2016 Toyota Tacoma: Monthly Update for December 2016
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
Our one-year test of our 2016 Toyota Tacoma is nearing its end. Yet December was one of our truck's busiest months thanks to a few road trips. Editor Cameron Rogers drove from Southern California to Las Vegas and back, and I loaded up the Tacoma for 1,000 miles' worth of holiday-related driving. Want to know what happens when you put a family of five in a Tacoma, pack the bed full of presents and luggage, and then drive hundreds of miles ... in the rain? Fun times, let me tell you. We also posted Dan Edmunds' full report on using the Tacoma to its fullest off-roading potential this month.
Specific highlights and commentary from the 2,500 miles we put on our Tacoma this month follow.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
I thought our Toyota Tacoma would post relatively high fuel economy numbers in December considering the high number of highway miles we drove. For the month, though, we averaged just 18.6 mpg, which is only slightly better than our lifetime average of 18.3 mpg. On his drive to Las Vegas, Cameron had a 21.2 mpg tank, which is just a tick below our best lifetime tank, but most of highway-heavy fill-ups were in the low 19 mpg range. Partial justification could come from that fact that I was driving with a full load of passengers and gear and the drive speeds from L.A. to Vegas are typically high. I think it's fair to say that if you're buying a Tacoma TRD Off-Road, you shouldn't expect to get above 20 mpg very often.
Average lifetime mpg: 18.3 mpg
EPA mpg rating: 20 mpg combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 21.3 mpg
Best range: 369.1 miles
Current odometer: 19,912 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
We didn't have any issues with our Tacoma for December. We will be taking it to the dealer soon for its 20,000-mile routine maintenance service.
"My holiday road trip with a cargo bed full of stuff and a cabin full of people reminded me why I'm not fond of the Tacoma's V6. As noted in various earlier posts, the V6 is kind of gutless at low rpm. When I was driving up hills, the Tacoma's transmission would shift down to fifth or fourth gear. Even slight inclines would require a downshift. The constant shifting got annoying. I'd often use the manual gear selector to put the transmission in fourth gear and leave it there. Thinking more about it, though, I wonder whether the problem is the V6 or if the transmission gearing is too tall. The V6 does feel reasonably strong when you give it the spurs and hit high rpm. Maybe Toyota just optimized the gearing for maximum fuel economy rather than improved drivability." — Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
"After some mild off-roading last month, I was super high on the Tacoma. But I took our Tacoma on a few long freeway trips this month and I'm back in the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon camp. Our long-term Colorado was quieter, less bouncy and far more approachable for long trips. Clearly, your choice of truck in this segment depends on how you intend to use the truck. But for commuting and long-distance drives, this trim of Tacoma isn't the right tool for the job." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor
"The driver's seat isn't the best for long-distance comfort. After five hours in the saddle, I am pretty much ready to be done. The low-mounted seat positioning and lack of adjustments don't give you much ability to set the seat up to your liking." — Brent Romans
"My fiancée was in Vegas at a four-day work event, so I decided to drive up the last day for a quick overnighter. Much to my disappointment, the Tacoma was the only car available on the sign-out sheet. The truck is all right around town, but the driving position isn't great, there aren't many seat adjustments and the ride is bumpy. All the reasons why I don't like driving it around town were amplified by the four-hour drive to Vegas. Fast-blowing desert winds hit the truck just right, so in addition to fighting the steering wheel to keep the Tacoma tracking straight, a high-pitched whistle sounded periodically. On the bright side, I never lulled into the autopilot stupor that normally accompanies this boring desert drive." — Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor
"Taking our Tacoma on another highway trip has solidified my opinion about the TRD Off-Road version of this truck. It makes perfect sense for tight mountain roads with rocky terrain. On the highway, it's not nearly as good. It's loud and stiff, and the flat seats are way too firm. We've just added a new long-termer to our fleet, a Honda Ridgeline. It has the potential of being a much better road-trip truck than this rock-crawling Tacoma. I'm eager to drive them both back to back and sort out the differences." — Travis Langness
"I've noticed the same wind noise that Cameron did. Moderate crosswinds cause some whistling to come from the windows, as if they don't have a proper seal at the top to keep the wind out." — Brent Romans
"The Tacoma's base six-speaker audio system has a decent sound quality to it. It's not Disney Symphony Hall in the cabin but nor is it Radio Shack. I haven't heard the Tacoma's optional JBL premium sound system — maybe it's amazeballs — but from an ownership standpoint I'd be satisfied with the base setup." — Brent Romans
"Considering that my family currently consists of my wife, two young children and a teenage foreign exchange student living with us for the year, I had hoped to get the keys to the long-term Chrysler Pacifica for a holiday road trip. But only the Tacoma was available. I consoled myself by thinking: 'Well, it's kind of like a compact sedan on the inside but with a giant — albeit outdoor — trunk on the outside. What could go wrong with that?' For the most part, the Tacoma worked out fine. We couldn't fit much gear inside the cab, but the Tacoma's bed was big enough to hold multiple suitcases, some large plastic bins, and a few backpacks and duffel bags. The only problem was when it started to rain. I hastily purchased a tarp and used it to protect most of our luggage and presents." — Brent Romans
"While not the best companion on an interstate road trip, the Tacoma did truck stuff well. I decided to tack on Christmas tree delivery services to the end of my Vegas weekend. I went with my parents to the tree lot and picked up a couple 7-footers. It's a lot easier to throw trees into a pickup bed than mess around with twine to attach them to the roof of a crossover SUV." — Cameron Rogers
"Toyota Tacomas are ubiquitous on the road. But I do like the look of the new-generation truck. It's obviously a Tacoma, but I can easily tell the differences between it and the previous-generation truck. Our TRD Off-Road version, in particular, looks rugged and tough thanks to its special wheels and tires." — Brent Romans