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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Like its larger sibling, the Toyota Tacoma truck features an impressive engine as its main draw – this time in the form of an efficient V6 that can tow up to 6,800 pounds. Add the TRD Off-Road package that equips the vehicle with CRAWL, and you get a smaller pickup that is more playful than any of its competitors.

I drove a 2016 Toyota Tacoma with an all-new Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 boasting 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque coupled to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Offered in five trim grades (along with two cab styles, a Double Cab or the extended Access Cab and three bed lengths) – the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited – my “Blazing Blue Pearl” colored Tacoma TRD Sport trim with the Double Cab came with the following standard feature highlights: backup camera; Neptune media services; Bluetooth connectivity; fog lights; seven-inch touchscreen; sport-tuned shock absorbers; Qi wireless smartphone charger; leather-trimmed shifter; unique upholstery; seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described is $30,025 without extra packages or options. (See ALL 2016 and 2017 TOYOTA TACOMA TRIM SPECS BELOW REVIEW)

For the model year, the Tacoma is completely redesigned and sporting a body that aligns better with the Tundra. Main competitors include the Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado, and GMC Canyon.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Rugged, attractive and versatile is how I’d describe the Tacoma: depending on your preferences you can craft a model with more off-road guts and get kind of luxurious through the packages. For example, the Limited brings a refined feel on the inside with SofTex heated front sport seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with controls and a metallic tone instrument panel trim and extends that dramatic look to the outside with chrome wheels, grille, bumper and door handles. In general the Tacoma is no stranger to some of Toyota’s best technology and conveniences – upgrades include the JBL audio system upgrade, the Internet-connected Entune, and a GoPro mount so drivers can capture footage of their fun.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s moderate overlap front and side testing as “Good.” The 2016 Ford F-150 pickup is the only pickup that is a Top Safety choice with the IIHS for the model year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2016 Toyota Tacoma and overall 4-Star rating with best results in side crash.

Cost Issues: The base Tacoma SR starts at $23,660, which is about $5,480 more than the bigger Tundra base model. My test drive TRD Sport trim started at $30,025 but also featured such options as a moonroof, push-button start, and the premium JBL audio system with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, which brought the price to around $33k. A top-of-the-line Limited starts at $35,105. In comparison, a Nissan Frontier with the PRO-4X trim is $33,390 without options, and is not nearly as impressive as the Tacoma.

Activity & Performance Ability: The truck now possesses more highway grace with a better insulated cab. And on rocky terrain, the Tacoma rides with smooth precision thanks to such features as CRAWL. Steering doesn’t require two hands and much grunting when angling into in tight spaces (unlike what I experienced recently with the Nissan Frontier). Toyota’s TRD packages have always impressed drivers, and I like that there is one more focused on sportier options (my test drive’s TRD Sport trim came also came with heated front seats, rear parking sensors, blind-sport motion with rear cross-traffic alert; and one more for serious off-roading (unique body trim, special sixteen-inch wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers). The Tacoma is also available with a smaller 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The Green Concern: The 3.5-liter V6 with four-wheel drive gets 17-city and 21-highway for 19 miles-per-gallon combined. The Nissan Frontier’s 261-horsepower 4-liter gets 15-city and 21-highway for a combined 17 miles-per-gallon.

Toyota took the smaller Tacoma pickup serious and gave it a rebuild that clearly puts it above others in its class. You’ll find this vehicle knows how to word hard but make life a bit easier for drivers with exceptional performance and creature comforts.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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