Toyota has been making trucks for fifty years and twenty years ago it introduced the Tacoma pickup. For the past ten years, Toyota has dominated the midsize truck segment and, for 2016, Tacoma is all new. Designers and engineers have rebuilt Tacoma from the ground up to make this model the best yet.
The design team in California worked with the engineering team in Michigan to give the 2016 Tacoma not only new looks and materials inside and out but a new frame and new powertrains as well. The new frame has added strength and rigidity while the body shell features ultra-high strength steel to help reduce weight while providing a solid structure.
Under the hood is a pair of engines to choose from: The base 159hp 2.7-liter inline four or an all-new 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 that features both direct and port fuel injection. The new six is smaller than the engine it replaces yet it yields more power (278hp and 265 lb. ft. torque) while also bringing slightly better fuel economy. A new six-speed automatic gearbox is offered for each engine while the V-6 can be ordered with a new six-speed manual transmission and the four cylinder can be had with a five-speed manual tranny.
The new design of Tacoma brings a somewhat familiar look that we see in Tundra, Toyota’s fullsize pickup built in the same factory in San Antonio, Texas. Tacoma is offered in both 4×2 and 4×4 configurations with two cab types: Extended Access Cab or four-door Double Cab. Trim grades include SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and top of the line Limited. Rumor has it a TRD-Pro will also be available in the future.
For review purposes, Toyota sent us its TRD Off-Road 4×4 Double Cab model. It features seating for five adults with unique stitching in the durable fabric seats. The new Tacoma is quiet and smooth driving around town and on the highway. I won’t go so far as to say you won’t know you are driving a truck when behind the wheel of the Tacoma but the new ride is vastly improved and occupants will enjoy the upgraded interior and creature comforts. Drivers will appreciate the power and capabilities of the new truck that include (on this TRD Off-Road model) off-road tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks, locking rear differential, hill start assist, multi-terrain select system, active traction contro, and Crawl control.
The new Tacomas all feature coil-spring double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar and leaf spring rear suspension with staggered outboard-mounted gas shocks. Braking is ventilated discs up front and drum brakes in the rear. This TRD Off-Road tester came with 18-inch alloy wheels shod with all-terrain tires and the truck arrived with Class IV tow package that includes coolers for transmission, engine, and power steering along with heavy-duty alternator and trailer-sway control.
Inside we enjoyed the premium infotainment technology that includes 7-inch touchscreen display and Entune premium audio system with navigation and app suite and multimedia bundle. Safety technology includes vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, and smart stop brake override technology. All new Tacomas include rear backup camera and tire pressure monitor system. The premium and technology package adds blind spot monitor, rear parking sonar, and rear cross traffic alert systems.
Pricing for the 2016 Toyota Tacoma begins at $25,385 for the base SR 4×2 model. This TRD Off-Road 4×4 Double Cab tester rolled in with a final sticker of $37,610. Fuel economy, surprisingly, is better with the V-6 than the four. This tester was rated for 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Despite increased competition in the midsize pickup segment, Toyota hopes to hold on to its sales leadership and the 2016 Tacoma should secure that stronghold. The new powertrain and new design will go far to help the automaker in this endeavor as Toyota proves this Tacoma is its best yet!