2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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By Nick Kurczewski

The Toyota Tacoma has a near-legendary reputation for reliability, not to mention rock solid returns when it comes to resale value. This mid-size pickup truck controls nearly half of its market class, easily outselling keys rivals like the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Nissan Frontier. With six trim levels, two bed lengths and two cabs available (Access and double), there is no shortage of options when it comes to building a 2018 Tacoma to suit your pickup truck needs.

But when the price starts to creep close to $40,000, does the Tacoma's value quotient still hold up?

What We Drove

We recently got behind the wheel of a 2018 Toyota Tacoma in the almost-range-topping TRD Off-Road trim level for a quick refresher. While a four-cylinder engine is available in lower trim levels, our Tacoma came with the optional 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers 278 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. If towing or hauling relatively heavy loads are part of your driving routine, this is the engine you want in your Tacoma.

While many buyers will choose the optional six-speed automatic, our Tacoma TRD Off-Road came with the six-speed manual, making it something of a unicorn in a herd of auto-shift pickups. Our Tacoma also came with four-wheel drive, the four-door double cab and the available 5-foot bed (a 6-foot bed is optional with the longer wheelbase). Finished in Magnetic Gray Metallic paint and riding on chunky 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped by Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires (P226/70R16 front and rear), our Tacoma looked the part of a work truck without being too over-the-top.

The Off-Road trim starts at roughly $35,000; however, after factoring in options and the $995 destination charge, our tester came to $38,913. That's a sizable chunk of change, though it's worth mentioning there are still two trim levels that sit above the Off-Road model: the Limited and TRD Pro.

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How It Drives

With sales of the Tacoma booming, there must be something behind this truck's lasting popularity. For starters, we found the Tacoma is easy to maneuver in an urban environment. While some full-size trucks require awkward and embarrassing three-point turns into every space in your average parking lot, the Tacoma doesn't feel unwieldy when navigating tight parking lots or squeezing into prime spots outside the local big-box hardware store.

Rowing through the gears, the engine provides suitable power in town and on the highway, too. It pulls away nicely from stoplights, though it doesn't always feel as powerful as the horsepower figure suggests. Some blame might be attributable to the six-speed manual transmission fitted to our tester. It had long throws and seemed to lacked precision as we hunted for the next gear or downshift. The clutch was easy to modulate, however, and for hard core off-roading adventures, the manual could be the better choice.

Yet, for most Tacoma buyers, the automatic is the smarter option and will actually give your EPA fuel economy numbers a healthy bump. In fact, the automatic bumps mileage to 18 mpg in city driving and 22 on the highway, versus 17/20 mpg city/highway with the manual. (A quick note for consumers specifically regarding the Tacoma: Be sure to use the ECT Power button on the dash. It acts like Sport or Eco mode for the transmission, making the truck feel more responsive or less so when driving. The button changes the shifting software of the truck depending on how you like to or need to drive.)

Off-Road Cred

Sitting two levels below the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink TRD Pro, the TRD Off-Road still comes with plenty of all-terrain hardware. This includes a specially tuned suspension with monotube Bilstein shocks, extra skid plates, a push-button locking rear differential, Toyota's Multi-Terrain Select system, larger engine oil cooler and power steering cooler. There is also a substantial 9.4 inches of ground clearance which, along with those rugged tires, helps make crawling over rough terrain a painless process. Be warned, though, it can also make hopping aboard an awkward leap for anyone who is, shall we say, vertically challenged.

So, what main advantage does the TRD Pro have over the Off-Road model? The primary mechanical differences are Fox-patented bypass shocks, with 2.5-inch aluminum housings and remote reservoirs. These hard core units make the TRD Pro king of the (off-)road, at least in the mid-size pickup truck range. Whether you want to spend several thousand dollars extra depends on whether you really need this added degree of all-terrain performance. Leather seating, Crawl Control (for automatics), heated seats and other modern conveniences are also included in the price of entry with the TRD Pro.

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With its 6,400-pound maximum towing capacity and 1,175-pound max payload limit, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is plenty truck for most jobs. The handling is what you'd expect; it's reasonably accurate considering this is a 4,600-pound pickup riding on tall sidewalls designed to prevent rocks from puncturing them versus offering the ultimate in corner-carving prowess.

Unladen, the ride is a bit bouncy, though it's manageable and never shakes you to pieces. The cabin was free of squeaks and rattles, even when getting a serious move on some extremely rough roads in an industrial area outside of New York City. Huge ruts that would have swallowed a basketball didn't ruffle the Tacoma's steering or composure.

