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2016 Toyota Tacoma

2016_Toyota_Tacoma_TRDOR_10_9EFE3D5FC47095DFA7830FC191B9BF5CF571CF64

Base Price: $22,485
Price as Tested: $37,610

Long overdue, the Toyota Tacoma receives a serious update and a much-improved V6 for 2016. Toyota responded to the 2015 release of the GM midsize-truck combination punch of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon with a redesigned Tacoma. It’s been 10 years since Toyota brought us the second generation Tacoma. A decade is a lifetime in the car biz. But with domestic brands dropping out of the small-truck arena, Nissan’s Frontier remained Tacoma’s only real competition. Why mess with a vehicle whose only competitor was similarly long in the tooth?

No, it required GM shifting into high gear to bring its midsize-truck cousins to market to set Toyota product planners springing2016_Toyota_Tacoma_TRDOR_08_AB2D6D913FD4BEFB5E8F44EA4F97E65BB725F444 into action to revamp Tacoma. It was about time.

I missed the media launch of the 2016 Tacoma, but got a serious taste of it when Toyota had a bright-orange – “Inferno” in Toyota speak – one meet me at the Fort Lauderdale Airport on a recent jaunt to South Florida. It was a TRD Off Road Double Cab 4×4, loaded up with all manner of extras. With South Florida comprised primarily of long, straight ribbons of concrete, AWD and 4WD are, for the most part, wasted there. But otherwise, the Tacoma is an ideal livery for slogging through the scrum passing for South Florida traffic.

A dissertation on any pickup truck can’t be comprehensive as well as concise. The multitude of configurations, engines, transmissions, cargo-box lengths and trim levels blunt any attempt at pithiness or condensation. In Tacoma’s case, the Access Cab with its narrow, rear-hinged second door and the Double Cab with its traditional four doors are the configurations. Toyota offers two engines: a 159-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Rear-wheel-drive versions use a six-speed automatic transmission. AWD versions are armed with either the automatic, or a five-speed manual transmission for the 2.7L or a six-speed manual for the 3.5L. Cargo boxes come in roughly five- and six- foot lengths. Toyota offers Tacoma in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off Road and Limited grades. Maybe one can be concise as well as comprehensive.

Fresh from the rubber up, the 2016 Tacoma is virtually all new. Even those few carried-over elements, such as the suspension design and the four-cylinder engine, have been seriously tweaked, modified and refined to create a more efficient, quieter, tougher and more comfortable pickup.

2016_Toyota_Tacoma_TRDOR_03_18B6980BBFD51846A4E8BABA7D1BB634CDF0EA7C_low(1)All of the exterior sheetmetal is new. This isn’t readily apparent when viewing Tacoma in profile, but it’s profoundly evident when taking in the front or rear view. The liberal use of high-strength steel in the frame makes it stiffer and stronger than that in the last-gen. Although Toyota continues with its double-wishbone arrangement in front and leaf-springs in the rear, the current suspension benefits from a surge of restyled and retuned elements. There are plenty of new sound-deadening materials throughout the cab and floor, resulting in almost sedan-like quiet.

Replacing the previous Tacoma’s 236-horsepower 4-liter V6, the new 3.5L V6 is a fresh take on the V6 already in use in other Toyotas. Packing an additional 42 horsepower, this V6 still manages to better the 4L V6’s overall fuel economy. With 2WD and the six-speed automatic, the new 3.5L delivers 19 mpg in the city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, compared to the 4L at 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.

I wouldn’t characterize Tacoma’s cabin as luxurious, but it is rugged in its styling and comfortable enough. Toyota has foregone most of the soft-touch surfaces found in its sedans in favor of harder, more durable materials in Tacoma; however, it didn’t scrimp on craftsmanship. Fit and finish is topnotch. All of the gauges and controls are logically placed. A large color touchscreen – up to 7 inches for the higher-end grades – dominates the center of the the instrument panel. The front bucket seats are well enough designed to sustain their occupants on longer treks. I’d like to see a bit more side bolstering, particularly for 4WD versions, but otherwise they are sufficiently supportive. The three-person rear seat is basically a padded bench, but there is plenty of legroom. Accommodating our hey-look-at-me generation, Toyota installs a GoPro mount as standard equipment in every trim level.

I wasn’t able to navigate off the pavement to try out the 4×4 system that I understand is quite capable, but I can attest to the 2016_Toyota_Tacoma_Ltd_18_EE32BE3A1E7F02F4925D38A96E2AA3159E2883C3civility and driveability of this pickup on paved surfaces. Other than a rather stiff suspension – always welcome in a 4×4 – my test Toyota handled well in stop-and-go traffic as well as at highway speeds.

The entry-level SR grade comes standard with full power accessories, sliding rear window, bedliner, air conditioning, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker audio system with USB port.

By the time you reach the TRD Off Road trim like my test Tacoma, standard gear also includes trip computer, cargo box-mounted 120V power outlet, leather-wrapped steering wheel, wireless phone charger, keyless entry and start, Bilstein shock absorbers and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

My test pickup also had $2,980 in options including dual-zone automatic climate control, auto headlamps, rear-parking sonar, power moonroof, blind-spot monitor, heated front seats, rear-traffic alert, and a towing package with lighting harness and trailer-sway control.

Historically, Toyota owns about half the sales in this segment; the 2016 Tacoma may well follow suit.