What We Got
Long considered the standard-bearer of midsize trucks, the Toyota Tacoma had a lot to live up to with its 2016 redesign, namely its own reputation and renewed competition like the Chevrolet Colorado.
Since the class had recently grown from two models to five, we were curious to see if the 2016 Tacoma could keep its place on top. While the Toyota retained much of its familiar look and feel, we discovered there was a lot more to the new Tacoma, including new features to stand out from others in class, such as the Qi wireless phone charger and the standard GoPro mount. The Tacoma also strengthened its appeal to midsize truck buyers by making the truck they knew and loved even better. The new V6 and updated six-speed automatic transmission were key in choosing our vehicle.
We wanted to test the Tacoma’s off-road durability and all-around capability. We chose the TRD Off-Road 4WD and added a few extras, including the V6 Tow package, which includes an engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, a heavy-duty alternator, and a four- and seven-pin electrical connector for a trailer. An exhaust tip and carpeted floor mats rounded out our options.
With a $500 discount from the dealership, the final sticker came in at $35,079.
“We know the Taco is fun in the dirt. That’s just an immutable law. But it’s even fun on a particularly jaunty freeway section I drive regularly. It’s this sort of long, sweeping, off-camber uphill left-hander that banks into a downhill section, with an expansion seam near the top that briefly unsettles a car and can give you a sense of the rear suspension you’re working with.
“The Taco with an unweighted bed is especially fun on this section, as the rear kicks up a bit while the front end digs in, drags the rest of the truck with it, and the shock wobbles dissipate as you continue down to a flatter pitch. The Tacoma’s got a little rodeo in it, which I can’t say I remember about the Colorado. Different truck, different tool.”
— Dan Frio, staff writer
“The biggest takeaway from my commute home and various weekend errands? This Tacoma rides significantly better than before. I’m not convinced it’s necessarily better than our Chevy Colorado, but this Tacoma is noticeably less jittery over freeway expansion joints compared to the previous model. It feels closer to a full-size truck in this regard, which is no small feat.
“As much as I like the ride quality, I’m less impressed by the brakes. They stop well and all, but the pedal is too touchy for my tastes. They make it hard to stop smoothly in stop-and-go traffic. Hopefully this fades a bit as they break in.
“At this early juncture, I’m on the fence about the engine and transmission. Although there’s plenty of power once the engine is spinning, I wouldn’t mind having a little more meat on the low end. I didn’t have a chance to play with the transmission much so I’ll reserve judgment for now. At this point it feels much like the Toyota automatics on prior Tacomas.” — Ed Hellwig, senior editor
“Driving this thing makes me miserable. The grabby brakes make me feel like a novice driver, the transmission gearing isn’t even remotely matched with the engine’s power delivery, and the whole thing sounds nasally, with the exhaust noise replicating what you get from a cheap aftermarket muffler.” — Kurt Niebuhr, photo editor
“Editor Josh Sadlier and I started out at the same 25 mph we’d set as our target speed the last time, and right away the altered Tacoma felt more poised and less skittish. The washboard still came through, but the shaking inside the cabin was far less violent. The upgraded shock absorbers neatly absorbed a good deal of the shock and made the trip far more enjoyable.” — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
“March saw the Tacoma’s best-ever single tank fuel economy of 20.6 mpg. This was in turn countered by a 16 mpg fill that represents its worst-ever single-tank result. The truck rang in at 18.7 mpg for the month.
“In the process, the Tacoma bumped up its lifetime average fuel economy to 18.3 mpg. A relatively good result, but still short of its EPA combined rating of 20 mpg. Toyota doesn’t break out the fuel economy of the TRD Off-Road package separately, though, so it’s hard to say just how much of our long-termer’s mpg shortfall is attributable to its aerodynamically draggier ride height and knobby tires.” — Jason Kavanagh, senior road test engineer
“We averaged 18.5 mpg over the course of 1,500 miles, which didn’t move the overall needle.” — Cameron Rogers, staff writer
“Fuel economy continues to be a finalist for the Elephant in the Room award. I drove the Tacoma all over California on plenty of reasonably level routes at sane speeds, and I just couldn’t do much better than 20 mpg. I’d be cool with that if, say, the dearly departed 4.7-liter V8 from the previous-generation 4Runner (and other trucky Toyotas) happened to be under the hood. But it’s not a V8; it’s a peaky Atkinson-cycle V6 that was supposed to deliver best-in-class efficiency. Perplexing.” — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy
“I’m talking about the TRD Off-Road suspension, which impressed me more than it had during my drive at last summer’s launch event near Seattle. Here on my rougher local terrain, it was even better than expected at smoothing out awkward bumps and the sort of rough cross-grain erosion grooves you get on forest service fire roads that haven’t seen a grader for a few seasons.
