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2016 Toyota Tacoma 4WD Double Cab Limited Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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Combining passenger car comfort with pickup strength, ability, and versatility

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

                • SEE ALSO: Toyota Research and Buyers Guide


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Toyota pickups have been sold in the US since the late 1960s, but like other small imports were mostly viewed as novelties until the oil crises of the 1970s and subsequent rapid rise in gasoline prices. At that point, small became beautiful, and if a compact truck couldn’t haul or tow as much as a full-sized one, the savings from better fuel economy meant more sense to many people.

Also at that time, people who never would have considered a full-size pickup for personal use discovered that a smaller, more economical truck could be better than a car for their everyday use, whether in business or for pleasure. Before yuppies discovered utility vehicles and forced creation of the SUV, outdoors people found that a small pickup with a simple camper shell made a good base camp. And that plenty of things could be put in the back. And that it had towing capacity for small boats, motorcycles, trailer tents, and other useful things, while still going as far as many a car on a gallon of gasoline.

The Toyota pickup, then known only as “The Toyota truck”, was the standard against which others were measured. Constant improvement and innovation kept it at the forefront of the class, and features including available four-wheel drive, V6 power, different bed lengths, and extended cab body styles kept it there. It wasn’t until model year 1996 that it got a name, Tacoma. A second generation of Tacoma, enough larger to be classified as mid-size instead of compact, debuted for 2005.

There’s a new Toyota Tacoma for 2016. Like its forebears, it’s primarily American in concept, design, and construction, and like nearly everything it has grown a bit more. Small (relatively…) pickups are more likely than their large cousins to be personal-use vehicles, and the Tacoma lineup reflects this. Don’t look for a bare-bones regular-cab model — the newest Tacoma is offered in extended “Access Cab” and four-door “Double Cab” body styles only. The Access Cab features rear under-seat storage and a rear seat cushion that folds up for even more secure interior storage; the Double Cab has a 60/40 split flip-and-fold rear seat with under-seat storage when in passenger position. It’s offered in basic and work-ready SR, Toyota classic SR5, dirt-ready TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road, and luxury accommodation Limited grades in 4x2 and 4x4 form. The frame and suspension have been revised for greater strength, ability, and comfort. Power is from a 2.7-liter, 159-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a new 3.5-liter, 278-hp V6, transmitted to the wheels through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. There are, according to Toyota, 29 possible configurations.

My test truck for the past week was a Double Cab 4x4 Limited with the V6. Press fleet-spec, top of the line with leather, JBL audio system with Toyota’s Entune infotainment package, automatic transmission, Toyota’s 4WDemand part-time dual-range 4WD system, blind-spot monitoring, and a backup camera among its standard features, it was a fine example of pickup as car replacement. Think upscale Camry with a bigger trunk and better clearance. Options included a tonneau for the cargo bed, useful for security in lieu of a camper shell, and the Tow Package, which upgrades towing ability from 3500 to 6400 pounds. So not a serious play-in-the-dirt machine (the TRD versions are for that), but a useful and comfortable vehicle for a serious boat aficionado, four-wheel drive being a necessity for some ramps. Its 18mpg average won’t impress the Prius set, but a Prius won’t tow 6400 pounds. And 18 beats barely double-digits. Comfort? There are cars that are noisier and have a harsher ride. The newest Tacoma is as far advanced from its 70s ancestors as a Camry is from a Cressida of that age.

APPEARANCE: Yes, styling has been part of the pickup mien for the past couple of decades. But function is still more important than form. The new Tacoma is unabashedly a pickup, and a properly boxy one at that, even though the edges and corners are rounded. It’s not massively different from the previous generation, and has a bit of Tundra looks in places. Especially in 4x4 form, it sits high, and there is plenty of room for suspension travel in the wheel wells. The Limited is four-door Double Cab only, with the short, five-foot bed. Prominent fender flares and high ground clearance give it a “ready for anything, anywhere” look.

