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The Newly Redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma Boasts More Trail Prowess and Better Mileage Than Its Predecessor.

Posted in Features on September 24, 2015
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Photographers: Toyota

When you own the midsize truck market, like Toyota has for the last decade with the Tacoma, there isn't a lot of incentive to change. That said, Toyota prides itself on staying one step ahead of the competition, and the company has certainly taken note of GM's redesigned Chevy Colorado and GMC Sierra. So for 2016 Toyota has introduced a Tacoma that looks very similar to the 2005-2015 model but is tweaked and upgraded in nearly every way.

The heart of the new Tacoma is a 3.5L 60-degree V-6 engine with D-4S dual injection. This system uses both traditional multiport fuel injectors, and direct injection, to minimize emissions and maximize mileage and power. It sounds complicated, but Toyota has used this technology in the Lexus and Scion lines, so it isn't new, just new to the Tacoma. Despite the reduction in displacement versus the outgoing 4.0L V-6, horsepower is up to 278. Torque has stayed the same (265 lb-ft), but the torque peak is at a relatively high 4,600 rpm. Estimated mileage for the 4WD Tacoma is 17/21/19 mpg with a manual and 18/23/20 for the automatic.

The engine uses dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, along with an aluminum block and cylinder heads for weight reduction and no concerns about dissimilar metals expanding and contracting at different rates. The forged crank and rods that should last forever, even with the 11.8:1 compression ratio. High compression means increased torque and efficiency, but often requires premium fuel. Toyota designed the Tacoma to run on regular unleaded through the application of variable valve timing and employing the Atkinson Cycle. Unlike the traditional Otto Cycle, the intake valve stays open during the beginning of the compression stroke, effectively making the intake manifold part of the entire volume of the combustion chamber.

The new engine is backed by a new six-speed automatic transmission, or a new six-speed manual transmission with revised gearing compared to the outgoing manual. The automatic transmission is available with Crawl Control on TRD models, a first for the Tacoma. Introduced in 2008 on the 200 Series Land Cruiser and in 2010 on the Trail Edition 4Runner, Crawl Control is like off-road cruise control. Pick your speed and put your feet on the floor; the vehicle does the rest by sensing wheel slippage and applying individual braking at each corner.

Crawl Control works incredibly well, although like early ABS systems it can be a bit loud and clunky. Like the 4Runner, these controls are housed in the roof above the rearview mirror in a location that seems more fitting for the sunroof controls. It also seems to raise the hackles of Luddites who prefer manual control over their vehicles. Fortunately the TRD Tacoma still has a selectable rear locker, and an all new six-speed manual transmission is available. Toyota's electric locker is now internal to the differential where it is better sealed then compared to the previous external solenoid. The locker is wrapped in a larger 8 3/4-inch differential, which is shared with the overseas Hilux. The larger ring-gear is still housed in a dropout third member, and uses 32-spline axleshafts. We expect this differential to be a popular upgrade to older trucks once they become more available. Another hot swap part is the hydroboost brake system used on Tacomas with Crawl Control.

A new transfer case is also used that is smaller, lighter, and stronger, with faster electronic engagement for the 2.57:1 low range. We are always skeptical when something is touted to be “smaller and stronger,” but like the rear diff, Toyota uses this same transfer case in the Hilux, and we consider that a good indication of strength. One distinct difference between the Hilux and the Tacoma is the fully boxed frame on the Hilux. The Tacoma uses a Triple Tech frame that is boxed in front, reinforced C-channel in the middle, and open C-channel in the rear. Toyota claims this allows the rear suspension to work better, but we interpret that as “the frame is flexing.” The open frame does have advantages though; it is lighter, will not trap water that leads to rust, and with the composite bed used on the Tacoma the C-channel is perfectly adequate.

