Midsize pickup truck
The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most sought-after midsize pickups on the market, and few trucks like it have enjoyed the same kind of recognition and loyalty it has generated over the years.
A major overhaul to the lineup arrived for 2016, with changes and enhancements applied throughout. The Tacoma’s new-for-2016 skin and hardware sought to reinforce its top-dog position in the segment, which includes competitors like the Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline, with the Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator arriving later.
Among the changes included new engines and transmissions, and a strengthened and more rigid frame thanks to the strategic deployment of high-strength steel. Engine options included a 2.7L four-cylinder, and a then-new 3.5L V6. This award-winning engine runs the Atkinson cycle, as well as a direction-injection fuel delivery system to help deliver improved power and efficiency.
Look for up to 268 hp with the V6, and towing capacity of up to 3,084 kg (6,800 lb). If you’ll be towing with your Tacoma and you’re curious about what to expect, you’ll probably find this thread useful.
Trims included the high-value SR5, the top-line Limited, and various TRD-equipped packages for added visual flair and off-road capability. New-for-2016 feature content includes wireless smartphone charging, push-button start, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a high-resolution touchscreen infotainment system.
Shoppers frequently active in off-road settings can look for features like an automatic limited-slip differential and Toyota’s so-called crawl control system. It works like an off-road cruise control system, allowing drivers to focus on steering and planning their course around challenging obstacles while the vehicle’s speed is maintained at a crawl automatically. It can also automatically get the truck unstuck from situations involving deep sand, gravel, or snow.
The Tacoma was offered in several body styles, and with two- or four-wheel drive, and manual or automatic transmissions.
What Owners Like
Go-anywhere-anytime capability, a generally comfortable rough-road ride, good brand reputation, attractive styling, and overall peace of mind are common reasons that shoppers gravitate towards the Toyota Tacoma. The Tacoma’s ride feels tough and durable, though some owners do wish for something smoother.
The more modern and high-tech cabin is commonly noted as a major upgrade by owners who have upgraded from pre-2016 models. While test-driving this Tacoma back in 2016, I let my family’s Toyota truck expert, my brother, take it for a spin. At the time, he owned a previous-generation Tacoma.
“It’s like they fixed the complaints I had about my old trucks: the way you sit inside is better, the ugly dashboard is gone, the short box sides aren’t as short, and the old (V6) engine was tough, but sort of gutless, and this new one is miles better,” he said back then. “This is the perfect Tacoma.”
What Owners Dislike
Common complaints include an awkward driving position, limited thigh clearance beneath the steering wheel, thirsty fuel consumption, and a jiggly, bumpy ride in certain situations. Other owners note some very sluggish throttle response, thanks to programming of the Tacoma’s automatic transmission to help with fuel economy.
Big Action on Tuners
Some of the biggest discussions in Toyota Tacoma owner forums like this one revolve around tunes, flashes, and engine upgrades for the third-generation truck. Some owners have installed non-factory programmers, software, or computers designed to improve the Tacoma’s power and throttle response. Most have not.
As a shopper, remember that the use of non-factory software or computer components can void or jeopardize remaining warranty coverage, even if the offending upgrade is removed prior to a dealer visit for a warranty repair. Damage caused by the use of non-factory components isn’t covered by warranty, either.
Other modifications to the suspension, electronics, lighting, or exhaust systems can cause problems as well, particularly if the quality of the parts or their installation is sub-par. The average shopper is best to avoid a used Tacoma that’s been chipped, tuned, or modified, for maximum peace of mind.
Sluggish Transmission, Whining Transmission
Some owners have complained of sluggish performance and aggressive transmission upshifting on 2016 and 2017 model-year units with the automatic transmission. I noted this in past experience, too.
According to discussions within various owner forums, this problem seems to affect 2016 and early-build 2017 units. If the Tacoma you’re driving seems to have a lazy throttle pedal with poor response, dealers may be able to reference one of several Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), including TSB #TC1601. Dealers may also check and adjust transmission fluid levels to help improve the shifting feel of a sluggish gearbox.
Further, some owners of 2016 and 2017 Tacoma models with the six-speed manual transmission have reported a whining sound while driving in fifth or sixth gear. Most have not. If you detect this on your test drive, a new heat insulator may be available to eliminate the noise.
You can find a complete list of Toyota Tacoma TSB’s compiled by the owner’s community here. And here’s some more reading on shift feel enhancements, if you feel they might be in order.
Though the vast majority of Tacoma owners never need to have a TSB performed, the list can give test-driving shoppers an idea of problems reported by some owners to help them make a more informed purchase decision.
Rear Axle, Rear Differential, Recall
Some Tacoma owners have experienced trouble with the rear axle or differential on certain models.
In Canada, Toyota recalled about 15,000 Tacoma models from 2016 and 2017 to check and inspect rear differentials for signs of a dangerous oil leak that could result in unwanted noises, reduced power delivery, or even component failure which could lead to an accident. Be aware of this potential problem if you’re test-driving a 2016 or 2017 Double Cab model with four-wheel drive, and the BD22 rear differential.
While test-driving, be sure to quiet the vehicle’s cabin and cruise at around 80 km/h, feathering the throttle to slightly accelerate and coast repeatedly. During this process, listen carefully for a high-pitched whine from the rear of the vehicle, which one owner described as “the very high-pitched end of a bell being rung.”
If you detect this sound, notice a rear differential oil leak, or if the service history of the Tacoma you’re considering is unclear, take steps to have the rear differential investigated by a professional in a dealer setting before you buy. Recall work is performed free of charge to address latent safety defects.
Shoppers can check to see which, if any, recall work is outstanding on the Tacoma they’re considering here. After your purchase, consider contacting Toyota Canada to register as the vehicle’s new owner, which ensures you’ll receive future safety recall notices in a timely manner.
A full list of recalls on the Toyota Tacoma can be found here.
The third-generation Toyota Tacoma owner’s community looks to be a largely satisfied bunch, though some owners have reported additional issues that test-driving shoppers should be aware of. Though reported with insufficient frequency to warrant much concern, shoppers are advised to carefully check for windshield damage, paint damage and rust (especially in the rocker panel area), to confirm that the clutch pedal (if equipped) operates without an irritating squeaking or rubbing sound, and to triple-check the stereo system for both functional volume controls, and any discoloured lines across the display screen.
Be sure to make a Bluetooth-connected phone call and confirm satisfactory audio quality, making sure the caller is able to hear you clearly. A small number of owners have reported Bluetooth microphones with muffled or muddy call quality.
For further reading, here’s a very handy list of clever Tacoma features, additional common issues, and normal stuff that concern some owners.
NHTSA: 4/5 Stars (2016)