Mountain Wheels: Anticipation high for the 2016 Toyota Tacoma
Ouray — With some 400 geared-up Toyota FJ Cruisers and their dirt-loving owners in town for the ninth annual FJ Summit, the company thought it would be a great opportunity to offer the devoted a sneak peak at one of the most anticipated vehicles of the past few years — an all-new 2016 Toyota Tacoma, set to go on sale this fall.
It’s a total re-do for the venerable, midsized pickup truck, with a load of functional and stylistic upgrades to keep it in step with other members of the Toyota family. That includes a new face that’s much more in line with the angular Tundra and the upgraded 4Runner, and a totally revised interior and control set that adds a very futuristic look to things.
And as a telling sign of the times, what does every 2016 Tacoma come equipped with? A GoPro camera mount up near the rear-view mirror, for capturing all of those golden moments on the trail (or, maybe the beaming faces of you and your friends as you see if Black Bear Pass is really as hairy as it’s said to be).
It’s just one way of addressing the new needs of truck owners, the company says, though the emphasis is still mostly on the rugged, capable and long-lasting mechanical character of the Tacoma — which will be available in five different grades, all available in double cab or access cab versions, with the choice of 5- or 6-foot beds.
It’s the third generation for the Tacoma and the ninth smaller truck that Toyota has brought to the United States since 1964, with some nine million sold during that period. Tacoma faces some stiff competition, with the all-new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, the Nissan Frontier and the just-around-the-corner Honda Ridgeline truck all clamoring for the midsize truck market.
Power comes from an all-new 3.5-liter V6 or a lower-output four-cylinder engine, the V6 being configured in a non-hybrid variation of the Atkinson cycle engine found in the Prius — no electric power here, but instead a variable compression cycle that promises to offer better torque and increased fuel mileage.
You can also get either a new six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, with a five-speed manual available on the four-cylinder Tacoma.
And for the serious off-road enthusiasts, Tacoma can also be outfitted with a special version of the new multi-terrain select and crawl control systems found on vehicles such as the new 4Runner, capable of maintaining speed while feeling your way over the toughest of terrain.
Toyota tells us that both on- and off-road driving feel has improved dramatically (we got to look, but not drive the new truck) and that even braking has a more linear feel.
We can say that the baby Tundra part is absolutely true, especially in the rear, where you’ll now find a spoiler integrated into the top of the soft-drop tailgate (a rearview camera is now standard there, as well). And the revised rear bumper parts are now modular and made of a super-tough resin, so they can be more inexpensively replaced if you back into an aspen while setting up for the perfect camping spot.
For greater utility, a full factory bedliner, tiedown cleats and even a 120-volt electrical outlet are available, plus a trifold tonneau cover to keep everything wrapped up.
Safety systems from Toyota’s car family are also making their way to Tacoma, with a rear sonar backup system available, as well as rear cross-traffic alerts and blind-spot monitoring.
In the cabin, things have been heavily updated, including new rugged-looking instruments, a revised and simplified set of air conditioning and four-wheel-drive controls (all in an easily accessible row of knobs), plus the choice of various touchscreen display monitors with four ranges of audio and navigation.
The instrument panel now contains a 4.2-inch color screen that can be dialed up to display digital 4×4 information; for buyers who don’t want to go for the full pre-loaded navigation system, you can also use a new smartphone-based tool called Scout to stream directions into the head unit when you need them.
The new Tacoma was designed in the U.S. and will be built at Toyota’s manufacturing facility in San Antonio, Texas, or at a new Toyota plant in Baja Mexico; the vehicle will only be sold in North America. Full details on the horsepower, mileage and price will be released later this summer.
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