Not that long, the Toyota Tacoma was the dominant player in the compact pickup truck segment, to the point where Ford and General Motors had even abandoned the category. Only the lonely Nissan Frontier did what it could to compete against the King. When GM decided to get back into the category and introduced the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, however, everything changed.
While the Toyota pickup was above all an all-terrain specialist and came in multiple versions, its new Chevy and GM rivals were more modern, more comfortable and more versatile; they were also able to carry more cargo and pull heavier loads.
Predictably, Toyota reacted by offering even more versions, including an ultra-rugged version, the TRD Pro, able to tackle the most impossible terrain. But this truck’s very abilities also made it pretty uncomfortable to drive. This model is in fact Toyota’s answer to the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, a genuine off-roader also designed for extreme driving.
The variants continue to multiply like rabbits. But a version with the TRD Pro options package is certainly the most representative when it comes to this model.
Like many models that have been on the market for a few years, the different choices offered with all those variants have to do with engines, drivetrains and of course standard and optional equipment. Buyers can also choose a version configured to allow for the addition of the TRD Pro package. This modifies the truck’s appearance, with the addition of an air intake beneath the hood, a unique front grille and several components designed to enable more aggressive off-roading, such as Fox shocks with reservoir.
Its many disguises notwithstanding, the shape of the Tacoma remains the same, in fact it’s become a bit of a classic over the years – even if its age is starting to show beneath its front-end makeover.
The interior might best be qualified as “contemporary Toyota”; its semi-modern presentation benefits from impeccable finishing and solid ergonomics. We should mention that several of the commands were designed to be used while wearing gloves, a smart acknowledgement of the essential character of the truck.
That said, getting into that interior requires a certain amount of gymnastics, seeing as how the floor is quite high while the top of the door frame is low. This means that tall people have to contort their bodies to get inside. This rather unusual design is dictated by the principal vocation of the Tacoma, off-road driving. The engineers at Toyota made this compromise to gain the required ground clearance without negatively impacting on the vehicle’s shape. Another consequence of this design is that the seats are placed very low inside the cabin, resulting in a seating position that is kind of unpleasant, especially in the models with manual transmissions, which require pressing on the pedals at a different angle.
The Double Cab version allows back-row occupants to enjoy fairly ample legroom, and that rear section can be transformed into a large cargo space by pulling up the bench.
An easy choice
With certain versions, buyers can opt for a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine delivering 159 hp. This engine is certainly reliable, but it’s not all that powerful and consumers really have little reason to choose it, since its fuel consumption is roughly the same as the V6 engine.
The 3.5L V6 in our tester is a smart choice as much for its performance as for the 278 hp it delivers working with a 6-speed automatic that works pretty faultlessly.
For the rest, our TRD Sport version benefited from multiple elements that help justify the cost of this package, which adds about $4,000 to the vehicle’s cost. This gives your Tacoma a sport-calibrated suspension, automatic dual-zone climate control, navigation, blind spot monitor with rear transversal alert, heated front seats, push-button start and on and on to near-infinity. Did I mention wireless smartphone charging? You get that too.
Middling driving experience on the road, much better off it
Several elements help make the Tacoma an attractive choice, beginning with the newly refreshed outer shell, a generous supply of standard equipment and excellent off-road capabilities. There’s a fly in the soup, though, that has to do with durability – a surprising weakness for a Toyota-branded model. Past editions of the model did have a tendency to rust; the problem even led to a recall. As well, the transmission has been called into question. In fact Consumer Reports is rather down on the model in regards to durability.
In daily driving, the Tacoma is not all that pleasant to drive, due in part to the unorthodox driving position, to middling success at sound insulation and to a suspension not really well-suited to handling on-road imperfections.
Turn off that road, however, and you get a truck that’s much more in its element. The modified suspension is able to gloss over bumps and obstacles, while the all-wheel drive works flawlessly. The latter system features several terrain-management systems that get the truck out of any difficult challenge without the driver having to intervene. I was truly impressed!
But then, you get back on the paved road, and the Tacoma comes back down to earth.
2018 Toyota Tacoma pictures