Trucks have always been rugged. Regardless of whether they’re mid-size, full-size, or larger, trucks are the workhorses that many rely on. But trucks have become increasingly more domesticated. Lightweight construction and new drivetrain technologies have made them more efficient, new suspension systems have made them more compliant, and more technology and passenger volume has made them true all-purpose vehicles. Despite the increasingly family friendly demeanor of new trucks, owner loyalty is still the strongest in the industry. One of the most loyal followings in the truck market has to be the Toyota Tacoma owner. In the nine years it took to launch this third-generation Tacoma, owners stayed loyal and residual values stayed high. Seriously, the Toyota Tacoma probably has a better return on investment than most stocks.
Over the lifespan of the previous generation Tacoma, Toyota saw competition dwindle and then return. The Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger, and Chevrolet Colorado were all put out to pasture, leaving the Nissan Frontier as Toyota’s only US competitor. The return of the Chevrolet Colorado marks Toyota’s first new threat since 2012 and it has responded in kind. The 2016 Tacoma promises to be more powerful, more efficient, and more capable than ever before. We spend a winter week with the rugged Tacoma TRD Off –Road. Short of the recently announced Tacoma TRD Pro, the TRD Off-Road 4×4 V6 is the range-topping off-road model. Our tester, a double cab with 5-ft. short bed, represents one of the most common of the configurations.
First, let’s start with the exterior; it’s all new. Toyota hasn’t strayed far from their truck formula, meaning you can tell this all-new model is still a Tacoma. Dimensions are very similar to its predecessor, but the hexagonal grille and taller hood make the truck visually larger. Chiseled new haunches and a unique set of TRD Off-Road wheels clad in all-terrain tires give this particular model an aggressive look.
Inside the Tacoma is completely redesigned. The TRD Sport and Off-Road trims now feature a trim accent which is the same color as the exterior of the truck, ours being Inferno orange. Also unique to each of the models are individual embossed fabric with orange stitching. The updated infotainment system is typical Toyota. Touchscreen functionality is excellent and the controls are simple to use. The truck is a little difficult to get into without the running boards, which are optional. The four-way adjustable front seats are very comfortable, even after a couple hours on the road. In the rear however, the leg room is a little cramped, but the seats have storage under the cushions.
On the road the Tacoma is a comfortable truck. The upgraded Bilstein shocks shined both on and off road, but more on that later. The steering is somewhat vague, but this is a truck after all. The all-new V6 is definitely up to the job, making great noise and moving the Tacoma down the road in a quick fashion as long at the transmission is awake. The 3.5L Atkinson cycle engine makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft torque. The 6 speed automatic was the letdown of this truck, it sapped any fun that you could have and shifted strangely and somewhat irregularly. There was definite hesitation when starting from a stop, and some lag between the shifts that could rattle the otherwise comfortable ride. The power button for the transmission helped somewhat, but afforded a couple more stops for the pump due to its gas guzzling ways. Shifting manually fixed the problem completely, but most people won’t want to be bothered.
4×4 Tacoma models have an electronically controlled transfer case and automatic limited slip differential. TRD Off-Road models also get a multi-terrain select system, locking rear differential, hill start assist, and crawl control in addition to the aforementioned unique suspension. We had the opportunity to test several of those features “off road”. In our neck of the woods, seasonal roads are exempt from snow removal and maintenance between December and April. With several inches of hard packed snow over an icy base, the conditions required a capable vehicle. In four high with the TRD Off-Road’s all-terrain tires, the truck had no issue climbing steep grades or dealing with rocky and rutted access roads. The Tacoma’s crawl control, activated via a panel in the headliner, kept the Tacoma at a steady 4mph during a long decent down a narrow and icy embankment.
The 2016 Tacoma arrives with new levels of comfort, convenience, and technology without sacrificing the ruggedness and capability that has been it’s signature trademark. Build quality and predicted reliability are excellent. The TRD Off-Road we tested bundles true 4×4 capabilities without sacrificing on-road demeanor, making it the most versatile Tacoma in the lineup. However, that versatility does come with a price, the as-tested price of over $38,000. There are well-equipped full-size trucks available in that price range. But if the midsize truck is where your loyalty lies, it’s still difficult to find any competition for the Tacoma.
|2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 V6
|Premium & Technology Package with options||$3,630|
|As Tested MSRP||$38,260|
Family 4×4: 2014 Toyota Tundra
Photos courtesy Toyota