2016 Toyota Tacoma LimitedPosted on November 2nd, 2015
Best-selling midsize pickup truck improves power and performance
By Nina Russin
There’s a reason the Toyota Tacoma pickup tops sales in the United States in the midsize segment: it’s a great truck. And it just got better with an all-new 2016 model that incorporates more fuel-efficient powertrains, a roomier interior and some pretty amazing off-road driving technology.
Buyers can choose between an inline four-cylinder and new Atkinson cycle V-6 engine. All models are available with a six-speed automatic transmission. A manual gearbox is still available for the off-road specific trucks.
There are five trim levels that range from the work-focused SR to upscale Limited. Toyota eliminated two-seat models for this generation, offering a choice between access and double cabs.
The TRD Off-Road grade features a terrain selection feature on automatic transmission trucks that adjust wheel spin and brake pressure according to the types of surfaces the truck is covering: in other words, no more spinning out in deep sand.
Even more exciting is new crawl control technology that maintains a preset speed when the driver is ascending and descending steep grades. At a media event this summer outside Seattle, this writer used the crawl control to climb a 40-degree sheer rock face and descend an equally steep grade. With the truck controlling the throttle and braking, the only thing the driver needs to worry about is steering.
The test truck is the upscale Limited grade priced from $37,820, excluding the $900 destination charge. Standard equipment on the double cab model includes the 278-horsepower V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case for driving over uneven trails.
A standard rear backup camera and blind spot monitoring make it easier to back out of parking slots in crowded lots and weave through dense rush-hour traffic. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and push-button start, Entune with app suites and navigation, leather upholstery, power moonroof, satellite radio, Qi wireless charging, a tie-down deck rail system and dual-zone climate control.
There are two options: a towing prep package and cargo box tonneau cover, bringing the final MSRP to $40,020.
Atkinson-cycle engine is fuel economy magic
For years, Toyota has been using Atkinson-cycle engines in its hybrid cars and crossovers. For the first time, it is applying the same technology to the Tacoma to boost the truck’s fuel economy.
The difference between Atkinson-cycle and traditional four stroke engines is that the Atkinson-cycle block accomplishes all four strokes in one rotation of the crankshaft versus two, saving energy and hence gasoline. Engineers boosted the Tacoma V-6 engine’s fuel economy further by utilizing variable valve timing to keep the intake valve open into the compression stroke when the engine loads are light. This effectively lowers the engine compression when it isn’t needed for power.
When the truck does need power, there’s plenty: a 42-horsepower increase over the V-6 in the outgoing model, with up to 265 foot-pounds of peak torque. The six-speed automatic transmission provides two large overdrive gears for the highway, boosting gas mileage during high-speed cruising to 23 miles-per-gallon.
The transmission is well matched to the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears with no noticeable shift shock during normal driving conditions. During my recent test drive in Phoenix, the Tacoma proved a willing partner on our city’s crowded surface streets and highways, with excellent power for merging into high-speed traffic and good steering response from the power rack-and-pinion system. The turning circle is rather large, but that’s to be expected from a truck with a 127.4-inch wheelbase.
The suspension continues to consist of a compact double wishbone setup in front and leaf springs in the back. The leaf springs make for a slightly harsher ride on the highway but work better for towing applications.
Plenty of room for active families
The advantage of double cab configurations is interior space. If you want to be able to put your bicycle inside the truck on a rainy day, buy the double cab. Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to create a cargo floor with additional stowage under the seats.
When in place, the second row can comfortably accommodate two adults, with a good amount of legroom. The access cab compromises legroom in order to keep the cab shorter.
As one might expect, the top trim level comes with enough bells and whistles to make it a living room on wheels. Designers added lots of large storage areas inside the cab including a locking glovebox and large center console bin. The center stack screen is easier to read than on the outgoing model with better shielding from bright sunlight.
Keyless start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob after dark. As a runner who uses her vehicle to get to and from the trailhead, I’m not a huge fan of leather upholstery. It also gets very hot during our southwestern summer. Aside from that, the Tacoma Limited has everything an active family could wish for. The cargo box cover is a nice addition, concealing items stashed in back from prying eyes.
The Toyota Tacoma comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, active front headrests, tire pressure monitoring, antilock braking, traction control and stability control. The Limited grade adds blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera, daytime running lamps and fog lamps.
The all-new Tacoma is rolling into Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A versatile, durable midsize pickup truck with improved fuel economy and appealing off-road technology.
Dislike: High MSRP excludes some members of the target market.
Model: Tacoma 4X4 Limited
Base price: $37,820
As tested: $40,020
Horsepower: 278 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 265 lbs.-ft. @ 4600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/23 mpg city/highway2016, Luxury Offroad 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota