Over the last two years, I’ve gotten a ton of seat time behind General Motors’ near-twin midsize trucks, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. The pair has been very well reviewed, partly because they’re well-engineered and executed, and partly because their main competitors are as old as sin.
For the 2016 model year, however, the big dog in the midsize pickup world, this Toyota Tacoma, enters a new generation. After the last generation’s 10-year run, the new Toyota feels more like a significant facelift than a totally new vehicle, but it’s certainly improved. And with all the momentum of top sales figures behind it (last year Tacoma sold more than Colorado, Canyon, and Frontier put together), the freshening may be more than enough to keep it in the game.
- I was lucky to have the Tacoma for one of the last (fingers crossed) big snows of the Michigan springtime. The 4×4 truck, wearing Michelin LTX M/S2 rubber, billygoated over and through everything I came across. The Toyota seemed to have every bit of ground clearance I could ask for in a Snowbelt state, but without sacrificing a reasonable hip-point, and easy ingress/egress from the cabin.
- As is the case in the larger Tundra, the Taco’s cabin seems designed to be used with thick gloves on. Buttons, knobs, and switches are all very chunky and simple to get hold of. The infotainment system is slightly less robust in that regard, but redundant controls on the console and steering wheel gave me plenty of options for operation.
- Forget the notion that you can’t have a small(er) truck, and a few creature comforts. This Tacoma Limited came suited in brown leather (albeit of waxy, plasticky quality), push-button start, and Qi wireless charging for you Android users.
- It may be somewhat polarizing, but I love the amped-up exterior styling of this Tacoma. Especially with the bright blue paint, chromed mirror caps, and bigger wheels, it reads as a very suitable “beach truck,” or similar.
- Somewhere along the line, in the last 10 years, trucks have started to be very expensive to buy new. Sure, you can go to Toyota’s website and find a Tacoma priced at about twenty-three grand. But moving from two- to four-wheel drive, and from four cylinders to six jumps things up considerably. In fact my test truck stickered at $41,024. That’s a lot of cash for a rough-riding lifestyle vehicle; and I don’t expect this load out to be ‘work truck approved’ considering the five-foot bed. For me the sweet spot of the range seems to be the SR5 trim – which buys you the Entune infotainment system and navi – four-wheel drive, a six-foot bed, and the V6 engine, for right around thirty grand. Thusly loaded the Taco is a good work / play compromise.
- The 3.5-liter V6 makes 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lower output on both counts than you’ll find in the Colorado/Canyon V6, with similar fuel economy. Forget the figures, though; the application of power just isn’t smooth or sanitized. There’s a rough exhaust note even with mild acceleration. And the six-speed automatic seems disinclined to smooth city driving, at least.
- I know there are quite a lot of Tacoma diehards out there. For those lifers, the improvements to the cabin amenities and ride quality may feel obvious. But for someone cross-shopping diligently, and test driving, I think the Taco will stand out as chintzy feeling and a bit hostile as a daily driver. Well, unless they’re cross-shopping the Cretaceous Era Nissan Frontier.
- Chevy Colorado
- GMC Canyon
- Nissan Frontier
- Honda Ridgeline (available spring 2016)