Most domestic automakers have shelved their mid-size pickup truck product line. Staying the course is Japanese automaker Toyota with the third-generation Toyota Tacoma.
Built in North America, Tacoma is Toyota’s top-selling truck and America’s best-selling mid-size pickup 10 years running to hold a 50-percent market share in the segment.
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma comes in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited models shipped with 4X2 or 4X4 drivetrains in Double or Access Cab body styles.
Base power is supplied by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder with standard five-speed manual transmission rated at 159 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is also available.
A new 3.5L V6 replaces the retired 4.0L engine for 278 hp mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
I tested Tacoma’s volume leading TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road models with V6 engine base priced at $30,765.
The Off-Road 4X4 version is the more rugged of the two TRD models with 9.4-inches of ground clearance, maximum 32-degree approach angle and Multi-terrain Select-plus Crawl Control for go-anywhere capability unmatched in its segment.
I put the TRD Off Road though its paces on one of the most rugged off-road courses I’ve experienced, conquering boulder fields and backwoods obstacles akin to the famed Rubicon Trail.
When set in Crawl Mode, TRD Off-Road modulates the speed to selectively sense its traction need automatically with no throttle or brake intervention by the driver and only steering required when negotiating a 40-degree hill decent.
Tacoma TRD Off-Road is also capable of effortlessly crawling out of deep sand - even when all wheels are buried to their axles.
Out back, a damped tailgate with standard rear-view camera and LED cargo lamps highlight Tacoma’s cargo box.
Inside, Tacoma receives a totally revised interior with standard 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system, voice recognition, Bluetooth hands-free system and industry-first GoPro windshield camera mount.
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma arrives at area dealers this week priced from $23,300 to $34,745. Add $900 for freight.