2016 Toyota Tacoma Long-Term Road Test: Introduction
January 15, 2016
What Did We Get?
The Toyota Tacoma has history. It's a workhorse with a reputation for reliability and durability that's known the world over. And it earned that reputation with the easygoing nature offered only in a smaller pickup. As midsize trucks go, it is the standard-bearer.
That reputation is one reason why the redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma isn't drastically different from the previous model. There's a new V6 and an improved six-speed automatic. The interior is updated to modern standards that were desperately lacking in the 11-year-old outgoing version. Dimensionally, however, the new truck is almost identical to the one it replaces. Its track width, wheelbase and suspension remain the same as before. It's still very much the same midsize truck it's always been.
That's a good thing in many ways, as we have always liked the Tacoma's rugged nature and considerable capabilities. Our initial drive of the redesigned model suggested that it was a slightly more high-tech version of the truck we already knew. We decided to find out if that was enough of a leap to keep it at the head of the class, so we bought a crew cab V6 of our own.
What Options Does It Have?
There are five trim levels available: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited.
All Tacomas come with a bedliner from the factory. Other standard features across the board include air-conditioning, power accessories, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera and a USB port and auxiliary audio jack. Sixteen-inch wheels are nothing new, but are included as standard equipment on every Tacoma except the TRD Sport (17s) and the top-trim Limited, which gets 18s.
We opted for the TRD Off-Road model, as we liked its combination of features and suspension tuning. It includes Bilstein shocks, a lockable rear differential and a crawl control system that allows varying speeds between 1 and 5 mph (only available with automatic transmission versions). It also includes keyless entry, a first for the class.
The 3.5-liter V6 in our truck is good for 278 horsepower and is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Its two-speed transfer case is electronically switched.
Additional options include the $650 V6 Tow package, which adds an engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, heavy-duty alternator and a four- and seven-pin electrical connector for a trailer. We also got a $90 exhaust tip and carpeted floor mats for $209, which brought the MSRP to $35,579. We purchased the truck from Carson Toyota, which knocked $500 from the sticker price for a total of $35,079.
Why Did We Buy It?
For the last decade or so, the midsize truck segment was stagnant. The long-running Ford Ranger was killed off, while GM's trucks came and went. The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan's Frontier stuck around, but with little competition they didn't change much.
In 2014, GM got back into the game and rejuvenated the segment. Sales of the Colorado and Canyon have exceeded expectations without stealing sales from their larger siblings. We recently wrapped up a year with Chevy's Colorado in which it proved to be a solid machine. Clearly, there was some unmet demand out there.
This new Tacoma arrived with a familiar look and feel. We couldn't help but wonder if Toyota was underestimating its new rivals. But after some initial seat time and closer inspection of its features and specs, it was clear that this Tacoma wasn't just a quickly arranged refresh. This is a truck designed to appeal to the kinds of truck buyers that have made the Tacoma the class leader, while offering enough new features to keep it fresh.
Now it's time to see if Toyota's latest take on the midsize truck measures up to GM's effort. As similar as the Colorado and Tacoma are in many respects, they have very different characters. We grew to like the Colorado for a variety of reasons, and over the next 12 months and 20,000 miles we'll learn every quirk of the Tacoma, both good and bad.
Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test page to see if the new Tacoma is still the standard when it comes to midsize trucks.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.