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COMFORT: It’s a climb into or out of the Tacoma Limited 4WD, but the SmartKey touch-sensitive un/lock system means no fumbling for the fob. Once inside, it offers nearly all of the comforts of an upscale mid-market sedan, including pushbutton start/stop, leather seating, dual-zone climate control, a moonroof, and all of the expected connectivity, information, and entertainment. Seat adjustment is manual, and there is no height-adjustment. Still, visibility is good, and I could visually tell where the front corners were — a difficult task in most cars. Mirrors (with blind-spot notification here) and a standard backup camera (in all versions) provide good rear and rear-quarter visibility. The front seats provide good support and comfort, and have three-level cushion heat. Instruments are simple and analog, and shielded well from glare. The leather-rimmed steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach, and has information, audio, and phone controls. Cruise, wipers, and lights are on stalks. The electronic system interface is through a touchscreen in the center of the dash, with soft buttons to the sides of the main screen. Audio choices are AM, FM, Sirius/XM, CD, USB and jack, and streaming radio. Navigation, traffic, and weather apps are part of the package, as is fuel consumption information. There are strategically-placed power points, and Qi-compatible mobile devices can he charged inductively. Useful storage includes a locking glove box, medium-sized console box, and storage and drink bottle space in all doors. Plus under the rear seat, unless that’s folded up, in which case there is the entire rear area. And the five-foot long cargo bed, made of fiber-reinforced SMC composite for scratch-resistance and featuring both fixed and adjustable tie-down anchor points. The full-size spare is where it’s expected, outside under the rear.

SAFETY: It’s a Toyota, so the Star Safety System is standard fare. That includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST). Airbags include driver and front passenger knee. All models have a tire-pressure monitoring system and engine immobilizer and backup camera. The Limited gets rear parking assist sonar and blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring, which are optional in others. Tacomas with the automatic have Hill Start Assist.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It’s been ages since a pickup felt like a truck, at least as “truck” was defined up through the early 1970s. Although the new Tacoma has the body-on-frame chassis with independent double wishbone/coil springs front, solid axle with leaf springs rear suspension that has been the standard for trucks since nearly forever, extensive use of high-strength and ultra-high strength steel, careful design, and proper calibration mean that ride comfort is in car territory. The air suspension effect of the P265/60R18 tires helps, as does the Double Cab short-bed design. The large cab structure and smallish bed (1,175-lb payload for the automatic V6) mean that there is less difference in weight and weight distribution between unloaded and loaded states and so less compromise in suspension calibration. It’s securely planted at speed on the highway, even in strong winds. There is no bounciness or harshness. Clearance is 9.4 inches, so less worry about road debris. Reasonable length and width mean that parking lot maneuverability is mostly a non-issue — and the same should be true in the dirt or forest.

PERFORMANCE: The new Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V6 is mostly a typical Toyota product, meaning aluminum alloy construction and four valves per cylinder with VVT-i variable cam phasing and valve lift. To maximize both power and efficiency, it used both port and direct fuel injection. Most unusually, its VVT-i system is modified to keep the intake valves open longer than normal in the manner of Atkinson-cycle engines such as used in Toyota’s hybrids. That improves efficiency, if not maximum power. But with 278 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 265 lb-ft of torque (at 4600 rpm), there is no lack of power. A 0-60 time of around eight seconds isn’t bad, but more importantly for its intended use, towing ability is 6400 pounds with the towing package of engine and transmission oil and power steering fluid coolers and heavy-duty alternator. The transmission is programmed for economy, not maximum acceleration. No surprise, this is a truck that can do serious work. The 4WDemand 4WD system, like all dual-range systems, is meant for part-time use in inclement conditions. Control is by a rotary knob on the dash.

CONCLUSIONS: In top-level Limited trim, Toyota’s latest Tacoma combines passenger car comfort with pickup strength, ability, and versatility.




SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab Limited

Base Price $ 37,820

Price As Tested $ 40,020

Engine Type DOHC 24-valve Atkinson Cycle V6 with port and direct fuel injection and VVT-i valve timing and lift management

Engine Size 3.5 liters / 211 cu. in.

Horsepower 278 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 265 @ 4600 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 127.4 in. / 212.3 in.

Curb Weight 4445 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 16.0

Fuel Capacity 21.1 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline

Tires P265/60R18 109H m+s Michelin LTX

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, ABS, EBD, BA, TRAC, VSC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone, coil springs / solid axle with leaf springs

Ground Clearance 9.4 inches

Drivetrain front engine, part-time dual-range four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 23 / 18

0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec

Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs. 6,400 with towing package

Payload 1,175 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Tonneau Cover $ 650

V6 Tow Package — includes: Class IV Towing Receiver Hitch, ATF Cooler, Engine Oil Cooler, Power Steering Cooler, 130-amp alternator. 4- and 7-pin connector with converter, trailer-sway control $ 650

Delivery Charge $ 900