Speaking of suspension, Toyota used the same pickup points on both the front and rear suspension as the previous generation Tacoma. This means that all aftermarket suspension components are compatible, and in fact Toyota asked for input from aftermarket manufacturers when designing the new Tacoma. While the geometry is the same, the shock valving and spring rates have been optimized on the new Tacoma and vary between different models. Stronger ultrahigh-strength steel is also used for the control arms on the new Tacoma, as well as throughout the frame and body to increase strength and shave weight.

Will the changes be enough for Toyota to retain its crown as king of the midsize truck market? Only time will tell, but with every detail tweaked and optimized, it's clear that Toyota is certainly taking the competition seriously.

Pros

Larger rear differential

Crawl Control

Hydraulic steering

Best resale value in the industry

Cons

Larger dimensions

Rear C-channel frame

No regular cab available

Rear drum brakes

Top Swap Parts

8.75-inch differential

Hydroboost


Every manufacturer is dealing with increased fuel mileage requirements in its own way. GM has cylinder deactivation, Ford has made its trucks lighter through the use of aluminum cabs, and Ram has eight-speed automatic transmissions and air suspension that automatically lowers at freeway speeds. Now Toyota has introduced D4S technology and its own six-speed automatic.

When asked about the possibility of a diesel engine, Toyota stated that the constantly changing emissions requirements in the U.S. make it very difficult to make a business case for putting a diesel engine into the new Tacoma. Fortunately the new 3.5L V-6 makes plenty of power and provides good fuel mileage.

Like the 4Runner, controls for the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select are found in the roof, next to the sunroof switches. We would prefer them on the dash.

After 10 years the Tacoma finally gets a new interior. It is a great improvement, with well-laid-out controls and a 43 percent reduction in noise and vibration. To accomplish this, all seals were enhanced and a multilayer acoustic windshield and sound-absorbing headliner were added. This is the SR5 trim; each package gets its own unique look.

Here you can see the larger 8 3/4-inch rear differential and the integrated spoiler on the stamped tailgate, which uses a rotary damper to make for easy opening. Also visible is the three-piece rear bumper, which is lighter than the previous bumper and also allows for easy replacement of a single component instead of the entire bumper, should damage occur.

The new Tacoma is available with an 8 3/4-inch rear differential, and an internal electronic locker comes standard on the TRD Off-Road model. The front 8-inch gear is a carryover from the previous Tacoma. Available gear ratios are 3.90 or 4.30, although we expect that it will not be long before the aftermarket has more gear ratios available.

The new Tacoma will be available in eight exterior colors including three new colors: Quicksand, Inferno, and Blazing Blue Pearl. The Inferno Orange was previously only available on the TRD Pro Tacoma. Additional colors are Super White, Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray, Black, and Barcelona Red.

Toyota has a reputation for making parts that are common between models, easing component swaps. For example, you can bolt a Supra engine up to a pickup transmission! We hope that the hydroboost used with Crawl Control offers similar swapping abilities for older Tacomas.

Mike Sweers is the lead engineer on the redesign of the new Tacoma. He is a died-in-the-wool off-roader and is responsible for the boost in trail capability on the new Tacoma.

Note how the air dam on the new Tacoma is swept back to maximize approach angle while improving fuel economy. Approach angle is 29 degrees, while the TRD Off-Road package does away with the air dam altogether for a 32 degree approach angle.

The Tacoma is available in five trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Pro, and Limited. Each model has its own set of featured and a distinct grille. The 3.5L V-6 is an option on the SR and SR5 and comes standard on the TRD and Limited models.

Vortex generators on the side mirrors and rear taillights help break up wind and contribute to a 12 percent reduction in drag with the side skirts between the cab and bed, and the integrated spoiler on the tailgate. Another big part of that reduction is the factory optioned trifold tonneau cover.

In a nod to the action sports crowd, the new Tacoma comes with an integrated GoPro mount on the windshield. The GoPro camera is not included.

Note the size of the rear headrests. This is a federal requirement, but the headrests are easily removable for better rearward visibility when you don't have backseat occupants.

