Stick Shift: 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

The Toyota Tacoma has always been a fantastic mid-size pickup truck. With handsome features, a reputation for dependability and the necessary hardware to comfortably take you places you might not have thought possible. It’s no surprise that the Tacoma has built itself a huge following of die-hard loyalists. Now though, with the Canyon and Colorado twins from GM, the much anticipated return of the Ford Ranger, and truck options from both Honda and Nissan as well, The timeless Tacoma is starting to scramble to stay in the spotlight.

Countless model variations to choose from have helped the latest Tacoma stay relevant in this fast growing segment. Starting with the SR and traveling up the trim tiers to the SR5, luxury filled Limited, TRD, TRD Off-Road and finally the TRD Pro. Each ups the ante a little more than the one before, albeit at a price. The TRD Pro is the Tacoma model I was fortunate enough to spend some behind the wheel time with. Here is a quick breakdown of why it is the undeniable off-road king of the Tacoma family.

All the necessary goodies to keep things from breaking as you bounce and crawl your way over the craggy trails are present and accounted for. The suspension has been beefed up with heavy duty springs and Fox internal bypass shock absorbers. The sidewalls have been stiffened for the all-terrain tires and meaty skid plates look great and provide important protection to the undercarriage.

From the outside, the TRD Pro looks every bit the part it’s meant to play. Black accents adorn the headlights and taillights. A large scoop is carved deep into the hood and commands attention from any angle. Black custom 16” TRD Pro wheels look great with red accent center pieces and those red springs poking out from behind. Fenders flair out in dramatic fashion and the center grille is a gaping mouth, surrounded by LED fog lights, ready to illuminate and then swallow the trail ahead. Spitting out the remains through a high flow TRD exhaust.

Once inside, you’ll find a multi-terrain select switch to handle a variety of weather and road conditions like snow, sand, rocks or mud. With this important driving aide, throttle and hill descent control is dialed in to practically do the most difficult off-roading for you. This crawl control, combined with Hill-Start Assist and a locking rear differential go a long way to help out when the going gets especially tough.

In general, the cabin is well built and luxurious enough, with leather trimmed seats and steering wheel. TRD Pro floor mats and shift knob, along with Pro emblems scattered around inside and out, remind you of your place at the head of the Tacoma hierarchy. The cabin is surprisingly quite, but the back seat is made practically unusable when the fronts are moved all the way back, which is unfortunate if you happen to be a tall parent, or at least wanting to bring a couple friends along for a ride.

Photo via: Toyota

With all the good comes a little of the bad. If only to balance things out. Fortunately, the list is short. I felt that the transmission was always hunting for the right gear. The V6 is smooth and delivers great power, but in general, the new Tacoma drives like a much bigger truck than it is. It can also get pricey in higher trim levels. Overall though, with undeniable off-road capabilities, an attractive ruggedness, well built cabin and enough heritage to stretch back many decades, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma won’t be giving up its spotlight anytime soon.

By: Brandon Randall

Price as tested: $45,087.00

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