With inspiration by desert racing, Toyota made the 2016 Tacoma all about recreational action and athletic agility. For this model year, the Tacoma is available in five grades in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations.
The 2016 models include the work-ready SR, iconic SR5, athletic TRD Sport, tough-as-nails TRD Off-Road and top-of-the-line Limited, with prices ranging from $23,300 for a base SR to $37,820 for a Limited. A TRD off-roader is priced at $30,765.
All models have front ends with a bold upper grille and a taller, more muscular hood. Mounted high above the clamp-shaped bumper sits slim, high technology headlights that feature projection beam lamps with available LED Daytime Running Lights.
From behind, the new locking tailgate features an integrated spoiler for improved aerodynamics and a stamped Tacoma logo. The tailgate also adds an easy lowering feature, which allows it to slowly retract, preventing it from slamming down.
For the first time ever, Tacoma is available with a tri-fold hard, lockable, weather-proof tonneau cover for securing gear when you're away from the truck. It's a $650 option.
Overall, the exterior was expressly designed to combat wind resistance. Lines are more straight and vertical than in the past. Wind supposedly does not flow around and behind to slow down a vehicle but clips right by. Gaps have been closed. For example, the bed of the truck rubs right up to the cab. "We have reduced drag (wind resistance) by 12 percent, the largest reduction in Toyota truck history," Fay added.
High-strength steel replaces ordinary steel. It keeps the weight down as well as making the truck more rigid. Due to the threat of corrosion, aluminum has not been incorporated into the body stamping process. "The two do not mix and corrosion results," Sweers said. The suspension has been retuned but remains with leaf springs in the rear. A damper on the lockable and removable tailgate now makes the opening and closing process light to the touch. The rear bumper has an instep for access to the bed. The bumper also comes in three pieces. If one section gets damaged, it can be replaced independently of the other two.
The new Tacoma is powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or an all-new, segment-first 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 equipped with Toyota's D-4S technology, featuring both direct and port fuel injection. The direct injection engines are self-cleaning. "This means the injectors will not get gummed up," Sweers said. "Naturally the longevity is increased, too."
Both engines come paired to a new six-speed automatic transmission with electronic shift delivering quick and easy shifting. The V-6 can also be mated to a new six-speed manual transmission, making the Tacoma more powerful and fuel efficient than ever before.
The Tacoma remains a pickup truck with two cab choices and both reflect two rows of seating. They are access or double (crew) cabs. The one-row (in front) Tacoma cab model has been discontinued. Box lengths are either five or six feet.
In designing the 2016 Tacoma, engineers ensured the truck could continue to do what it does best and that is go off-roading. "Forty-five percent of our customers go off-road," Mike Sweers, chief engineer product development office for Toyota, said. That is a remarkable percentage as industry studies conclude that no more than five- to 10-percent of owners take their off-road vehicles off-roading.
"The active young male is our target buyer," Toyota Group's vice president and general manager Bill Fay said during an event introducing the 2016 Tacoma to members of the automotive media. "They like to take their trucks out and have fun."
Members of the automotive media, including the authors, were allowed to test the new Tacomas on a 1,800-acre off-roading course near Seattle. One test was down a steep embankment over or between exposed tree roots and deep grooves. Another was over piles of rock. A more impressive test was climbing a hill at a 40 degree incline. Drivers went up the hill and down the hill. Since the ground the wheels were gripping could not be seen by drivers, six-foot-tall flags were placed to let them know where to steer.
These tests were conducted with TRD off-road models equipped with crawl control. Push the crawl button on an overhead control panel and let the truck's electronics take over. The driver does not touch brake or gas pedal. Those mechanicals are controlled by the truck's computerized electronics. The driver simply steers. Crawl mode has settings for slow, slower and slowest. At the fastest setting, it is still a plodding and slow crawl. The crawl system works in sand, snow, mud and, obviously, climbing hills if not portions of mountains that have no more than a 40 degree angle.
Since the truck does a lot of off-roading, Sweers pointed out that the brake system continues with discs in front and drums in the rear. He said rear discs could get gummed-up with off-road grit and have to be cleaned and that could be a laborious process. The drums enclose braking mechanisms to keep out the grit.
According to Sweers, the 2016 Tacoma has the lightest, smallest and best transfer case in the midsize pickup truck industry.
Fay said Toyota has been No. 1 in retail sales in the United States for 18 of the last 19 months. In its midsize pickup truck segment, the Tacoma reigns as sales king. Competition comes mainly from the GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado, Dodge Dakota and, to a lesser extent, from the Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.
Fay pointed out that the Tacoma was born 10 years ago but today controls 50 percent of sales in that that midsize pickup truck market. He also claimed that the Tacoma has the highest resale value of any vehicle sold in the U.S.
The new truck is assembled at the San Antonio, TX or Baja, CA facilities.