Inside the Tacoma TRD Off-Road

The view from inside is fine, if you're feeling nostalgic. This is a nice way of saying the Tacoma cabin is starting to feel dated, at least compared to rivals like the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado. Luckily for Toyota interior designers, the time-warp Nissan Frontier (not really touched since 2004) carries on for another year. Room in the front and back of our double cab was fine, but you can't really fault the Tacoma for not having enough passenger space with the double cab.

The multifunction steering wheel and 7-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system (a 6.1-inch system is standard) proved easy to use, with dedicated dials for simple controls like adjusting the temperature or changing the stereo volume. Unfortunately, the system is still not compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — something we're told will be corrected in the next model year.

After our time with the truck, we've come to understand you're not buying a Tacoma to make a design statement, but the splash of color in our test vehicle — courtesy of a red plastic panel surrounding the central air vents and infotainment screen — was a nice touch. It brightens up what's otherwise is a pretty dark and plastic-feeling cabin.

In terms of added peace of mind, know that every Tacoma now comes standard with safety equipment such as forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, a rearview camera and lane departure warning. Other available safety features include blind spot monitors, rear parking assist sensors and rear cross-traffic alert.

Does It Deliver Value?

So, does the Tacoma Off-Road deliver more of what you need, or are rival trucks (and even less expensive Tacoma trim levels) the better choice?

With its excellent reliability and outstanding resale value, the Tacoma makes a strong case for being an excellent a long-term investment. It does lack some of the higher quality cabin materials and tech features available in rivals, specifically the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. And with the new Ford Ranger coming in early 2019, not to mention potential rivals on the way from the likes of Hyundai, Jeep and others, the Tacoma might not have as easy a road ahead. In terms of outselling other mid-size pickups, it still rules the mid-size pickup market and looks to stay that way with three production plants ready to run flat out. But here's our two cents: When the competition begins to heat up, Toyota would be wise not to get complacent with the Tacoma; the truckmaker needs to do something special with the next iteration.

Cars.com photos by Nick Kurczewski

 

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Comments

What is going on with that dashboard? Looks like it's suffering from a severe snake bite! Is this Toyota trying to make the boring Tacoma edgy? Because it's not, it's like pouring a blob of hot sauce into oatmeal.

This particular Tacoma was configured for people who mistakenly think that a six speed manual will mitigate all the wimpyness of their 3.5 V6 auto-transmission option.

Wrong.

Like driving a stick shift Corolla. It's still a Corolla.

And what about the bed on this truck. A rubber mat? What about a spray in bedliner. For $39k this truck should come with first class tickets to Vegas.

Painted truck bed.


This particular Tacoma was configured for people who mistakenly think that a six speed manual will mitigate all the wimpyness of their 3.5 V6 auto-transmission option.

Wrong.

Like driving a stick shift Corolla. It's still a Corolla.

And what about the bed on this truck. A rubber mat? What about a spray in bedliner. For $39k this truck should come with first class tickets to Vegas.

Painted truck bed.


I have always liked the Taco's and owned one for 200,000 miles even though they replaced the frame that rusted completely through. Hopefully they have fixed the problems with the new-ish motor. If yoou had gone to the taco forum a year ago it was full of owners having issues with the Atkison engine.

As to the Pro being the best off-road truck. every magazine and internet show picked the ZR2 over the Taco Pro. in fact some picked the full size Ram Power Wagon over the Taco Pro for off roading....

The 2.7 with 4:30 gears and 6 speed is the best combo in this truck. The 2.7 will dethrone the 22-re as Toyotas most realiable 4cyl ever. The competition doesn't have anytning close to the reliability of the 2.7. It's a 300,000 mile engine all day long.

Toyota doesn't have to do anything special with this truck. It's not broken, no need to change for the sake of changing.

Of course the Ranger will change the game a bit. Doubtful it will overtake the Tacoma.

I used to own a Toyota Pickup many years ago, before it was named Tacoma. I think that Tacoma's reputation for reliability is considerably stronger than it's actual reliability. Last time I checked Consumer Reports considered it average. The Tacoma is starting to look downright ancient, kind of hard to believe that it sells as well as it does. As I recall, Toyota's seating position still makes you sit practically on the floor...maybe some people like that, but I can't stand that. Toyota really needs to make a solid effort on the redesigns of both the Tacoma and the Tundra, or they risk eventually losing some real market share.

Not painted bed, its composite and black through and through. Remember chevy vs ford truck bed commercials and then honda put em both to sleep with a plastic bed? Yeah. And the mt comes with a 4.30 rear end instead of the automatics 3.90 so yes it does mitigate the slower performance and terrible shift logic of the automatic.

@Brich999

thanks for that info.

I once had a 2010 Ranger 4 cylinder auto with the factory 4:10 rear. It was so low that it made first gear just about useless. I seem to recall that the stick shift Rangers back then were equipped with a 3.73 rear.

