The Toyota Tacoma is one of those mid-size pickup trucks that always seems to be there, doing a great job, and not much else. Now, that has changed. Toyota has introduced their third generation Tacoma and it is terrific. It is everything you expected and more.
It was at a Bass Tournament in Gilmer, Texas when I first saw this new pickup. Chief Engineer Mike Sweers had it on display and I even had a short ride in it, but no behind-the-wheel time. So, when Toyota invited me to a press event at the Rio Bravo Motorcross Park in Houston, I was excited. This track is designed and built for trucks to go off-roading. There were severe inclines and declines. There were mud holes. There was a lot of dirt, tight corners, and much more. Not only that, but there were plenty of paved roads, including divided highways, nearby. The journalists really put the new Tacoma through its paces and gave several different trim-levels a complete workout.
This 2016 Toyota Tacoma is not a new truck because it is considered the third generation, but it is much more than a simple ‘refresh.’ It has been completely re-designed, inside and out. There is a larger front grille, stronger wheel arches, and more narrow headlights. It looks aggressive, but sleek.
The base power-plant is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, but it is now mated up with a 4-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. An available option is to get the all-new V-6, 3.5-liter engine that spits out 278 horsepower.
The interior of the new Tacoma is completely re-designed also, including a lot more acoustic glass, soft-touch materials, better buttons and knobs, and a lot more technology. Even with all the ‘stuff’ inside, this truck is quiet on the inside.
The off-road course went over some gravel hills, some railroad ties, and other obstacles. There was one severe hill that was used to test the new ‘crawl-mode.’ The muddy areas were thick with a lot of gooey mud that allowed the full feeling of each tire and wheel put to the test using the 4-wheel-drive option.
The following week, my wife and I had the privilege to test-drive one of the 2016 models for a full-week. During that time, the majority of driving was over normal roadways with some dirt and rock roads in the backwoods of East Texas. The press trip and the week’s test-drive were in preparation for our being voting judges at the annual Texas Truck Rodeo, the yearly event held by the Texas Auto Writers Association.
The new 2016 Toyota Tacoma had been mentioned as a probable candidate for the ‘big trophy’ as the overall Truck of Texas. It did not win that honor, but did take First Place in the Mid-size Pickup Truck category. A month later, at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Tacoma won First Place for Mid-size Off-road Truck in the AutoJudge awards.
Bottom line: this new 2016 Toyota Tacoma is a ‘real truck’, living up to all the surrounding hype. It is capable, has great new features, is fun to drive (especially off-road), is quiet and comfortable, and has good gas mileage. An added plus is that this truck can definitely be labeled as ‘Made-In-Texas’ because it is built at the Toyota plant in San Antonio.