It's clear that Toyota has done a solid job of improving just about every aspect of the midsize 2016 Tacoma when compared to the long-neglected previous generation. In fact, it's been 10 years since this pickup truck has had anything more than a styling refresh. But what motivation did Toyota have? The Tacoma has been the dominant player in an anemic segment, that is until GM took a huge gamble and built a dedicated plant to produce two new midsize pickups. However, even with all the improvements to the new 2016 Tacoma, there are some issues we're surprised still exist.
Door-Slam Still Sounds 'Tinny'
Admittedly, this is typical of just about every small vehicle sold on the planet. Thinner body materials in the doors of smaller pickups will not sound as solid as the doors of a bigger, heavier truck. Still, this is the place where the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon stand head and shoulders above Nissan and Toyota. We should note that this "tinny" sound does not necessarily affect crash- or crush-test results.
Still Has Drum Brakes
Toyota seems entrenched on this one. Several engineers spent a good amount of time explaining how the performance they're getting out of the simpler drum-brake design allowed them to put time, effort and money into other new features that really needed the upgrades. Still, the drum brakes did not look good during the Crawl Control sand exhibition.
No TRD Pro Announced Yet
This definitely falls under the category of teasing. Chalk it up to a good marketing strategy to include a strong four-wheel-drive package on an aging platform — that's what we got last year when the TRD Pro (4×4 shocks, springs, wheels, tires, and style) was introduced for the final year of the previous-gen Tacoma. Considering how good the Crawl Control Multi-Terrain System is on the 2016 model, the new TRD Pro better be amazing when it debuts.
New V-6 Engine Will Take Getting Used To
The power characteristics of the new Atkinson-cycle engine, in combination with the all-new super-smart six-speed transmission, will take some getting used to. Yes, it is quite advanced and will provide power and better fuel economy, but investing in this type of high-performance engine may be exactly the wrong engine for a work-duty load hauler. We'll have to see how the engine handles customer abuse before making our final assessment.
Steering Feels Numb and Slow
We know dialing in steering feel and responsiveness is more art than science (and we know Toyota is a company better at science than art), but we were hoping for a better on-center feel from the new truck. Although better on the 4×4 Access Cab model we drove, the Double Cab longbed felt numb during most of our drive on two-lane mountain highways; it also offered a horrible turning circle.
Needs Better Tire Choices
We have strong praise for the off-roading abilities of both the standard 4×4 setup as well as the conquer-any-mountain Tacoma TRD Off Road trim, but the tire choices — especially for the TRD versions — seem horribly inadequate for dealing with anything serious. We understand that when tire-choice trade-offs need to be made, they'll likely skew toward less aggressive treads and harder compounds, but Toyota certainly could have offered more than several types of all-season tires.
Weight Savings Where It Counts
Although there was some discussion about the added use of high-strength steel in the frame and ultra-high-strength steel in body panels, it did not seem like the issue was too important to the engineers. The gross vehicle weight rating is up slightly, and payload and towing capacities are up too, but the Colorado feels, sounds and looks more solid, and both its gas engines provide more power. Being lighter doesn't mean you have to go smaller with your powertrains.