Early in August, we headed off to Tacoma, Wash., to drive the 2016 Toyota Tacoma. Sadly, not all press previews take place in the location each car is named after, but this one happened to be the exception.
Anyways, after attending a couple presentations on the new Tacoma, talking with a few of the experts Toyota had on hand, and spending the better part of a day driving the truck, I ended up pretty familiar with the new setup.
You can read my review here, but if you’re looking for a few quick takeaways, here are seven things I found most interesting or notable.
1. Off-roading is popular
A lot of drivers buy their trucks because they like the image that driving a truck project but rarely use it for anything out of the ordinary. The bed occasionally gets used to haul some pine straw or help a friend move, but for all intents and purposes, these trucks aren’t used much differently than you might use a crossover SUV.
According to Toyota, though, when it surveyed current Tacoma owners, 45% of them responded saying they used their truck to go off-road. The survey didn’t account for how extreme that off-roading might or might not be, so some respondents could have counted that one time they drove down a gravel road, but 45% saying they take their trucks off-road is still a pretty significant number.
2. Buyers love TRD
Looking at the Tacoma’s trim options for 2016, the SR is the cheapest Tacoma you can get, followed by the SR5 above that. The TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road are both priced above the SR5, and the Limited is the most expensive Tacoma you can get. Taking a look at that lineup, you might think the SR5 would be responsible for the bulk of the Tacoma’s sales.
According to Toyota, though, the TRD models are expected to account for somewhere around 40% of all Tacoma sales. Since they’re priced the same, picking the TRD Sport or the TRD Off-Road will be mostly a matter of personal preference for buyers, but clearly Toyota’s TRD sub-brand has built quite a following.
3. Gotta get that V6
The new Tacoma can be purchased with a four-cylinder engine that’s been carried over from the previous generation, but that’s not the version you want, and that’s not the version Toyota thinks you want. It expects the V6 to be the volume seller, and as far as I know it didn’t even have any trucks equipped with four-cylinder engines available for us to drive at the preview event.
4. More power and more miles per gallon
Assuming you do opt for the V6, you’ll be getting an engine that displaces 3.5 liters, a half-liter less than the outgoing 4.0 liter V6. Despite being smaller, the new V6 makes 278 horsepower and 265 pound feet of torque, a fell 42 horsepower more than the the previous version. It’s not enough power to make the new Tacoma feel genuinely fast, but it is enough for passing and merging with traffic.
With that extra horsepower, you also get better fuel economy. Two miles per gallon in the city and three miles per gallon on the highway might not save you enough money to justify buying a whole new truck, but it’s still a worthwhile improvement when you consider that the new engine is both more powerful and more fuel efficient.
5. You can have a manual
The manual transmission is slowly dying, with many companies no longer offering the option even in their sports cars. Those that do still offer a manual transmission usually pair it with the least powerful engine and only offer it with limited options. As such, when the Toyota rep announced that a five-speed manual would be available with the four-cylinder engine, that wasn’t particularly surprising.
What was surprising is that he then went onto say you could also get the V6 with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Some 95% of Tacomas are still expected to be sold as autos, but buyers dedicated to only driving manuals will appreciate not being forced to choose to buy either the truck with the engine they want or the truck with the transmission they want.
6. Towing is irrelevant
Equipped with the V6 Tow Package, the new Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds – 300 pounds more than the previous Tacoma could tow. That’s nice, but it’s also apparently almost entirely irrelevant. When Toyota surveyed buyers to see what their priorities were in a new mid-size pickup truck, towing appeared towards the bottom at No. 22 on the list. I guess if you know you’re going to be towing on a regular basis, you buy a full-size truck.
7. Crawl control is pretty cool
I was able to tackle most of the off-road obstacles Toyota had for us in a non-TRD Tacoma, and a skilled off-roader could probably replicate the effectiveness of Crawl Control, but the overwhelming majority of people who attempt off-roading aren’t skilled off-roaders. For people interested in learning, Crawl Control makes doing so much safer and more accessible.
It also gives drivers a huge advantage when going down a steep incline with limited grip. The first steep decline we descended had plenty of grip and was pretty easy to get down in the Limited with nothing more than my foot on the brake. The second decline, however, was just as steep but only offered grip in the way of loose dirt. Letting the system handle braking each wheel individually left me free to focus on steering.
Maybe the coolest part, though, is that the same technology that was only available on the Land Cruiser as recently as a few years ago is now available on the lowly Tacoma.