By on August 17, 2015


2016 Toyota Tacoma 4×4

3.5-liter D4S (direct and port injection) Atkinson cycle V-6 with variable valve intake and exhaust (278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 265 pounds-feet @ 4,600 rpm).
2.7-liter DOHC I-4 with variable valve intake (159 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 180 pounds-feet @ 3,800 rpm)

Standard 5-speed manual (2.7-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (2.7-liter)
Standard 6-speed manual (3.5-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (3.5-liter)

Fuel Economy Ratings
19 mpg city/ 21 mpg highway/ 20 mpg combined (2.7-liter 5-speed manual 4×4)
19/23/21 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
19/22/20 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)
19/24/21 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
17/21/19 (3.5-liter 6-speed manual 4×4)
18/23/20 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)

Prices start at $24,185 *and go up to $38,705*.
*Price includes $885 destination

Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no groan long enough or loud enough for how I feel about the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s ballyhooed interior GoPro mount. The 30 cents of branded plastic to film your “eXtreme!” adventures feels more contrived and commercially unnecessary than a TedX talk at your nearest community college. It’s there, it’s usable and I want to talk about the tens of thousands of other parts around that windshield mount.

For the most part, the world of mid-sized pickups has stayed the same since the Clinton administration. (I mean Bill’s years for anyone reading this in 2017.)

Updated slightly in 2005, but mostly unchanged since the 1990s, the Toyota Tacoma has stayed firmly ahead of its time despite playing catch up to the full-size galoots. What I mean is, the Tacoma has a habit of selling far more at the end of its lifecycle than it does at the beginning. Go fig.

For example, take the last year for the Tacoma. Despite being a truck that hasn’t changed much for 10 years, the Tacoma managed to sell more than 17,000 trucks in July, its best sales month ever, en route to 180,000 sales this year, which would be its best sales year, ever. By volume, the Tacoma is the fifth best-selling truck in America, just behind the GMC Sierra, and well behind the three domestic full-size big boys. (The, um, new Tundra was sixth, by the way.)

Plummeting gas prices has helped moved metal, and so has cheap money, but the Tacoma is a very, very solid pickup and the growing chasm between reality and the price of a full-size truck leaves something to be desired for $25,000-$30,000 out the door.

So why fix something that isn’t broken? Toyota said it had nothing to do with Chevrolet and GMC hopping into the mid-size market with the Colorado and Canyon respectively. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the new Nissan Frontier coming to market soon too.

Nope, Toyota says it updated the Tacoma to step on the necks of the others and bring forward the Tacoma into the 21st century. This is as close as Toyota will get to going for the jugular.


The Tacoma falls into the corporate lockstep by following closely the Tundra’s front-end design. Its chunkier face, with a more open trapezoidal grille, is bookended by two LED headlights with daytime running lamps and a more angular hood. The Tacoma’s lower jaw gets a little bit of an underbite this year with its black cladded front air dam, and the fog lamps are now visually connected with black plastic all the way across its front.2016_Toyota_Tacoma_(5_of_21)

From the side, the Tacoma looks virtually unchanged from last year, and the rear end would be the same story if it weren’t for the stamped tailgate with the words “TACOMA” to tell the world what you’re driving. The rear bumper is in three pieces, which is handy for something that probably will see a lot of action in its lifetime, but the front bumper is still one piece, which seemed weird.

The Tacoma’s handsome proportions stay the same. The hood looks like it takes up more than one-third of the overall 127.4-inch wheelbase (140.6 with a long bed) and the rear end takes more than a third as well. The Tacoma’s two cab configurations — Access and Double Cab — gets sandwiched in the middle, which gives the Tacoma a muscular, compact look.

According to Toyota, more than 80 percent of the Tacomas on the road will be Double Cabs, 85 percent will be V-6, and 97 percent will be with an automatic transmission. Consequently, it wears the four doors most naturally, with the shorter Access Cab models looking somewhat incomplete. All of the models we had a chance to drive were four-door, V-6, automatic and 4×4, so we can’t really report on any variation outside of that.

(P.S. Reps from Toyota said the only people who actually buy four-cylinder Tacomas are Northeasterners who are likely to be upset that the “low boy” 4×2 is gone for this generation, and that they only account for 1 out of every 10 sales.)

All of the 2016 Tacomas will be built on the same tall chassis, regardless of whether they have a transfer case. Whether by design or by accident, the deeply black wheel wells hide the Tacoma’s wheels and tires, and it was hard for us to tell the difference between the available 16-, 17- and 18-inch wheel sizes. (The latter is standard on Limited trim only.)

