Monthly Update for October 2017 - 2016 Toyota Tacoma Long-Term Road Test

2016 Toyota Tacoma Long-Term Road Test

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2017 Toyota Tacoma: Monthly Update for October 2017

by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Where Did We Drive It?
Our 2016 Toyota Tacoma has been in the fleet longer than most, but it's still popular enough to generate another decent hunk of mileage. In October, we added 2,206 miles. Some of those were commuting miles, but our trusty Taco was also pressed into hauling duty and was taken on a couple of short desert excursions.

I blame the arrival of our Honda Ridgeline. With the Honda on one end and the Tacoma on the other, we've taken full advantage of the chance to compare what amounts to the bookends of the midsize pickup segment. The Chevrolet Colorado, which we hosted in the fleet some years ago, falls somewhere in between, and the ZR2, which we've just bought, is an off-road special.

That said, at the beginning of summer we'd had our fill. We were getting ready to sell off the Tacoma, but then the Ridgeline unexpectedly outperformed our TRD Off-Road 4x4 in Death Valley on a relentless washboard dirt road that was a lot more punishing than it looked.

We didn't want to end things on such a down note, so we decided to do what an owner might do in the same circumstances: Upgrade the Tacoma's shocks to something better optimized to our local terrain and style of usage. We selected and installed those Bilstein upgrade parts midway through the month, so we're only now learning how they've changed the Tacoma's on-road and off-road driving character.

Spoiler alert: Our fortified Tacoma returned to Death Valley's Racetrack Playa this month, but that will be the subject of a separate post.

2017 Toyota Tacoma

What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
The 2,206 miles we added this month came in eight fill-ups. The data is missing for one of them, but the seven data points we do have represent 2,107 miles that were run at an average of 19.6 mpg. Even including another Death Valley back-road expedition, this month's average consumption more or less matched the Tacoma's 20 mpg EPA combined rating.

Our Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4x4's lifetime average, on the other hand, did not budge. It was 18.6 mpg when the month started, and it remained at 18.6 mpg at month's end. Like a late-season batting average, it takes a lot to move the needle with one month's driving when the total mileage is hovering up near 40,000 miles.

The Tacoma is shy of its EPA rating by just over a single mpg, but that's not bad when you consider a few points. All Tacoma 4x4 V6 trucks share the same EPA certification and fuel economy rating, but a TRD Off-Road like ours does not come with the lower front air dam extension that all other versions of the truck are fitted with. This move greatly improves the off-road approach angle, but the absence of this aerodynamically significant piece comes at a price. The fact that it's barely costing us 1 mpg is pretty satisfying, especially when you consider we have not been shy about doing some light hauling and off-road adventuring.

Taken a step further, this result also suggests that those that buy an SR5, TRD Sport or Limited — versions of the truck that have the spoiler — will most likely meet or possibly even beat the EPA combined rating.

Average lifetime mpg: 18.6
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 25.0
Best range: 455.7 miles
Current odometer: 38,693 miles

Maintenance and Upkeep
The Maintenance Required lamp began glowing early this month, indicating it was time for an oil change. But that's not necessarily the case. This reminder light is a simple countdown device that comes on 4,500 miles after it is reset, but the Tacoma's oil change interval is variable — 5,000 miles with conventional oil or 10,000 miles with the recommended 0W-20 synthetic.

Senior Editor Brent Romans had it changed as part of a larger service some 6,000 miles ago, but the records are missing. If they used conventional oil, we're late. If they used 0W-20 synthetic, we're not due for a while.

With no easy way of knowing and an annoying light and reminder message in my face, I took it to Miller Toyota of Anaheim, my local dealer. Perhaps the service records would be visible to the service writer. As luck would have it, the dealer's connection to the Toyota system was down. Even though there was a decent chance I was a little early, I went ahead with the oil change anyway because I wasn't certain.

The base charge was $36.53 for a conventional oil change (oil, filter, drain plug gasket, waste oil disposal) plus a $30 upcharge for the 0W-20 synthetic oil. Another $3.52 in tax brought the total up to $70.05.

The dealer also did an inspection, and the results were as expected. The tires are edging close to the end of their useful life, but they're not ready for the scrap heap just yet. And the original brake pads still have a good bit of meat left on them, even the fronts.

The service at Miller was friendly and honest, the truck was done on time, and they let me sit in an unused office so I could phone in to a meeting while I waited. It was a pleasant visit, and now the oil and filter are good to go for another 10,000 miles. We can simply reset the warning light when it comes on in 4,500 miles and go for another lap.

Logbook Highlights

2017 Toyota Tacoma

Performance

"I'm really liking these new Bilstein 6112/5160 shocks so far. The ride is slightly firmer (call it crisper) over tiny cracks and jointed freeways, but not in a bad way. The overall demeanor of the truck is more settled and less jiggly, and its body motions are far more steady and deliberate. There's this deep dip in the road near my house that I usually need to tiptoe through to avoid getting thrown around like a rag doll, but now I can cruise through at undiminished speed. I look forward to going that way now, in fact." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing

"We measure an off-road vehicle's suspension articulation by driving it up a 20-degree ramp until the left rear tire reaches the point where it is just barely touching the ground. We record how far up the ramp the truck got, divide that by its wheelbase, and multiply the result by 1,000 to get an RTI (ramp-travel index) score. Our Tacoma TRD-Off-Road scored a very healthy 477 points when we first got it, and I didn't expect the Bilstein 6112/5160 upgrade to make much of a difference because that wasn't what these parts are intended to achieve. That said, the 5160 remote reservoir rear shocks are a little bit longer than the originals when fully extended, so the score rose to 488 points. I'll take that." — Dan Edmunds

"The newly upgraded shocks in our Toyota Tacoma are fantastic! The truck doesn't have the same up-down oscillation going down my street that the old shocks had. Also, when going on the I-605 North to 60 West freeway transition, the Tacoma felt more planted going around the corner. Tire screeching is the norm because of the state of these original tires, but the truck handled the curve like a champ." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle testing technician

2017 Toyota Tacoma

Utility

"Need five hay bales delivered? No problem for our 2016 Toyota Tacoma. Just make sure you bring one tie-down." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres

"We remodeled our kitchen, and in the process I needed to bring home a new range and range hood. The Tacoma's composite bed is naturally grippy, the fender boxes are cut nice and square, and its standard tie-down system provides movable cleats up high where they do tall cargo the most good. Like Rex, I only needed the one strap." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing

2017 Toyota Tacoma

Interior

"Strapping in a 3-year-old into a car seat isn't that easy to do in our Tacoma. Sure, it's easy to use the LATCH anchors for the bottom attachments. However, the top tether was a little more inconvenient because the seat is pressed up against the cab. The process is easier if you get the top tether locked in first, but leave yourself some slack. Next, get the seat bottom anchored down and then tighten the tether. Finally, insert the kid. LOL" — Rex Tokeshi-Torres

2017 Toyota Tacoma

Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing @ 38,693 miles

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