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When an automaker launches a new car, a fully redesign (not a mid-cycle refresh), it’s usually an indication of what to expect over the next decade. It represent new technology, suave looks and new engineering. So as we look into the “next” generation Tacoma, is its chiseled jaw and six-pack mentality just a giant façade?

On the forefront, things looks good. Really good. The “new” Tacoma is attractive… very masculine. It hit the gym and generated a lustering physique. Which should win the hearts of all you muscle types out there. In typical Tacoma fashion there are multiple trims, cabins, and bed lengths ranging from the base SR to the top tier TRD Off-Road. Our sample Tacoma is the mid-range Limited Double Cab with the 5-foot bed. Cosmetically, the Limited brings in these 18-inch polished alloys, LED Daytime Running Lights and some chrome garnish to make it feel a little more premium.

Replacing the old 4.0-liter V-6, Toyota’s newest generation 3.5-liter V-6 makes its way into the Tacoma producing 278-horsepower. A 2.7-liter 4-Cylinder is available on the lower SR and SR-5 models with a six-speed auto – a five-speed manual is only available on the SR 4X4 Access Cab. A six-speed manual is also available on the 3.5-liter V-6 on the TRD Off-Road trim.

At just over 4500lbs and with 265lb-ft of torque, it does take a long 8 seconds for the Tacoma to get to 60 mph through its new smoothing operating six-speed autobox. Our tester arrived with four-wheel drive, but since it’s just the Limited model, we didn’t have the new Multi-Terrain Select with CRAWL Control. Considering most consumers who will buy the Limited will see the occasional dirt road to haul their ATV’s or wonder off for a romantic picnic, the four-wheel drive system here is prodigious to what consumers will expect and make you feel like you can conquer the world while sitting plush in a leatherette environment of heated seats and dual-zone climate control.

So then it comes to the belly of the beast, the chassis. I guess in Toyota’s moto, if it isn’t broken, why fix it. And yes, that could be the case in many circumstances, but here, after 12 years, it just seems like a cheap, lazy way to expedite a mass-market vehicle. Toyota has made an attempt to improve the chassis development by adding additional spot welds and strengthen beams for better rigidness and a stronger stability. These improvements do express in how the Tacoma carries itself on the road – road mannerism is a lot more confident and appealing to the driver. But then you hear terms like coil and leaf springs and can’t help but think the suspension is from the early millennium – surprisingly though, it’s better than before having a more comfortable driving experience – you don’t feel every bump and crack – but still Toyota, it’s the 21st Century, onward to the independent suspension system. The only thing though really we’re not completely sold on is, the use of rear drum brakes – after a recent interview with Toyota, the use of drum brakes were because they provide better stopping power on something this heavy, they won’t wear out as quickly as disc brakes will and they’re better in off-road conditions. Hmmm…

If there is one thing Toyota has been doing right lately, it’s the interiors. The interior of the Tacoma is very well laid out in it ergonomics. The use of fit and finish is moderate, but the design is top notch. It’s an attractive space to be, even if there are some cheap plastic’s here and there. The Tacoma also features the latest version of Toyota’s soft touch infotainment system with a 7-inch High Resolution display and Entune with App Suite – the interface is easy to use and operate and features Text Message Alerts.

Upon arrival, the first thing we didn’t like on the “new” Tacoma was the seating position – since the cab is not very tall, the seat sits very low – it’s awkward and slightly uncomfortable – not very truck like. And at $40,000, neither front seats were power adjustable, which is disappointing. Even rear seat passengers will be having a hard time finding something nice to say with the cramped space.

Even though the Limited is the mid-range model, it is loaded up with a ton of standard features like Smart Key Technology, Navigation, Back-Up Camera with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, Blind-Spot Monitoring, a Power Sun Roof, Heated Front Seats, Qi-Wireless Charging and a GoPro Mount for your epic off-roading recordings. During our time with this tester, the Blind-Spot Monitoring system failed to engage and had to be taken to the dealer for a Warranty replacement after only 1700 miles on the odometer.

Being well optioned up with standard equipment didn’t leave much room to check the options box in the Build Your Own segment. Our sampled Tacoma featured a $650 V6 Tow Package capable of hauling up to a maximum 6800lbs and a $650 Tonneau Cover which is fully secured, easy to fold and remove – also great thing about being a factory option, its covered under warranty if it breaks.

Due to a tight scheduled week, my travels this week was minimum. But since I had something off-roady, I went to one of my favorite trails to test the four-wheel drive system – Table Mesa Rd, about 20 miles north of Phoenix. This is the same trail we tested the 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited.

The trail is a good beginners trail with some side Forest Roads to test our experience levels. It’s been a while since I was last out there and some of the trails were blocked off due to new private owners. But I didn’t worry, I was bound to find the watering hole to have some good ole fashion fun.  The trail consisted mostly of a well maintained dirt road for the average Joe in their Nissan Altima’s, but I diverted to some side trails to do some rock climbing, testing out the proper four-wheel drive system. Even on road tires, there wasn’t a sweat to be broken. We were impressed though with how well the chassis coped with the roughness – things were always smooth sailing from inside the cab.

During our week excursion, we did managed to only average 17 mpg combined which is just a couple points less than the EPA rated 18/23/20 (city/highway/combined). And being as thirsty as she is, the Tacoma will only go as far as 385 miles on its tank of 89 Unleaded Plus fuel.

The Tacoma’s new look, new engine and refreshing interior is everything we expected out of this latest update. Unfortunately, this was the update we were looking for a few years ago. The Tacoma has merely caught up with the times, only thing now is, how will the next 4 years look.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited 4X4: $37,820
Destination: $900
Featured Options:
V6 Tow Package: $650
Tonneau Cover: $650
Grand Total: $40,020