We were so eager for our time with the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, we being one of my sons-in-law, one of my grandsons and me.
My son-in-law had owned a Toyota pickup when he was an undergrad at Arizona State University, and his truck carried him back and forth each school year from Seattle to Tempe. An MBA, nice career in finance and a family later, he’s been thinking it’s about time to swap his aging Corolla for something new, maybe another truck.
My 11-year-old grandson and I were looking forward to our time in the Tacoma because we had plans to take it off pavement for an adventure. I hadn’t gotten an opportunity to drive it on or off road during a recent media event in Phoenix, but I heard good things about its capabilities and wanted to feel them for myself, so Toyota complied with my request to spend a week in the vehicle.
I had the truck during Christmas week, and the plan was that on the way from my house in the Phoenix area to my daughter’s house in the Las Vegas area, my grandson and I would do at least one of the off-road trails between Kingman and the Hoover Dam. We got out my off-pavement trail book, looked at our options and picked two trails, both of which looped back to U.S. 93.
We were doing our drive on Christmas Eve day, and my daughter’s only request, other than we be safe, was that we arrive in time for church services that evening.
No worries, we figured, at least until it started to rain, an all-day rain that turned to snow at higher elevations. As is often the case with tire pressure-monitoring technologies, the system didn’t like the cold weather and kept giving us its “!” warning signal. And once we arrived at the trails, they had become muddy, mucky messes and I wasn’t about to risk getting stuck somewhere with an 11-year-old along.
Alas, we stayed on pavement. (I checked the tire pressures with a tire gauge and they were fine.)
While I can report having heard good things from other reporters about the TRD-prepped Tacoma off pavement, I can report that the truck does just fine on pavement pretty near all the time. Horsepower doesn’t peak until 6,000 rpm and max torque takes to 4,600 rpm, so it’s no rocket off the line, and on long climbs on freeways or steeper climbs in the mountains, the six-speed automatic gearbox too often was hunting up and down in an effort to find the proper gear.
The Tacoma is a next-generation vehicle for the 2016 model year, with a new strong frame, new V6 engine and transmission, new suspension tuning and new bodywork.
A 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder is the base engine for the Tacoma, but especially with the four-door double cab version and 4×4 powertrain, the way to go is the V6, which provides 42 more horsepower than its predecessor. Manual or automatic transmissions are available.
The new sheet metal is handsomely muscular, “more chiseled” is how Toyota describes what it calls the truck’s bolder and Baja-inspired styling. Viewed from seemingly any angle, the truck looks like it belongs off-pavement, especially when mounted atop machined contrast alloy wheels wrapped with aggressive off-road-ready rubber.
All Tacoma 4x4s have 4WDemand part-time four-wheel-drive drivetrains with an electronically controlled transfer case and automatic limited-slip differential. You can get a basic TRD tweak with sport-tuned shocks or the full TRD Off-Road version with further tuned suspension and Bilstein shocks.
With the automatic transmission comes a Multi-Terrain Select system so the driver can set the vehicle for dealing with loose rock or with mud and sand. A dial in the overhead console (instead of on the center console or dashboard with the other switchgear) alters the drivetrain computer to adjust throttle and brake pressure to control wheel spin and provide enhanced traction.
A locking rear diff, hill-start assist, clutch-start control (manually shifted versions only), active traction control and crawl control are part of the TRD 4×4 setup.
The truck we drove came with a $2,330 Premium & Technology Package that included dual-zone climate controls, heated front seats, blind-spot mirrors and rear parking sonar and rear cross-traffic alert (with a terrific rearview camera). It also had a $650 towing package. Add in delivery fees and that truck’s MSRP is $37,610 as tested.
Inside, the 2016 Tacoma passenger compartment is full of all the sorts of controls than an 11-year-old finds fascinating, though neither of us was particularly impressed with the supposedly body-colored central section of the dashboard (even a sixth-grader could see that the exterior sheet metal and the interior plastic were different shades of a brick/orange shade that Toyota calls Inferno.
The audio system was first rate, though my grandson preferred to listen to the “electric” station on the satellite radio over my The Christmas Attic CD by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
As a driver, I liked the way the steering wheel had fat leather grips right where you’d want them for off-roading. Pity we didn’t get to give them a real workout.
Oh, well, maybe we can try again when there’s a 2017 version of the Tacoma in the press pool.
2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 Double Cab
Vehicle type: 5-passenger mid-size pickup truck
Base price: $33,730 Price as tested: $37,610
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 265 pound-feet of torque @ 4,600 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 124.7 inches Overall length/width: 212.3 inches / 74.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,480 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 18 city / 23 highway / 20 combined
Assembled in: Baja California, Mexico
Lower photo gallery photos by Toyota