2018 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 TRD Sport Review - Man About Town

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
Fast Facts

2018 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 TRD Sport

3.5-liter V6 (278 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM; 265 lb-ft @ 4,600 RPM)
Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
18 city / 22 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
13.2 city, 10.7 highway, 12.1 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Observed: 20.8 MPG (11.3 L/100km)
Base Price
$33,140(U.S) / $43,650 (Canada)
As Tested
$41,505 (U.S.) / $45,785 (Canada)
Prices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1,915 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2018 toyota tacoma 4 215 4 trd sport review man about town

Spend a little time in the gentrified corners of your fair city, and in between all the Audi Q5s and Subaru Outbacks jockeying for spots outside the artisan cupcake shoppe, you’ll spy a right-sized pickup that doesn’t conjure up images of dreaded rural riff-raff. It’s the model that can’t help but post sales increases with each passing month, and it doesn’t come in an opulent western/ranch-themed trim.

Now, aside from a low-range uphill excursion in an old college buddy’s extended cab 4×4 in Nova Scotia, my impression of the Toyota Tacoma was — perhaps unfairly — that it, like the protagonist in the Glenn Frey song, was something that belonged to the city. It’s hard not to notice its popularity with the type of urbanite who probably jogs, but only on weekends. And only with a female companion.

With these shallow stereotypes in mind, I accepted the keys to what seemed to be the most urban-friendly Tacoma in existence: the 4×4 Double Cab V6 TRD Sport model. What would I become after a week behind the wheel?

A man, that’s what. (No angry letters, please.)

No, I didn’t become any less sedentary, nor did my sparse moustache gain newfound bushiness. But the Tacoma’s rugged, old-school trappings — part-time four-wheel drive, less-than-nimble steering, and diamond-soft suspension — made memories of coddling crossovers and ultra-lux full-size pickups stand in stark contrast. If you’re too soft for this ride, don’t line up. There’s others who will.

Granted, the road-focused TRD Sport dials its suspension to the firmest of settings, ensuring moments of jarring rear-end bounce whenever potholes and shattered pavement lurk. This tester’s Upgrade Package placed 17-inch rubber where one would have seen 16-inch donuts, helping nothing, but not hindering much, either. Certainly, opting for the TRD Pro or TRD Off-Road (or going cheap and entry-level) would have softened up the Tacoma’s legs a bit. Couple this jostling with decidedly un-car-like steering, a tall perch (my knees were about seven inches below the window sill at any given time), and seats hard enough to double as a writing desk, and one quickly realizes how weak we’ve become.

How spoiled we are by sonombulent two-and three-row appliances that drive like a Camry. WWII wasn’t fought with cushy dampers.

Not that the TRD Sport didn’t try to put on airs. No, there was a wholly unnecessary moonroof in this loaded tester, but blame rests solely on the aforementioned package. OEMs don’t make a habit of saturating their media fleets with bargain basement trims, so this Tacoma arrived ready to satisfy the man who isn’t willing to compromise on creature comforts in the presence of leaf springs.

Features that serve as the bare minimum level of content in similarly priced five-person family haulers all showed up here — things like push-button ignition, a suite of driver assist functions, and dual zone automatic climate control. Gripes showed up, too. Like the fact this model’s Toyota Safety Sense suite doesn’t offer a lane-hold feature, just a barely audible (or visible) lane-departure warning. A bit of assist was something this highway wanderer could have made use of. Given my tall frame, a steering wheel that reached closer to my rearward seating position would have helped, too.

Despite scouring the infotainment menu (accessible via a 7-inch touchscreen) and the various dash buttons, I couldn’t manage to boost the gauge cluster brightness, which remained unusually dim. Speaking of the touchscreen, Toyota’s simple-to-use but dated infotainment system places the station list within millimeters of the volume knob when the Entune audio is set to radio. Inevitably, cranking the volume meant accidentally swapping manly hard rock for teeny bopper pop or a French-language newscast. But hey, there’s a wireless charging pad, so that’s a plus.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many oddly-shaped pieces of junk I was able to fit, Tetris-style, in the Tacoma’s 6.1-foot long box, or whether the bed rail cleats made smuggling soiled mattresses to the dump a breeze. The only thing this urban adventurer hauled during its week-long test was my own sorry ass and two flame-broiled Whoppers (with a medium drink). Not even a trip to IKEA for funny-sounding jams!

Of course, few trucks ever achieve their maximum potential. Most Tacomas spend their days in search of a speedier commute home and cheaper groceries, and rare is the truck whose owner ever selects “4L” on the transfer case dial. With a softer suspension, I imagine this double cab would very much excel in those mundane roles. Rear seat leg and headroom proved acceptable even for my gangly frame, and 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque doesn’t leave you struggling to get up to speed. You’ll just need to dig deep into that stiff accelerator pedal to find it.

