Toyota Tacoma vs Tundra

Toyota Tacoma vs Tundra

Last Updated July 21, 2021 | Andrew Boyle

Beginning in 1995, the Tacoma replaced the previous pickup that Toyota cleverly dubbed the Toyota Pickup. With a simple moniker like that, it’s probably a good thing that Toyota switched up its naming structure with the introduction of the Tacoma. The Tacoma is considered a midsize truck in comparison to Toyota’s larger pickup, the Tundra.

Released a few years after the Tacoma, the Tundra debuted in 1999 as the first full-size truck offered in North America from a Japanese automaker. With the Ford F-150 as the top-selling truck in America and the release of the Chevy Silverado in 1999, Toyota introduced the Tundra to compete with some of the bigger names in the game. Both the Tacoma and Tundra are assembled in the southern United States, in San Antonio, Texas. When debating between the Tacoma vs Tundra, each truck is going to offer different trim levels, engines, and features. Let’s take a look at how each truck performs to help you decide which is right for you!

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Tacoma vs Tundra: Exterior

Tacoma TRD Sport 2018 Toyota Truck

Before we get into the specific performance aspects of the Tacoma and Tundra, let’s address the aesthetics of each pickup. While the Tacoma is obviously going to be smaller in stature than the larger Tundra, there are several other identifiable differences in their exteriors. For both the Tacoma and Tundra, the most basic model is the SR edition. One of the first major noticeable idiosyncrasies will be the front end, especially the grilles. While both the Tacoma and Tundra have hexagonal-shaped grilles, they aren’t identical by any means. The Tacoma has a more defined and angular grille than the Tundra, which is bigger and blockier. Slanted headlights on the Tacoma give it a sleeker front end, along with the less-obtrusive, integrated bumper.

One distinguishing feature of the Tundra’s grille is the hood bulge right above the grille, which has a thin rectangular opening. A large protruding bumper and bigger headlights add to the Tundra’s stocky appearance. Both the Tundra and Tacoma have similar-shaped wheels wells that aren’t quite as round as the F-150 or as square as the Silverado. When it comes to the back of the trucks, the Tundra and Tacoma have a similar-looking tailgate with embossed lettering in different locations. For the Tacoma TRD Sport, a honeycomb grille and a hood scoop are additional features that give the truck a more aggressive look.

Tundra truck with hood scoop driving on road

For an even more sinister appearance though, the Tacoma TRD Pro has a hood scoop with a unique graphic and a heritage grille that features the “Toyota” lettering rather than the logo. There are several other trim levels for the Tacoma, with the truck’s appearance varying slightly for each. As with the Tacoma, the Tundra also has several different models to choose from. From those, the Limited and 1794 editions have a chrome grille featuring horizontal lines that give the truck a classier appearance. Of course, wheel options and emblems will vary from model to model for both Toyota trucks. Whether you prefer the look of the Tacoma or Tundra, you can’t deny they are two good-looking trucks!

Tacoma vs Tundra: Interior

Tacoma Interior 2018 Toyota

When it comes to the interior of the Tacoma and Tundra, they are fairly similar. For both the basic models of the 2018 Tacoma and Tundra, power windows, door locks, and mirrors are standard. A reverse camera also comes equipped straight from the factory for each truck. While the Access Cab for the Tacoma can only seat four, the Double Cab can seat up to five passengers. However, the Tundra can fit up to six people with the Double Cab and sit five or six with the CrewMax model, depending on if you opt for the standard bench seat or front bucket seats.

Specifically designed to reduce wind noise, the Tacoma’s cabin is quiet thanks to enhanced aerodynamics and a cab-to-bed seal. Power-adjusted seats or pedals are not available for the Tacoma, which only features a tilting and telescoping steering column. Leather, as well as heated front seats, are additional options. While the infotainment system is a touchscreen, it does not include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is a pretty big drawback for those with smartphones. Qi-compatible wireless charging is available for certain devices. Voice command, Bluetooth, an auxiliary input, a USB port, and a 12-volt outlet are more technological features that can be found in the Tacoma. One pretty exciting feature for off-roading enthusiasts is that the Tacoma does come with an integrated GoPro mount on the windshield.

For 2018, the Tundra received more interior updates than its smaller counterpart. A new 4.2-inch driver display gauge cluster makes it easy to view important vehicle information. Even though the Tundra might not be as luxurious as other trucks, the 1794 edition will feature upgraded leather seats in a lovely brown color. Memory driver’s seat and power seats are available in the Tundra, unlike the Tacoma. Along with heated front seats, the Tundra also offers cooled front seats as well. Similar infotainment options available in the Tacoma can also be found in the Tundra.

1794 Tundra Interior 2018

Each truck also comes with the Toyota Star Safety System, which includes advanced safety features including traction control, ABS, brake assist, vehicle stability control, and smart stop technology. Along with the Star Safety System, the Tundra and Tacoma include the Toyota Safety Sense P that comes with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with sway warning system, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. Blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are other safety features to keep you protected on the road and the trail!

