2016 Toyota Tacoma - The Car Connection

   
Data Provided By

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown



The Car Connection Expert Review


Bengt Halvorson

Bengt Halvorson

Deputy Editor


  • Likes
  • Reputation for toughness and longevity
  • Rich, thoughtful set of off-road tools
  • Improved ride and cabin quiet
  • Better mpg
  • Dislikes
  • Seating position
  • Tight head room
  • Pricier than comparable trucks

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma steps up its act in all the ways that attracted current Tacoma owners to their trucks, but few that will pull in a new guard.


The Toyota Tacoma has some of the most rabid loyalists of all the mid-size trucks. They bought more than 180,000 copies last year, twice as many as its nearest competitor. And there’s such a strong following among older Tacomas that they maintain their resale value better than any other truck.

While we’re betting the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon and their soon-available turbodiesel engine will chip into those numbers a bit, Toyota’s response is solid—yet also solidly predictable, and a bit conservative when it comes down to it.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma isn’t a clean-sheet redesign, but it delivers exactly what those dedicated enthusiasts want. The new Tacoma gets a new cabin structure, new powertrains, a tuned suspension, and an improved feature set—plus cabin improvements that make these trucks significantly quieter inside.

What Toyota hasn’t messed with is the Tacoma’s size and configuration; that’s all essentially the same as last year. While styling on the outside really hasn’t changed much in profile, the hoodline has been propped upward slightly, and the somewhat more assertive, hex-pattern grille looks essentially subbed in from the larger Tundra lineup. Toyota’s smoothed over the previous asymmetrical wheelwell lips but in back given it more of an industrial-chic look with some creasing and the Tacoma name stamped in. Inside, the cabin’s far more detail-oriented, and it has a more horizontal layout, with bezels and finishes that no longer look completely bargain-basement.

As before, the Tacoma comes in Short Bed and Long Bed versions (roughly 5 and 6 feet), with Double Cab and Access Cab styles. Double Cab models pack in a full-size back seat and space for up to five, while Access Cabs have small fold-out seats that are probably more useful as cargo space. The standard cab versions of the Tacoma aren’t coming back.

What has changed is what’s under the hood; and while the 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6 is smaller than last year’s 4.0-liter, it makes 278 horsepower (42 more versus the previous V-6) and 265 pound-feet of torque. That’s a very slight bump down in torque, but this new engine boasts noticeably better passing power and smoothness. With V-6 models you get to choose between a 6-speed manual and a new 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is probably our preference here, as its upshifts and downshifts are now nicely damped, with well-spaced gears and quick shifts.

There’s still a base 4-cylinder version of the Tacoma, with a 2.7-liter inline-4 making 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, and paired to automatic or manual 5-speed transmissions. It’s likely that, as with the Tacoma’s predecessor, you should steer away from these models unless you aren’t hauling much of a load or wishing for high-speed passing power. There isn’t much of an incentive mileage-wise either, now that Toyota’s boosted V-6 numbers to as high as 19 mpg city, 24 highway.

Depending on the trim level and options, the 2016 Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds or haul up to 1,620 pounds. That’s fully SAE rated according to the latest testing methodology, Toyota notes. That highest tow rating comes with a package that includes a heavy-duty oil and transmission cooler (with the automatic), a 130-amp alternator (manual models), and Trailer Sway Control.

Off-road potential, however, remains the main attraction for a huge subset of Tacoma buyers. And Toyota's laid out an impressive set of upgrades to the Tacoma's off-roading hardware. This time there’s a new Multi-Terrain Select system operates like similar systems from Ford and Land Rover—and the one in the 4Runner. With it, modes for driving conditions from mud to sand to slick rock alter the Tacoma's throttle and braking to aid in traction. The new Tacoma also adds an electronic limited-slip and locking rear differential, hill-start assist, and crawl control, which takes over the brakes and throttle from 1 to 5 mph in off-road driving, leaving the driver free to steer around obstacles. Combined with excellent sightlines and outward visibility, it’s a trooper off-road in a wide range of conditions.

