Tom Crosby: Toyota upgrades mid-size Tacoma pickup truck for 2016

Tom Crosby

Toyota may be best known for its sedans – the Camry is a perennial international best seller – but the Japanese company also makes a one of the most highly popular pickup trucks, the mid-size Tacoma, the best seller in its class for the past decade.

It gets a full makeover for 2016 with a new V-6 engine and competitive pricing among 29 different models – ranging in base price from $25,385 to $37,820 across five trims – SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited.

With off-road skills developed by Toyota Racing Development, our test-drive top-of-the-line Tacoma Limited could adjust the automatic transmission for loose rock, mud or sand to regulate wheel spin/brake pressure for maximum traction and control relative to the terrain.

Responsive handling on and off-road, plus good off-road control features, like hill descent assist and a 9.4-inch ground clearance, make the Tacoma a pleasure to drive anywhere on18-inch wheels with all-season tires.

At highway speeds, some wind noise occurs. The 3.5-liter engine generates moderate pick-up for steady merges and delivers decent miles per gallon.

Our tester had an optional $650 three-stage tonneau above the 6-foot two-tier loading bed guarded by a lockable rear liftgate. It paired with a $650 Tow Package with trailer-sway control, engine cooling and 6,800 pounds of pull.

Like most pickup trucks, owner customization is plentiful.

Considerations include: short bed or long bed, all-wheel or two-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmission, 2.7- or 3.5-liter engine, 16- or 18-inch wheels, eight colors, extended cab (access) or crew cab (double cab).

If you can’t find what you want, you’re not looking hard enough.

Outside, the iconic hex grille on the flat nose is wrapped in chrome, as are lights, door handles and badging. The clean muscular exterior resembles its big brother sibling, the Tundra.

Inside, serious off-roaders will delight in a standard GoPro mount to record their ride and a decent 7-inch dashboard touchscreen has the latest technical links and Toyota’s highly touted Entune information access system. The voice-activated navigation system – not mentioned on Tacoma’s dealer feature list – has decent detail and for safety, responds only when stopped. A standard glass moon-roof sits above a spiffy hickory leather-trimmed two-tone interior with numerous knick-knack spaces and cup holders in the map pockets.

Front seats are manually adjusted, rear seats tilt and headroom challenges six-footers plus.

LIKES: Looks, comfort, tech features, prices, handling

DISLIKES: Access, manual seat adjustment, noise

BOTTOM LINE: Tacoma’s upgrade should retain its top position in mid-size pickup market



Base price w/destination fee            $38,720 ($40,020 as tested)

Curb weight                                     4,480 lbs.

Wheelbase                                       127.4 inches (short bed)

Length                                            212.3 inches

Width                                              74.4 inches

Engine specs                                   3.5-liter V-6, direct injection

Horsepower                                     278-hp at 6,000 rpm

Torque                                            265 ft.-lbs. at 4,000 rpm

Transmission                                   6-speed automatic, variable valve

EPA Rating                                      18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway

Range                                                      21.1-gallons, regular fuel

Performance                                   0-60 in approximately 8 seconds

 Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.