Tacoma vs Tundra: Performance & Off-Road Capability

Now, looks aside, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of the Tacoma vs Tundra. While the Tacoma and Tundra are perfectly adequate pickup trucks capable of hauling and towing massive amounts, how do they compare to each other? For the 2018 Tacoma, Toyota didn’t bring any new engine options to the table but instead ditched the five-speed manual transmission for a six-speed. The basic engine option for the Tacoma is the 2.7L inline 4-cylinder that puts out 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. If you think those numbers are underwhelming, there is a slightly more powerful 3.5L DOHC V6 engine that puts out 278 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque.

Constructed from high-strength steel, the Tacoma is a tough truck. With the TRD Off-Road edition, the Tacoma comes equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with the six-speed auto transmission. Featuring Bilstein shocks and an electronically locking rear differential, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is extremely capable for the trail. Tackling rough terrain is a breeze with Crawl Control, Hill Start Assist Control, and a Multi-Terrain Select system, which allows the driver to select one of five modes to regulate traction control and engine throttle based on driving conditions. With the TRD Pro model, a skid plate helps protect the truck against sharp rocks and other obstacles that can be found on the trail. Also included with the Pro version is a special cat-back exhaust that not only gives the Tacoma a killer look and sound but also enhances efficiency as well. While the TRD Off-Road features the Bilstein shocks, the Tacoma TRD Pro has special-tuned FOX Internal Bypass shocks that give the truck greater ground clearance along with better travel and flexibility. A new Tundra TRD Pro version will be available in the fall of 2018.

Tacoma TRD Off-Road 2018 Toyota

In comparison to the Tacoma, the Tundra is going to offer more power along with better payload and towing capacities. For the standard engine option, the Tundra offers a 4.6L i-FORCE V8 that puts out 310 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. With a double overhead cam, 32-valve head design, and intelligent variable valve timing, this engine is going to offer plenty of power. But, if that’s not enough, there’s also a 5.7L i-FORCE V8 engine for those seeking higher horsepower and torque numbers, which come in at 381 and 401 lb.-ft., respectively. Another standard feature from the factory for the Tundra is an automatic limited-slip differential. Without reducing engine power, the auto limited-slip differential helps you get out of tough situations by stopping each wheel individually using the brakes. For those four-wheel-drive Tundras, active traction control improves performance in slippery conditions. If you plan on doing more heavy-duty hauling, the Tundra is well-suited with Tow/Haul Modes, Trailer-Sway Control, and an Integrated Trailer Brake Controller. So not only can you haul with ease, you can stop with ease. Whether you are looking at the Tacoma or Tundra, each truck is going to offer excellent performance capabilities both on and off the trail.

Tacoma vs Tundra: Specs

As the Tacoma is a smaller truck, it has a cheaper starting price than the Tundra. The Tacoma is also much more fuel-efficient than the latter, offering 23 miles per gallon for highway driving. However, the Tundra has a higher towing capacity if you’re looking to haul on a frequent basis. If you need a longer truck bed, the Tundra will offer additional length. Both trucks offer a six-speed automatic transmission and optional four-wheel drive.

2018 Toyota Tacoma SR vs 2018 Toyota Tundra SR: Specs
Specs 2018 Toyota Tacoma SR 2018 Toyota Tundra SR
(including destination charge)
$26,195 $32,415
Cab Styles Access Cab - 6-foot bed
Double Cab - 5-foot bed
Double Cab - 8.1-foot bed
Double Cab - 6.5-foot bed
Doors 4 4
Seating Capacity 4 6
Engine 2.7L DOHC 4-Cyl. 16-Valve 4.6L i-FORCE V8 DOHC 32-Valve
Transmission 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Horsepower 159 horsepower 310 horsepower
Torque 180 lb.-ft. 327 lb.-ft.
Fuel Economy 20 city/23 highway 15 city/19 highway
4WD Optional Optional
GVWR (max) 5,600 lbs. 6,700 lbs.
Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs. 6,800 lbs.

Tacoma vs Tundra: Which is Right For You?

Tundra Hauling Boat 2018 Toyota

Only you can decide which truck is truly right for you. If you’re looking for something on the smaller side that is more easily maneuverable, then the Tacoma is a great option. For those seeking a more heavy-duty, full-size pickup, then you may want to consider the Tundra rather than the Tacoma. The Tundra is going to offer a roomier interior and a longer truck bed. If you need a family truck to tote around the kids, the Tundra may be more comfortable for that purpose, but the Tacoma still offers plenty of room for passengers. If you’re still debating between the Tacoma vs Tundra, then you should visit your local Toyota dealership and test drive both models so you can see which one you prefer. Another thing to keep in mind is your budget. The Tacoma will be less expensive than the Tundra if cost is a deciding factor. Either way, you’ll drive off the lot happy!

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Toyota Tacoma vs Tundra

Since 1995, Toyota has been offering the immensely popular compact pickup, the Tacoma. But how does the Tacoma stack up against the full-size Toyota Tundra? Other than their differences in size, there are quite a few other distinguishing characteristics that set the two trucks apart from each other. When comparing the Tacoma vs Tundra, it is important to look at the specifications to see how each pickup performs.