR2, which goes far beyond the capabilities of its more pedestrian siblings.

2018 Nissan Frontier -- Nissan's midsize Frontier pickup soldiers on without an update in the face of much newer rivals. While the Frontier is tough, so are the new Tacoma and Colorado. Only consider it if you can find a great deal.

2018 Honda Ridgeline -- When it comes to midsize trucks, think of the Ridgeline as the polar opposite to the Tacoma. It's every bit as comfortable, refined and versatile as the Tacoma is rough, rugged and single-minded.

Used RAM 1500 Rebel -- If you want a serious off-roading truck, but would rather it be bigger and burlier, it's hard to beat the RAM 1500 Rebel (or even better, the mighty RAM 2500 Power Wagon). Prices are steep, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

If you have no intention of getting your truck dirty, the Tacoma probably isn't the truck for you. If you do have that intention, absolutely get one of the TRD models. The TRD Off-Road is probably your best bet, since it comes with virtually every rough-and-ready enhancement available in the Taco's tool box without the styling and feature frivolities of the pricey TRD Pro.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review - Autotrader