Hard to imagine a 4:30, however if you order your Tacoma with the 2.7 NA 4 cylinder the lower gear might be useful if you want to do anything off road.

Until they fix the seating, I've got to look elsewhere. Front seats are worse than terrible. We weren't 22 anymore. Comfort helps.

$40,000, does the Tacoma's value quotient still hold up?

You did not answer that - you went to comparison rabbit hole.

If you are telling a story about a rib eye steak, why you are comparing to T-bone, round steak, flank steak or flatiron steak - stay with the rib eye steak.

I will second Papajim ‘For $39k this truck should come with first class tickets to Vegas.’ I will add 5 nights at Luxor Hotel.

Who buys a vehicle thinking of ‘outstanding resale value’ or J.D.Power rankings and goes in his/her neighborhood running their mouth about that -hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana or har har, hardee har har!

Here come the haters, always gonna hate!

I own two Tacoma's and the composite bed WORKS! No cracks, no failures, just scratches.


If you want styling or liberal apple stuff, go buy a car or something. Trucks should be simple and functional to do the work and last long. Enough of demanding this liberal inner city stuff that drives up cost and weight.


Both of my Tacoma's have the most reliable truck engine period, the 2.7 liter. My 2010 has the 5-speed manual 4.10 and the 2016 has the 6-speed auto 4.30.


Both work fine but I prefer the manual transmission because it is quicker off the line and faster through the gears. Off-road you want that 4.10 or 4.30 launch in 1st gear for the auto and 2nd gear drop the clutch on the manual.
Not made for highway speed domination but will move just fine on normal roads and the ECT button makes this 4-cylinder scream past 3 or 4 cars on a two-laner with ease!


The leftist media can say what they want about these Tacoma's but they are solid, well built and reliable trucks! That is why I still own two of them.

Toyota rules. I have 2013 Tacoma. I build homes. So get your tape measure out and measure ground clearance for off road riding. Stock truck not jacked.let me know any other stock truck beat Tacoma's stance

I bought my 2013 new in 2012 for 25000 I have 105000 miles and trade in is still 17.000 that's impressive

One more thing. Stock hieght on Tacoma's are excellent, so you don't have to spend 5000 dollars jacking your truck to get same standard hieght of a Tacoma. Lol

A plus for manual transmission is I have 105000 miles on my Tacoma and still haven't changed my brakes yet. My brother owns auto services in dixfield Maine, can't wait to put my new Goodyear Wrangler duratrax tires 265/70/ 16 at cost for tires. Then she'll look even meaner

I'll tell you why they gave you the manual because the transmission in the auto w the economy flash in the smaller 3.5 motor sucks. Sounds and feels like it can't find a gear.
My 2013 4.0 L is coming up on 100k mi. Resale value is great truck is awesome
The problem is what to replace it with. I have now drive 4 gen 3 tacomas I clouding the manual. I'll wait till the next gen Taco. Hopefully Toyots will get it right!

$40,000 top of the line...fully loaded and Tacoma still does not have power driver seat or rear disc brakes....
I bought my 2012 Tacoma TRD Sport Fully loaded,New and the Toyota brochure listed power driver seat as standard equipment.I was very disappointed after spending $38,000 and I was told by dealer manager they are not responsible for typo errors in their brochures. I was told I would be compensated with remote start but everytime I called and asked about the installation I received the run around.

I'm still skeptical on the new 2gr-fks (3,5L) because the 4.0 1gr-fe was so rock solid. We'll see how it holds up. As for my 2.7l theyre bulletproof for a reliable easy to work on power plant. It's nice to see toyota still sticking to hydro steering rather than an electric unit which other have been having problems with it seems. I've always said toyota likes to watch other people fail first then they perfect on what others have tried....and yes that "plastic" bed is damn near indestructible. Like ive said in other posts ive heaved 90lb logs over my shoulder into my bed and not a scratch. Theres a reason Toyota trucks have been on every continent on the planet....theyre damn tough.

Papajim, forget Vegas, for 40 grand this oversized oatmeal carton had better come with a fellatio machine.

As far as the manual (standard) transmission goes, its probably the only enjoyable thing about driving this truck, because paying for it surely can't be very much fun at all.

Papajim, forget Vegas, for 40 grand this oversized oatmeal carton had better come with a fellatio machine.

As far as the manual (standard) transmission goes, its probably the only enjoyable thing about driving this truck, because paying for it surely can't be very much fun at all.

People who think Toyotas have lost their reliability don't own Toyotas.

Seating position too low... come one, really... All cars have low seating position and no one complains. I swear, pickup people are a bunch of cry babies..

Toyota sucks. Very uncomfortable truck.. save your money and buy a real truck

Toyota sucks save your money and buy a real truck

I had to replace my clutch after only 72k miles. Never had to replace a clutch on any other vehicle before.
I live in the mountains, literally on a mountain so manual gearbox is handy, but not impressed with having a $2,000 repair bill.

We have a friend that has this model but instead of leather seats they have cloth. Theirs is blue with the 6 speed manual. It is a nice truck. The husband wanted to down size from his 99 Dodge extended cab 4 x 4 which had over 300k miles which they gave to his wife's brother. Knowing my friends they will drive this Tacoma at least 300k miles probably more. The plastic bed would be a plus for me because I put a bed line in every truck that I have owned. I prefer the Colorado/Canyon and Frontier to the Tacoma but if I got a Tacoma I would want this since it is one of the few 4x4s you can get with a 6 speed manual. I believe that is why my friends got this truck because they wanted a 4x4 with a manual and his wife has had numerous Toyotas putting several hundred thousand miles on them. I would prefer the 2.7 with a manual but that is no longer an option.

@ Mark balin,

A response like yours shows you to lack credibility like democrat Senators!

Not this exact model, but I got to drive a v6 manual Tacoma on a 6 hour drive for work. One thing I didnt like is traction control automatically engages over 30mph. Don't care much for the looks either.

But....

You can still get one with a manual transmission, so screw ford and their piece of junk "ranger". Same with the Colorado, a manual option doesn't count if its 2wd only. What kind of pickup doesn't have 4wd?

Nice being able to get the manual with the V6. Yea yea yea... I know manuals are obsolete and for people who are old and actually know how to drive and want to be involved in the process and appreciate the freedom and strength of the M tranny. A dying breed that wont be coming back as people get lazier and autos have actually in most ways bridged or exceeded the gaps in performance against manuals.

Really miss the manual transfer case. Nothing beats a 4x4 shifter. The positive feeling and the throw of the lever. Whether you had reach all the way over to wrong side for a full size dodge or chevy with its very cool illuminated display or the plane jane ford bent lever on the correct side. Buttons and switches just suck when compared... Yes I understand more interior space, bigger better center consoles, less noise in the cabin, lower production costs from going to the buttons/switches.

Its hard to see value in a smaller pretend truck when you can get a far more capable full size for only a little more money and a bit less MPG. But hey if you got the money to burn and not much work to do these little trucks will haul your butt around in high riding style at mid to high teen MPG.

Nice looking truck. It's easy to see why others have fallen way, way short in recent years.

The Toyota Tacoma has a near-legendary reputation for reliability

@ Clint,

Can you stop with the liberal view on trucks by calling smaller trucks "pretend" trucks please?

My 2016 Tacoma gets the job I need completed on my land. My 65-gallon water tank, hauling everything I need to plant trees and shrubs and maintaining them for years to come. My tractor mower with 42" deck that fully fits I the bed of my truck with tailgate shut.

Why on earth would I buy a full-size when my legendary Tacoma gets it done? I have less weight, less massive size, more running ground clearance, a shorter wheelbase, it is easier to park in my garage, drive around town, get into a parking spot and so forth...

My Tacoma is not a 'pretend' truck, it is a truck that gets work done! Put down the liberal hate and see the world beyond your social media bullshyt!

Engine is a joke and the weak point of this generation of Tacoma's and the reason I won't own one. Typical of Toyota always lagging behind in power and performance. You can only go so far on "reliability"

@Clint- Not sure why Toyota couldn't figure out that people willing to work 3 pedals and a lever, would prefer a J-shift T-case, too.

Looks like a Camry!! Weak engine!! Where's the diesel option??

Tacomas are pretty neat and have the midsize market owned.
I prefer a manual trans, but full control electronic shifting autos is okay, provided they upshift on command (above a base low-speed point).
But the new V6 has me longing for the 4-runner engine.
-
@oxi

The 2.7 is the best truck motor, “period”? To imply there is no dispute? Well, I have a 7.3, well past 300k. The 5.9 Cummins truck that had a flatbed and towed a gooseneck to 26,000 total weight (sometimes more), finally had too much body rot at 600k. We sold it to a guy who wanted the engine, Trans and DANA 60/80 axles. Lest we forget the reliable 4-bolt main 350 engines in the over 8600 GVWR GM trucks, or the 366. The grain truck we used when I was a kid had a 366 and it is still I use today.
We get it Oxi, you love your 4cyl little pickup. We had a couple on the farm, but they are best suited for light duty stuff.

4WD Access Cab 4 cylinder SR with SX package has appeal as an urban truck.
As the price increases on the Tacoma higher trim levels it's hard not to choose a full size truck instead of Tacoma.



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