Toyota Tacoma Limited 34

The interior of the 2016 Tacoma received more extensive improvements than the exterior did. Inside, most Tacomas will wear either a 6.1- or 7-inch touchscreen display with Entune apps, six speakers, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and Siri Eyes Free. For the most part, the system is easy to use and straightforward, except the integrated navigation system commits the cardinal sin of not being usable when the car is in motion. Like other writers here, I sincerely wish automakers would use the passenger-side airbag sensor to determine whether someone else were riding along and unlock commands when a passenger is present. It would be helpful to use that touchscreen sometimes.Toyota Tacoma Limited 35

A useful 4-inch multifunction display in the instrument cluster relays vital information (and looks like a Camry, by the way) including tire pressure, temps and fuel range. Thankfully, the Tacoma’s outdated tachometer and speedometer have been replaced with smaller, plainer dials that ditch the white halo and just give me the straight dope.

The interior, including door inserts, dash and seats, are a stitched together combination of medium-grade fabrics, passable vinyl and touchable, textured hard plastics. In all, I’m thankful that the Tacoma is so readily rough and tumble — especially in lower trims — but I don’t feel the same way about its touchscreen infotainment system. I’ve coated one of those things in dust before and it’s a mess to clean. It also doesn’t feel like it’d be particularly useful with gloves on.

Thankfully, every trim above the SR model (which goes SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited) gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s firm and comfortable to grip, albeit with limited telescoping ability.

Last generation’s Neolithic climate control knobs have been replaced with a more modern, compact LCD system (dual-climate controls are standard in Limited, available in TRD Off Road and Sport packages) that’s easy to read and isn’t lifted from any other Toyota that I recognize. I like that.

Gated shifter? Check. Hand operated parking brake? Check. Better transmission boot around the shifter? I can’t fault any of these things.

I would, however, like for Toyota to revisit the ergonomics of its steering wheel-mounted controls. Anyone who can naturally find the volume control without looking gets a cookie. It’s impossible.

(Interior images provided by the manufacturer)


The biggest news this year is the outgoing 4-liter V-6, which is giving way to a smaller, more potent 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 with direct and port injection.

And the latter mill makes the most of available technology from Toyota. The Tacoma is the first Toyota-branded vehicle to use direct and port injection (direct is used to make lower speeds more efficient, port is used at higher rpms to boost available output) and the first truck application for that system. Paired with a smaller displacement and an Atkinson cycle, the new Tacoma powertrain manages 15 percent to 20 percent better fuel economy, all while gaining 42 horsepower. The only sacrifice: the Tacoma loses its distinctive roar.

2016_Toyota_Tacoma_(8_of_21)The 4-liter’s noise is gone and has been replaced by the quiet hum of the 3.5-liter V6. Although Toyota never wants to use the word Tacoma and Camry in the same breath, their relationship is undeniable. The new Tacoma drives like a Camry, and that’s not altogether bad.

Toyota didn’t make available its I-4, nor did they want to talk about it all that much. Including that engine in the newest generation of Tacoma didn’t wholly make a lot of sense to me, and I wouldn’t be completely surprised if a version of their turbo four (beefed up for truck duty) made its way into the lineup sometime soon.

Power is handed off to the Tacoma’s 6-speed automatic (for both I-4 and V-6), 5-speed manual (I-4 only) or 6-speed manual (V-6). The smooth-shifting automatic had an easy time keeping the revs low on the street, but required more guidance off road. Without using ECT (gear holding) or engaging the Tacoma’s low-range, the truck searched for gears on dirt roads and felt a little too eager to shift up. That could be inevitable to achieve higher fuel economy ratings, but it’s noticeable.

In TRD Off Road packages the Tacoma gains a crawl control feature that famously unsticks it from sand, or traverses down a mountain. You could make a case that serious off roaders who are interested in banging their Tacomas around the mountain probably don’t need automated throttle controls or advanced hill descent features, but I don’t know many people who could manage to unbury all four wheels. Bring on the robots.


It takes an enormous amount of confidence to update a truck that’s selling so well now, and Toyota is smarter than to stifle its own success.

In reality, Toyota didn’t do much to its Tacoma that couldn’t have been done before. A different head unit, some better interior materials and better packaging isn’t revolutionary — they’re evolutionary.

The 3.5-liter V-6 does its best to replace an engine that wasn’t great to begin with, and it’s a solid start. The Tacoma is a comfortable drive and a capable off roader.

The Tacoma doesn’t go for the throats of the other mid-size truck makers, and it certainly doesn’t exhibit any killer instinct. In reality, the Tacoma is just a killer pickup, and that’s it.

