Toyota reworks Tacoma in face of GM competition

Toyota Tacoma gets new engines, transmissions, and suspension setups in response to redesigned Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma gets first preview at Detroit Auto Show. 

Mark Blinch/Reuters/File
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck is unveiled Jan. 12 during the first press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Toyota Tacoma has some of the most rabid loyalists of all the mid-size trucks—but it also has some tough new competition in the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Toyota's response? A reworked 2016 Tacoma, previewed for the first time at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. (Also see: 2016 Toyota Tacoma Preview)

Now, this new Tacoma isn’t a clean-sheet design like the GM trucks, but Toyota points to new engines, transmissions, and suspension setups as it breathes new life into the Tacoma. The front end is broader and more square, and a new hexagonal grille punches up the design, with some faint whiffs of the belated FJ Cruiser ute. The boxed and buffed fenders look stronger, but the cabin doesn’t look like it’s changed at all from the outside.

Inside, though, it’s a much better cockpit design, with better trim, big circular air vents, and touchscreens for the Tacoma’s new audio and navigation features.

Performance is what truck fans want to dig into. They’ll probably skip the 2.7-liter four-cylinder that carries over. The upgrade? A new lean-burn 3.5-liter V-6 that gets direct injection for better gas mileage. Power output and EPA figures haven't been published. A new six-speed automatic comes with either, and the V-6 hangs on to a manual-transmission option—for those who give a shift.

Toyota promises the Tacoma's bucky suspension has been retuned for a smoother ride on pavement--but also commits to even better performance off-road. And it says a tougher new frame helps cut weight, too. (Also watch: 2016 Nissan Titan Video)

The new Tacoma will come in either extended or crew-cab models, and with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. For the off-roaders, there’s a new Multi-Terrain Select system that lets drivers set traction modes for driving conditions from mud to sand to slick rock. There’s also an electronic limited-slip and locking rear differential, hill-start assist, and crawl control, which takes over the brakes and throttle from 1 to 5 mph in off-road driving, leaving the driver free to steer around obstacles.

And, touching on the Tacoma's longstanding rep as the go-to truck for outdoor sports, the Tacoma will come standard with a GoPro mount at the rearview mirror.

The 2016 Tacoma goes on sale later this year. Stay tuned for more details and for our first drive.

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