2016 Toyota Tacoma Keeps the Pickup Truck Sporty

In pickup trucks as in life, it’s not always the big guy who wins. While a full size vehicle in the class no doubt packs the most towing power and biggest cargo bed, a smaller version can ride better, feel more nimble, float less and coexist in the world of cars more easily.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma is easily one of the best smaller pickups on the market. Successfully hedging its best between the capabilities of a full size and the relative sportiness and manageability of a small truck, the Tacoma evolved for 2016 without losing its tough identity.

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During a recent media event in the predictably suitable Seattle/Tacoma area, auto writers had a chance to give the truck a run over hill and dale to see how new technology enhances an already popular pickup.

The 2016 version includes a new, more aggressive front end and sharper-edged styling from bumper to haunches. Depending on the trim level, the truck can take on heavy duty tires and stronger suspension for heavier work use or off-road enjoyment. 

In the past, I described the last couple years’ worth of Tacoma as playful and punky — with enough toughness and overall capability to stand in for a bigger truck if the bulk and capacity wasn’t needed. The past models front-loaded the power to provide ample torque at onset. If that smaller pickup was going to engage its towing capacity or get rolling with a thousand pounds in its cargo bed, it needs power to get rolling early.

Related: Toyota Still Teasing Sports Car Return

The same physics apply for the 2016 Tacoma, but its power and acceleration flows more smoothly now from its newly upgraded V6 engine. The towing power is still there on demand. You just don’t get as fierce a bite when you get the Tacoma moving. Once at speed, the vehicle is just as satisfying on dirt or pavement as its previous generations — with its smaller size allowing easier handling on the streets. 

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Additional features for the upcoming Tacoma include techy flashes you might expect to find in a midrange sedan, such as keyless entry, a 4.2 inch infotainment display, projector-beam headlights, power windows and door locks.

The top of the range Tacoma TRD Sport is suited up for top on-road performance and comfort — while toughened up inside and out for off-road duty. I ran such an off-road course in the TRD during the Tacoma rollout event, and I had it slip sliding as some considerable speed with total confidence.

The TRD Sport throws in Qi wireless charging, a Smart Key System with Push Button Start and a hood scoop to finish off the styling compliments. The Tacoma Limited adds embossed leather trim, a moonroof and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

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The Tacoma’s biggest show piece tech for 2016 is the refined Crawl Control System with Multi-Terrain Select. Once the system is engaged and the wheel’s aligned, the driver need only keep hands on the wheel. No gas. No brake. The computer flutters the accelerator and ABS in succession until the vehicle is up and/or down any off-road incline.

When reviewing any vehicle, the final question — and maybe the only one worth asking — is whether the reporter behind the wheel would buy the car or truck in question. Of course, supercars and such are often out of reach, rendering the debate merely an academic exercise. I would buy the Tacoma without hesitation and would make it my everyday ride. It’s on the short list of realistic purchases I’d make amongst the vehicles I’ve had the pleasure to review.

Photos by John Scott Lewinski