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57 Comments on “2016 Toyota Tacoma Review – Full-size Silent Assassin...”

  • avatar

    “For the most part, the world of mid-sized pickups has stayed the same since the Clinton administration. (I mean Bill’s years for anyone reading this in 2017.)”

    You gonna visit her in jail around that time? I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

  • avatar

    Not sure how these MPG numbers get figured.
    How can any car, especially a truck, have just 2 MPG separating highway from city?
    I mean, it MUST be more energy consuming to get up n go red light to red light in this compared to cruising.
    There must be something missing here.
    19/21/20…very weird.

    • 0 avatar

      Poor truck aerodynamics aren’t helping highway MPG. Also, keep in mind the amount of fuel consumed from 19 to 20mpg is much larger than, for example, from 29 to 30mpg.

      • 0 avatar

        Can they possibly have worse aerodynamics than a Dodge Caravan?
        And I guess I don’t understand the Hwy MPG not being a bit more separate. This truck should do better cruising. I can see 16/21…16/22…just not two MPG.

    • 0 avatar

      That result makes sense for a small truck. It’s only a bit heavier than a typical car, and the engine is pretty efficient, so it can do reasonably in the city. But on the highway it’s got horrible aerodynamics, both because of its height and because of the truck shape.

      Highway mileage is about aerodynamics as much as engine efficiency.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the steep gearing they need for a small engine to push a midsize truck. Who are they foolin’? They need to step up to a V8 or similar output. Meaning they’re really revving at highway speeds.

      • 0 avatar

        “Small engine?” Everywhere in the world but the US, trucks in this class are powered by diesel four-cylinders of between 1.6 and 2.8 liters.

        • 0 avatar

          Diesels have way more power per cubic volume, and the turbo doesn’t hurt. Point is, you can reduce the size of the gas engine dramatically, while increasing gear ratios to perform the similar task, except you’ll end up with worse fuel economy.

          In this case, engine size/output wasn’t necessarily reduced. But midsize trucks grew, got heavier and taller.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the Hilux the rest of the world gets is around 4,400lb while I think this thing is more into the 5,000lb mark?

            also larger in every dimension

            these things should get a 3.0-3.5 litre diesel maybe even a v6 3.5 twin turbo diesel of the type the Nissans get here

          • 0 avatar

            The heaviest Tacoma weighs about 4300 pounds. Guess again.

            It’s also basically the same length and width.

          • 0 avatar

            @TonyJZX – We’re talking about the same thing. A better or ideal ‘power to weight’ ratio for the sake of ultimate fuel economy. Except a small V8 would accomplish it better and simpler. In the 4.6 range.

          • 0 avatar

            Don’t compare Aussie fuel consumption figures to the US EPA.

            Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that the Aussie city figures tend to be lower and the highway figures are higher than the US EPA estimates.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree. Australia uses Imperial gallons do they not? This alone means MPGs cannot be accurately compared.

          • 0 avatar

            No, the Aussies went metric decades ago.

            The tests are different.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks I didn’t know that.

          • 0 avatar

            One example: The Ohio-built V-6 Honda Accord with a 6-speed automatic is sold in both markets.

            US EPA: 21/34
            Australia (converted to US MPG): 17/37

        • 0 avatar

          Land Cruisers Came with 4.5lt and 4.0lt i6 with like 210HP and 260lb.ft of Torque. They weight 5000lbs. They had no issues taking 4 of us to 15,000 with our climbing gear. That is like 6000lbs, with a 260lb. ft of torque up a semi steep Volcano!

      • 0 avatar

        Time to consider turbo engines. Toyota is notoriously slow with this.

    • 0 avatar

      Extremely sad stuff that a four banger taco gets worse mpg then a v8 Sierra.

  • avatar

    Black fender flares on the TRD Off Road version, locking rear diff, and a 6MT mated to a D4-S equipped V6. Mmmmm. I’ve never considered a Tacoma before because I never liked the old interior, but I’m liking the overall package of this one.

  • avatar

    Rear drum brakes is a letdown. No Homelink on any of the models is ridiculous. Apparently Toyota believes no one parks in garages or lives in gated communities.

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    This is what resting on your laurels looks like.

  • avatar

    I owned a 2005 Silverado (4 door/short bed) for a couple years with the 5.3 V8 and averaged about 17mpg with mostly city (about 19ish when hwy). Effortless driving and a comfortable cabin, I enjoyed the truck more than I expected. I only sold it because I moved to Europe. A couple cars back I had a Nissan Frontier with the V6/6spd combo and didn’t do much better fuel economy wise.

