2016 Toyota Tacoma: Monthly Update for April 2017
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
April was another busy month for our 2016 Toyota Tacoma, with nearly 2,300 miles added to our double-cab TRD Off-Road 4x4 at the hands of at least four editors. Beyond our typical baseline level of commuting, the miles came from two road trips: a 1,100-mile midweek run to Yosemite and the central California coast and a 400-mile overnight trip to Borrego Springs that included some off-road exploring in the Anza-Borrego Desert state park and the Ocotillo Wells off-road recreation area.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
The trip to Yosemite was your typical vacation road trip, with a fairly unhurried pace and three or four destination waypoints spread along a big looping route. As such, it was not surprising that two of this trip's three fill-ups set new best-tank records of 21.6 mpg, with the third tank of 21.1 mpg hovering just below the old mark. In fact, even the 21.5 mpg average for the entire trip beat the previous best tank. Along the way, we observed a new single-tank best range of 403.5 miles.
Thing is, these new mpg bests fall short of the Tacoma's 23-mpg highway rating, a milestone we have never yet reached. And that new 403.5-mile best range could have been better, too. Josh arrived at the pump with just 5 miles remaining on the distance-to-empty meter, but the 18.6 gallons he pumped in was nearly 2.5 gallons shy of the Tacoma's 21.1-gallon tank capacity. With a less nanny-ish gauge he might have squeezed out another 30 miles or so and still had a gallon in reserve.
My Anza-Borrego trip wasn't nearly as efficient, possibly because of freeway traffic and mountain roads on the way there. But the real culprit is more likely the dozens of wandering miles I spent exploring sand washes and gulches in four-wheel drive. I more or less erased Josh's good works with a pair of tanks in the 17-mpg range.
Average lifetime mpg: 18.4
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 21.6
Best range: 403.5 miles
Current odometer: 26,213 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
Toyota's complimentary service program lasts for two years/25,000 miles, so we were a little nervous that we'd missed out on the last one when we pulled into the Frontier Toyota service drive with 25,686 miles showing. They seem to have a grace period built in because we weren't charged. They conducted a multipoint inspection and rotated the tires, but they did not change the oil and filter. We're running 0W-20 synthetic, and the change interval for that is 10,000 miles.
"Fuel economy continues to be a finalist for the Elephant in the Room award. I drove the Tacoma all over California on plenty of reasonably level routes at sane speeds, and I just couldn't do much better than 20 mpg. I'd be cool with that if, say, the dearly departed 4.7-liter V8 from the previous-generation 4Runner (and other trucky Toyotas) happened to be under the hood. But it's not a V8; it's a peaky Atkinson-cycle V6 that was supposed to deliver best-in-class efficiency. Perplexing." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager of content strategy
"I really appreciate the Tacoma's refinement on the highway. We all know this thing can tackle just about any trail, but get it on the interstate and it settles into a smooth, quiet cruise that makes the miles fly by. Yeah, you get some typical truck jiggles over rough patches, but by and large the Taco is a pleasure to pilot on road trips. I've taken it to Sedona and Yosemite and would gladly saddle up for another such journey. There aren't many other off-roading beasts I can say that about." — Josh Sadlier
"I really like the round A/C vents and the way I can point them anywhere — even at myself." — as told to Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing, by passenger Linda H., a last-generation Tacoma owner and Borrego Springs resident, where summer temperatures routinely fall in the 110- to 120-degree range.
"This truck is quieter and rides smoother out here in the dirt than mine. Can I buy it when you're done with it?" — as told to Dan Edmunds by passenger Linda H.
"Can I tell you how much I hate Entune when it comes to smartphone pairing? Partial credit for trying, but so many other cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both of them are much better integrated into the phone. Both of those are dead simple, especially because there is no need for a separate phone-pairing step. They are truly plug and play in that regard, too. In light of this, Toyota seems to have gone down a dead end with Entune. Time to get onboard and abandon ship on this one, Toyota. At least you've given us the ability to access Siri voice commands, but that's less than a half measure." — Dan Edmunds
"I'm not a huge devotee of the Qi wireless charging pad, except for when I forget to bring my charge cord. At those times (and there are many of them) it's brilliant. My Samsung does get mighty hot, though. One day this month it got so hot it stopped charging and turned on a warning message. I had to hold it up to an A/C vent to cool it back down. Maybe you need to direct a small air-conditioning vent onto the charge pad." — Dan Edmunds
"The pull-up center parking brake is a real nice improvement. I wish my Tacoma had that." — as told to Dan Edmunds by passenger Linda H.
"We've rightly called out the steering wheel for its inadequate telescoping range and the seat bottoms for being weirdly close to the floor with effectively no height adjustability. But on a long drive from L.A. to Morro Bay and then across to Yosemite, I found these foibles less annoying as the hours passed, not more. The seats themselves were supportive enough to leave my back discomfort-free at the end of the trip, so I got to give 'em credit for that, height issues notwithstanding. As for the wheel, I took to resting my arms on my thighs and steering with my hands at 4:30 and 7:30, which isn't exactly what they teach at driving school but worked just fine across desolate stretches of central California. Yes, the 9-and-3 is still an uncomfortable reach for my lanky 6-foot-1 self, but that's less of a concern on the open road. Although I'd certainly like to see Toyota fix these issues ASAP, I'd say they're not the deal breakers they seemed to be on first blush." — Josh Sadlier
"Count me among the crowd who finds the new Ridgeline's rounded-off styling a bit tragic, but the Honda's got a clear leg up on our Tacoma with its clever in-bed cargo trunk. What a boon that trunk would have been on my Taco trip to Yosemite. My buddy and I could have put our bags in the trunk for easy access and reserved the backseat for our golf clubs, as opposed to stuffing everything in the backseat for security and weatherproofing. A Tacoma owner would need to install a bed cap to approximate the functionality that the Ridgeline provides as standard." — Josh Sadlier