New & Used Toyota Tacoma: In Depth
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The Toyota Tacoma is part of a long-running line of pickup trucks that date back to the Hilux and the simply-named Toyota Pickup.
The Tacoma is a mid-size pickup, the smaller of the brand's two truck offerings. Although the segment has been ignored by many automakers for some years, mid-size offerings now include the completely new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, as well as the Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. In the past, rivals have included the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota, among several others.
The best-selling mid-size truck for a decade, the Tacoma gets big updates for the 2016 model year. The current Tacoma is offered with a choice of four and six-cylinder power, and with either rear- or all-wheel drive, as well as a choice of cab and box configurations.
MORE: Read our 2016 Toyota Tacoma review
Ever since the introduction of the original Tacoma for 1995, the model has maintained a loyal set of owners by offering different body styles, powertrains, and, especially, a few special editions targeted at off-roaders.
In its first generation, which ran from 1995 to 2004, the Tacoma got power from 2.4-liter and 2.7-liter four-cylinders as well as a 3.4-liter V-6; output ranged from 142 horsepower to 190 horsepower. It always offered a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, in either regular or extended cabs, with two different bed lengths. In the ten years it was on sale, the first Tacoma received some aesthetic updates as well as several special-edition packages.
The current Tacoma arrived in the 2005 model year, and it's been carried through to the present day with remarkably few major changes. It comes a wide variety of configurations: Regular Cab, Access Cab, Double Cab and X-Runner models. All three are available with either short or long beds, and two- or four-wheel drive, in a range of trims and equipment levels. The two engines are a 159-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, and a 236-hp 4.0-liter V-6. Since its launch, towing capacity has rise from 5,000 pounds to today 6,500 pounds in the suitably equipped V-6 model.
The base regular cab truck can be ordered with minimal features, but offers a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmissions. Models equipped with the V-6 are available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto. Above the standard trim is the PreRunner specification, which adds several off-road-friendly features, including overfenders, skid plates, mudguards, and upgraded wheels and tires. Inside, the trucks see upgrades correlated to cab sizes, with the larger models adding more luxurious seating, more folding-seat arrangements, and more power accessories. The range-topping Double Cab models add rear-seat amenities including cupholders, heating ducts, and a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat.
The X-Runner is a special high-performance version of the Tacoma, offering stiffer suspension, larger alloy wheels and summer tires for better on-road performance, as well as a body treatment to match. Optional upgrades available on various models include a six-disc in-dash MP3-capable stereo system, and a convenience package including power mirrors, remote keyless entry system, cruise control, sliding rear window with privacy glass, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
In recent model years, Toyota has added more off-road-oriented options with T|X and T|X Pro packages in addition to the PreRunner, X-Runner, and TRD Off-Road Package. Also, for the 2012 model year, Toyota expanded the number of four-cylinder Tacoma models and gave these trucks a light refresh, with a somewhat different grille, and less brightwork inside. The orange interior lighting was replaced with blue, and a new standard sound system included six speakers, Bluetooth hands-free capability, and a USB/iPod port.
Also added for 2012 were an available navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, accompanied by a new premium system with HD Radio and Bluetooth audio streaming.
No changes were made to the Tacoma for the 2013 model year; Toyota discontinued Tacoma Regular Cab models after 2014.
For 2015, Toyota offered a TRD Pro package for the Tacoma, as well as the 4Runner and Tundra. On the smaller truck, it includes an off-road-ready wheel-and-tire package, a new exhaust, upgraded suspension components, and a unique front end, with a different grille and a hood with a scoop. The TRD Pro is aimed at more serious off-roading and trail running.
Toyota introduced a heavily updated Tacoma for the 2016 model year. Along with the usual styling and feature updates, the 2016 truck received a new Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 with direct and port injection, which improves fuel economy. The six is available with either a manual or automatic six-speed transmission, while the base four-cylinder carries over and goes auto-only. Toyota also made changes to the Tacoma's frame, adding strength and rigidity while also upping the amount of high-strength steel used. Finally, a newly styled interior offers more luxury features, more connectivity, and an updated Entune infotainment interface.