No. 1 in sales, by far. So what changes might benefit the 2018 Toyota Tacoma?

2018 Toyota Tacoma

2018 Toyota Tacoma

What changes will make the 2018 Toyota Tacoma different?

Minor ones, if any, given this truck’s relative newness. Toyota redesigned America’s best-selling compact pickup for model-year 2016, giving it updated styling and a new engine. For model-year ’17, it shuffled feature availability and added a hardcore off-road model. For ’18, we’d advocate it add new safety features to improve Tacoma’s crash-test ratings, but we all may have to settle for some new paint colors and likely higher prices.

Compact pickups are experiencing a renaissance. Sales are up more than 25 percent through the first 11 months of 2016. Tacoma remains the most popular by far, and its sales are up more than 7 percent. Demand for both the second-place Chevrolet Colorado and third-place Nissan Frontier is up more than 29 percent, although their combined sales total only about 6,000 units more than the Toyota’s. Attribute part of Tacoma’s success to fierce owner loyalty. There are good reasons for it, among them solid engineering, stellar off-road prowess, and benchmark reliability and resale value.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To see if Toyota adds its Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) suite. This bundle of driver aids includes lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction, adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, and automatic high-beam headlight control. Most significant, it includes autonomous emergency braking that can stop the vehicle to mitigate a frontal collision with another car or a pedestrian. Autonomous braking is a prerequisite for the industry’s most coveted safety rating, Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Currently, the only pickup to earn the award is the 2017 Honda Ridgeline in its top-trim RTL-E and Black Edition models, which come with the automaker’s Honda Sensing safety suite.

To its credit, Toyota has been integrating TSS-P as standard equipment on all trim levels of many of its vehicles, including the Corolla compact car, RAV4 compact crossover, Highlander midsize crossover, and Prius hybrid. Expect TSS-P to expand to more 2018 Toyotas, including the redesigned Camry midsize sedan – and perhaps the Tacoma. Blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection is already available on several Tacoma trims.

Barring introduction of another specialty trim level like last year’s TRD Pro model, expect the 2018 Tacoma lineup to repeat 2017’s. That means it would again consist of the base SR, volume-selling SR5, street-themed TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, luxury-oriented Limited, and flagship TRD Pro. The latter is an even more hardcore version of the TRD Off-Road, sporting standard 4-wheel drive (4WD); a high-riding suspension; Kevlar-reinforced tires; heavy-duty underbody skid plates; a driver-selectable terrain sensor that adjusts the drivetrain to suit various conditions, such as snow, sand, mud, and rocks; and Toyota’s CRAWL Control, a sort of cruise control that regulates the vehicle’s speed in challenging off-road conditions.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

We certainly won’t discourage you. The Colorado and its GMC Canyon cousin beat Tacoma for driving dynamics, and they’re the only pickups in the segment available with a diesel engine. The redesigned-for-2017 Ridgeline is the segment class leader for refinement. But there’s still plenty to like about the Tacoma. Depending on trim level selection, buyers can choose from two engines, two drive-wheel arrangements, two transmissions, two cab configurations, and two bed lengths. The extended Access Cab includes rear-hinged back doors that don’t open independently of the fronts. The crew-cab Double Cab has four full-size doors. Available bed lengths are 5 or 6 feet. Note that the Limited and TRD Pro come only as a Double Cab; all other Tacoma models are available with either cab.

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Will the styling be different?

Excluding the possibility of another unique trim variation, almost certainly not. Tacoma’s styling was thoroughly freshened as part of its model-year 2016 redesign. And the TRD Pro, launched for 2017, got its own styling touches to match similar off-road-optimized versions of Toyota’s 4Runner midsize SUV and Tundra full-size pickup.

Unchanged will be Tacoma’s high beltline and squared-off roof. The look is unabashedly truck-like, but it compromises interior comfort by making the cabin feel slightly claustrophobic. Legroom is adequate up front; tall occupants will wish for more headroom, particularly on models equipped with the available power sunroof. Rear-seat legroom is very tight in the Access Cab and only marginally better in the Double Cab.

