2018 Tacoma New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Tacoma is an especially rugged and reliable midsize pickup truck, generally regarded as the best in the class for bouncing over boulders. Tacoma TRDs are popular in California for carrying dirt bikes and ATVs into the desert.
Tacoma got a partial redesign (new hood, front fascia and cabin structure) along with new powertrains and suspension for 2016; a new TRD Pro off-road model for 2017; and for 2018 the changes are all in safety: standard automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera is also standard.
Tacoma comes in four configurations: Short Bed and Long Bed, with Double Cab (full rear seat) or Access Cab (small folding seat). There's rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
The TRD Pro raises the suspension by one inch, and adds skid plates, all-terrain tires, black alloy wheels, cat-back exhaust system, LED driving lights, and badging on the grille. The TRD Pro includes the off-road features of the TRD Off Road model.
The length of the short bed is 60.5 inches, and the long bed is 73.7 inches. The width of the bed is 53.4 inches, narrowing to 41.5 inches at the wheelwells, so a sheet of plywood won't fit flat, and will have to ride on the raised tailgate. The depth of the bed is 19.1 inches.
Base engine is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission, depending on the cab. The four-cylinder is rated at an EPA-estimated 19/23 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined, with automatic and rear-wheel drive. It's a good work truck, able to tow 1620 pounds.
More popular is the 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection making 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, mated to 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. V6 fuel mileage is about the same as the four cylinder, while it's considerably smoother and more powerful. The V6 with automatic and 4WD gets an EPA-rated 18/23 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. The manual gearbox drops mileage by about two miles per gallon, while two-wheel drive improves it by one.
The V6 is rated up to 6800 pounds, with a package including a heavy-duty oil and transmission cooler (with the automatic), 130-amp alternator (manual), and Trailer Sway Control. Still, the full-size Toyota Tundra is a better choice to tow anything heavier than a bass boat or motorcycle on a trailer.
Off-road capability and durability is a big part of the Tacoma brand. Its Multi-Terrain Select system (taken from the 4Runner) is similar to systems on Land Rover, Jeep and Ford. Drivers can set the modes for mud, sand, slick rock and more, changing the throttle and braking. The four-wheel-drive transfer case, set with a knob on the dash, isn't meant to improve cornering on the road, unlike all-wheel drive on sedans. TRD Sport models include an automatic limited-slip rear differential, while TRD Off Road and TRD Pro models go a step further with a locking rear differential.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Tacoma its top scores for both moderate front-overlap and side-impact crashworthiness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only crash-tested the Crew Cab, giving it four stars overall.
The 2018 Toyota Tacoma comes in six models: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off Road, TRD Limited, and TRD Pro. The SR Access Cab I4 automatic with six-foot bed and two-wheel drive ($25,200) is the base model. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charges.).