It was 36 years ago that Marty McFly lusted after a Toyota pickup truck in Back to the Future.
Too bad he couldn’t have pushed that time-traveling DeLorean to the year 2016 so he could see how that old school Toyota has evolved into the modern Tacoma pickup.
If Marty thought that old pickup was cool, he’d be completely jazzed about this latest version.
First, a little history. Toyota’s first real US pickup arrived in the US in 1964. It was called the Stout, and it got off to a bit of a slow start. OK, slow is a slight exaggeration. A whopping four Stouts were sold that year which doesn’t even qualify for a snail’s pace. Things picked up the next year when 900 found new homes. In 1968 Toyota went through a huge redesign and changed the pickup’s name to HiLux. That was the beginning of the modern era for Toyota’s pickups.
The HiLux name never really stuck in the US. Eventually, Toyota just called it a pickup. That is until the Tacoma arrived back in 1995. We’re now on the third generation of the Tacoma and it’s actually stayed pretty true to its roots. It’s a rough and tumble mid-sized pickup truck. Yeah, it has flashy paint jobs and cool interior trim pieces, but it hasn’t gone soft.
The latest version of the Tacoma arrived this year. You can get it in either the extended Access Cab or the four-door Double Cab. In all, there are 29 different configurations. My test truck was the Double Cab TRD Off Road model. The body is bolder than the last generation with an even bigger diamond-shaped grille.
Up front my test truck had the 3.5 liter V6 that is good for 278 horsepower. That’s 42 horsepower more than the earlier V6. It also has more torque, an extra 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 4600 rpm. Mine was mated up to a six speed automatic transmission. To be honest, it wasn’t overwhelming. I’m going to assume that it’s geared for pulling, because it didn’t do much to excite in traffic. According to Toyota when you add the tow package, the new Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 lbs., which is an increase of 300 lbs. over the previous V6. Mileage is OK. I averaged 19 mpg during my test week. That’s very close to the estimated 20 mpg combined number for the 4×4. You can expect 23 mpg on the highway and 18 for just city driving.
There is a smaller engine available. It’s a 2.7 liter four-cylinder that is good for 159 horsepower. Surprisingly, it doesn’t really improve the mileage with the EPA numbers showing exactly the same in 4×4 configuration. I have a feeling that you’re going to want to spring for the extra 119 horses in the V6.
I thought the ride was pretty reasonable for a pickup, especially one with the off-road package. It didn’t try to shake me to death. Buy the Tacoma TRD Sport model and you get sport-tuned shocks. Go for the TRD Off-Road model and you’ll get off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks.
I was happy to see that my test truck had blind spot monitoring and parking assist. Pickup trucks are big and brutish and can use all the safety help they can get.
Inside the cab is comfortable. It’s not the largest cab for a driver. Both the Chevy Colorado and the newest generation Honda Ridgeline give more space. Having said that, I’m six feet tall and I fit just fine. The dash is pretty old school, but very functional. Mine had Inferno Orange accents to match the exterior paint. It also had a cool Qi charging pad for cell phones. It only works if your phone has that feature. If it does, you don’t have to plug-in anything, just set down in the right spot and it automatically starts charging. One interesting feature of the off-road edition was a GoPro mount already in place on the windshield. You can start recording your fun from day one.
Base price for the 2016 Tacoma is $24,120. Mine came in at $37,610 with the off-road package and the premium and technology package. But if you want to go basic, you can get the double cab SR model with the V6 for less than $32,000.
If you’re looking for a modern office truck with all the comforts of home, the Tacoma probably isn’t it. After all, it’s a mid-sized truck. It’s supposed to be just enough for folks who don’t want too much. But if all you want is a solid truck to haul mid-sized loads and tow mid-sized trailers, the Tacoma will be a contender (although that’s partially because this is a very slim field these days).
As for Marty McFly. I was surprised he never zapped into my time period and whisked that Tacoma somewhere back in time. But then, maybe he’s waiting (or has already jumped ahead) to the next generation…