This pandering to such a defined, dedicated crowd might help explain why not much attention has been paid to the actual cabin amenities. There are some key cabin-comfort items missing from these trucks. You won’t find ventilated seats here—or even power seats—and the driver’s seat doesn’t even adjust for height or tilt. And there’s not a whole lot of headroom with the available moonroof. But ride quality has indeed improved significantly, and this truck handles better than on the road than it has in past iterations.

Five trim levels make up the model line: basic SR, SR5, TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road, and Limited. Touching on the Tacoma's longstanding rep as the go-to truck for outdoor sports, the Tacoma comes standard with a GoPro mount at the rearview mirror. Other new features include an locking, damped tailgate; a four-panel folding tonneau cover; Qi wireless charging; leather; a moonroof; keyless ignition; and dual-zone automatic climate control. On the infotainment front, all models now get improved touchscreen audio, and most models are compatible with a new Scout smartphone-based navigation system.

The new Tacoma has been redeveloped mostly in Michigan, and U.S. Tacoma models will come both from Texas and Mexico.

Both 4- and 6-cylinder models manage respectable fuel economy figures for its class. Automatic, rear-drive, 4-cylinder models earn 19 mpg city, 23 highway, 21 combined; but 4x2 V-6 models beat that, at 19/24/21 mpg. Tacoma 4x4 4-cylinder models get 19/21/20 mpg with a manual gearbox or 19/22/21 with the automatic, while V-6 4x4 Tacomas earn 17/21/19 mpg with the manual or 18/23/21 in automatic form.

Styling
7.0

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma makes no abrupt changes in course—although the interior feels more modern and the front-styling grows more imposing.


Truck design seems to evolve at a snail’s pace compared to that of some other vehicle types. And if you’re familiar with what the Tacoma has been over the past decade or two, you won’t find the exterior styling of the 2016 Tacoma to be all that different.

If anything, the 2016 Tacoma is just a bit more imposing—especially from the front. That’s because the hoodline has been lifted a couple of inches, and that’s probably what cranks up the boldness of the look the most. The front end gains more of the appearance of the larger Tundra, with its angled headlamps and hex grille.

But in most respects, however, the Tacoma keeps to the same template—and proportions—adding up to a classic pickup profile.

From the side, the look is if anything a bit more conservative, compared to the outgoing Tacoma. That’s because these trucks lose their distinctive (and some might say, polarizing) offset wheelwell lips, gaining more proportional ones instead. And in back, the Tacoma gets a bit more styling than some pickups, with a sculpted-in lower tailgate area that has the Tacoma nameplate stamped-in. A three-piece bumper with resin side covers and long-glass fiber reinforcement gives a somewhat different look in back, helping to save weight and allowing easy replacement.

The Tacoma’s cabin is rather traditional in layout, but it heaps on the design details, with a more horizontal, shelf-like orientation like that used in Toyota’s recent cars. There’s less brightwork than in the previous Tacoma, and it’s been replaced with more attention to surfaces and textures, with each trim level (SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited) offering distinctive, coordinated materials and surfacing.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma makes no abrupt changes in course—although the interior feels more modern and the front-styling grows more imposing.

Performance
8.0

Unless you need the super-hauling needs of a full-size truck, the Tacoma will tackle any task you throw at it—especially if that involves off-roading.


The 2016 Toyota Tacoma has been fully redesigned, yet it’s definitely a mix of the new with what’s already been proven tough. There remains a choice between inline-4 and V-6 engines; but the V-6 is an all-new one that’s been fitted with some fuel-saving (and power-increasing) technology. Factor in the revamped automatic transmissions, which gain a gear each, and a tuned rear suspension, and the Tacoma gets quicker, more fuel-efficient, and a little more confident and settled on the road.

At the base level, the Tacoma is powered by a 2.7-liter inline-4 that makes 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. It can no longer be paired with a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive, but a 5-speed manual is offered with four-wheel drive, and all other 4-cylinder models (rear- or four-wheel drive) now have a 5-speed automatic transmission. We haven’t yet driven a 2016 Tacoma with the inline-4, but a short drive of one from one in recent model years revealed it to be responsive enough, provided you aren’t hauling much of a load or wishing for high-speed passing power.

