The Back to the Future movie franchise immortalized the idea of a teenage boy’s dream vehicle when the souped-up black Toyota pickup truck made its appearance onto the silver screen.
Decades since it film’s debut, in the world of compact pickup trucks, there still no question that the Toyota Tacoma reigns supreme. All of the quarter ton pickup truck owners that I know either own a Tacoma or aspire to own one.
More recently, the highly popular car show, Top Gear UK, showcased the Toyota pickup truck’s toughness by setting it on fire, dropping a caravan on its roof, and even demolishing a high rise building from underneath it using explosives.
Needless to say, like many Toyotas, the Tacoma (and Hilux equivalent outside of North America) has a cult-like following. Backed by Toyota’s legendary reliability, quality, and off-roadability, Toyota really hasn’t had to make many changes to the Tacoma in the last 10 years. No doubt this is the benefit of being the de facto standard in a category that didn’t really have many new contenders. That is, until now.
Fast forward to 2015 and General Motors’ Colorado/Canyon twins are the Tacoma’s first real competitors in a while. Backed by a splashy marketing campaign, a great looking design, and GM’s know-how from building full-sized pickup trucks for the last few decades, the domestic manufacturer has been mounting a serious challenge that is starting to show the chinks in Toyota’s armour.
In order to defend its turf, Toyota has released its first significant update of the Tacoma in a decade. Toyota invited me to an exclusive sneak peek to see (but not drive) a prototype of the DoubleCab version of the 2016 Tacoma in TRD Sport trim.
I reviewed the 2015 Tacoma DoubleCab early this year, but this was my first look at Toyota’s 2016 compact truck offering.
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The Tacoma has been regarded by many as the ultimate tool for the outdoor enthusiast. Smaller and more nimble than full-sized pickup trucks, these compact pick-ups can access trails that F-150 owners can only dream of.
In the recent BC storm where there were power outages across the region and toppled trees littering major highways, I saw countless Tacoma drivers criss-crossing these typically inaccessible routes as if they were part of nature’s playground.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that Toyota Canada chose to partner up with a popular local mountain bike association, NSMB (North Shore Mountain Bike), when unveiling the Tacoma in the Greater Vancouver area.
Judging by the prolific number of Toyota pickup trucks that were in the venue’s parking lot, I think it’s safe to say that they’ve definitely asked for permission and have been granted full access to the local Tacoma tribe.
The tried and true 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine carries over from the previous model, but the big news is that the reliable but long-in-the-tooth 4.0L V6 engine has been retired for a much more modern unit.
There is an all-new, segment-first 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 equipped with Toyota’s D-4S technology, featuring both direct and port fuel injection. If the term “Atkinson cycle” sounds familiar, it’s because it is typically associated with hybrid vehicles’ powerplants, of which Toyota has plenty of familiarity with thanks to its Prius. This new V6 generates 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque.
Both four and six-cylinder engines will be paired to a new six-speed automatic transmission but the V6 can also be mated to a new six-speed manual transmission. Real world fuel economy remains to be seen, but Toyota promises that the combination of the new powertrain and new transmissions will net a noticeable improvement.
The 2016 Tacoma will be available in four models in both 4×2 and 4×4 configurations, and each model will have its own personality and unique look.
Exterior-wise, the new styling is more evolutionary than revolutionary. I’ve always found it to be a handsome and timeless truck, but now it has finally been updated for the times. Welcome to 2015, Toyota fans!
The new toothy grill is sure to be controversial with many, as will the chiseled new front bumper/spoiler’s lines. But I doubt that anyone will complain about the available LED daytime running lamps or the projector headlamps.
Sadly, the latter is just a halogen unit and not an LED or HID Xenon-based.
Out back, the 2016 Tacoma’s wide stance is emphasized by a new “Tacoma” stamped locking tailgate, much like big brother Tundra’s.
I particularly appreciated the easy-lowering feature which allows the tailgate to drop down gently, much like the Tundra or 2015 Ford F-150.
The good news carries on inside with the tough exterior being complemented by an interior that conveys a high-quality look and feel.
You still have to duck a little to get in much like the previous generation Tacomas, but once you’re there, you’ll find yourself appreciating a dashboard that is thoroughly updated.
There are numerous technological and premium features including dual-zone climate control, Qi wireless charging, a Smart Key with push button start, and Toyota’s latest corporate touchscreen infotainment system with available GPS satellite navigation.
Toyota has even partnered up with GoPro to integrate a camera mount into the windshield to make it easy for drivers to capture their adventures at the best possible camera angle.
This partnership makes perfect sense since a) the GoPro Hero is hugely popular, b) people love filming the nutty things they do, c) The Tacoma drivers consist of an unusually hardcore fan base that would probably use the camera to record their off-road exploits.
Also available on some models is Toyota’s impressive multi-terrain select system featuring automatic limited slip and locking differentials, Hill Start Assist Control, Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), and Crawl Control.
All-in-all, the 2016 Toyota Tacoma offers an exciting range of brand new and improved features, and is ready for any adventures that Canadian truck enthusiasts have in mind. I, for one, cannot wait to get behind the wheel of one for a full road test.
Look for the new Tacoma in dealerships by mid-October at prices that will be announced closer to the on-sale date.