    I can’t really see myself going back to a small truck again unless I want another stick shift truck and the one in the Nissan was crap. The real world fuel economy penalty isn’t that bad so I don’t see a reason to get a truck with a smaller interior and engine.

  • avatar

    Just off the face of your review, I like it. The Colorado and Canyon are nice, but it seems like they try too hard to be car-like, and aren’t really what I’d be looking for in a mid-sized pickup truck.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t fancy this new exterior. While the interior redesign was well overdue, the outside is now too trendy. Those old Tacomas aged well because of their simplicity.

      This one has had super flim-flam injections around the mouth and bum.

  • avatar

    19/24/21 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)

    We will have to wait for real world numbers from in 2016 to see if 24 highway is true. I’d like to see a future mileage test at 65mph from the Fast Lane Trucks web site.

  • avatar

    This looks more like a mid-cycle refresh than a new truck. Since the sales are still on the up I guess Toyota felt no pressure to do more.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s essentially a very heavy refresh. It’s the same thing Ford has been doing for years. Check out the 2004-2008 F-150 versus the 2009-2014…or more-appropriate, the fact that the Ranger did not receive an honest redesign from 1998 to 2012, possibly since 1993.

      • 0 avatar

        You don’t want to change too much in a year, the hearts of the Tacoma faithful can’t take it. Just wait until they offer an optional blacked out grill with TOYOTA stamped across the front, all hell will break loose and GM will raise the white flag :)

  • avatar

    “The Tacoma is the first Toyota-branded vehicle to use direct and port injection (direct is used to make lower speeds more efficient, port is used at higher rpms to boost available output”

    This is picking a nit, but D4S is used in the 86/GT86/FR-S, which is branded as a Toyota everywhere but the US and Canada.

    • 0 avatar

      So it’s using a Subaru engine with Toyota injection. It’s really a lot more Toyota than I had thought previously. I know Subaru builds it, but what would you say the responsibility % is each for Subaru/Toyota?

      • 0 avatar

        This is a *hugely* debated subject, and the answer you get will often depend on which version the person behind the keyboard owns.

        On the record, Subaru does build the car and it’s a Boxer engine, so the thought is they did the majority of the engineering legwork (outside of D4S, which is strictly Toyota). Toyota presented most of the concepts, which lends credence to the theory that they are solely responsible for styling.

        I’ll tell you one thing, though. At least Subaru knows how to match all of the interior lighting in their cars. The FR-S has two different shades of orange, a problem with many Toyotas dating back to the 1980s.

        • 0 avatar

          Ha thanks. I would agree that since all the internals are Subaru save for the FI, that Toyota did the styling. I don’t believe that if Subaru -got- much say on the styling that they’d have chose that design. It would have looked more in line with the WRX, I suspect.

          Different lighting topic – on the GS I used to own, they spent all this money putting “electroluminescent” gauges in it which were a very clear, light green color. Nice and upscale looking. All lighted buttons matched said green color. Then they put a $2 digital clock in there from a 1993 Corolla, with a different shade of sickly green lighting.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the transmissions are shared with the Lexus IS250, at least the manual anyway.

          • 0 avatar

            Urgh that clock. At least the one in my LS is the proper white, but it’s still one of the two cheapest-looking things in the interior (the other being the the hard dark gray plastic that surrounds the center vents, nav screen, and stereo controls). It’s shocking that it took Lexus until 2013 to excise it.

            On the plus side, my wife noticed yesterday that the seatbelt buckles are illuminated. Neat feature and not one I’d ever thought about.

  • avatar

    Tough to talk about mileage with a straight face when gas is $2.49 and you’re pumping it into an expensive lifestyle toy. The 6 speed was long overdue, the Camry motor is as good as little sixes get, if anyone can get DI right it’d be Toyota, I wish they’d give Obama the finger and put in a V8, on to the rest of the truck.

    It’s clearly a refresh. That’s good in that the platform predates the worst modern trends. The windshield is still upright. The beltline is still low. Even the air dam isn’t too bad.

    It’s bad in that the old platform didn’t have any room for a tall driver’s legs to go down, an upright seating position is the single biggest reason that I don’t pay much attention to cars anymore and if Toyota’s touched that here I haven’t seen it touted anywhere. The FJ and 5th gen 4Runner fixed this

    They’ll sell a boatload of them.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 6’2″, and at least for me the last Tacoma fixed the driving position issue. I didn’t care for the previous legs out seating position at all, but I’ve never been uncomfortable in the many Tacomas I’ve driven over the past decade.

      • 0 avatar

        I miss legs out front seating. I had an 87 toyota pickup to me the most amusing part was feeling like I was driving a Toyota tercel except 3 feet in the air. In fact I wouls say this is one of the things that makes me not like the current crop of midsizers.

