2018 Toyota Tacoma: Safety and cosmetics added to top-selling mid-size pick-up

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Toyota Tacoma debuted in America in 1995, and was marketed as a compact pick-up, a designation it held through 2004. The second generation was classified as mid-size, and following a full third-generation redesign for 2016, the 2018 Tacoma remains the best-selling mid-size pickup as it has for 11 years running.

For 2018, Tacoma adds a safety enhancement, as all Tacoma models gain Toyota Safety Sense-P. This equips Tacoma with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control -- all as standard. Other changes include a minor grille update to the SR and SR5 grades, a darker mesh grille for the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road grades, and the Tacoma Limited features an updated Satin Chrome grille and offers a new black leather-trimmed interior. The 5-speed manual transmission is discontinued for 2018, though the 6-speed manual transmission remains available on certain models.

My test Tacoma, in Limited trim, came loaded with such standard items as a deck rail system, color-keyed bumper, overfenders and chrome-accented door handles, front dual automatic climate control, leather-trimmed seats and leather shift lever and tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 18-inch polished alloy wheels, power tilt/slide moonroof, power sliding rear window and power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators. Also standard on Limited, are cruise control, Smart key system with push button start, rear sonar parking assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, Entube™ Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, Qi-Compatible Smartphone charging, and lots more.

Designed in Newport Beach, California, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, Tacoma employs extensive use of high-strength steel in the frame and hot-stamped ultra-high strength steel in the body for a strong foundation for hard work, hard play, and durability. All Tacoma models are equipped with double wishbone coil-spring front suspension and leaf spring rear suspension with staggered outboard-mounted gas shocks for a steady on-road ride and solid off-road driving capabilities. While Tacoma does not offer a regular cab, it does come in Access Cab (an extended cab with rear-hinged rear doors) and Double Cab (crew cab with conventional rear doors configurations. Tacoma Access Cab and Double Cab models are built on a 127.4-inch wheelbase with a 60.5-inch bed, or a 73.7-inch longbed on a 140.6-inch wheelbase. My test Tacoma was the base 4x4 with an Access Cab, and it measured 212.3 inches long, 74.4 inches wide and 70.6 inches high with 9.4 inches of ground clearance. My test truck weighed in at 4445 lbs. with a 4x4 Double Cab and had a tow rating of 3500 lbs. (an optional tow package is rated at 6,500 lbs.).

Powerwise, Tacoma presents two engine options. The more economical engine is the 2.7-liter inline 4-cylinder, DOHC 16-valve cast iron block system with aluminum alloy head and VVT-i. With the 2WD 6-speed manual, it is EPA rated at 19mg/city and 23mpg/highway, and the 4WD manual is estimated at 19/21 (the 6-speed automatic gets an 19/23 estimate). The inline-4 provides 159 hp and 180 lbs-ft of torque.

My test Tacoma 4x4 automatic was powered by the larger and more powerful aluminum block 3.5-liter Direct and Port Injection, Atkinson Cycle V-6 engine with Variable Valve Timing-Intelligent Wider Intake and Variable Valve Timing-Intelligent Exhaust. EPA rated at 18/23 for 4WD automatic, I averaged 20.6mpg in mixed-use driving. The uptick in power starts with an electronic fuel-injected system, gaining the system a rating of 278 hp and 265 lbs-ft of torque. I found the Tacoma willing to transport heavy loads and it was quick-for-niche on the highway and the track, with a dash from zero to 60mph in 8.1 seconds and a quarter-mile completed in 16.4.

Tacoma’s sturdy suspension was firm on the road and capable for soft off-road activities, while its rack-and-pinion power steering is better at slow speeds than high-speeds and can be non-intuitive at times.

With seating capacity for four (2/front and 2/cab), Tacoma provides 39.7 inches of headroom in row one and 34.9 in the cab, 42.9 inches of first row legroom, and a tight 32.6 inches in the Double Cab. Shoulder room measures 58.8 inches in front with 56.5 for the rear passengers.

Toyota offers 6 basic trims in 30 configurations, including 2x4 or 4x4 setups, multiple bed sizes, cab designs and engines with each trim. Tacoma trims for 2017 include SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro. The base Tacoma SR with Access Cab starts at $25,200 and runs through the TRD Pro at $41,520. My test Tacoma in Limited trim started at $40,215 with the 3.5-liter engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 4x4 setup, a Double Cab and Short bed.

My test Tacoma in Magnetic Gray Metallic paint with a Black Leather interior added a hard tri-fold tonneau cover for $650; Black, 5-inch oval tube steps (running board) for $469; all-weather floor liners and door sill protectors added $228; a bed mat was $120; a very useful BedStep for easy access to the inside of the bed added $300; door edge guards were $140 and delivery and processing added $995, for a price-as-tested of $42,122.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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