We’d like to think Toyota has been reading our reviews. Last year, both the 2015 Tacoma and 2016 4Runner TRD Pro left us with two major gripes – an unintelligent transmission with major ratio gaps and a clumsy infotainment system. With the 2016 Tacoma Sport, it seems that Toyota has addressed our concerns...along with the addition of a number of smaller improvements. Our Tacoma Sport may not be the TRD Off Road version that won Petersen 4Wheeler’s 2016 4x4 of the year award. However, the two models do share a transmission, engine and infotainment system, much to our hearts’ delight.
EXT: For 2016, the Tacoma gets a major exterior re-design that we find sportier and heftier than the previous generation’s. The mesh chrome grille adds just enough of a touch of class, and the hood scoop give the impression of a snarling wolf. In the rear, we find the short-bed (5ft vs the long-bed’s 6ft) to be the better looking option, in terms of how it interacts with the overall aesthetic.
The Tacoma has certainly gotten larger over the years, but not any less athletic-looking. The hood scoop and short bed, matched with the Tacoma’s high ground clearance and 17” wheels provide an eager-to-play look.
If bed cargo space is a concern of yours, the 6ft long-bed option might be the more compelling one. The 5ft short-bed is the more symmetrical-looking bed, at least in our opinions, but it is somewhat lacking in cargo space. We cannot imagine storing a dirt bike or quad in the short-bed would be easy.
Overall, the Tacoma’s new design is handsome and gives the impression of a more serious truck than previous Tacomas. It’s full-size styling in a mid-size package, this new Tacoma.
INT: As mentioned earlier, one of the major issues we had with last year’s Tacoma was the clumsy infotainment system. Granted, infotainment generally tends to be a brand-wide technology, not necessarily specific to certain models. So, you could argue that Toyota in general, up until this point, has not been great in the infotainment department. However, the point is our general experience with this new system was more intuitive and seamless. Gone were the delayed system reactions and confused sat-nav.
In terms of comfort and ergonomics, the 2016 Tacoma is spot on. Knobs and buttons are easy to reach and the improved infotainment system is actually pleasurable to use. No more confused navigation system and clumsy menu design. The Tacoma’s new infotainment system is still not our favorite, but it is much improved. Seating is push enough for long trips and supportive enough for adventurous driving. We also really like the proper hand brake, a rare feature in modern trucks.
Rear seating is comfortable and spacious enough. However, some of our team members find the lack of center arm rest to be a major weak-point of the Tacoma’s long trip comfort. Another feature we would like to see is the 4Runner’s one-piece power window incorporated into the Tacoma’s rear window. Until then, the sliding center panel will have to do. Purely in terms of aesthetics, the interior design is mediocre and not on-par with the sophistication of some competitors’ interiors.
Driving: The 2016 Tacoma is certainly willing and capable of being a trusty steed on along any path. Street driving is a breeze, with quick steering (for a mid-size truck, at least), great feedback, and, wait for it…a new and improved 6-speed automatic transmission! For a few years now, the AUTONOTAS team has complained of inaccurate shift points, awful gear ratios and a slew of other issues with the Tacoma’s automatic trannies. The new 6-speed, is smooth, intelligent, and well-suited to daily driving.
Brakes perform above average. Compared to competitors, the Tacoma stops quickly; some would say, too quickly. We find the brake pedal to be a bit more linear, rather than progressive. The brakes tend to bite somewhat unexpectedly. Off road at brisk speeds, the ABS goes nuts! However, the Tacoma’s braking sensitivity is nothing that drivers can’t adapt to within a day or two.
Also new for 2016 is the 3.5 liter V6, which we found to be functional but by no means impressive. Power delivery is on point, but overall, we expected a smoother experience from the new V6.
Off road, our Tacoma not only lived up to but surpassed its predecessors in every way. The front air splitter is situated in such a way that allows for steep approach angles when carving through uneven terrain. Never once do we lack confidence off road in the new Tacoma, at any speed.
The on-demand 4WD is sufficient enough for most off road adventures. Also, suspension travel is such that the Tacoma Sport can handle nearly any off-road surface. However, for serious boulder-crawling, we suggest the Tacoma TRD Pro (link), which offers a more comprehensive 4WD system with CRAWL Control.
The 2016 Tacoma Sport is a near-perfect truck. It makes for a good daily driver that is easy to maneuver and live with, the occasional off-road adventure is a breeze, plus it has seating for five and a decent-sized standard bed. Now, if only rear passengers had somewhere to rest their arms.
Lack of rear seat center arm rest
Toy-like interior styling
Go-anywhere, do-anything attitude and capability
6-speed automatic transmission
Improved infotainment system
Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve direct-injection Atkinson-cycle V6
Drivetrain – 4WDemand part-time 4WD
Horsepower – 278 @ 6000 RPM
Torque – 265 @ 4600 RPM
Transmission – 6-speed automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i)
Weight – 4060 lbs
Starting Price - $29,665; Tested at $38,345