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First Burnout – 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4X4

Published August 17, 2015

As I sat pressed against the cabin window like a child, gazing upon Mt. Rainer, I knew that this event put on by Toyota was going to be full of surprises. I just didn’t expect how many of them would be awaiting me. From meeting with Toyota’s Tacoma crew including Chief Engineer Mike Sweers was a treat as we got to talk about his work on everything from the Tundras, Tacomas and Baja racing. Though I could of picked his brain for hours about Baja, I was there to report on the new 2016 Tacoma.

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As the morning sun scorched my bloodshot eyes, I would have my first glimpse of the 2016 Tacomas and the new styling cues. As the swarm of journalist stood around, we would sum up these trucks as if it were a group of newly arriving mail order brides. The Tacoma for 2016 has a larger grille and though I would prefer the stylings of the prior trucks personally, I understand why they went this route. The new 3.5L V6 is an engine that has absolutely no fat. The engine is built for power and efficiency and a side effect of a lighter and more powerful engine is heat and thus Toyota needs to keep the engine’s radiator and bay temperatures in check whilst still trying to appear attractive and not aid in adding overall drag to the vehicle.

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The 2016 Tacoma is a truck that has to cater to a truly substantial amount of buyers. From weekend warriors to Springsteen loving dock workers, and their accountants, this truck was built for customers that need a multi-tool that can get them through traffic and into remote areas whilst maintaining proper gas mileage, reliability and simply being an everyday vehicle.

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The Tacoma has that sort of squashed truck stance where the body is raised yet the cab seems lower. It is to appear similar to a trophy truck as Toyota would say, and other than the odd front TRD grille and fascia, I rather like it. Even if the odd snout looked to me as if a Mitsubishi Raider mated with a new Mustang it seemed to grow on me throughout the event. The massive grille is of course cheap feeling and somewhat flimsy plastic like all vehicles today due to not wanting to cheese grate pedestrians. But upon closer inspection allows you to see parts of the subframe and some unattractive bits behind on the TRD version grille. There are a few plastic skirts and tidbits that will likely be removed by owners or ripped off by trees and rocks. For me personally I would ditch the grille and front and rear bumpers and put on some nice aftermarket cattle pushers. Of course Toyota can’t do that under the mass of regulations they have to abide by. In fact it is impressive of what all they managed to accomplish with the truck as an auto manufacturer has to battle an ever increasing tide of regulations in order to produce a new vehicle.

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The hood scoop looked good on the TRD Sport but once again led to nowhere. In fact I actually disliked the scoop when 4-wheeling due to less visibility when scouting a line for my front right tire. If it added 50hp then sure why not, but it only adds drag and aids in running over your spotter.

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Toyota designers and engineers had placed this truck in a wind tunnel for almost 140hrs in order to reduce the drag-coefficient by 12%. With the new 3.5 V6 and six-speed auto the Tacoma produces 278hp/265lb-ft and the truck still manages 23mpg on the highway and 18mpg in the city. The towing capacity is rated at 6,800 lbs and payload rating at 1,620 lbs.

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The new 3.5 V6 is a direct-injected engine with the variable valve timing and Atkinson “like” cycle that can be connected to a 6-speed auto or manual in the TRD Sport/Off-Road. The SR5 and Limited are going to only have the automatic only whereas the SR base will have the option of a 5-speed connected the the 4 banger if you need a less expensive version.

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For the off-roader fan, the TRD’s get new axles that are rated higher, new 8.75″ rear-diff and a new transfer case to help accentuate the new power and torque levels. The engineers worked to tuck up everything inside the frame so parts would be less likely to get struck when off-roading and it helped lower the wind resistance, so it was a win for all. Plus with a  new exhaust design it’s less likely that a meth head can steal your catalytic converter as they are harder to get them sticky skeletal fingers on.

