2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road: Monthly Update for October 2016
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
Ever been to Joshua Tree National Park? Travis Langness drove our 2016 Toyota Tacoma there this month. It's a relatively short freeway drive with the crowded bustle of the L.A. basin on one end and desert camping and rock climbing on the other. You can get there and back on one tank of gas. The Tacoma works well for this sort of duty, with plenty of bed space for dusty gear and enough underbody clearance to get you most anywhere on the desert's network of washboard roads.
Then I drove it to the top of Saddleback, the name Orange County residents give to the swayback twin peaks of Santiago and Modjeska that loom up from the Cleveland National Forest. One of the most direct access routes had just reopened after being closed for two years to allow vegetation to recover from a fire, so I took full advantage of the fact that I could hit the dirt 10 miles from my doorstep instead of looping 35 miles around to one of the alternate entrances.
In other news, Brent Romans drove the Tacoma south to Santa Monica from his remote office in Fresno, a freeway journey of some 220 miles. Its only other highway trek was a fairly short jaunt up to Willow Springs in the hands of Josh Sadlier for our department's annual driver's training session. This was more of a business trip to a semi-remote location than anything else. Not much different from regular commuting, of which the Tacoma did plenty in the hands of other editors in the course of racking up 1,738 miles this month.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
My mountain-goat antics did these calculations no favors, and Travis' trek to Joshua Tree and back featured some low-speed running in the desert. Brent's return trip to Fresno was as close to an all-highway tank as anyone came, but even his 220-mile freeway run was contained within a 348-mile tank that stirred in some city miles at either end. That said, his tank's average of 20.8 mpg was the second-best we've recorded so far. I can't help thinking it could have been 2 or 3 mpg better had it been a 100 percent highway run.
In the end, this month's six tanks of fuel consisted of a pretty typical (for us) blend of city and highway miles, so we're not surprised that October's monthly average of 18.5 mpg closely mirrors the Tacoma's lifetime average of 18.3 mpg.
Average lifetime mpg: 18.3 mpg
EPA mpg rating: 20 mpg combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 21.3 mpg
Best range: 362.7 miles
Current odometer: 15,814 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"Powertrain is really lacking in this truck. It needs much more low-rpm torque, and the throttle doesn't do much in the first 60 percent of travel. It's good as a truck (lots of space, suspension travel, etc.), but it really needs some tuning when it comes to drivability." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor
"Not to pile on about the powertrain — specifically the lack of low-rpm torque — but I spend much of my time in the Tacoma mulling engines that would work better in this truck. My top pick? Mazda's new turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder from the CX-9. It was designed to front-load its torque even more than the typical modern turbo because most drivers don't keep their foot in it past 4,000 rpm, which is unfortunately where the Tacoma's V6 starts to wake up." — Josh Sadlier, Content Strategist
"I mostly agree with what folks say about the calibration of the throttle and transmission. But there is an ECT Power button down by the shifter, and it alters the throttle and shift mapping in a way that takes a good deal of the sting out of those concerns. Too bad you have to reselect it every time you restart the engine. And I've yet to run a back-to-back fuel economy test to see if there are measurable consequences. I assume so; otherwise it wouldn't exist in the first place." — Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
"Suspension soaks up bumps, rocks and generally contorted dirt surfaces without any fuss, and it's amazing how tight this cabin feels bouncing around out here. Zero squeaks and rattles." — Dan Edmunds
"Wireless device charging pad won't even top up my iPhone 5 (admittedly Apple's fault, not the Tacoma's, for not supporting Qi inductive charging)." — Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
"Other Dan is correct about the iPhone 5's (and 6's) inability to take advantage of the Qi wireless pad. But to me that's no great loss. My Samsung Galaxy S7 can indeed charge on the pad, but I have to take the phone OUT of my favorite protective case to make it work. No thanks. I consider it OK as a backup plan if I forget my USB cord, but nothing I would use daily on purpose. I could take it or leave it." — Dan Edmunds
"Despite its flaws, the Tacoma fits me like a glove. I don't know what it is. Even if it's just a freeway commute, there's a sense of adventure and possibility. If you just called in sick today, you could continue off in the direction of the mountains, desert or some body of water. You could carry the band's gear to an out-of-town gig. You could visit an old friend who lives out of state, a full day's road trip away. The Tacoma would be ideal. For me, anyway." — Dan Frio