The most popular engine of the lineup is the V-6, and it’s easy to see why. These models earn nearly the fuel economy ratings of those with the four, but they have a far perkier driving feel and a lot of muscle to spare. For 2016, the V-6 is new, and it gains both direct injection and a variable intake system with wide intake, allowing it to meet the more efficient Atkinson combustion cycle. It makes 278 horsepower (42 hp more versus the previous V-6) yet actually produces 1 pound-foot less then before. Compared to the previous 4.0-liter V-6, this 3.5-liter engine is considerably more rev-happy than its predecessor and better-suited to high-speed passing, without giving up much if any of its burly low-speed pull.

With V-6 models you get to choose between a 6-speed manual and a new 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is probably our preference here, as its upshifts and downshifts are now nicely damped, with well-spaced gears and quick shifts.

The Tacoma is built on a steel ladder frame (closed on front, open in back) with a new high-strength cabin structure that adds additional side beams as well as more high-strength steel. It rides on coil springs and double wishbones in front, with. In general, spring rates (and shocks in back) have been tweaked for a softer ride, yet rebound damping and optimized shock valving help increase control.

There are essentially three tunes of the Tacoma’s suspension. The SR, SR5, and Limited models have the standard suspension, while TRD Sport models get a more road-oriented sport suspension and TRD Off-Road models get a suspension that’s oriented toward wheel articulation and off-road control.

Depending on the trim level and options, the 2016 Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds or haul up to 1,620 pounds. That’s fully SAE rated according to the latest testing methodology, Toyota notes. That highest tow rating comes with a package that includes a heavy-duty oil and transmission cooler (with the automatic), a 130-amp alternator (manual models), and Trailer Sway Control.

If off-road ability is the performance priority, you really can’t do any better than the Tacoma. It handles especially well on trails and in off-road situations, where the sightlines and outward visibility are quite easy; meanwhile the traction and stability systems have the subtlety that’s needed for a wide range of traction needs. TRD Off-Road models with the automatic transmission also include Multi-Terrain Select, which lets the driver dial in (via a rotating switch at the top of the windshield) different settings for Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Moguls, Rock & Dirt, and Rock. For each of those, the traction control system is operated in a way that helps provide the best traction (allowing lots of slip and wheelspin for Mud and Sand, for example, but none for Rock).

There’s also Crawl Control, a feature that lets the driver maintain a constant, very low speed to maintain grip and control. It controls grip, braking, and power distribution at each wheel, going up or down, while the driver can focus on steering—provided they don’t touch the accelerator or brake to override the system. Off-Road models also include a clutch-start cancel mode (manual transmission) that can help with some delicate off-road situations.

Unless you need the super-hauling needs of a full-size truck, the Tacoma will tackle any task you throw at it—especially if that involves off-roading.

Comfort & Quality
6.0

Toyota has made plenty of improvements to cut noise and vibration and add amenities, but seating remains the Tacoma’s weak point.


The 2016 Toyota Tacoma caters to a special kind of truck shopper—one who pre-selected the Tacoma based on its reputation for reliability and durability, as well as its off-road capability when properly equipped. So it’s probably not a tremendous surprise that while Toyota hasn’t forgotten the features and amenities inside, it hasn’t put a lot of thought into cabin comfort or packaging.

While trucks have indeed evolved in seating comfort and driving position, it seems that the Tacoma hasn’t, and that’s its most significant barrier for comfort. Front-seat has changed only slightly, and they’re short and flat. Across the lineup, the seats still feel like springy, foam-core affairs that put way too much pressure on sit bones without supporting thighs. Back support, sadly is much the same. And in the top Limited model, which get upgraded with quite nice leather, not even the driver’s seat adjusts for tilt or height.

Standard cab versions of the Tacoma were discontinued about a year ago, and they’re not coming back in the new model. That leaves a choice between two cabin styles: Access Cab and Double Cab. While Access Cab models are essentially two-seaters with two very small fold-up rear seats (a place to stow groceries and gear, really, when you’re not trying to wedge the kids back there), the Double Cab models are the ones that most multi-use family owners are likely to find more versatile and valuable. Those include a full-size back seat that can in theory fit up to three. It’s also split 60/40 and has both adjustable headrests and under-seat storage.