Any mechanical changes?

Don’t count on it. Some versions of the SR and SR5 come standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on rear-drive models with this engine; opting for 4WD allows for the choice of a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The majority of Tacoma buyers will opt for the available 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which has 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This engine includes a 6-speed automatic transmission on most models, though you can get it with a 6-speed manual on the 4WD TRD Sport and TRD Pro.

No matter the model, Tacoma’s 4WD system is part-time, meaning it should only be engaged off-road or on wet/snowy pavement. The TRD Pro stands out for its aggressive styling and extreme off-road hardware, most of which was mentioned above. The rest of the Tacoma line should also carry over. The Pro is the only Tacoma model with standard 4WD; it’s optional on all other models in place of rear-wheel drive.

Will fuel economy improve?

No change in EPA fuel-economy ratings is expected. Gas mileage isn’t a Tacoma strong suit; blame in part the robust construction that makes these among the heavier trucks in the class.

With rear-wheel drive, the 2018 four-cylinder models should again rate 19/23/21 mpg city/highway/combined and V-6 versions 19/24/21 mpg. With 4WD, four-cylinder Tacomas should repeat at 19/21/20 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 19/22/20 with the automatic.

V-6 models should return at 18/23/20 mpg with 4WD and automatic transmission. With the V-6, 4WD, and manual transmission, look for Access Cab Tacomas to again rate 17/21/18 mpg and Double Cabs 17/20/18. All models use regular-grade 87-octane fuel.

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Will it have new features?

TSS-P as standard or even optional would be the big change. Otherwise, expect a re-run of 2017. All Tacomas would have a standard rearview camera and a version of Toyota Entune infotainment system. SR5 models would include support for in-dash navigation via a connected smartphone and dedicated GPS mapping application. Limited, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Pro models would include GPS navigation system that doesn’t require cellular service.

Blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection would be standard on the Limited and TRD Pro and optional on the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road. Limited models would include leather upholstery with heated front seats, a power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and JBL-brand audio system.

How will 2018 prices be different?

If Toyota adds Safety Sense-P as standard, base prices would probably rise $200-$500, depending on trim level, bed, and cab configuration. They’re likely to go up that much or more anyway, even without the extra safety gear.

There are 31 different engine, drive wheel, bed, and cab configurations. It’s a decent variety, though not nearly as many as other compact and full-size trucks. The SR is a work truck, more or less. Its 2017 base-price range is $25,060-$30,675. (Base prices in this review include the automaker’s destination fee, which was $940 for the 2017 Tacoma; note that Toyota destination charges may vary by geographical region.) Cruise control and remote keyless entry will likely remain an option for about $500. Budget-minded businesses should also be able to purchase an SR with a Utility Package that removes the rear seating area for a $1,700 discount.

The SR5 will likely constitute the bulk of sales. Its 2017 base-price range was $27,145-$34,205. Its sole option package will probably again include imbedded GPS navigation and rear-obstacle detection for around $800.

Base-price range for the 2017 TRD Sport was $31,425-$34,015 while the TRD Off-Road spanned $32,680-$34,015. These models should continue to offer a $2,400 Premium and Technology Package that includes a power sunroof, automatic headlights, heated front seats, blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert, and rear-obstacle detection. This package would also be available with the Limited’s JBL audio system for about $3,000.

Starting prices for Limited models ranged from $36,660-$39,735 for 2017, while the TRD Pro spanned $41,700-$43,700.

All Tacoma models but the TRD Pro should continue to offer a $600 Towing Package and a $1,300 folding tonneau cover. Other options would remain available as dealer-installed dress-up and functional accessories.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Toyota Tacoma is in fall 2017.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier

What change would make it better?

A airier cabin and roomier rear seating area in the Double Cab would be welcome additions. Unfortunately, neither of these things will likely come to pass until Tacoma receives its next redesign, which isn’t going to happen until some time in the next decade. Prior to its model-year 2016 update, the previous-generation Tacoma ran from 2004-2015.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]