Get Used to This Face
Toyota trucks have a reputation for toughness. They’re cheap to operate, reliable and rugged, favored by frat boys and ISIS alike. Part of the reason Toyota trucks are so cheap to operate is because new ones don’t come along all that often—aside from a few nips and tucks, the Tacoma of 2015 hasn’t changed much from its equivalent in 2005. That makes the 2016 Toyota Tacoma all the more important. The follow-up to the best-selling second-gen Taco, the 2016 Tacoma is the first Toyota pickup to face some competition in a decade, and based on Toyota’s previous habits, we’re going to be living with this one for a long time.
The new Tacoma will be different yet immediately familiar to its legion of loyal buyers. Under the 2016 Tacoma’s handsome new sheetmetal sits a standard 2.7-liter I-4 or an optional 3.5-liter V-6. Although the V-6 is a half-liter smaller than the old V-6, the new one sports more power and 1 less lb-ft of torque and is capable of running on the Atkinson cycle, helping to improve fuel economy. Already proven in the Lexus RX and GS, the engine makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque in the Taco. A six-speed manual is standard, and the old five-speed automatic has mercifully been put out to pasture, replaced with a six-speed auto unit.
Toyota sent us two V-6-powered Tacomas to sample. Although mechanically identical, the two Double Cab Short Bed (5-foot) trucks couldn’t have felt more different. The Tacoma SR5 4×2 represented the value-oriented portion of the Tacoma lineup, and the desert-ready Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 quite tastefully balances the look truck bros want with the off-road capabilities enthusiasts desire.
The lighter Tacoma SR5 proved to be the quicker of the two at the test track. It ran from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.8 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 91.6 mph (147.4 km/h). The Tacoma TRD wasn’t too far behind; it hits 60 mph from a standstill in 7.1 seconds and will run the quarter mile on tarmac in 15.4 seconds at 91.2 mph (146.8 km/h). In 60-0-mph braking tests, the TRD came out ahead, needing 125 feet to come to a stop versus 132 feet for the near-base SR5. Both trucks put up near identical figure-eight numbers. The Tacoma SR5 was the slower of the two, lapping the figure eight in 29.4 seconds at 0.57 g average to the Tacoma TRD Off-Road’s 28.9 second at 0.58 g average performance.
Out on the road, the new Tacoma drives much like the old one, especially when it comes to steering. The Tacoma’s steering rack is artificially heavy, as if Toyota’s trying to trick you into thinking you’re driving a much larger truck, and it has poor on-center feel. Associate editor Benson Kong agreed. “There’s a sense of playfulness from the steering wheel,” he said, “but the truck becomes such a chore to drive that you don’t want to play too long.” Transmission tuning, too, feels much more old than new. Although we universally appreciate the six-speed automatic’s quicker shifts and the extra cog versus the old five-speed, the Tacoma’s transmission was too eager to hunt for our liking, frequently shifting between fourth, fifth, and sixth gears during typical highway driving in traffic and up steep hills. “The engine is powerful, but the transmission seems to have wider gaps between ratios than I’d like,” testing director Kim Reynolds wrote in the logbook. “Sometimes it feels caught in a situation where it doesn’t have a good-feeling ratio.” Putting the transmission into ECT PWR mode didn’t seem to help things much, though a couple staffers noted more favorable programming while driving around with the transmission in Sport mode. The ride on both trucks was pretty good, generally speaking, though the logbooks are filled with complaints of excessive brake dive on the TRD model. Given the preproduction status of our test trucks, there’s a chance Toyota will fix that issue for production models.
Inside, the new interiors are pretty nice. Fit and finish is top-notch with more high-end materials than we’ve seen before from the Tacoma. The back seat of our testers was tighter than the comparable Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, but the front seats helped give a commanding view out of the cabin. That said, a few taller staffers, myself included, bemoaned the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. At 6 feet tall, I felt as if either my arms were too far from the steering wheel or my legs were too close, the end result being a compromised driving position that wound up being uncomfortable after an hour behind the wheel. Personal problem, I know, but taller midsize pickup buyers take note.
Despite the changes, the quality, reliability, and durability that made the previous generation a best-seller remain the Toyota Tacoma‘s biggest driver in sales. Only time will tell if the GM twins and Nissan can catch up, but the new Tacoma should offer up enough to keep loyal Toyota buyers in the fold for years to come.
|2016 Toyota Tacoma SR5 V6||2016 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab V6 TRD 4×4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$31,160||$38,315|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door truck||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||3.5L/278-hp/265-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6||3.5L/278-hp/265-lb-ftAtkinson cycle DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,178 lb (54/46%)||4,525 lb (56/44%)|
|WHEELBASE||127.4 in||127.4 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||212.3 x 74.4 x 70.6 in||212.3 x 74.4 x 70.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec||7.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.2 sec @ 91.6 mph||15.4 sec @ 91.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||132 ft||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.71 g (avg)||0.71 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.4 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)||28.9 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/24/21 mpg||18/23/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||177/140 kW-hrs/100 miles||187/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.93 lb/mile||0.97 lb/mile|