“Off-road suspension does not automatically mean stiff suspension. This wouldn’t amount to much if the Bilstein monotube shocks weren’t tuned to match. A monotube design is preferable out here because such shocks shed heat faster than it can be generated by internal damping valves hammering across washboard and other broken surfaces. But even this does not guarantee success on a wide range of paved and unpaved roads unless the suspension tuning engineers calibrate the damping just right.
“They nailed it here. These shocks suck up impacts without jostling the cabin or its occupants. The truck moves as the general shape of the road changes, but the suspension and tires filter out all of the messy and uncomfortable details.” — Dan Edmunds
“It’s remarkably smooth and quiet. Highway speeds are nothing for this truck in terms of refinement; you can have a conversation in normal tones and listen to the radio at normal volume. Pretty cool for such a rough-and-tumble machine. And the off-road suspension is supple and not at all bouncy in civilization. It just rolls uneventfully over any surface. Perfect vehicle if you live in a city full of potholes, to say nothing of its off-road capabilities.” — Josh Sadlier
“Imagine yourself driving a Tacoma. You see a red light up ahead, you slow progressively, then lighten pedal pressure right before coming to a complete stop. You do this so the heads of all your passengers don’t go lurching forward like crash test dummies or so that the pizza resting on your back seat doesn’t fly off the seat and on to the floor. In the Tacoma, you can’t do that. Heads lurch. Pizza is destroyed. Obi Wan Papa John feels a disturbance in the force and sheds a single tear. I digress. Back to the brakes in our Tacoma.
“Maybe it’s the longer travel in the off-road suspension or maybe there’s a different compound in the TRD Off-Road brake pads. Either way, this thing isn’t an ideal city truck, at least not in TRD Off-Road trim.” — Travis Langness, staff writer
“It should be no surprise that my vote goes to the Tacoma’s backseat-folding strategy. The resulting flat surface and considerably lower loading height make it much more functional. And it’s hard to argue with two types of hidden bins that add up to more total cubby storage. Midsize trucks don’t have as much interior space to work with as full-size trucks do. It pays to make every cubic foot count.” — Dan Edmunds
“I do enjoy the convenience that comes with having a midsize truck at my disposal. Over the weekend I headed to my local nursery to pick up a few bags of potting soil and a few new plants for my backyard. Unlike with a sedan or crossover SUV, I didn’t have to worry about whether it would all fit or how I’d protect the interior from dirt or scratches. I just threw everything in our Tacoma’s bed, closed the tailgate (newly damped for 2016) and drove off.” — Brent Romans, senior automotive editor
“I understand that this is aimed toward an off-road-focused audience, but would it hurt to add some soft-touch surfaces to the dash? When I touch a majority of the surfaces in this Tacoma’s cabin, I feel like I’m at a Tupperware party.” — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle testing technician
“Pop quiz: Can you correctly guess the total number of cupholders in the Tacoma’s cabin?
“If you guessed 14 — 14! — then pat yourself on the back. I’ll even award credit to those who guessed 13, because the square-shaped holder just ahead of the center armrest could be up for debate.” — Jonathan Elfalan, road test manager
“I thought the Tacoma would be fine for four or even five of us. Two dads up front, two or three girls in the back for a nine-hour drive. What could go wrong? Turns out my daughter’s friend couldn’t make it and that was just as well. Though we would’ve loved the company, the Tacoma had just enough room for the two of us after all our bags, pillows, blankets, jackets and snacks were loaded. My kid had space to lie down in the back seat when she needed to, and I had a passenger seat piled with duffels, a backpack and beef jerky.” — Dan Frio
Audio and Technology
“On my phone, I say, ‘Give me directions to [address],’ or some variation. My phone even understands more nuanced commands, like ‘What time does the nearest [business name] close?’ Toyota has a solution to this: Siri Eyes Free, which comes standard on all Tacoma models. Once you pair your Apple phone, pressing and holding the voice command button allows you to make those conversational-style commands successfully. This is great, provided you have an Apple phone. Those with Android phones are out of luck.
