Ever the sales leader in the midsize segment, the Tacoma trades heavily on Toyota's well-deserved reputation for building small trucks with superior off-highway capability and rugged dependability. Able to do much more than haul building materials from the home improvement store (which it does quite well), the Tacoma gives off an off-road lifestyle vibe that it can back up with actual performance.
You can see it in the truck's stance, its ground clearance and the cut of its front bumper. And frankly you'll also notice it when you hoist yourself up into the cab, which is handsome and functional enough but has an odd driving position born of the need for maximum underbody clearance. The story is the same whether you buy a 4x2 or a 4x4 because in 2016 all two-wheel-drive Tacomas adopted the jacked-up stance of their four-wheel-drive brethren.
We're not bowled over by the lack of response and sometimes awkward drivability of its V6 engine, but the real culprit is likely a shift program for the six-speed automatic that's designed to extract maximum fuel mileage. Still, it gets the job done, and when the road turns to dirt, the suspension, tires and traction management systems take over the lead role.
Two of the available six models are bristling with off-road gear that further extends their appeal and capability. The TRD Off-Road has knobby tires, special shocks and traction aids such as a locking rear differential, crawl control and an advanced multimode off-road traction control system. The reintroduced-for-2017 TRD Pro has all of that plus extra suspension travel, a taller and wider stance, and trick big-bore Fox internal bypass shocks, all of which allow it to soak up even more high-speed punishment while still delivering a smooth ride on the pavement.
trim levels & features
This year's Tacoma lineup has been expanded. The entry-level SR is the work truck of the bunch, with the value-oriented SR5 offering more equipment and more choices. Next up are the identically priced, very popular and well-equipped TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road variants. The two are identical on the inside, but hardware differences make the TRD Off-Road come across as the better deal. The more street-oriented Limited used to be the top dog, but that honor now belongs to the TRD Pro, a highly capable off-road machine that returns even better than before after a one-year absence.
Bare-bones isn't quite the right way to describe the low-dollar SR, the most modestly equipped Tacoma of the lot. Even so, it can be had with an extended cab with a 6.1-foot bed or a crew cab with a 5-foot bed, and you can choose between two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case. Its 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 159 horsepower can be paired with a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, or you can get a 278-hp 3.5-liter V6 and the automatic.
The SR is most easily identified by its dark grille and 16-inch steel wheels. But even this basic Tacoma comes with a sliding rear window, a tough composite bed that needs no bedliner, a movable cleat tie-down system and a backup camera fitted in the tailgate release handle. Inside, the four-way cloth seats have driver-side lumbar adjustment, and the steering wheel tilts, telescopes, and has control buttons that work with the basic Entune stereo, which supports Bluetooth and has a USB interface. There's even a built-in GoPro camera mount at the upper edge of the windshield. Cruise control and remote keyless entry are available as a package option, and the SR is the only model where you can delete the extended cab's rear seat if all you really want is a work truck.
For most buyers, the SR5 is the most common starting point. Engine choices remain the same, but the six-speed automatic is standard. In addition to the previous configurations mentioned, you can also get a long-wheelbase version that pairs the crew cab with the 6.1-foot bed.
Outwardly, the SR5 gains a chrome rear bumper and a flash of chrome on its charcoal-colored grille. It's got foglights set into its front bumper, and the 16-inch steel wheels can be upgraded to alloys. Remote keyless entry and cruise control become standard, its steering wheel is wrapped in leather, and the sliding rear window uses privacy glass. There's a 4.2-inch information screen between the gauges, and the enhanced Entune audio system supports satellite radio, smartphone-enabled navigation via the Scout GPS app and Siri Eyes Free voice control.
Next up is the TRD Sport. It is offered in the same cab and bed configurations as the SR5, but the V6 is the only engine. All two-wheel-drive versions use the six-speed automatic, but four-wheel-drive buyers can choose between the automatic and a performance-oriented six-speed manual.
It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color fender flares and rear bumper, turn signals in the mirror housings and, everyone's favorite, a hood scoop. There's a 400-watt power outlet in the bed and the crew cab's sliding rear window is power-actuated. Automatic transmission-equipped trucks gain smart entry and pushbutton start, and all TRD Sports make the jump to full navigation via the Entune premium audio system's 7-inch touchscreen.
The TRD Off-Road offers the same configuration and engine options as the TRD Sport, and its truck bed and interior and audio trimmings are identical. Visual differences include a chrome rear bumper, textured black fender flares and the absence of the Sport's hood scoop. Off-road performance changes loom large in this trim, and these include knobby all-terrain tires on 16-inch alloy wheels, the deletion of the front air dam, extra skid plates, a lockable rear differential, Bilstein monotube shocks, and an advanced off-road traction control system with multiple terrain settings and crawl control.
Both the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road can be upgraded with an option package that includes a sunroof, automatic climate control, heated seats and a blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Another version of this package also includes a JBL speaker upgrade and a subwoofer.
The Limited is the most civilized version of the Tacoma. It is only offered as a V6-powered crew cab with the short bed in either two- or four-wheel drive. It has body-color flares and rear bumper, and it rolls on 18-inch wheels with lower-profile tires. It lacks the TRD Off-Road's specialized off-road upgrades and is instead upgraded with leather-trimmed seats and all the equipment found in the JBL version of the TRD Sport and Off-Road upgrade package.
The TRD Pro is sold only as a crew cab with a short bed, and it comes only in four-wheel drive. The V6 engine is standard, but you can choose between the manual and the automatic transmission. It sets itself apart with a black throwback grille with "Toyota" spelled out in capital letters, black head- and taillight bezels, black textured fender flares and LED foglights. It rides on the same 16-inch knobby tires as the TRD Off Road, but the Pro's unique black wheels and vastly more capable 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks give it a tougher stance that's an inch broader and an inch taller. After that it's a mix of all of the others: the hood scoop from the Sport, traction management features from the TRD Off-Road, and luxury interior appointments and safety systems from the Limited. In fact, its heated leather seats go the Limited's one better because of their textured pattern, contrasting red stitching and logo-emblazoned headrests. There's a unique TRD shift knob and exhaust tip, too.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Crew Cab 4x4 (3.5L V6; 6-speed automatic).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Toyota Tacoma has received some very minor equipment revisions, such as the power actuation of the sliding rear window. The TRD Pro is all new, but it is a low-volume model that is not part of this evaluation. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Toyota Tacoma.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
child safety seat accomodation
audio & navigation
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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