The new 2016 Toyota Tacoma, now with five-trim levels, is going to deliver excitement and satisfaction across a wider range of drivers than ever before. In developing the new generation Tacoma, Toyota wisely played to their strength – giving us a stronger and more capable outdoor sport truck, particularly in the TRD Sport and premium TRD Off-Road models – while deftly adding refinement, amenities and convenience features in the top-of-the-line Limited model that make Tacoma a great daily driver as well. And they did it all keeping Tacoma in a very affordable price range.
Earlier this year, Toyota revealed their new generation Tacoma mid-size pickup truck in Detroit. Though it was long in look – looking really good with new styling, interiors, features – what they did not reveal about the powertrains and mechanical features, with just a promise Tacoma would deliver a more powerful and capable performance, was concerning. It turns out, we should not have been concerned. Based on our recent first drive of the new Tacoma, we think the new truck has come up very ‘long’ in both on and off-road capability and performance too.
The new generation Tacoma not only measures up well to its long heritage, but effectively serves notice to the competition that they intend to continue to own the sport and rugged outdoors off-road portion of the mid-size pickup truck segment with the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road, but also to be more than competitive in the rest of the segment with the SR, SR5 and the Limited.
2016 Tacoma First Drive
We took our first drive a week ago up in the hills and along valleys in the shadow of Mount Rainier near Seattle. We were able to get several hours behind the wheel of the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road attacking a challenging set of hill climbs and descents and rock crawls while navigating narrow forest trails all around the former coal mining community of Black Diamond. The new Limited was our city and highway drive from Seattle to scenic Snoqualmie Falls on to Black Diamond and back.
Following our first drives both on and off-road last week, we think that the new generation 2016 Toyota Tacoma has more than delivered on their promise of a more capable truck – with more features plus refinement – at competitive price points.
The highlight for the new Tacoma is the all-new Atkinson cycle 3.5L V6 which generates 278 horsepower (42 more than prior V6) with 265 lb.-ft. of torque. It is mated to either to a new six-speed automatic transmission or a new six-speed manual. The Tacoma trucks we tested all had the V6 and the automatic transmissions. Fuel economy for the V6 automatic 4WD is rated at 18/23 mpg city/highway with a combined 20 mpg.
Despite some concerns expressed by others about the application of Atkinson cycle technology on the Tacoma, we found this powertrain to be smooth and appropriately responsive around town and on the freeway. It was also well up to the challenges of gravel country roads including the off-road obstacles on the route.
All models come in 2WD or 4WD with the V6 standard or available as an option. The 2.7L I4 from the previous generation Tacoma is still available on the SR and SR5 coupled with the automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission on the SR. The TRD Sport offers a six-speed manual on the V6 with the Limited offering the automatic only.
Though most Tacoma owners (according to Toyota) do not use their Tacoma to tow – it can. When equipped with the V6 Tow Package, the new 2016 Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds which is more than enough for a trailer loaded up with off-road bikes, snow mobiles or kayaks.
While others in the segment tout models they refer to as “off-road”, Tacoma actually has them. We were most impressed driving the TRD Off-Road automatic which adds Multi—Terrain Select, an Electronically Controlled Locking Rear Differential and Crawl Control (CRAWL).
The Terrain Select feature allows the driver to choose the drive train response best suited for the terrain such as loose rock, mud and sand. When engaged the system manages wheel spin with throttle and braking for maximum traction on the terrain. We were particularly impressed with how well it handled our traversing rocky terrain on the course.
CRAWL was even more impressive. It has five settings for a driver to select from when they are going up or coming down a very steep incline. There are five settings from 1 to 5 mph. When set, the driver steers only. The system controls the throttle going up and the brake going down keeping the speed at the designated level. The test route took us to two sections of trail where we needed to engage CRAWL. One, in particular, was a 40 degree slope up – and down.
It was reported that more than one driver was heard to say, as they approached the hill, “You have got to be kidding”. Our take on CRAWL in the new Tacoma is that it is as good as and maybe better than any other similar system out there.
All Tacoma models have Skid Plates under the engine and front suspension with a ground clearance of 9.4-inches. The all-important Approach/Departure and Breakover angles strongly measure (up to) 32, 23.5 and 21 degrees (TRD Off-Road).
Ride and Handling
Suspension for the new Tacoma line is measurably improved featuring coil spring double wishbone front with stabilizer bar; leaf spring rear with staggered outboard-mounted shocks and rack and pinion power steering. The TRD Sport adds special sport tuning and runs on 17-inch machined alloy wheels with P265/65R17 tires. The TRD Off-Road adds Bilstein off-road tuned shocks and runs on 16-inch machined contrast alloy wheels with P265/70R16 tires while the Limited runs on 18-inch polished alloy wheels mounted with P265/60R18 tires.
We also were impressed with the comfort of the ride in the Tacoma both on and off the road plus the significantly quieter cabin with refined interior styling and materials in the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and the Limited.
Some also notable features (standard or available) on the TRD and Limited models included:
- Lockable tailgate with rotary damper
- Rear View Camera
- Projector Beam Headlights
- Integrated Wide Angle Fog Lamps
- LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
- 120V/400W Cargo Deck AC power outlet
- Lockable Hard Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover
- 4.2-inch Color TFT Multi-Informational IP Display
- 7-inch Infotainment Color Touchscreen
- GoPro Camera mount in cabin
- Qi Wireless Device Charger
- Smart Key with Push Button Start
2016 Tacoma Lineup
The five trim levels in the 2016 Tacoma start at just $23,300 for the work ready SR Access Cab 4×2 with the 2.7L four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The similarly equipped SR5 general purpose truck is $25,385. The TRD Sport all-purpose sport truck comes with the V6 only and starts at $29,665 while the robust and capable TRD Off-Road V6 starts at $30,765. At the top-of-the-line is the more refined Limited Double Cab 4×4 at $37,820 equipped with the all-new Atkinson Cycle 3.5L V6 with six-speed automatic transmission. Delivery and handling for all models is another $900.
Bottom line is that the new stronger, more powerful – and subtly refined – 2016 Tacoma mid-size pickup can be yours fully equipped and able to go just about anywhere for between $23,000 and right up to $40,000. Toyota says the new Tacoma will begin arriving at dealerships in the first part of September.
We will be posting more details about the new 2016 Tacoma TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road capability and the Limited refinement and convenience features along with our drive impressions of each later in the week.