In terms of what’s behind the cab, the Tacoma also continues pretty much unchanged. There are Short Bed (60.5-inch, or 5-foot) and Long Bed (73.7-inch, or 6-foot) versions of the Double Cab, while Access Cab versions are only offered with the Short Bed. Bed depth is 19.1 inches for all versions, while tailgate-limited bed depth shortens from 53.4 inches to 41.5 inches between the wheel wells.

There are plenty of signs that Toyota has tried to add a little more refinement and versatility to this tough truck. The tailgate now uses a rotary damper for a soft, controlled release when you’re opening it (without added resistance when you’re closing it). There’s also a deck-rail system (with movable cleats) to provide tie-down points for small yet heavy pieces of cargo, while there’s a 120-volt deck-mounted AC power outlet on TRD Sport, Off-Road, and Limited models.

Toyota has paid a lot more attention to noise insulation, too. All grades get an acoustic glass windshield, while the cabin itself has been sealed, and silenced, in various ways ranging from below the carpet to within the headliner.

From the cabin, the V-6 is less gruff and coarse than it sounded in last year’s model, and road and wind noise have been significantly cut. But the Tacoma’s ride can still be a bit on the jittery side.

Toyota has made plenty of improvements to cut noise and vibration and add amenities, but seating remains the Tacoma’s weak point.

Safety
7.0

With a robust feature set and bolstered cabin structure, the 2016 Toyota Tacoma should no longer come up short on safety relative to full-size trucks.


Compact and mid-size pickups don’t have a reputation of doing as well in occupant safety as their full-size counterparts. But thanks to some engineering improvements and a more robust safety-feature set, the 2016 Toyota Tacoma looks to buck that trend.

We’re waiting to assign a higher score until full safety results are out, however. The IIHS has only rated the Tacoma in moderate front overlap and side impact crashes, where it scores "Good" in both categories.

While Toyota hasn’t completely redesigned the cabin structure, it has re-engineered it with more high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels, which helped the Tacoma earn four stars overall by NHTSA standards.

All Tacoma models include four-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution. Traction and stability control are of course standard, and Off-Road manual-transmission models get a different A-TRAC traction control system designed to help send traction where it can best be used. Hill descent control is included in automatic-transmission models, and trailer sway control is included in all models with the V-6 Tow Package. There are also eight standard airbags, including knee bags for the driver and front passenger, and active headrests.

Limited models get a rear parking assist (sonar) system that’s also optional on all but base SR models. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert uses rear radar sensors and is also included in the Limited and optional in the TRD models. The cross-traffic alert system operates when the vehicle is being reversed at up to 15 mph and will warn of vehicles moving 5 to 18 mph.

All versions of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma include ventilated front disc brakes and rear drum brakes with a tandem booster. Toyota says that the rear drum brakes, as they’re used in an off-road intensive pickup, are a safety asset as they’ll still function at their prime after exposure to grit and grime.

With a robust feature set and bolstered cabin structure, the 2016 Toyota Tacoma should no longer come up short on safety relative to full-size trucks.

Features
8.0

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma doesn’t offer the comfort extras of most full-size trucks (or some mid-size rivals), but it’s well-equipped and now up to speed on connectivity tech. 



The 2016 Toyota Tacoma is built toward serious, work-hard, play-hard truck enthusiasts. So even if you’re willing to check some option boxes or go with a top trim level, it doesn’t exactly pile on the plushness.

Just as with the last generation of the Tacoma, you’ll find plenty of features that help increase the utility, off-road ability, and general usefulness of your truck. What the Tacoma’s redesign for 2016 adds is a suite of technology features and options, ranging from active-safety items like cross-traffic alert to wireless charging and integrated apps. But again, just like the previous version of the Tacoma, some key comfort items are missing.

Between the five trim levels of the 2016 Tacoma—SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited—there are various trim and appearance differences; and of course with each level, there’s a little more standard equipment. Base SR models don’t entirely skimp on the equipment, though; they include items like intermittent wipers, sliding rear glass, air conditioning, a tilt/telescopically adjustable steering wheel, and power windows. The SR5 level adds Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming audio, variable intermittent wipers, and a 4.2-inch multi-information display, while the TRD Sport offers a long list of extras including standard Qi wireless charging (via an inductive pad and the proper accessory for your phone), a smart key system, a 120V AC plug on the cargo deck, and keyless ignition. Limited models earn a standard power moonroof, heated leather seats, and a HomeLink universal garage-door opener.