  • avatar

    “Updated slightly in 2005, but mostly unchanged since the 1990s”

    The 2005 mid-size Tacoma was an all-new vehicle. The previous version was a compact truck.

  • avatar

    I think my next purchase might be a truck. I don’t really need a truck but almost all of the SUVs have lost the ruggedness part (4 runner excluded). I look at the price and fuel economy and I think I should get a full size, but what keeps bringing me back to this; and I suspect many others, is the off road ability. I don’t need to tow 10k pounds or fit drywall in the back. But I would like to be able to drive over a curb or down a Forrest Service road to go camping with my family. The new Silverado looks like it won’t get very far. I think my E46 wagon has a better approach angel.

  • avatar

    I give Toyota great credit for this stylish upgrade. Not sure about any touch-screen in winter with heavy gloves, though. And not sure how substantially changed the underpinnings are.

    But back in 2010, when I got my Nissan Frontier Long-Bed Crew Cab, it was essentially the “only show in town”. And I love that truck. With 6-speed Manual (essential) and 265/265 HP/Torque, I average 22 MPG in mixed driving, with about 24-25 on the HIghway. And yet the EPA rating for this VQ4 engine* is only 16/20. What gives?

    Anyway, if ANY of the 4 midsize truck makers, including Toyota, can match ALL of this, I’ll get a new one:
    1) 2WD
    2) Long Bed (6-foot)
    3) 4-door Crew Cab
    4) V-6 Engine with at least 260 HP/260 lb.-ft
    5) 6-speed Manual Transmission (!)

    Are you listening GM? Anybody? Hello………….(*crickets*)

    * One of Ward’s Ten Best Engines in 2005

    More Info on the new Tacoma (with comments) here:


  • avatar

    I’m looking forward to the 4runner getting this engine- it needs better mpg! The MPG is still not as good as I hoped though.

    I believe your description of D4S is off. It uses port and direct at low speeds, but switches to direct only at higher speeds to reduce detonation. If I remember correctly, the direct injector sprays on the intake valve a little when it’s fully open, plus the port injector washes them down as well, so these valves should stay super clean.

    What an enormous 4-banger…and WEAK, too!

  • avatar

    “Bill’s years”, hahaha AHAHAHAHA ROTFLMFAO…Bill’s years…no clarification needed…the only “years” that lying fraud Hillary is going to get are going to be spent in a Federal penitentiary.

  • avatar

    Recently traded in my ’06 Taco 4×4 Double Cab on a ’15 F150 Lariat SuperCrew 4×4. The most capable off roader I’ve ever owned, it was also dead reliable. My Taco never let me down once over the nine years I had it. It was like a good labrador retriever…happiest when dirty and wet, always eager to please. What I won’t miss is the hoary old 4.0L V6/5-speed auto trans combo with its mediocre-for-its-size fuel economy and terrible NVH, the weird sit-on-the-floor front seating position (rear seat in the double cab no bowl of cherries either), and general lack of interior space. Nice to see that the 4.0L V6 is history, but I see that Toyota didn’t change the latter shortcomings…well, maybe NVH is improved. Otherwise, interior room and seating position are still poor….why can’t Toyota comp up with another 2″ of headroom and a more normal seating position? My new F150 is far far more comfortable and agreeable for everyday use and gets considerably better fuel mileage to boot, with far higher payload and tow ratings. But no doubt it doesn’t possess the Taco’s mountain goat-like off road capabilities or more wieldy size. Yep I’ll miss my Taco, but only when the road disappears.

  • avatar

    Please, somewhere down the road, test the TRD Sport with the V6 and 6 MT.

    NOBODY else is going to come through for the row-your-own faithful!

  • avatar

    I am really curious to see how the 4runner update will go. Also a great truck but really lacking in some areas. Hopefully if not a full redesign it will get this motor and transmission at least.

    I am also a bit surprised we aren’t seeing 8+ speeds yet.

  • avatar

    Thanks Aaron Cole, you write about how the biggest changes to the new truck are in the interior. And then only include ONE PICTURE of the interior.

  • avatar

    Sadly, the 2016 Taco is only a “full size assassin” if it is priced appropriately. If the leaked pricing sheets are correct, prices are up ~$3000 over the 2015 model for a TRD Off Road with some options. At that price it is within $2k of the MSRP for a similarly equipped Tundra or F150. With it unlikely that Toyota is going to put much cash on the hood of a brand new model, the real world pricing has the full size trucks at or below the price of a Tacoma. The math has me rethinking my planned November purchase.

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