The 2016 version of the Toyota Tacoma enters production hauling a birthright as the new small pickup that depreciates in value most slowly. The Americanized version of the world’s wheeled beast of burden, and exactly the right truck for carrying large dogs that shed.
First And Foremost, keep in mind that Toyota will peddle fully 29 versions of the new Tacoma. That is a herd big enough to fill Seattle, one that ranges from a $24,200 Access Cab 4×2 SR work truck with a four-cylinder engine and manual transmission to a Double Cab 4×4 Long Bed Limited with a V-6 and six-speed automatic at $38,720.
The average price is $31,768, and the version coming closest to that is the $31,665 TRD Sport Double Cab 4×2 with the V-6 and automatic transmission. That means there are control arms and coil springs in front and leaf springs in back whether or not the particular truck is equipped with four-wheel drive. And the shadow it casts has not changed much.
Toyota explains that in this class of trucks, where whatever towing that goes on is light, braking force from the rear wheels is relatively not important. Which is true. Beyond that, the company asserts that drums have an advantage when off-roading because they are sealed against rocks, mud, and other crud. That is kind of pushing it.
The big mechanical news is that the hoary, old 4.0-liter V-6 has been tossed, replaced by a new 3.5-liter, 24-valve DOHC V-6 that uses Toyota’s “D4S” combination of direct and port fuel injection similar to the system in the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ.
Four-cylinder engines do not get much respect in this truck class, and adding insult to insult, the only manual transmission available with the four is a five-speed while the V-6 can be had with a new six-speed. That’s a robust 42 more horsepower than the outgoing 4.0-liter, but peak torque production drops by a single pound-foot to 265 the peak moves up to 4600 rpm from 4000, too.
The dual-range transfer case is easy to engage and there is a Crawl Control system that acts as a sort of low-speed off-road cruise control, electronically operating the engine and brakes when surmounting serious obstacles. It works, even though you still have to steer.
On road, the new Tacoma in any grade is quieter and easier going than previous versions. The ride motions are better controlled, the V-6 significantly more subdued, and the steering better mannered if not particularly communicative.