The Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup truck, partially redesigned for 2016, is the most rugged truck in its class. It’s the best truck for commuting over boulder fields or hauling a dirt bike through the desert. It’s tough, reliable, and highly capable over rugged terrain.
The 2017 Toyota Tacoma lineup includes a new TRD Pro model that raises the suspension by one inch, and adds skid plates, all-terrain tires, black alloy wheels, cat-back exhaust system, LED driving lights, and badging on the grille. The Tacoma TRD Pro includes the off-road features of the Tacoma TRD Off Road model.
The 2016 model year brought new powertrains for the entire line, with a new hood and front fascia, a redesigned cabin structure, tuned suspension, upgraded features, and noise insulation.
Tacoma comes in four configurations: Short Bed and Long Bed, (five feet and six feet), with Double Cab (full rear seat) or Access Cab (small folding seat). There’s rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
Base engine is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission, depending on the cab. The four-cylinder is rated at an EPA-estimated 19/23 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined, with automatic and rear-wheel drive. The four-cylinder might be a good option for a low-cost work truck.
More popular is the 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection making 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, mated to 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. V6 fuel mileage is about the same as the four cylinder, while it’s considerably smoother and more powerful. The V6 with automatic and 4WD gets an EPA-rated 18/23 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. The manual gearbox drops mileage by about two miles per gallon, while two-wheel drive improves it by one.
The four cylinder can tow 1620 pounds, while the V6 is rated up to 6800 pounds, with a package including a heavy-duty oil and transmission cooler (with the automatic), 130-amp alternator (manual), and Trailer Sway Control. That said, we’d prefer the Toyota Tundra or another full-size pickup to tow anything heavier than a bass boat or motorcycle trailer.
Off-road capability and durability is a big part of the Tacoma brand. Its Multi-Terrain Select system (taken from the 4Runner) is similar to systems on Land Rover, Jeep and Ford. Drivers can set the modes for mud, sand, slick rock and more, changing the throttle and braking. The four-wheel-drive transfer case, set with a knob on the dash, isn’t meant to improve cornering on the road, unlike all-wheel drive on sedans. TRD Sport models include an automatic limited-slip rear differential, while TRD Off Road and TRD Pro models go a step further with a locking rear differential.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Tacoma its top scores for both moderate front-overlap and side-impact crashworthiness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only crash-tested the Crew Cab, giving it four stars overall.