For more than 20 years now, the Toyota Tacoma has been a very popular alternative for shoppers who feel regular full-size trucks are just too big or too expensive. It’s no surprise, then, that the redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma hasn’t drifted far from the proven formula. If you liked the long-running previous-generation Tacoma, you’re going to like this one, too. But Toyota has also made some notable improvements that burnish the latest version’s appeal.
The new 2016 Toyota Tacoma bears a clear family resemblance to the larger Tundra, although its dimensions are largely unchanged from the outgoing model.
One thing you won’t find in the 2016 Tacoma lineup is the venerable handyman special, a.k.a. the regular-cab 4×2 stripper with dinky steel wheels. Regular cabs were ousted last year, leaving only the extended cab and crew cab body styles on the roster, and for 2016, all rear-drive Tacomas share the raised suspension and ground clearance with their 4×4 brethren. Capable off-road performance is still part of the 4×4 Tacoma’s repertoire, though, as the TRD Off-Road model (with the automatic transmission) inherits the Crawl Control system from the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. All Tacomas even get an integrated GoPro mount so owners can record their adventures (and misadventures). Other additions for 2016 include a revamped interior design with Toyota’s latest touchscreen interfaces, a standard lockable damped tailgate and an available tri-fold hard tonneau cover.
Under the hood, the outgoing Tacoma’s base 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine carries over unchanged, but the noisy and somewhat coarse 4.0-liter V6 has been replaced by a smoother and more fuel-efficient V6. Derived from the 3.5-liter V6 found in many Toyota products, the Tacoma’s version boasts 42 more horsepower than last year’s V6. Both engines are offered with a new six-speed automatic transmission, and 4x4s are available with a manual gearbox as well. Tacoma 4x4s also get a redesigned transfer case and a beefier rear axle.
Put it all together and you’re looking at a pretty desirable choice for a midsize pickup. That said, you should still take a look at the vastly improved General Motors twins, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. For taller drivers, they’re likely more comfortable to drive, and V6 performance is stronger, though the Colorado and Canyon aren’t as capable off-road as the Tacoma. The General will also be adding a diesel option to both trucks for 2016, which should give them a huge advantage in fuel economy. There’s also the Nissan Frontier to consider, but it’s overdue for a redesign and brings up the rear in terms of refinement. Overall, we’d say the redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma is well-positioned to retain its throne.
trim levels & features
The Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck available with two cabs: the extended Access Cab (with small rear-hinged back doors) and the Double Cab (a larger crew cab). Access Cab models come exclusively with a 127.8-inch wheelbase and a 73.7-inch long bed. Double Cab models are offered in short- (127.4-inch) and long- (141-inch) wheelbase versions, the former with a 60.5-inch short bed and the latter with the long bed.
The Tacoma is offered in five trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited.
The SR model comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a cargo bed rail system with fixed and adjustable tie-downs, a bedliner, a sliding rear window, full power accessories (windows, locks and mirrors), air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, a GoPro windshield mount, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice controls, Siri Eyes Free (for Apple phones), a 6.1-inch touchscreen interface and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
Options specific to the SR include the SR Convenience package, which includes cruise control and remote keyless entry. If you spring for that package, 16-inch black alloy wheels can be added as well. Four-cylinder Access Cab models offer a Utility package, which deletes the rear seat and sliding rear window, removes the two rear speakers (reducing the total to four) and replaces the standard body-color door handles, bumpers and mirror caps with black plastic pieces.
The SR5 model adds the SR Convenience package’s items plus foglights, chrome exterior accents, variable intermittent wipers, rear privacy glass, a color trip computer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, satellite radio and the Scout GPS Link navigation app (requires a compatible smartphone).
SR5 options include the SR5 Appearance package, which bundles 16-inch silver alloy wheels, body-color over-fenders and an auto-dimming rearview mirror (V6 models only). An expanded version of the Appearance package adds rear parking sensors and an upgraded infotainment bundle with a 7-inch touchscreen, the Entune App Suite, HD radio and an integrated navigation system.
The TRD Sport model adds LED daytime running lights, unique exterior trim (including a hood scoop), 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned shock absorbers, a bed-mounted 120-volt power outlet, keyless entry and ignition (automatic transmission only), a wireless phone charger, a leather-trimmed shift lever, special upholstery (shared with the TRD Off-Road), the auto-dimming rearview mirror and the SR5’s optional upgraded infotainment bundle.
TRD Sport options include a Premium and Technology package that adds automatic headlights, a sunroof (Double Cab only), dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, rear parking sensors and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. On Double Cab models with the automatic transmission, this package can be ordered in conjunction with an upgraded JBL stereo with a subwoofer.
Next up is the TRD Off-Road model, which adds its own rugged body trim (without the TRD Sport’s hood scoop), special 16-inch alloy wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers and chin-spoiler delete (to improve the truck’s off-road ability). All TRD Off-Road Tacomas share an electronic locking rear differential, and the Crawl Control system (essentially cruise control for off-road maneuvers between 1 and 5 mph) is further added if you select the automatic transmission. Options mirror those of the TRD Sport.
At the top of the line is the Limited model, which comes exclusively as a Double Cab. It gets 18-inch alloy wheels, unique exterior and interior trim, leather upholstery and the contents of TRD twins’ optional Premium and Technology package (including the JBL stereo).
