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


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.

How It Drives

With , 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.

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, 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  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.

More From photos by Nick Kurczewski




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