The new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon have moved the goalpost for midsize trucks. But it hasn’t taken long for the Toyota, the company that basically defined this segment, to strike back. The newly unveiled 2016 Tacoma threatens not just to claw ground back from GM, but once again move the Tacoma nameplate firmly out of reach as the midsize truck.
The headline news isn’t just what has been announced, but also what we still don’t know. The new Tacoma will be powered by what is likely to be a carryover four-cylinder as well as an all new V6. This new six-cylinder will use the Atkinson cycle, a highly efficient combustion cycle that allows engines to complete all four cylinder strokes in a single revolution.
This new engine was badly needed, as the powerplant it is replacing is outdated to say the least. Just how much of an improvement this new six-cylinder will be remains a mystery; Toyota may have unveiled the Tacoma but they haven’t coughed up any numbers. Of note, Toyota said that this will be the most powerful, most fuel efficient Tacoma ever, but did not make any claim regarding the Trucks main competition.
Also noticeably absent, is a diesel option. GM made big news by announcing that its new midsize offerings would be available with high mpg, high torque diesels. Toyota must be awfully confident that either demand for these engines will be low, or that its new V6 will offer sufficient performance.
More concrete improvements come in the form of the Tacoma’s structure. Toyota has shifted to using high strength steel in the frame, and hot-stamped ultra high strength steel in the passenger safety cage. This should help reduce weight as well as offering a crisper, more refined on-road driving experience in the SR, SR5, and Limited trims.
Off road performance should also see improvements. Rugged TRD Sport, and TRD Off-Road versions feature aggressive suspensions and advanced Multi-Terrain Select. Drivers will be able to select from a range of five different terrain types, maximizing traction by dialing in the Tacoma’s four-wheel drive, traction control, and throttle response.
The 2016 Tacoma’s exterior styling bares a strong family resemblance to the current Tundra, not to mention the outgoing Tacoma. Like those trucks and the recently restyled 4Runner, the new Tacoma has a bold aggressive frontend combined with a rather staid profile. To my eyes the front end styling with its clamshell bumper, high mounted headlights, and two grilles, is a bit discordant. Still, at least it will stand out from the crowd.
While the exterior has received mixed reviews, the new interior should be a crowd pleaser. Featuring some rugged and playful styling, similar to the outgoing FJ Cruiser, the Tacoma offers buyers not only Toyota quality but also a sense of fun. There is even a mount for a GoPro next to the rearview mirror, so drivers can clog up the intertubes with their antics. When compared to the dull, and slightly cheap feeling interiors of other midsize trucks, the 2016 Tacoma’s interior should be a major selling point.
On the whole the 2016 Tacoma promises to keep loyal “Taco” customers happy, as well as firing back at GM’s attempts to conquer the segment. Until Toyota releases more figures it will be hard to say whether the Tacoma is firmly back in the lead of the midsize truck segment, but for now it appears to be on its way, and even if it’s not Toyota certainly isn’t going down without a fight.
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