Base 2016 Tacoma SR models come with an impressive audio system—including a 6.1-inch touchscreen, six speakers, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free compatibility, a backup camera display, USB, Bluetooth streaming and hands-free connectivity, and an auxiliary audio jack. SR5 trims step up to a "Plus" system with high-resolution display, SiriusXM radio, HD traffic and weather, and navigation app compatibility. Meanwhile TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road grades get LED headlights, wireless cell phone charging, 7.0-inch touchscreen audio, and AC power outlet.

On the base SR model, you can really maximize its simple-workhorse capability by getting the SR Utility Package, deleting the rear seats and going with a fixed rear window and black door handles. Or you can add an SR Convenience Package that gives you keyless entry and cruise control.

On SR5 models, a Premium & Technology Package can get you a long list of extras, including dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a moonroof, JBL audio, and the blind-spot system with cross traffic monitoring. Or you can go with an appearance package pairing 16-inch silver-alloy wheels with color-keyed fenders, rear parking sensors, and Entune Premium Audio.

Especially of interest for those who take their trucks off-road is that Toyota now includes a first-in-class GoPro mount that’s at the top of the windshield and standard in all 2016 Tacoma models. Additionally, a rear tailgate camera is included in all Tacoma models.

Another first is the Qi wireless inductive charging system, which is standard on TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited models of the 2016 Tacoma.

The 2016 Tacoma now includes Entune Audio multimedia systems at all trim levels, with an App Suite that packs in Slacker Radio, Bing, iHeartRadio, and Pandora, as well as things like Yelp and Facebook Places. These systems also have services for traffic, weather, fuel prices, and stock prices, and offer Siri Eyes Free compatibility to let you tap into your iPhone’s voice recognition capabilities. Through the Entune Audio Plus head unit, you can also run a Scout navigation app that uses your phones data connection.

Yet as an interesting counterpoint to this, some of the amenities that many of today’s truck customers might now expect to see in trucks (because they’re fast becoming offered in rival models) are simply missing in the Tacoma. You’ll find no ventilated or cooled front seats, no heated rear seats, and no memory settings. There’s also no smart cruise control or forward collision systems. And, as we mention in the Comfort and Quality section of this review, the seats in the top Limited model don’t even adjust for tilt or height.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma doesn’t offer the comfort extras of most full-size trucks (or some mid-size rivals), but it’s well-equipped and now up to speed on connectivity tech. 


Fuel Economy
5.0

There’s no diesel engine option in the works for the 2016 Tacoma, although its mileage numbers are improved with a new direct-injection V-6.


You might think that you’ll be opting for the most fuel-efficient model with one of the 4-cylinder Tacoma trucks; but you may do better with the V-6.

Toyota has added direct injection to the Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V-6 engine for 2016. With variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves, plus a delayed intake-valve timing that gives it a cleaner-burning Atkinson cycle, Toyota has gotten some modest horsepower gains from this engine, as well as a noteworthy boost in fuel economy.

EPA ratings are up 1-2 mpg throughout the model lineup, thanks to the new 5-speed automatic for 4-cylinder models and the new 6-speed automatic for V-6 models.

Manual rear-drive models will no longer be offered, so that scratches out what had previously been the most fuel-efficient model of the lineup.

Automatic, rear-drive, 4-cylinder models earn 19 mpg city, 23 highway, 21 combined; but 4x2 V-6 models beat that, at 19/24/21 mpg. Tacoma 4x4 4-cylinder models get 19/21/20 mpg with a manual gearbox or 19/22/21 mpg with the automatic, while V-6 4x4 Tacomas earn 17/21/19 mpg with the manual, or 18/23/20 mpg in automatic form.

Keep in mind that while we haven’t yet driven 4-cylinder versions of the 2016 Tacoma, we’ve noticed in previous model years that 4-cylinder models tend to return rather low real-world numbers in anything but rather gentle, lightly loaded driving. If you tend to haul loads somewhat regularly or do higher-speed driving, you might actually choose the more efficient option in going with the V-6.

There’s no diesel engine option in the works for the 2016 Tacoma, although its mileage numbers are improved with a new direct-injection V-6.




Feedback Report Bug