Toyota’s Tacoma pickup has been redesigned while sporting a new V6 engine

Tacoma has been the best selling midsize pickup for some time as it satisfies a lot of trucking needs

Toyota’s Tacoma pickup has been the best seller in its midsize category ever since Ford discontinued their once top selling Ranger pickup. At that time some competition came from Chevy’s S-10 and Dodge’s Dakota midsize discontinued pickups. Even with Chevy’s new Colorado midsize pickup, Tacoma continues its rein as the top pick in the class.

For 2016, Tacoma finally underwent a redesign, a much needed one. Tacoma’s of old were notorious for rust. And a friend learned that first hand when he couldn’t get his 2005 Tacoma passed for inspection as the frame was rusted. Seems the frame supplier never rust-proofed their frames. So my friend had a long battle on his hands to have the situation resolved with Toyota.

But rest assured, the new Tacoma’s fixed that and a few other problems for the 2016 model year. And that includes a new 3.5-liter V6 that sees service in some other Toyota vehicles. The 3.5L replaced the old 4.0L and now boasts an additional 42 more horses under the scooped hood. The 3.5L produces 278-hp and 265 lb/ft of torque. And when coupled to a 6-speed automatic on a 4X4 double Cab (a 6-speed manual is offered only for 4×4 V6 models, whereas a 5-speed manual is standard on 4-cylinder models), EPA gives the combination mileage estimates of 18 city, 23-highway mpg. And this same powerplant can drink E15 gasoline.

With the 6-speed manual, EPA rates this configuration at 17/19 mpg. So why consider it except for the fact it has a special mode that allows the truck to start off in gear without using the clutch thereby eliminating clutch slippage (riding the clutch) and stalling on uphills.

The 3.5L and automatic provides lively acceleration and power and has been 0-60 tested at 8.5 seconds, which isn’t bad for a 4,480 pound truck. With this particular powertrain, Tacoma has a tow capacity of 6,680 pounds. That’s sufficient grunt for an aluminum bass fishing boat or light utility trailer.

It should be mentioned that a 2.7L, 159-hp (180 lb/ft of torque) four cylinder is also offered but it would seem underpowered although, for a 4×4, it gets 19/22-mpg with the automatic trans.

Tacoma’s are offered in SR, SR5, TRD Sport (tested) and TRD Off Road trim levels. And these can be had in Access Cab and Double Cab. You will no longer see the single cab as it was discontinued last year. Interestingly, Toyota gave all Tacoma’s (4X2s and 4X4s) the same 9.4 inches of undercarriage clearance, which is nice to have for snow and high water treks – with or without 4WD. Tacoma’s 4WD system is a tried and true 2WD, 4H and 4L gearing, all selected by a dash mounted rotary dial.

The TRD Sport tested came with LED running lights, hood scoop (not an asset), sport tuned shocks, wireless phone charger, 120-volt bed outlet and similar goodies offered in today’s sedans. This also includes durable (heated front seats) cloth seats and a 60/40 folding rear seat. Step-in into the cabin is a comfy 22.5 inches while cargo load height is 31.5 inches.

Behind the back seat is a compartment bin for small items and a covered compartment beneath the seats. Only problem here is the seat bottoms must be flipped forward before the seat backs can be folded down. This creates a high semi flat load floor. More interior cargo space could ne had if the seat bottoms folded up against the bulkhead as on most of today’s full-size pickups.

A 6.5-inch touchscreen serves to display the backup camera, GPS nav and audio functions. HVAC controls are large rotary dials that can be operated with gloves on. And a Smartphone charging pad is nice plus all instrumentation is easy to use and view. Speaking of view, too tall rear seat headrests block rear vis, but they are removeable.

Back seat leg and headroom are marginal if the front seats are racked well rearward. As such, the rear seat can snugly accommodate three tweens or two adults.

Tacoma’s ride is impressive on Toyo 17-inch tires and six (not five) bolt lugs. It was driven on an unavoidable pothole, pock marked country dirt road and the truck was stable and its suspension soaked up the bumps admirably. With taut underpinnings, Tacoma rode exceptionally well, especially on paved roads. Dips and holes were merely blips with no noticeable body shimmy or shake.

That’s the good news. Now the bad. Tacoma’s have been notoriously expensive. And the test truck proved that. Starting with a base price of $33,730, the optional Premium & Technology package, that includes a long list of niceties in addition to necessities like rear parking sonar, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, adds $2,360 with sunroof; $650 for a tonneau cover; $650 for a tow package that comes with heavy duty peripherals; plus a $900 delivery takes this newly restyled pickup to an astounding $38,290. For about the same price or a bit more, you can buy Toyota’s full size Tundra half-ton pickup. But they’re not as cute at the Tacoma even though they share similar looking front ends and grilles.

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