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Posted: July 22, 2016

Test Driving Toyota’s 2016 Tacoma TRD Pro

Built for off-road, this truck can also handle daily driving duties too

By Dan Sanchez

Perhaps one of the most respected mid-sized trucks in the market is the Toyota Tacoma. With a loyal following and persistent rankings in high-performance, longevity and capability, the Tacoma is a popular truck for both enthusiasts and the work force.

Within the Tacoma line-up is the mid-sized 4x4, Tacoma TRD Pro, a specially equipped model that is a favorite among off-road enthusiasts. The 2016 model features a more powerful 3.5 liter V6 producing 278 horsepower and 265 lbs. ft. of torque. Equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2016 Tacoma TRD Pro is also more fuel efficient.

We had the opportunity to drive a Quicksand colored Double-Cab, and combined off-road and daily driving to get a good evaluation of the truck and its improvements. One of the first things we noticed is how we averaged 17 mpg in combined highway and off-road driving conditions. Compared to the previous year's 4.0 liter V6, the 3.5 liter has good passing power and acceleration, although on paper, the engine makes less torque. Perhaps it’s because the six-speed transmission keeps the engine in its power curve, but to get it to kick down into second gear, it requires adding a bit more pressure to the accelerator.

Tougher Chassis

The 2016’s chassis was carried over from the previous model, but has some safety improvements that meet new roof-crush regulations.  The stiffer chassis helps handling and during our test-drive, the 2016 TRD Pro Tacoma performed well on regular highway conditions, and as expected, drove extremely well off-road with excellent articulation and traction from its tuned suspension system.

For 2016, the suspension remains unchanged from 2015, still using an independent front s with Bilstein mono-tube shocks, but new high-strength steel lower control arms go along with the refined chassis to make the components more durable.

At the rear a larger 8.7-inch diameter solid rear axle is used with an improved electronic locking differential. This makes the truck capable of handling more off-road abuse than before. Tie all that with a set of 16-inch aluminum wheels and Goodyear Wrangler Adventure All-Terrain tires, one doesn't need to worry much about traction in any type of terrain.
In the wet, the Tacoma TRD Pro felt sure footed, and once it was off-road there was plenty of traction in light mud and sandy trails thanks to Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system. With it, the driver can change the traction and overall stability controls of the Tacoma with five settings that include, mud/sand, loose rock, moguls, and dirt and rock.

Sporty Interior

Inside the cab, the 2016 Tacoma TRD Pro featured a touch-screen infotainment system, backup camera, and nice dash with an information center between the gauges. Power plugs and USB ports are always a welcome sight for mobile devices.

The seating is firm but feels secure with heavy side bolsters. The rear seating area lacks some headroom for tall folks, but we liked that they fold forward to provide some storage area behind them.

In the bed of the Tacoma, Toyota adds a urethane lining and cargo cleats to secure gear. A 120-volt power outlet is also in the bed, and we really liked that the tailgate assist which allows it to be opened and lowered smoothly.
While the 2016 Tacoma TRD Pro is well suited for an off-road truck enthusiast, it’s also tame enough for daily transportation, and with a tool box and truck cap, it’s very capable for use on the job site. It's no wonder the Tacoma TRD Pro is a favorite among mid-sized truck owners and many are looking forward to the introduction of the 2017 model, that will take this truck up another notch on the performance scale.

Photos by Larry Saavedra and Dan Sanchez

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