2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD: Haul of Fame Pickup

By Frank A. Aukofer, January 2nd, 2016

With versions that prompt comparisons to rugby or flag football, Toyota's 2016 Tacoma pickup truck can deliver down and dirty or fleet of foot. Both of those personalities are embodied in the TRD models of the new midsize pickup truck.

Manufacturer photo: The TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch
Manufacturer photo: The TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch

One is the TRD Sport, a nimble roadrunner that gobbles miles of pavement. The other is the TRD Off-Road, with a full metal jacket of skid plates and other safeguards for crawling in boondocks, dirt, and rocks. They are two of five Tacoma variants aimed at maintaining dominance in the face of a daunting challenge from the all-new midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

Over the last decade, despite few upgrades, the Tacoma maintained its sales lead in the midsize pickup market. It could hardly have done otherwise because the domestic manufacturers earlier had bailed out. The only competitor was the slower-selling Nissan Frontier.

In the first half of 2015, Tacoma sales totaled 88,801, though it had not changed much over the years. The Frontier, also an old design, tallied 34,805 units. But the resurrected Colorado (41,575) and Canyon (15,017) are creeping up.

All of these midsize trucks are nearly as big as full-size pickups were just a few years ago. Perhaps the designations should be changed to Ginormous or Merely Big.

Manufacturer photo: The TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch

For example, the TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma that is the subject here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch. With its V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, it can carry 1,120 pounds of cargo and can tow trailers weighing up to 3,500 pounds -- or up to 6,400 pounds with a special towing package.

Besides the two TRD models, the Tacoma offers three other trim lines: SR, SR5, and Limited. Versions are available with rear- or four-wheel drive and as five-passenger Double Cab models with four full doors or four-passenger Access Cab models with small rear-hinged back doors.

strong>Two engines are offered: 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque, and 3.5-liter V-6 with 278 hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Depending on the model, available transmissions include a five-speed manual, six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode.

Prices range from $24,200 for the rear-drive SR Access cab with the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission to $38,720 for the top-of-the line Limited 4WD with the V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Manual transmissions are available only on four-wheel-drive models.

Curiously, though the Limited comes with such luxury features as automatic climate control and rugged leather/vinyl upholstery, power seats are not available. Toyota representatives said the company's research showed that most Tacoma owners set their manual seats and rarely changed them, so power seats were not deemed necessary.

Manufacturer photo: The TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch

Another curiosity is that the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road versions carry the same price tag, $34,630. The "flag football" highway-oriented Sport carries the same basic equipment as other models and is distinguished by a non-functional hood scoop, while the "rugby" TRD Off-Road is loaded with equipment to help it crawl over tough terrain, including getting stuck deep in sand.

Off-Road enhancements include slow-motion Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select. The latter allows the driver to customize the Tacoma's traction control for mud and sand, rocks, rocks and dirt, moguls, and loose rocks.

More impressive is the Crawl Control. When activated, it automatically maintains a constant low speed off road with no driver input except steering. Brakes and throttle automatically adjust to road conditions to the point where, in a demonstration, a Tacoma was deliberately bogged down up to the axles in sand and, with only a bit of anxiety from onlookers, crept easily out of the morass.

The only downside to the TRD Off-Road is its length. Though it can handle almost any terrain thanks to generous ground clearance and good approach and departure angles, it cannot negotiate tight spots as well as shorter vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler.

To satisfy a diverse fan base, the new Tacoma offers more than 30 variations. Besides its hauling and off-road attributes, it delivers a host of new exterior and interior design touches that are attractive as well as useful.

Manufacturer photo: The TRD Off-Road Double Cab Tacoma here is close to 18 feet long, with a cargo box that measures 6 feet 1-inch

Given its myriad disciples and reputation for durability, competitors likely will play catch-up for some time.

Specifications

Base price $35,260 (as tested: $38,295)
Curb weight 4,480 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type V-6 w/EFI
Epa mileage rating 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 21.1 gal.
Horsepower (net) 278 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 212.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 265 at 4600 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4x4 midsize pickup
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