Folding the rear seats down on the Double Cab model makes for a large, flat floor. This is perfect for your ice chest or other items that you want to lock inside the cab rather than put in the bed.

The top-of-the-line Limited comes with Entune premium JBL audio, navigation, and full touchscreen capability on the 7-inch screen. It also comes with Qi wireless charging for your phone.

The TRD Off-Road package has a variety of different display options on the 4.2-inch display between the tachometer and speedometer. Pitch and roll, Multi-Terrain Select, and fuel consumption are just a few of the choices.

Toyota retained the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering on the new Tacoma, at a time when many manufacturers are switching to electronic steering. Hydraulic steering offers better road feel, and when it comes time to do a solid axle swap in the future the hydraulic steering pump will ease the conversion.

The new Tacoma retains drum brakes in the rear. We don't care for the limited braking power of drums after water crossings or how they can pack with mud, but Toyota assured us that the Tacoma retains best-in-class braking.

If you like regular cab trucks you are out of luck. The new Tacoma is only available as an Access Cab or Double Cab. Toyota just was not selling enough regular cab trucks to justify producing them.

The new Tacoma sheds weight through the use of ultrahigh-strength steel in the chassis and body, but the overall curb weight is very similar to the outgoing model. This is due to the addition of upscale luxury features and a total of eight airbags in the Tacoma.

When equipped with the V-6 Tow Package, the new Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds (per the SAE J2807 tow standard), which is 300 pounds over the previous V-6.

The bed on the new Tacoma is 7 percent deeper than the outgoing model. It retains the composite inner bed made from a sheet-molded composite (SMC) deck and tough, durable walls that are 10 percent lighter than steel. The bed deck features two-tier loading and an integrated deck-rail utility system with four standard adjustable tie-down cleats. A bed-mounted 12-volt/110-volt power outlet is also an option.

The Access Cab models ride on a 127.8-inch wheelbase and have a 73.7-inch-long bed. The Double Cab is offered in two versions: the 127.4-inch wheelbase with a 60.5-inch bed or 141.0-inch wheelbase with the 73.7-inch bed.

Tech Specs
2016 Toyota Tacoma
General
Base Price $25,385
Price as Tested (TRD Off-Road) $33,730

Engine
Type V-6
Displacement (cc) 3,456
Bore & Stroke (in) 3.70 x 3.27
Compression Ratio 11.8:1
Fuel Req. (octane) Regular (87)
Capacity (gallons) 21.1
SAE Horsepower 278 @ 6,000 rpm
SAE Torque (lb-ft) 265 @ 4,600 rpm

Transmission Type 6-speed auto
Ratios First, 3.60:1; Second, 2.09:1; Third, 1.49:1; Fourth, 1.00:1; Fifth, 0.69:1; Sixth, 0.58:1; Reverse, 3.73:1

Transfer Case
Type 2-speed, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.57:1
Axles
Front Diff Open
Rear Diff Open/electric lock
Hubs None
Ratio
Front Double wishbone with coilover-shock; monotube shock absorbers
Rear Solid axle with 2-stage multileaf springs and staggered, outboard mounted shocks

Steering
Type Hydraulic power assist rack-and-pinion
Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.64/17.3:1
Turning Circle (ft) 40.6

Wheels
Size (in) 16x8
Material Aluminum

Tires
Size P265/70R16
Brand Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar

Brakes
Front 10 3/4-inch ventilated disc
Rear 10-inch lead-trailing drum

Weight (lb)
Curb Weight 4,445
Advertised GVWR 5,600
Tow Capacity 6,400
Payload Capacity 1,120

Mileage (mpg)
EPA Estimate 18 city/23 hwy/ 20 combined

Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase 127.4
Overall Width 75.2
Overall Height 70.8
Front/Rear Track 63/63.2
Front Ground Clearance (Minimum) 9.4

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