2016 Toyota Tacoma: Sedona Road Trip Impressions
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on April 4, 2016
Sedona, as you are likely aware, is more than just a current member of the Edmunds long-term fleet. It's also a town in Arizona, one that incidentally was named after the wife of its first postmaster, a man called Theodore Carlton Schnebly. My wife and I went there for vacation last week, accompanied by the long-term 2016 Toyota Tacoma. We left town as auspiciously as possible, taking rock-strewn Schnebly Hill Road (pictured above) to Interstate 17, and found ourselves bursting with impressions when all was said and done.
Here are three that stood out (plus bonus off-road video action!).
1. Brent's Right About the Powertrain
It's all been said, pretty much; I'm just adding my voice to the choir. When I get into a truck with an upgraded motor, I expect some palpable low-end grunt, and the Tacoma V6 disappoints. The new 3.5 doesn't come alive until it surges past 4,000 rpm, which is cool in a Camry but basically the opposite of how truck engines (e.g., the Tacoma's previous 4.0-liter V6) typically deliver their power.
Also, the gearing is almost Corvette-tall — I'm talking 2,000 rpm at 80 mph in 6th gear — so if you want acceleration, you'll need to request a momentous downshift. Even keeping up with freeway traffic requires undue driver attention, since there's no roll-on power in 6th whatsoever. I repeatedly dropped 5-10 mph without realizing it because I wrongly assumed that squeezing the gas gently in 6th was going to do something. And whenever you see a long incline ahead, prepare for a drop to 4th; there's no other way to maintain uphill speed.
The behavior I'm describing here would be acceptable in the base four-cylinder Tacoma, but again, shoppers interested in the upgrade engine will likely want more oomph. Frankly, this truck cries out for a modern fuel-efficient turbocharged engine — you know, the ones with a torque plateau from something like 1,800 rpm to 5,000. That's prime truck territory, and except for the upper reaches, the Tacoma's V6 doesn't have it covered.
2. I Love the Ride
It's remarkably smooth and quiet. Highway speeds are nothing for this truck in terms of refinement; you can have a conversation in normal tones and listen to the radio at normal volume. Pretty cool for such a rough-and-tumble machine. And the off-road suspension is supple and not at all bouncy in civilization — it just rolls uneventfully over any surface. Perfect vehicle if you live in a city full of potholes, to say nothing of its off-road capabilities.
3. It Has Off-Road Capabilities
Oh alright, let's say something about those. As noted, we left Sedona via Schnebly Hill Road, an old dirt track that's in downright nasty shape for much of its 12 miles. This video captures a bit of the flavor, though it's far from the worst section:
I'm no off-road enthusiast, but the Tacoma was obviously in its element here. In 4-Lo, the engine's torque deficiency is not apparent, while the beefy shocks just pogo along cheerfully, no matter how treacherous the terrain appears. This is a true dual-use truck that's equally at home on paved and unpaved terrain.
Give it a motor with some gumption and I just might buy one myself.
Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 5,337 miles