Here’s the thing with the 2016 Toyota Tacoma 4x4s. They’re part of a long lineage of Toyota 4x4s that have always been, and will always be a go-to, trusty pair of work boots. It’s the pair of boots you wear when you’re not sure what the day holds, what the weather will be like, or even exactly where you’re gonna be going. It’s got a style that spans across styles… and decades. But it’s not about ‘fashion statements’. It’s ready for whatever. Islands, deserts, glaciers – the Tacoma is there.
We hit the trails in this Tacoma 4×4, supported by Wooley’s modified JK Wrangler, and an XJ Cherokee owned by Paul Firestine from Rugged Ridge. Comparing it to Wooley’s Wrangler at the trailhead, we noticed that it had a pretty noticeably longer wheelbase – 140in compared to 116 on the Wrangler Unlimited 4-door (when we looked it up). It also had more overhang off the rear wheels. We wondered how that might affect it’s ability to clear parts of the trail. Of course the real world tradeoff is – the Tacoma is a truck, so you get a bed, more room… and thus more usability/versatility. You also get a real roof & windows without zippers. At the limits, the shorter wheelbase and minimal overhang are going to ultimately favor the Jeep. But with real world on-road/off-road versatility taken into account… only you can make the choice that best suits you & your needs.
The nose of the Tacoma has a lot less overhang than its rear does. And if you look that the front bumper, there is off-road wisdom in its design. The front bumper it recessed back on the outer driver/passenger sides. It’s also angled up simultaneously on the ends, to allow for a greater approach angle. You don’t see that on the Colorado.
Inside, the design of the new Tacoma’s interior is rugged & color-coordinated to the exterior. It’s dope. And it’s definitely an instantly noticeable step-up from the usually bland (and often light gray) interiors of previous generations. The seats are rugged and sporty. The infotainment rig fast and easy to use. The sunroof option is ‘ok’, but it’s the kind of design that goes internally inside the roof when open. And the drawback to that – is that it definitely limits headroom in the rear seats. Especially since it’s a pretty shallow cabin already. A panoramic sunroof would have been impressive/exciting on the new model… something that slid on top of the rear when opened (allowing more rear headroom & less claustrophobia or yak-in-the-back). Or some sort of design that opened up & lit up the interior… and got you a little closer to nature. Also – a rear window that auto-slides down like the Tundra would have been really rad, and in sync with the outdoor attitude of the Tacoma.
But when it comes down to 4×4 meat & potatoes, the Tacoma has what it takes to get you to your destination. And I think it has the capability (and aftermarket support) to ultimately hang with the best of ’em on trails. With its coil front and leaf spring solid rear, the stock 2016 Taco was able to flex pretty well (see pics below).
The kevlar A/T tires may not look that tough, but I’ll give it to ’em, they must be well engineered, because they were able to churn through the muck without losing friction. Being a pickup, I was curious if the rear would be too light & lose grip, but the Tacoma was on top of it. Even playing in thick, slick GA mud, we were able to keep it in 2wd 90+% of the time, so long as we kept a steady pace. It was impressive to see the capabilities of a showroom stock Taco. These trucks can truly do so much more than most people will ever do with them. The Tacoma is sure-footed & solid enough to grab traction, while being light enough to not bury itself in soft ground (like full size trucks tend to do).
And if you do get buried… there’s an app for that. With Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system – you just put the truck in 4Lo, choose the ‘type of terrain’ you’re dealing with, and the truck hand-delivers the perfect amount of torque for you. If you’re going downhill and the surface is a bit sketchy… or if you just don’t want to overcook the brakes – hit the Crawl button while in 4Lo & take your feet off the brake/gas – and just steer. It will steadily & slowly self-propel down whatever terrain you’re on. You also get a rear electronic locker on the TRD 4×4. The Tacoma is capable enough to where we never needed any of these things, but they are there for you in case you do.
Normally you see these reviews end with kind of a ‘final word’ or final opinion. But c’mon… it’s a Tacoma 4×4. You can’t really go wrong. And if you are one of the few people who end up regretting their Taco purchase, chill out knowing you’ll have it sold in about 5 minutes for one of the highest resale values in the industry.