Toyota Tacoma — A new take on the mid-sized pickup

By David Finkelstein

With robust sales from coast-to-coast, the mid-size pick-up truck market is thriving quite well. So did Toyota product planners take a “wait & see” approach before re-introducing the all new 2016 Tacoma? A “wait & see” approach based on sales for instance and the general acceptance of the new Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon as a benchmark?

Likely, that wasn't the case, as Toyota Motors USA not only blazed their own trail with Tacoma since first offered back in 1995, their current sales of the out going 2015 version has been quite noteworthy as well. Its all about timing in this business, as both Honda and Nissan are planning soon to re-introduce trucks that would compete with Tacoma.

Ford and Chrysler currently aren't players in this arena stateside. Keep in mind though, that the 2015 version of Tacoma was basically the same vehicle for about 10-years, as Toyota engineering just applied minor changes and upgrades during that time frame. And according to Bill Fay, Toyota Group Vice President and General Manager: ”Since Tacoma was first introduced 20 years ago, some 3-million units have been sold overall.”

So how does the 2016 model compare with the outgoing previous generation? For starters, the '16 has an all new outer body design that makes it quite a bit more aerodynamic. This version is stronger with a more stiffer body design and has added safety features plus an all new interior coupled with improvements in passing power and EPA fuel consumption numbers.

Eight air bags are now included plus four audio upgrades are offered. Its also manufactured with two different cab configurations (Access & Double Cab), two different rear cargo box sizes (5-ft or 6-ft) and two wheel base configurations.

Wireless charging is now available as well as keyless push button start. From the factory, you can request a GoPro windshield camera mount and a power operated moonroof plus a blind spot electronic monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert.

Even cabin road noise has been reduced up to 43%. The Tacoma's tow capacity has been increased — it will safely tow up to 6,800 pounds coupled with a 1,620 pound payload, depending on options.

Toyota offers Tacoma in five grades (SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited) plus it's offered with a variety of new exterior body colors.

All trim levels also include a back-up camera system as standard. At Toyota's North American design studio located in Southern California, the team wanted to give Tacoma a consistent design DNA and athletic footprint that tends to have been inspired by a sleek-looking desert-type racing vehicle.

The general appearance illustrates a front end that's all about attitude. It supports a new aggressive hex shape upper grille and definitive skid plate design that connects together with a redesigned front bumper. The slim, high mounted projection beam headlights feature available LED daytime running light. The truck has a more pronounced hood, giving it a prominent face and a commanding stance.

The high lift design of the truck's side body appearance conveys a head turning existence. This is supported with powerful and dominate wheel flares which help shore up the truck’s purposeful capability. Four new aggressive looking wheel designs are also available from the factory. They range from 16 to 18-inch in size.

This rugged truck has a new tailgate that emphasizes a wide, stable stance. The Tacoma logo is stamped in the tailgate housing. It also has an integrated wind spoiler, a lockable latch and a built in hidden “dampening-open” feature that allows it to drop down slowly. For the first time, the Tacoma is available with a lockable, tri-fold hard tonneau cover for securing gear.

The truck's interior emphasizes its rugged athletic, do-anything, off-road BAJA feel. The design theme of the instrument panel was developed to help the driver keep focused. The soft-wrapped trim and metallic accents create a high-quality look and feel. It also has impressive performance technologies available such as multi-terrain select. This remarkable system allows the driver to choose between five different types of terrain.

This will allow the driver to navigate (with ease) surfaces such as loose rock, snow or mud and sand. This driver select input setting regulates the vehicle's wheel spin by adjusting throttle and brake pressure to help provide maximum traction on almost any terrain. The Crawl Control feature helps conquer the steepest of hills or navigate rocks and small boulders on the road.

The new Tacoma will be available with either a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine or an all-new Atkinson cycle V-6. The 3.5-liter V6 is engineered with Toyota’s advanced technology which features both direct and port fuel injection for achieving the best fuel economy possible. It's rated output is 278-horsepower while the 4-cylinder engine generates about 159 horsepower. EPA numbers show the four cylinder with automatic transmission and 2-wheel drive to be 19-mpg city/23-highway. The V-6 can be paired with either a new 6-speed manual or a new 6-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 with automatic and 2-WD gets 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

The entry level SR model has a starting price of $23,300. The truck went on sale in September 2015. All versions are manufactured at either at truck plants located in Texas or Mexico.