2016 Toyota Tacoma
All new from the wheels up
Date Posted: September 8, 2015
By Zack Spencer
The Toyota Tacoma continued in production while the domestic manufacturers abandoned the small pickup truck space. Because of this, Toyota dominates sales and for 2016 they are pushing hard with an all-new truck.
Can you name the brand that makes and sells most pickup trucks worldwide? You might think the North American king of the road, the Ford F-150 would rank number one, but the reality is that Toyota hold the sales crown.
Toyota makes the Hilux compact truck, sold in every corner of the world and in North America we get the Tacoma. Toyota uses that worldwide knowledge and pairs it with North American engineering and design to come up with a uniquely American vehicle. The engineering is done in Michigan, under the stewardship of chief engineer Mike Sweers, an American, who then hands off the design challenge to a group in California and the end unit is built in Austin Texas; All very apple pie and stars and stripes. The end result is an all-new Tacoma truck that shares, literally, a handful of parts from the last version.
With the majority of competitive trucks exiting the small-to-mid-sized truck market, Toyota has held an amazing sales lead in this space. It has only been one-year since the GM Colorado and Canyon trucks have reentered the market and even with that competition, the Tacoma continues to be the go-to vehicle for many.
What Toyota didn’t change was the size of the Tacoma; the existing buyers told Toyota that they like the size, and major reason for not buying a full-size domestic truck in the first place.
The goal of this new Tacoma was to make a vehicle that can take the owner to the farthest off-road areas and be depended upon to get the driver back.
Toyota has added some fancy new technology that helps the truck navigate some serious terrain. The first is what is called crawl control, basically low-speed cruise control. The driver sets the speed from 1-5km/h and the truck will use the traction control, antilock brakes and the throttle management to help the Tacoma traverse serious off-road environments. On downhill sections the brakes get to work and all the driver needs to do is steer. When going over uneven ground the brakes grab and the throttle modulates to keep the truck moving and the ABS sends the correct amount of power to the wheels that have grip. All of this is seamless and uneventful. Toyota even has a setting that will help dig the Tacoma out of sand buried up to the axles. On top of this, the 2016 model has terrain settings for things like rocks, sand, mud and snow to help the vehicle determine the correct amount of wheel slippage for the traction control system.
I asked the chief engineer Mike Sweers, an avid off-road truck enthusiast, if an experienced driver could emulate the electronic aids to get out of sticky situations and he flatly said no. He claimed that there is nothing that can compete with the computer and the mechanics of the Tacoma that a human could replicate. Good to know.
The latest Tacoma is still available with a base 4-cylinder engine, a new V6 and sold as rear wheel drive (RWD) model or all wheel drive (AWD) with both a two-door model and four-door version. The majority of buyers choose the 4-door double cab with the V6 and AWD and more and more buyers are even choosing the specialty off road package called TRD. Pricing for these models has not been confirmed at this time but it will be released closer to the mid-November release date.
Another objective of the engineering team was to provide a much better driving experience thanks to a new V6 engine and improved cabin. The base engine is a 2.7L 4-cylinder with 159hp and 18- lb.-ft. of torque and can be equipped with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The all-new 3.5L V6 has 278hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine gets a 6-speed manual or auto. What makes the V6 unique is the ability to run with regular port injection or direct injection plus the ability to use the more efficient Atkinson cycle or conventional 4-stroke engine cycle. What this means to the user is a leaner fuel burn when the truck isn’t being challenged and all the power when the owner needs it. It is seamless and the driver cannot tell when these systems are at play. In reality, this is a system borrowed from the Lexus luxury division.
The last piece of the puzzle is the much improved cabin experience. The seats have been improved, the dash updated with a large touch-screen display audio system and the noise insulation has been developed along with a more rigid cabin structure to make this a much more relaxing place to spend time. The on-road ride is more car-like and having a chance to drive aggressively over washboard back roads, the cabin doesn’t rattle and the ride is surprisingly smooth. One cool feature is the addition of a Go-Pro camera mount behind the rear view mirror to capture off-road adventures.
The goal of this latest Tacoma was to make it more capable, more comfortable and more efficient. As it stands, the latest Tacoma is a big step forward in every category and should cement the Toyota’s stranglehold in the mid-size pickup space.
Power: 2.7L 4-cylinder with 159hp or 3.5L V6 with 278hp
Economy: 13.1L/10.5L/100km (city/highway V6)
Sticker price: $28,345-$35,775
As it stands, the latest Tacoma is a big step forward in every category