Entry price: $25,200
Price as tested: $36,262
This week we test-drive the 2018 Toyota Tacoma Sport 4x4, delivered with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Sport upgrades and four-passenger Access Cab roominess.
A success story in Toyota’s corporate playbook since entering the compact truck market in 1995, Tacoma is now in its third generation and has expanded in dimensions to arrive at today’s “all grown up” near full size status.
However, astute readers and fans of Toyota trucks know they’ve been around in the truck market with smaller pickups since 1967, when the first Toyota truck came to American dubbed the Toyota Stout.
Further, let’s discuss what “modern day midsize” equates to, specifically a near 130-inch wheelbase and weight of more than two tons. To me, that might be midsize to some people, but when you drive a Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport, you’ll feel “full-size” more so than “midsize.”
Our Tacoma Sport Access Cab, which features rear jump seats for two additional passengers via swing out suicide style doors, sits squarely in the mid-tier price range with a base of $33,810. The entry Tacoma SR Access Cab starts at $25,200 and then escalates all the way up to the premier TRD Pro, which begins at $41,520. In between, a bevy of models in Access Cab and Double Cab four-door motifs will surely quench the appetite of pickup buyers. Overall, there are six Tacomas to choose from with either rear drive or 4x4 underpinnings. Your Toyota dealer will gladly explain all the offerings.
Although four-cylinder models are available in the entry SR and SR5 models in 2WD or 4x4, once you get to our Sport TRD and above, power comes solely from V6 engines that put out 278 horses and 265 lb. ft. of torque. The V6 offers the buyer a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, while the four cylinder models, which generate 159 horsepower and 158 torque, are limited to six-speed automatic only. The V6 is my recommendation even though fuel mileage is a little less with 17 city and 21 highway versus the four banger’s 19 and 22.
If you choose the automatic for the V6 4x4 models ($1,370 more), MPG surprisingly is better than the four cylinder and moves upward to 18 city and 23 highway, so you might want to re-consider ordering a manual if fuel mileage is a major priority. Years ago, when the industry had just two and three speed automatics, the manual transmission vehicles always produced better fuel mileage but that’s just not the case anymore.
I really enjoyed my week in the Tacoma TRD Sport as it came equipped with the six-speed manual, perfect for a baby boomer that grew up in the muscle car era. Our tester also featured TRD’s heavy duty underpinnings and ample ground clearance of 9.4 inches that makes any off-road adventures an easier task. The 4x4 system is an electronically controlled and switchable 2WD, 4WD and 4WD Low transfer case with limited-slip differential.
Standard for 2018 is the Toyota Star Safety System, which adds all of today’s high-tech safety offerings to the already impressive list of safety features ala electronic brake force distribution, rear safety camera, all traction controls, power-assisted full ABS front disc and rear drum brakes and a full complement of driver and passenger front and side airbags.
Impressive outward cues find Toyota Tacoma further solidifying its reputation as a major player thanks to a TRD hood scoop, TRD enhanced exhaust system, projector headlights and aggressive chrome keyed front grille. The interior is also noteworthy offering lots of room, Entune stereo with SiriusXM, and all the modern gadgetry via a seven-inch touch screen.
Tacoma features a front suspension with coil-over shocks and double wishbone setup, multi-leaf rear suspension with sport tuned shocks, limited slip differential and stabilizer bars assembled on a truck chassis. Tacoma’s Access Cab models come with a smaller bed that is six-feet long although longer beds are available. The cargo area features a composite inner liner with steel outer panels, rail caps and removable tailgate.
Our TRD Sport came with 17-inch Toyo A30 off-road ready tires on alloy wheels, full size spare, sliding rear window, 120V power outlets, fog lamps, keyless entry, cruise control, fabric sport seats, leather steering wheel and more.
Options include $469 side steps, paint protection film for $395, bed step for $300, floor liners and door sill for $228, $140 TRD shift knob, and a $650 towing package. The tow package adds a bevy of must have towing items, including four and seven pin connectors w/converter, 130 amp alternator, Class IV towing hitch kit and a trailer sway control. You can tow up to 6,500 lbs., which again makes this midsize kind of big-size in my book. If you plan to tow I recommend the two package (naturally), but the other items are not necessary if you want to save a few dollars (The $469 side entry steps are almost the same height level as the cab step-in lip).
Another option on our tester was a Premium Package for $710 that adds dual zone climate control, heated front seats and automatic headlights. The final tally with delivery of $995 came in at $36,262.
Toyota Tacoma pickups drive well and offer highway comfort over and above what’s expected from pickup trucks built on a heavy duty chassis. And don’t let the midsize EPA classification fool you as you’ll be riding in one pretty nice “big midsize” Tacoma. It delivers excellent reliability, impressive resale values and really good looks.
Important numbers include a 127.4-inch wheelbase, 4,325-pound curb weight, 21.1 gallon fuel tank, and a 40.6 ft. turning radius.
Likes: Power, looks, versatility, Toyota value
Dislikes: Fuel mileage, rear drum brakes.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.
Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Tacoma Sport
Entry price: $25,200