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The new multi-terrain and crawl control (CRAWL) available on the automatic TRD Off-Road was a taste of humble pie for this writer. I laughed at the fact that they were taking away the simple pleasures of 4x4ing and watering it down more than my 7th scotch at dinner time. The fact is that you don’t have to use this function, but if you do, you also can control the crawling speed and select it on the fly (when in 4WD). As I sat over a decent that would test my skills and especially after a 12pk or more, I had to take my foot not only off the gas, but the brake as well and give everything other than the steering control over to the robot overlord. It was an uneasy feeling as I felt I was going to be the first journalist to roll a 2016 Tacoma. As the truck cocked a wheel and we started the decent, the truck made sounds like a rollercoaster clinking up to the pinnacle with a mass of angry wrench throwing drunk monkeys onboard. Yet other than the cacophony of sounds we gracefully descended and then promptly turned around and went up the hill with the same ease and grace. The fact is that the truck is using sensors to brake and accelerate individual gripping tires at a rate faster than you or I could ever do, even if our buddy Dale watches and laughs as we tried to prove him wrong. The TRD has a 32 degree approach angle and we used just about every degree of that in our tests.

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What was impressive is when Toyota buried the Tacoma all the way to the frame and spun all 4’s freely, then they turned on the crawl control and let the truck work to wedge sand underneath and dig itself out! Now, i’m not saying the CRAWL control is witchcraft but someone at Toyota may or may not have to give up their first born child to a coven of witches for the technological luxury.

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For the accoutrements, the optional moonroof was a nice way at opening up the cabin and makes for easy access when shooting at road signs. The lockable tailgate helps from those dang meth-heads from getting your tackle and tools or simply your tailgate, and the optional locking tri-foldable tonneau cover was a nice way to fortify your belongings or become a makeshift drunk tank. The standard GoPro mount was a nice little touch and will help in seeing how far owners push their trucks to the limit later on YouTube.

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The electronics in the Tacoma are somewhat basic, although I didn’t get a week to get comfortable with the GPS, I still managed to hate trying to use the functions as I feel the iPad has spoiled my touch screen standards. Fortunately the company has a 2nd tier head unit that works off of your smartphones GPS so that you don’t have to fork out the dough for their system. The standard speakers get the job done, the optional JBL head unit and speakers came in handy as another journalist and I blasted classic country while trying to get the truck airborne.

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The in-dash screen that showed an inclinometer was a nice touch as you could mark the perfect angle just before your passengers would soil themselves. There was the optional Qi wireless charger which I could see being useful to a contractor or anyone working out of their truck but I would likely not have it personally until I got hulk angry with the rats nest of wires laying all over.

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My final thoughts are as goes, the 2016 Tacoma is still the same in the fact that the standard seats are hard, the ride is nominal for a truck and it seems basic compared to other much larger trucks and that is simply why I like it. It is utilitarian and made to be a truck, not some soft Cadillac Deville with a truck-bed. It is a quieter ride thanks to more insulation and it does have climate control and various other gismos but what I fell in love with was the its still basic ability to be a truck. Just having a actual handbrake giving you the ability to lock the rear tires up and whip into the campsite, which is certainly harder or impossible to accomplish with a foot or electronic parking brake. Usable features that I can see having in my daily grind is why this truck has dominated its class for years. The fact that the Tacoma is still able to get through heavily forested areas and take you to places where social media stockers can only dream of in their crossovers, is why I recommend this truck. The projector and led headlights look chiseled and proper on the truck.

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The automatic TRD I drove was obvious that Toyota was going for efficiency as the transmission seemed a little hesitant at times yet when you stomped on the gas you felt the truck perk up and made passing and merging on the highway confidence inspiring. The steering was a nice feel as it seemed livable in the fact that you weren’t overly or under rotating the wheel around in typical maneuvers. And although these trucks had tires made for efficiency, I can’t wait to see what these trucks are capable of when outfitted with proper off-road gear. So yes this Taco supreme is ready to make a run for the border. And just like a taco supreme, it can scare the poop out of you occasionally.

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Uriah Nazario
About Uriah Nazario

If you are easily offended and like to comment about how your feelings are hurt then you won't like my style of writing. I speak my mind (which is deranged) and yes it is often offensive. I am open for debate but not whining. I appreciate all my readers and hope my articles put a smile on your face.

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