To put it bluntly, the Tacoma’s only real problem is that it feels old. Solid as a rock, to be sure, but unrefined. Engine roar and associated vibration rides shotgun for much of the trip, the rear wheels enjoy drum binders, and steering effort at low speeds is surprisingly heavy. Course corrections give the feeling that the hood is actually a bow (love that scoop, though). It’s a truck that feels like a truck and isn’t afraid of making its owner work. And some would have it no other way.

These observations troubled me, frankly. Here I was, living in a city and bitching about ride quality and NVH in a revered small pickup. It wouldn’t be fair to return the truck and write up a review from an apartment that’s within half a mile of a Starbucks and yoga studio. Trucks are tools, after all, and the Tacoma is renowned for enjoying its romps in the dirt.

What if I actually needed this thing for rough stuff?

With this question in mind, I took a detour on the way back to the dealer; out to the sticks, where a hazy memory pointed me towards a “Proceed At Own Risk” sign standing sentry at the terminus of a dirt roadway. Past experience told me the roughly half-mile long section of “road” between two cul-de-sacs was a magnet for Jeep Wranglers and other off-roaders, as it filled the trough of a valley between two higher, parallel roads. Farm fields lay on either slope, but this half-mile stretch housed nothing but ticks, mosquitoes, swampy forest, and mud holes of undetermined depth.

Halfway down the road’s increasingly soupy length, I realized that tackling the course in this direction meant forgoing the option of chickening out and turning back. It’s better to ease into things, I guess. Further beyond the hood the holes grew in size, spanning the road’s width (and beyond), with the distance between them shrinking with each body of brown ooze. A lake greater than all the rest stood between the shell holes and the cul-de-sac on the other side.

Unhelpfully, it was around that moment I remembered the TRD Sport doesn’t boast skid plates, nor a locking differential or multi-terrain mode. Tire tread? Not nearly as chunky as its beefier TRD brethren. Oh well, as Sean Connery said in The Untouchables, God hates a coward. So 4H and a careful throttle it was. And so I made it out the other end — tense, in need of two car washes, but genuinely satisfied that this urban Tacoma would meet my commuting needs during the Apocalypse.

Isn’t that what every truck owner wants?

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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4 of 62 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Aug 02, 2018

    Finally someone reviewed a long bed model, I know some think the long beds make midsize trucks look weird but on the Toyota especially the short bed has the axle tucked up under the cab so badly it looks like it hadn't been designed that way. I like the midsize trucks but think they only make sense in a mid-level trim, SLE, LT, SR5, XLT... Beyond that they get pricey so fast there is little reason to choose them unless you MUST have a smaller truck.

    • See 1 previous
    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Aug 02, 2018

      @TwoBelugas I'm speaking of midsize trucks in general. What I see in my area among those who drive midsize trucks. 1. Fleet purchase - almost all ext cab 4x4, largely government purchase 2. Old guys who want a truck but don't want something the size of an aircraft carrier - almost always ext cab 4x4 3. Lifestyle buyers - carrying mountain bikes, dual sport motorcycles etc... usually the same young guys who buy 4Runners and Wranglers as well. Personally if felt the need to have a truck the narrower width would mean that I could park a midsize next to my wife's vehicle in the driveway but a full size truck would be a no go. And I'm not parking in the street.

  • MrIcky MrIcky on Aug 02, 2018

    And all the while, the new Jeep Scrambler keeps creeping up... I wouldn't even think about something in the midsize category until we have some Scramblers in the wild to compare. It's pretty likely Chevy puts the 2.7l in the Colorado twins too. That would make the Toyota as it sits today a pretty tough sell. That's before you throw Ford into the mix.

  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.
  • ToolGuy From the listing: "Oil changes every April & October (full-synth), during which I also swap out A/S (not the stock summer MPS3s) and Blizzak winter tires on steelies, rotating front/back."• While ToolGuy applauds the use of full synthetic motor oil,• ToolGuy absolutely abhors the waste inherent in changing out a perfectly good motor oil every 6 months.The Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage I run in our family fleet has a change interval of 20,000 miles. (Do I go 20,000 miles before changing it? No.) But this 2014 Focus has presumably had something like 16 oil changes in 36K miles, which works out to a 2,250 mile average change interval. Complete waste of time, money and perfectly good natural gas which could have gone to a higher and better use.Mobil 1 also says their oil miraculously expires at 1 year, and ToolGuy has questions. Is that one year in the bottle? One year in the vehicle? (Have I gone longer than a year in some of our vehicles? Yes, I have. Did I also add Lucas Oil 10131 Pure Synthetic Oil Stabilizer during that time, in case you are concerned about the additive package losing efficacy? Yes, I might have -- as far as you know.)TL;DR: I aim for annual oil changes and sometimes miss that 'deadline' by a few months; 12,000 miles between oil changes bothers me not at all, if you are using a quality synthetic which you should be anyway.