A hard lockable tonneau cover and a towing package (V6 models only) are offered as stand-alone options for all trim levels.
performance & mpg
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma comes with either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine (SR and SR5 only) or a 3.5 liter V6. Both rear-wheel-drive (4×2) and four-wheel-drive (4×4) configurations are available. All 4×2 Tacomas get a six-speed automatic transmission, while 4x4s can be had with the automatic or one of two manual transmissions (five speeds for the four-cylinder engine, six speeds for the V6).
Tacoma 4x4s have low-range gearing. Manual-transmission TRD Off-Road models also get a special mode that allows the truck to be started in gear without depressing the clutch, thus eliminating clutch slippage and rollback while stalled going uphill.
All 2016 Toyota Tacomas offer 9.4 inches of ground clearance, even 4×2 models. The TRD Off-Road 4×4 seen here is a serious bushwhacking machine.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. EPA fuel economy ratings are 21 mpg combined (19 city/23 highway) for the 4×2 automatic, 20 mpg combined (19/21) for the 4×4 manual and 20 mpg combined (19/22) for the 4×4 automatic.
The V6’s output jumps up to 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates for a V6 4×2 Tacoma (automatic) are 21 mpg combined (19/24). A V6 4×4 Tacoma returns 19 mpg combined (17/21) with the manual (18 mpgDouble Cab) or 20 mpg combined (18/23) with the automatic.
In Edmunds performance testing of two TRD Off-Road Double Cab V6 models with the automatic, we recorded an average acceleration time to 60 mph of 8.3 seconds, which is slower than the four-wheel-drive Colorado V6. A TRD Sport Double Cab V6 we tested hit 60 in a slightly better 8.2 seconds.
Four-cylinder Tacomas can tow a maximum of 3,500 pounds, while V6 models can handle between 6,400 and 6,800 pounds, depending on driveline and cab configuration.
All Tacomas come with active front headrests, front-seat side airbags, driver and passenger knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, as well as traction and stability control and antilock brakes with brake assist. Unlike most pickup trucks, the Tacoma still uses drum brakes at the rear. A blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert is optional on TRD models and standard on the Tacoma Limited.
In Edmunds brake testing, a TRD Off-Road Double Cab V6 needed 135 feet to stop from 60 mph, a disappointing early result that’s partly due to this trim level’s trail-busting tire specification. A subsequent testing of a different TRD Off-Road Double Cab V6 resulted in a much better 124 feet. A TRD Sport Double Cab V6 with less extreme tires stopped in 130 feet. For reference, our best-braking Colorado needed just 123 feet.
After a remarkable 11 years on the market, the old Tacoma was certainly showing its age from behind the wheel, so we’re pleased to see some contemporary design flair in the new truck’s dashboard. As expected, most of the materials seem to have been selected with durability in mind, not luxury, but there are some inspired choices here and there, including trim-specific dash inserts ranging from rubber (TRD trims) to simulated leather (Limited). We’re also happy that the user-friendly nature of the control layout hasn’t changed. The very responsive touchscreen interface (measuring either 6.1 or 7.0 inches) sits front and center, with glove-friendly climate control knobs and secondary switches beneath.
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s interior has been modernized and stylized, but the control layout remains straightforward and easy to master.
The Tacoma’s front seats are distinguished by their low mounting position and lack of height adjustability. Even if there were such adjustability, it wouldn’t be very useful, as there’s already limited headroom for taller occupants. Another unfortunate Tacoma trait is the comically short range of its telescoping steering wheel — it seems to come out about an inch, which is a couple inches short of satisfactory for long-legged drivers.
The Tacoma Access Cab’s scant backseat space is best for children, but the Double Cab’s rear quarters are adult-friendly, featuring adequate legroom and an agreeably angled seatback. Both cabs feature a folding rear seat, and the entry-level SR Access Cab can be ordered with a Utility package that deletes the backseat entirely. Out back, the Tacoma comes standard with a plastic-lined bed as well as four adjustable and four fixed tie-down cleats, with a handy bed-mounted power outlet available on some models. The tailgate is both removable and lockable, and if you open it and let go, it won’t slam down; damped hinges lower it gently to bumper level.
The Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is noticeably smoother and quieter than its 4.0-liter predecessor, and it feels sprightly enough in real-world driving, especially at higher rpm. In our acceleration tests, though, it trails the old V6 to 60 mph despite its extra 42 horses. We expect that testing the manual-transmission version will yield further insight, but for now, the numbers don’t lie — the V6-powered GM twins are significantly quicker from zero to 60. Also, the automatic transmission tends to hunt between gears on freeway inclines, making it more of a chore than expected to keep up with traffic.
The 2016 Tacoma’s cab is better insulated than ever before, giving the truck a more serene ride on a variety of surfaces. While the TRD Off-Road’s suspension and 16-inch tires are optimized for rough terrain, we like the way it soaks up the bumps on pavement, too. On a brief drive, a Limited model felt noticeably firmer with its 18-inch tires and road-tuned suspension setup, though certainly not uncomfortable. Either way, we applaud the Tacoma’s steering, which offers a pleasant build-up of effort and good centering. Off-road, the Tacoma is ready for just about anything with its 9.4 inches of ground clearance and 29- or 32-degree approach angle, far surpassing the GM twins’ 8.4 inches and 18 degrees, respectively.