2016 Toyota Tacoma: Off-Road Clearance and Suspension Flexibility
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on February 4, 2016
The thing about off-road potential is that you can often simply look at a vehicle, or study certain fundamental specifications, and size it up pretty accurately. Ground clearance is a good one, along with the clearance angle triplets: Approach, departure and breakover. Tire size and the general knobbiness of the tread pattern are plain to see, of course. Gearing is invisible to the casual observer, but you can readily look it up.
One of the things you cannot see or easily look up is Ramp Travel Index, a measure of the maximum articulation of a given suspension. We had the same problem, so we built a 20-degree test ramp of our own. It was only a matter of time before we pointed our 2016 Toyota Tacoma up the ramp.
We did the same with our 2015 Chevrolet Colorado soon after we bought it last year - or tried to. But the Colorado scored a zero because its comically low and unexpectedly rigid chin spoiler frustrated our attempts to even drive up the 20-degree RTI ramp in the first place.
The story is quite different when it comes to the new Tacoma.
What's that? You didn't catch the ill-fated Colorado RTI test when it appeared? The above photograph tells you everything you need to know.
Short of cutting it off with shears, the job of removing the spoiler was going to take hours because of the way the way the attachment had been designed. We ultimately decided against it after we discovered a passage in the owner's manual that warned against sustained operation with the spoiler absent, citing "improper airflow to the engine."
The whole situation left a bitter aftertaste. Off-road use was way down the list of priorities when the Colorado was designed, it seemed.
The front-end design of the Tacoma, on the other hand, is the result of a much higher expectation that owners will wander off-highway in rugged terrain. The 2016 Tacoma TRD Off-Road has a full eight or 10 inches of clearance above the point where its front tire makes first contact with the ramp - or if you're outdoors, that rock you need to butt up against and creep over.
I can't remember another vehicle this side of a Jeep Wrangler that exhibited this much clear space at this point on the ramp.
The SR5, TRD Sport and Limited versions of the Tacoma wear an air dam, but it's cut much higher than the Colorado and wraps up in the critical area ahead of the front tires. Those versions of the Tacoma would still have plenty of clearance here - more clearance, it appears, than a Colorado would have even if we'd bothered to invest the time to remove its low-hanging spoiler.
How did the numbers work out for the Tacoma TRD Off-Road? It ultimately hiked its left front tire 20.8 inches above ground, which translates into a 20-degree ramp-climb distance of 60.8 inches. Divide that figure by our crew cab short-bed truck's 127.4-inch wheelbase and multiply the result by 1,000 and you'll get 477 RTI points.
The result would be the same for an extended cab long-bed Tacoma because it rides on the same wheelbase.
Our full-size 2015 Ford F-150 and 2014 Ram 1500 scored 420 and 423 points, respectively. The off-road-oriented Ram 2500 Power Wagon managed 412 points in normal mode and 518 with its electronically-disconnecting front stabilizer bar unhinged.
The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, a more serious off-road package built around a suite of factory-tuned aftermarket parts, was good for 484 points.
Back in 2014, a Range Rover Sport scored 487 points, and the Land Rover LR4 came in at 457 points with its terrain dial in Rock mode, which jacks its air suspension to the highest position. A four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited scored 518 points, but that leaps to 687 points if it's a Rubicon with its electronically-controlled front stabilizer bar disconnected.
In other words, the Tacoma's suspension is quite flexible, especially among pickup trucks. And in the process of measuring its RTI, we confirmed what you can see by studying it in a parking lot: It offers abundant clearance where it counts.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,822 miles