Toyota Tacoma Road Test

First Drive
Redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma Doesn't Feel All New
Tough, popular truck sticks close to its established formula
The Toyota Tacoma has always had a well-deserved reputation for off-road toughness, good reliability, and high resale value. But it also suffered from clumsy handling, a stiff ride, and an odd and uncomfortable seat-on-floor driving position. Its shortcomings were overt and arguably straightforward to address, but our initial experience in the "all-new" Tacoma shows that progress has been more evolution than revolution.

The redesigned 2016 model debuts with a new powertrain, reworked suspension, more muscular appearance, and contemporary infotainment features. Pricing starts at $23,300 and soars to $37,820 for the top-level four-wheel drive V6 Limited. A 159-hp, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is also available with select configurations.

Toyota claims the new Tacoma is quieter due to enhanced seals and the addition of a multi-layer acoustic windshield, sound-absorbing headliner, and a floor silencer pad. We found that road noise seemed somewhat more suppressed than in the past. However, the mechanical roar of the V6 and a fair amount of wind and tire noise show that Toyota might not have gone far enough.

All versions have a composite bed that Toyota says is 10-percent lighter than steel. It's also rust proof and may very likely outlast the rest of the truck. And the tailgate is nicely damped and doesn't slam down when you release it.

Infotainment features include standard base Entune audio system, which gets you a 6.1-inch touch-screen display, AM/FM/CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, a USB port with iPod connectivity and control, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, Bluetooth music streaming, Siri Eyes Free, and a backup camera. The features sound great on paper, but the double-DIN stereo looks like an outdated aftermarket head-unit, with graphics that don't even match the color information display between the gauges.

Stepping up to the SR5 brings standard Entune Audio Plus, which adds a "Connected Navigation Scout GPS Link App" and SiriusXM radio with three-month's complimentary service.

The Entune Premium Audio is standard on TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road models and adds an Integrated Navigation and App Suite, and a 7-inch touch screen.

One cool, low-buck feature is that all Tacoma trim lines come with a GoPro mount located near the rearview mirror. Capture all your off-road adventures or have your own dash cam-your choice.

Just because the Tacoma is offered with such luxury items such as dual-zone climate control, and leather-trimmed heated front seats, don't think it's gone all soft.

Other available premium features include blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and keyless ignition.

Our first impressions are that the Tacoma still rides, sounds, and handles like a truck; don't expect the quiet refinement of a Ford F-150 or the comfort of a Ram 1500. Of course, those are much bigger (and more expensive) rigs. Also, the driving position is still distressingly low and the engine sounds quite agricultural.

We also think the 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic are geared heavily toward improving fuel economy rather than boosting performance. As a result, the powertrain feels flat-footed and as unresponsive as a stumbling zombie.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 4X4 V6 automatic clocks in at 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 mpg overall. Sounds reasonable. We've been seeing about 20 mpg overall so far.

CR's Take
We bought a four-wheel drive SR5 crew cab version fitted with Toyota's new 278-hp, 3.5-liter V6 (which gets a 42 hp boost over last version) and six-speed automatic transmission. With a few options, such as 16-inch alloy wheels and the V6 Tow package, our truck cost $34,364.

The Tow package lets the new Tacoma pull up to 6,800 lbs., an increase of 300 lbs. over the previous V6.

The relatively new Chevrolet Colorado leads the small truck pack in our Ratings, but we weren't overly impressed with its stiff ride, uncomfortable seats, and a V6 engine that seemed to go on a low-torque diet. Is the new Tacoma enough to topple the Colorado? The jury is still out on that.

We're really not sure that all the Tacoma's "newness" Toyota claims is adding up to all that much.

The problem with the 2016 Tacoma: It feels, drives, and sounds an awful lot like the unrefined old truck. We were expecting more.

We'll have a better idea of how much (or how little) the Tacoma has evolved when we gain more seat time and miles in our test truck.


All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.

Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.

Basic (years/miles)

Powertrain (years/miles)

Rust through (years/miles)

Roadside aid (years/miles)