How We’d Spec It: 2016 Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

Sensing a threat in the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, Toyota sent its long-running, still-popular Tacoma in for a rather extensive update. The result? The 2016 Tacoma, which has all-new sheetmetal, a new interior, a new V-6 engine, and, well, a lot of “new.” In spite of all this newness, the Tacoma is priced more or less the same as its predecessor. It also offers a wider range of off-road options and trim levels than does either the Colorado or the Canyon, as well as (yes!) a manual transmission with both the V-6 and the entry-level four-cylinder. Again, that’s pretty rare (only the Nissan Frontier offers similar stick-shift democracy). Following a brief drive in a mid-level Tacoma SR5 that happens to be in our office this week, we were inspired to build the 2016 Tacoma we’d buy.

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road


Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4×4 TRD Off-Road (base price: $33,000)

Let us just say so right off the bat: We got the stick. If Toyota’s gonna be cool enough to offer an honest-to-synchro manual-transmission option on upper-level versions of its mid-size pickup, we’re going to get it! So what about that upper-level truck? We passed by the basic SR, the mid-level (but nicely equipped) SR5, and the street-oriented TRD Sport trim levels, and headed right for the TRD Off-Road model. It starts at $31,665 for an Access Cab with two-wheel drive, but the TRD Off-Road variant simply isn’t complete without four-wheel drive. Step up to the 4×4, and you can choose from among the $33,850 Access Cab body style (with a six-foot bed and an automatic transmission), or the Double Cab with five- or six-foot bed lengths and either a six-speed manual or an optional automatic. Stick with the stick and the shorter five-foot bed, and you’re looking at an entirely reasonable starting price of $33,000.

Sorry, Chevy faithful, but your Colorado, with four-wheel drive and a V-6 (and an automatic—it’s the only choice with the six-cylinder) and the Z71 suspension package, starts at $33,925 in extended-cab guise. The four-door Crew Cab runs even higher—$35,535—and it lacks the Toyota’s bad-ass stance and off-road tires. The Toyota also comes with adjustable bed tie-downs, a locking rear differential, Bilstein shocks, terrain-specific throttle and braking settings, and a clutch-start override that allows you to start the engine without depressing the clutch pedal (should doing so compromise whatever precarious off-road situation you happen to be in). Other niceties included on the Tacoma TRD Off-Road are black plastic fender flares, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a 115-volt power outlet. The 278-hp V-6 engine is new for 2016 and now displaces 3.5 liters (the old model’s six was a 4.0-liter); it’s the first Toyota-brand engine in the U.S. to utilize the automaker’s innovative dual-injection fueling system, which switches between port and direct fuel injection.

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road


Quicksand paint ($0)

Towing package ($650)

Carpeted floor mats ($130)

Truck bed D-rings ($55)

Mud guards ($140)

In our quest to build the raddest Tacoma possible, we added a few key options to amp up the truck’s already impressive visuals. The tan-fastic Quicksand paint contrasts smartly with the TRD Off-Road’s dark-finished 16-inch wheels, as well as the various black trim bits all over the body, so on it went. The towing package is a steal at $650, and we also added carpeted floor mats for $130, D-rings for additional tie-down points in the Tacoma’s plastic-lined bed ($55), and a set of manly looking mud guards for $140. And that’s it. Toyota offers a bevy of upgrades, from roof racks to side steps to first-aid kits, but we wanted to keep our truck as affordable yet capable as possible.

Our Tacoma came to just $33,975, and it looks the business. It also has a manual—did we mention that already? When we applied our How We’d Spec It brush to the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, we came away with a four-door Crew Cab model with the V-6, four-wheel drive, and Chevy’s off-road suspension, and it cost $36,780. Of course with trucks, the final arbiter of this mid-size pickup fight likely won’t be our assessments of price and performance, but a buyer’s brand preference. Whether or not you’re down with Toyota, there’s no denying that the Tacoma is both value-packed and Save the Manuals–friendly.


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