2016 Toyota Tacoma: Rebuilt Inside and Out

By Sue Mead, September 26th, 2015

Toyota's trucks have come a long way since the Stout was introduced to U.S. buyers back in 1964. With a scant 85 horsepower, the Stout was slow; today's Toyota pickup is a far cry from that model.

Toyota says the all-new 2016 Tacoma midsize pickup has a number of class-leading attributes. Tacoma gets a total re-do, with new styling, a new V-6 powertrain option, more features and options, updated suspension tuning, an upgraded frame, improved fuel efficiency and towing power, and some boast-worthy off-road toughness.

Pricing starts at $23,300 for the SR 4x2 Access Cab with an inline-four-cylinder 2.7-liter engine, while pricing tops out at $37,820 for the Double Cab Limited 4x4, powered by a 3.5-liter V-6.

Trim packages include a "work truck" model SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited. Inspired by Toyota's noted accomplishments over the past 35 years of off-road racing, the TRD Sport and Off-Road models come with a GoPro camera mount next to the rear view mirror -- it's a "first" in the segment, which includes competitors Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier.

Tacoma's body looks very similar but the grille has a meaner, more refined stance that transitions the 2015 truck from more of a cutesy small pickup to an edgier utility vehicle with steel that is three times stronger; the headlights have been slimmed and popped out.

strong>Two body styles are available: the Access Cab with a 127.8-inch wheelbase and a 6-foot bed, or the Double Cab, which comes in either the 127.4-inch wheelbase with a 5-foot bed, or the 141.0-inch wheelbase, with the 6-foot bed.

strong>Toyota's 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine carries over: it produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque and can be matched to a new six-speed auto transmission or a five-speed manual.

The V-6 engine, a 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle, has been upgraded with an additional 42 horses for a total of 278 horsepower, and 265 lb.-ft. of torque, and is mated to your choice of a new six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. Fuel economy is 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, 21 combined when equipped with 3.6-liter V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic and 4x2 powertrain.

Automatic transmission trucks come with a new Multi-Terrain Select system for a variety of terrains (mud, loose rock, sand etc.); and an Active Traction Control system is featured on the TRD Off-Road. The V-6 models can tow up to 6,800 pounds and now benefit from Trailer Sway Assist.

We tried a number of trims, but concentrated our drive on the Tacoma Double Cab TRD Off-Road, as Toyota expects that 40 percent of buyers will choose the TRD models in either 2WD and 4WD. Our course included a variety of roadways where we made note of the pickup's overall handling, which is improved due to a number of engineering changes that give it more power and refinement and make it feel more responsive. We also noticed the truck's quietness; Toyota says it has class-leading noise/vibration/harshness ratings.

Our favorite portion of the day was on a true off-road playground that Toyota set up to show off the truck's new and impressive traction capabilities. A collection of upgrades and all-new off-road features make Tacoma a competent backcountry truck, including the Multi-Terrain Select Crawl Control that allows the driver to select speeds that vary from 1 to 5 mph, on-demand part-time 4WD with an electronically-controlled transfer case, an automatic limited-slip differential, an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, and Hill Descent control.

The bed is 7 percent deeper and holds incrementally more payload; it sports a deck-mounted power outlet and a lining made of Sheet-Molded Composite reinforced with fiber. New is a standard bed-rail system with four adjustable and four fixed tie-downs, and a removable and lockable tailgate. The 2016 Tacoma sports new wheels and tires, as well as three new colors.

Inside the cab, the truck has a more premium and athletic feel. Updated styling brings new materials that vary with trims; SR and SR5 come with fabric seats, TRD Sport and Off-Road are covered in a thicker, sportier gray and black fabric highlighted by orange stitching, and the Limited has Hickory leather upholstery.

Toyota's standard Entune Audio system brings AM/FM, CD, aux and USB ports, and Bluetooth

Specifications

Base price $32,100 (as tested: $32,935)
Curb weight 4,480 lbs.
Displacement 3.7-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 225.5 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 265 at 4600 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4WD midsize long bed pickup
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