2016 Toyota Tacoma: A Little Novice Off-Roading
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on June 6, 2016
Despite a decade in the biz, I haven't exactly spent a lot of it off road. Perhaps it's because I don't like driving slowly, perhaps it's because I don't like getting dirty. Either way, getting a chance to take a 2016 Toyota Tacoma off road is a worthwhile experience, as unlike other trucks, its modus operandi seems to be venturing beyond where the pavement runs out. This is especially true of our TRD Off-Road trim level (shared with the test truck I also drove above) that benefits from a variety of features supposedly designed to help out experts and novices alike.
As we reported in our long-termer's introduction, the TRD Off-Road includes Bilstein shocks, a lockable rear differential and Crawl Control, which is essentially a low-speed cruise control that in conjunction with the 4x4 system's low range automatically applies the throttle to get you through low traction situations.
Frankly, though, it would have to be an especially low-traction situation. The trail I was on, with steep inclines covered in dusty dirt and rocks, really didn't require it. I was more than capable of operating the throttle, which regardless of where you're driving, is shockingly responsive for a Toyota product. That goes for the brakes and steering as well — the Tacoma really doesn't feel like it comes from the same company that brings you the Camry, Highlander and even the Tundra.
Hill descent control is also included, but the system seems less sophisticated than those in other vehicles I've experienced. The automatic brake grabbing is so uncouthly loud it sounds like small automatic weapons fire is emanating from somewhere underneath the truck.
In other words, on the trails I ventured — which I would deem to be what a typical owner may come across — these automated technologies weren't really needed. And really, if you don't actually want to drive off road, why even buy a Tacoma TRD Off-Road? (OK, so it does look cool, especially in the dirt-colored one pictured).
On the other hand, our Tacoma also includes Multi-terrain Select, which allows you to select from a variety of surface types that the truck then sets itself to best tackle. 4WD Low must be applied to use it. Since I was on rocks and dirt, I set it to Rocks and Dirt. For novices I think this is a worthwhile technology since one may not know exactly how much to alter their usual throttle inputs from not just road to trail, but different trail surfaces. If nothing else, it grants an added degree of confidence.
Now, I actually got a chance to drive the Tacoma back-to-back with the most off-roady version of a GMC Canyon (with its front aero dam removed). Whereas the GMC was perfectly capable of tackling the same terrain, it felt like a fish out of water. It got the job done, but I can't imagine having much fun while doing it, or even stepping up to something more severe. The Tacoma, on the other hand, seemed to be right at home, with a poise and capability that's readily apparent — even to those who are happier on the well-beaten path.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor