It's good to be at the top of your game, but it also puts an automatic target on your head for hungry competitors. That's exactly the situation facing Toyota right now with the Tacoma. The popular midsize truck has been the undisputed best seller in its class for more than a decade, and today faces new competition in the form of the all-new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. With the current Tacoma on sale since the '05 model year, it was high time for a refresh of Toyota's pickup standard-bearer.
After years of minor nose jobs and new special-edition trims, the '16 Tacoma brings some truly new hardware to the midsize pickup game. The last generation's four- and five-speed automatic transmissions make way for a new six-speed. And unlike the new Colorado and Canyon, you'll still be able to get the V-6 with a manual transmission. Speaking of the V-6, it's an all-new (to the Tacoma) 3.5L Atkinson-cycle mill with Toyota's D-4S dual (port-and-direct) injection system. Final output figures have not yet been announced, but we're expecting at least 280 hp and torque matching or surpassing the current 4.0L's 266 lb-ft. The base 2.7L I-4 carries over largely unchanged, aside from being mated to a new six-speed automatic or manual transmission. Fuel economy, long a weak point with the Tacoma, is expected to improve considerably over the current model's 16 city, 21 highway EPA ratings for the V-6 automatic.
If you liked the last Tacoma's styling, chances are you'll like the new one. The new hexagonal grille design gives the truck a more aggressive face, highlighted by LED running lights on higher-trim models. To help it compete with the feature-packed new GM midsizers, the '16 Tacoma offers plenty of available premium upgrades, including Qi wireless mobile phone charging, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, touchscreen audio, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. In a concession to the young, active demographic that it hopes will make Tacoma buyers, all '16 Tacomas will come equipped with a standard GoPro camera mount near the inside rearview mirror.
At launch, the '16 Tacoma will be offered in five trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited. All trims will be offered as both 4x2s and 4x4s. The regular-cab Tacoma was discontinued for '14, so all new Tacomas will be either Access (extended) or Double (crew) Cab. The TRD Off-Road model will feature an automatic limited-slip and locking rear differential, hill start assist and crawl control, as well as a multi-terrain system to optimize performance for various surfaces such as loose rock, mud, and sand.
The '16 Tacoma will be built at Toyota's San Antonio, Texas, and Tijuana, Mexico, plants and will go on sale later this year.