Long the segment leader among smaller pickup trucks, the 2016 Toyota Tacoma is fully redesigned. Two engine choices, including an all-new V6, as well as updated transmissions and five trims should keep this athletic truck a step ahead of its competitors.
The Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck and has been redesigned for 2016. New grilles, interior updates and a smaller, but more powerful V6 engine keep the Tacoma on top once again. Available in two cab styles, Access and Double, the new Tacoma comes in five trims: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off Road and Limited. All told, there are 29 possible configurations for Toyota’s best-selling truck.
The 2016 represents a new generation for the midsize Toyota Tacoma, which is available in 4×2 and 4×4 configurations. A standard Access Cab (extended cab) and available Double Cab along with 5- and 6-foot bed lengths are available.
Not changed for 2016 is the truck’s footprint, as the latest model carries over the dimensions of the previous edition. Nevertheless, Toyota made greater use of lightweight, but durable materials to bolster the frame. It also added a more aggressive hex grille to each model with distinctive grille insets or trim depending on the grade.
Powerful hood lines, projector beam headlights and wide angle fog lights are new touches. On the sides, new mirror designs and a restyled roof panel are apparent.
The most significant changes to the rear include a lockable tailgate stamped with TACOMA branding. A new interlocking three-piece bumper, an integrated spoiler, aero fins on the taillights and an available trifold tonneau cover are other changes of note. Aerodynamic improvements and three additional finishes are new. A 120-volt, 400-watt deck-mounted AC power outlet is included with TRD Sport, TRD Off Road and Limited editions.
The 2016 Tacoma offers room for four with the Access Cab and room for five in the Double Cab. Neither model offers outstanding rear seating room, but both cabins have very good room up front.
The Tacoma’s interior has been completely overhauled and makes use of higher quality materials throughout. On SR5 models and above, the tilt and telescopic steering wheel is wrapped in leather and includes Bluetooth and audio controls. Fabric-trimmed seats are standard across the model line except in the Limited edition where those seats are covered in leather.
Air conditioning, power accessories, an audio package, and a GoPro mount are standard. SR5 models and above feature stitching across the seats, on the door panels and across the dash. Upper grades bring in distinctive accented instrument panel rings, while real hickory wood is found in the Limited edition.
A new instrument panel features analog speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel gauge displays. Notably, SR5 models and above are equipped with a digital driver’s information center with average fuel economy and trip information. All models come with a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. Toyota’s Entune audio system brings in additional features depending on the grade, including navigation, Siri Eyes Free, a trial SiriusXM satellite radio subscription, HD Radio and smartphone app integration.
Returning for 2016 is a base 2.7-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine on SR and SR5 grade trucks. This engine makes 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. It comes paired with a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain combination is EPA rated as high as 19/23 mpg city/highway and takes regular grade gasoline.
Tacoma TRD Sport, TRD Off Road and Limited editions are powered by a new, 3.5-liter V6 engine. Despite coming in smaller than the outgoing 4.0-liter V6, the new motor enjoys a 42 horsepower boost as it employs both direct and port injection, and switches between Atkinson and Otto cycles as needed.
The new V6 is rated at 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. It is EPA rated as high as 19/24 mpg city/highway and takes regular grade gasoline.
The test trucks provided were Tacoma 4×4 editions equipped with the V6 engine. On the road, the engine delivered optimum power, moving away from stoplights with ease and demonstrating excellent passing power on the highway. The transmission shifted smoothly between all six forward gears with no hesitation observed. Off road, the 2016 Tacoma performed admirably when 4-Lo gearing was engaged and also when the all new crawl control feature was activated. The truck handled all four off-road courses with ease, including a 32-degree ascent and descent. A new transfer case enables faster shifting and efficiency.
All new for 2016 and exclusive to the segment is Toyota’s crawl control system, simply known as CRAWL. Introduced to the Toyota Land Cruiser in 2008, the feature is also found in the Toyota 4Runner.
When activated, CRAWL allows the driver to select a speed ranging from 1 to 5 mph. The system takes over braking and acceleration, with the driver managing the steering wheel. CRAWL works in conjunction with hill start assist, traction control and a locking rear differential to manage wheel movement. CRAWL is available with the TRD Off Road 4×4 automatic only.
Also available for 2016 is a JBL audio system. It is a package option for both TRD editions and is standard on the Tacoma Limited. The audio system has seven high-output speakers, an eight-channel amplifier and is prized for its lower distortion and greater sonic resolution. With an output of 440 watts, the audio system consumes 50 percent less power than comparable systems.
All Tacoma models are equipped with stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Smart brake technology is included, which cuts power to the engine when both the accelerator and brake pedals are pressed concurrently. Each model is equipped with a suite of air bags, including driver and front passenger knee air bags.
Models equipped with an automatic transmission have hill start assist control. A rearview camera is standard, while blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is available.
At the time of this review, the 2016 Tacoma is too new for crashworthiness testing from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The base price for the 2016 Toyota Tacoma was increased by $2,400 over the 2015 edition. Prices range from $23,300 for the SR Access Cab 4×2 powered by the base engine to $37,820 for the V6 Limited with the six-speed automatic transmission. The base price is now more than $5,000 above the lowest cost Nissan Frontier and approximately $3,000 more than the base Chevrolet Colorado. However, the upper end of the price range compares favorably with the top end of the Colorado line.
Radical changes were not necessary to improve the Toyota Tacoma. Nevertheless, Toyota has carefully listened to its customers to deliver a truck that should continue to keep them coming back.
Stiff competition from General Motors’ twins — the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon — mean customers have two other new models to consider. Another model, the Nissan Frontier, seems outdated and offers little that would encourage Tacoma faithful to make a switch except for its lower starting price.