“In fairness, the infotainment screen reacts quickly to touch-based inputs and has some natural language voice command recognition, like ‘What’s the weather like today?’ Still, I’m sure many buyers are hoping for full Android Auto or broader Apple CarPlay support.” — Carlos Lago, senior writer
“Our Tacoma’s sound system has respectable sound quality for a base six-speaker setup. In particular, I’m impressed with the system’s bass output. It’s nice to have if you’re cranking up the volume for hard rock music. Toyota offers a premium JBL system on the Tacoma, but you could very well be satisfied with just the base system.” — Brent Romans
“Another Android update, another issue with the audio system. It seems to be my life story when it comes to Toyota’s infotainment system. I will say that it’s infuriating when you can’t use the steering wheel or the radio controls to skip forward to the next track. If this was my truck, I would have upgraded to an aftermarket radio a long time ago.” — Rex Tokeshi-Torres
“As I was going over the invoice, I noticed that the dealer performed an oil change despite the Tacoma not needing one. This would have bothered me if I was being charged, but the Tacoma is covered by Toyota’s no-cost maintenance. I’m not going to complain about a free oil change.” — Reese Counts, vehicle testing assistant
“I took our Tacoma in for its 20,000-mile service to Toyota Santa Monica, which is the local dealer we’ve used a lot over the years because of its close proximity to the Edmunds home office. I was able to book an appointment easily and my service adviser got me in their computer system quickly. Two minor annoyances, though: 1) He never called to tell me the truck was ready; I only found out after calling the dealership about four hours later; 2) Based on the service invoice, which I didn’t examine closely until writing this update, the dealership did not change the cabin filter. In better news, the service was free as part of Toyota’s ToyotaCare free maintenance program.” — Brent Romans
“Our Tacoma came standard with a smart key system for keyless entry and start. Put your finger on the small ridges near the door handle, and the vehicle unlocks. Problem is, it’s only there for the driver. If you want to open the door for a passenger, you’ll have to pull out the key and unlock the truck with the remote. I’m not expecting the unlock ridges to be on all doors, but having it on the front two would be nice.” — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
“I wrote a lot of negative comments in the Tacoma’s log this month. That will happen on a 2,000-mile road trip in three days. I don’t want to come off like I have the opinion that the Taco is useless or hateful. It’s not; it’s just a stark contrast to the Ridgeline, which I enjoy so much. Seat comfort, powertrain refinement, interior materials, highway ride, even payload — the Ridgeline wins all of those battles. The Tacoma is certainly no daily driver, especially not in a city like Los Angeles.” — Travis Langness
Maintenance & Repairs
According to our records, the routine maintenance interval on our 2016 Toyota Tacoma was every 5,000 miles. There was a service reminder built into the computer, which signaled when it was time for service. The first occurred at 6,274 miles, and we even scored an unscheduled oil change. That essentially took care of the 10,000-mile service. The next one took place at 20,007 miles, then 25,686, 30,086, and the final service appointment happened at 37,212 miles.
Here’s what’s scheduled for service intervals:
- 5,000: Inspect the driver floor mat and wiper blades; inspect and adjust fluid levels; rotate tires; inspect brakes
- 10,000: Same as the 5K service; add an oil and oil filter change
- 15,000: Same as the 5K service; add propeller shaft lubricant, re-torque shaft bolts, and perform a list of basic inspections
- 20,000: Same as the 10K service; add a cabin filter change
- 25,000: Same as the 5K service
- 30,000: Same as the 15K service; add replacement of engine air filter
Toward the end of our ownership, we upgraded the shocks on our Tacoma to see if it would make a difference. It did. Our Death Valley torture test (Part One and Part Two) was the catalyst for this modification.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy
By the end of our ownership, our 2016 Toyota Tacoma racked up 40,155 miles with a lifetime average of 18.6 miles per gallon. We achieved our best fuel economy in May 2017, with a road trip to Colorado that yielded a 25 mpg tank. We recorded the worst fuel economy in November 2017 with a couple of off-road excursions and a disappointing 13.1 mpg. The farthest we traveled on a single tank, 455.7 miles, also came during the May 2017 Colorado trip.
Resale and Depreciation:
The MSRP for our 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 was $35,079. At the end of our 23-month test, the value dipped by 24.5 percent, according to our Edmunds TMV Calculator using the assumption of a private-party sale.
In comparison, our recently departed 2017 Honda Ridgeline dropped 16 percent over 12 months.
The Tacoma has excellent off-road capability and ride quality. The ride quality has significantly improved over the last-generation Tacoma. The “near-miraculous” crawl control is eye-opening. Both the interior and exterior of the vehicle are durable; it took a beating. Interior functionality is excellent, with controls that are easy to understand and use. The truck bed is easy to use and has room for almost every purpose. The A/C blows cold. Aggressive vehicle styling.
The ride quality is unrefined. The brakes are too grabby. The Entune infotainment system isn’t easy to use and can be infuriating. The stock shocks are good off-road but not necessarily on the road. The quality of the interior materials is subpar. It needs a better powertrain, either a more powerful engine or a better transmission calibration. Fuel economy isn’t good.
Former owners and fans of the Tacoma will be drawn to it. It’s a dependable, durable vehicle. But if you’re looking for a midsize truck with more on-road comfort, powertrain refinement, predictable braking, and an easy-to-use infotainment interface, look elsewhere.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||$2,131.76|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$240.15 (over 23 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Warranty Repairs:||Perform full shock inspection and replace two rear shocks (both blown)|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||5|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||1 (to report the blown shocks)|
|Days Out of Service:||4|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||25.0 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||13.1 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||18.6 mpg|
|Best Range:||455.7 miles|
|True Market Value at Service End:||$26,468 (private-party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$8,611 (24.5 percent of paid price or original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||40,155 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.