FWB Drive 2016 Toyota Tacoma gets a makeove

Toyota Tacoma

This week I bring you the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, the best-selling truck in America that is not a half-ton, full-sized pickup. The redone 2016 is one of the most anticipated new models of the year. One reason is that the last time Tacoma was redone was in 2005, and before that it was 1995.

The usual life cycle for a truck is 4-5 years, so how does Toyota go a full decade without major changes? You make a great quality truck. People who buy Tacomas tend to keep them for years and it is one of the best resale value trucks around, bar none.

So what’s new for 2016? Toyota strengthened the frame for more towing capacity and more off-road capability. It has a new grille, headlights and taillights, a refined interior and a new V6 engine and transmission combination.

Speaking of engines, you can still get the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder and a 5-speed manual transmission or there is a new 6-speed automatic offered with the 4-banger.

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My Blazing Blue Pearl review truck has the all-new 3.5-liter V6 that replaced the old 4-liter. It also has the new 6-speed automatic and together they put out 278-horses and an impressive 265 pound feet of torque.

For 2016, there is no regular cab offering, only the access cab, commonly called an extended cab, and the double cab, which is what I am driving.

There are five trim levels for the new Tacoma, starting with the base SR. Next up is the SR5, then off-road monsters TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road, and finally the top-of-the-line Limited 4X4, which is what Toyota sent me to review.

The Limited comes standard with leather seating and it has more soft touch materials inside than ever before. Toyota went to great lengths to make Tacoma quieter inside – people complained about the noise with previous versions – and it did a great job!

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As you get behind the wheel, there are two large round gauges – on the left is the tachometer, on the right the speedometer, and in the middle there is a 4-inch color configurable driver information system that gives you info such as miles per gallon, audio info and tire pressure. It will also tell you which of the terrain settings you are in.

Above the shifter, in the middle of the dash, you will find a 7-inch color touchscreen that allows you to operate the real-time apps, navigation system, Bluetooth, rear camera and all the audio controls. This package comes standard with a 6-speaker JBL sound system that is fantastic, something Tacoma has never had before.

The Limited has a ton of standard features including power moon roof, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, pushbutton start, 18-inch wheels. You even get a mount if you want to drive with a Go Pro camera.

If you are actually going to use this as a pickup, not just a daily driver, you’ll notice the bed is deeper this year. It has a cargo management system, an easy-open tailgate that was strengthened this year, even a 120-volt plug in the bed for those power tools or maybe a blender for when you are tailgating.

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This truck has the optional tonneau cover for $650, and for another $650 it has the tow package with a class IV hitch rated to tow 6,600 pounds.

For 2016, the Tacoma is more aerodynamic with a 12 percent reduction in drag. You’ll notice, too, that the ground clearance is better for those who want to go off road.

There were no bad surprises for me with Tacoma. I had wished for a little more back seat room and a little better fuel economy, but make no mistake here, this is NOT a compact truck. Fuel economy is 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway with this V6 and 4-wheel drive.

Moving to price, base price on the 2016 Tacoma starts at $23,000 but on the opposite end of the spectrum, this loaded Limited has an MSRP of $40,200. Yes, you can buy the full-sized Tundra very nicely equipped for less money, but some people just don’t want a truck as big as Tundra. In fact, in the United States, Tacoma outsells Tundra, averaging about 150,000 sales per year over the last 10 years.

Tacoma is no doubt much improved for 2016, and I admit I expected it to be even more different from the 2015. The funny thing is, dyed-in-the-wool Tacoma buyers – and there are a ton of them – will be extremely pleased with the 2016 Tacoma.

Bottom line, this is not a full-sized truck but it’s not far off from one. It is super capable and I would encourage you not to have sticker shock when you look at the price. Tacoma is one of the best resale value vehicles on the road today, not to mention one of the most durable. Just ask any Tacoma owners; they’ll proudly tell you.

What I liked most: Exterior looks, available equipment and visibility

What I would change: Would love to see more back seat legroom

MSRP: Base price $37,820, as equipped $40,020.

Fuel economy: EPA rated at 18 city, 23 highway, 20 combined

Fuel tank: 21.1 gallons of regular unleaded

Dimensions: 17.6 feet long; 6 feet, 2 inches wide; 5.9 feet high

Weight: 4,230 pounds

Trailer towing: 6,600 pounds

Miles when tested: 380 miles

2016 Tacoma in a few words: A much improved, proven leader in its class

Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/60,000 miles with roadside assistance

Manufacturer’s website: www.toyota.com

Jerry Reynolds is the nationally syndicated automotive talk show host of the Car Pro Show, heard coast-to-coast and locally Saturdays on News/Talk 820 AM and 99.5 HD2 FM WBAP, as well as KRLD 1080 AM. Jerry is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association and is the automotive expert for CBS 11 TV in Dallas Fort Worth. www.carprousa.com