Did Toyota Hit the Mark on the 2016 Tacoma?
Now that the hub-bub over the 2016 Toyota Tacoma has died down a bit, we are left wondering if the truck hits the right mark in the midsize truck market. This site, like many journalists, is split on how Toyota did. Site founder Jason Lancaster thinks it is “another underwhelming truck from Toyota,” while Editor Tim Esterdahl thinks the truck hits the mark since the midsize customer is different. Let’s have a debate, shall we?Jason’s background as it applies to this debate: Besides creating the TundraHeadquarters.com website, Jason has years of experience working in dealerships, and many years more consulting in the auto industry. Jason is also a recognized auto expert on Quora, and of course Jason has driven many hundreds of vehicles during his career.
Tim’s background as it applies to this debate: Tim’s first truck was a Chevy S-10, bought new off the dealer lot. Since that time, Tim has covered the truck market for years, attending dozens of auto shows as a journalist, as well as testing and reviewing hundreds of vehicles. Tim also comes from a family of truck owners.
Jason’s Thoughts on the 2016 Tacoma: An Underwhelming Update To A Great Truck
While the Tacoma has some new bells and whistles, I’d argue Toyota missed the boat in terms of fuel economy, horsepower, and cost. The biggest miss by far is the new Tacoma’s mediocre fuel economy numbers. A new 2WD Colorado with the V6 gets 26 mpg on highway, while the Tacoma’s 3.5L V6 is rated at 24?! How is this possible?
Toyota’s engine management technology in the 3.5L is incredible – they’re running a ‘variable displacement’ motor by changing the engine cycle. Chevy’s engine is advanced no doubt, but it’s not changing from the Otto to Atkinson cycle (and back) on demand, nor is it using Toyota’s advanced D-4S technology. It’s hard to understand how Toyota came up short here, at least on the highway. The city fuel economy of the new Tacoma is 1 mpg better than the new Colorado, however, so perhaps Toyota sacrificed some highway efficiency for better efficiency in the city?
To add insult to injury, the new Tacoma has a lower highway fuel economy number and it produces less horsepower. If you’re going to come up short on fuel economy, at least offer more horsepower (or torque or something)!
Why fuel economy (and horsepower) matter:
- Truck buyers in general value bragging rights. Having the best “whatever” in the class sells trucks.
- A lot of small truck buyers value efficiency. If they didn’t, they would buy big trucks, right? Fuel economy is far more important on the Tacoma than it is on the Tundra (and I would say Tundra fuel economy is still important). Tacoma buyers are going to wonder about the new Colorado, especially if they compare the long-in-the-tooth 2.7L 4-cyl to Chevy’s newer 2.5L.
NOTE: I realize a lot of people buy small trucks because of their parking situation, because they’re into off-roading, because they live in the city, etc. But fuel economy is a motivation for almost every vehicle buyer, at least to some degree.
Last but not least, the new Tacoma costs more too. I priced a 4×4 crew Colorado with the Z71 package and the base MSRP is $35,835. A 2016 4×4 Tacoma Limited is $37,820. We can bet that Chevy will whore out their Colorado’s at some point, so we could be talking about thousands of dollars in price difference between the two trucks.
Summing up: I’m not saying the sky is falling. I’m not saying the 2016 Tacoma is a bad truck or that sales will suffer. I’m not even saying that I wouldn’t love to own a 2016 Tacoma myself.
All I’m saying is that Toyota seems as if they were outmaneuvered by Chevy. Toyota couldn’t hit the big fuel economy number, and for baffling reasons they didn’t try to rate higher than the Colorado in terms of horsepower or torque. Instead, Toyota is selling a truck that’s less fuel efficient and less powerful for more money.
Granted, Toyota has quality, reliability, durability, and resale. Smart buyers understand these things, and they will value the Tacoma for this reason. But Toyota isn’t making it easy for their customers when the Chevy seems to do more with less. If Chevy keeps getting good quality ratings and wins over Consumer Reports, Toyota might see their market share suffer.
Oh yeah – Chevy has an available diesel engine too. That’s huge.
Toyota makes great trucks (great vehicles in general), but they seem content to let other companies lead the market in terms of features, value, and performance. I don’t understand it, and as a Toyota fan I resent it.
It is hard to argue with Jason on many of his points. He speaks the truth with Toyota not besting Chevy in fuel economy, horsepower and price. Yet, I think the core issue is how you see the truck market. I think several factors are different in the midsize market including:
- Fuel economy doesn’t really matter. In the full-size truck market, the customer is older and they care a lot about fuel economy. Toyota is focused on a younger customer in the midsize market. This is the customer who was likely to jack up their Tundra and put big tires on it anyway. That customer doesn’t really care about fuel economy. Comparing trucks based on fuel economy just matter to them.
- Small trucks buyer value CAPABILITY. They don’t care about efficiency. Sure some still do. Those are the ones begging for a Chevy Luv to return. Automakers just don’t make much money on those and the demand is too small.Instead, Toyota added a lot of capability to the Tacoma. They see the market as being full of guys who will throw their mountain bike, camping gear in the back and rock crawl all weekend. These customers also will tow their dirt bikes or skidoos on a weekend getaway as well. They built the Tacoma for that customer. Sure, there is a Limited trim level for an older customer, but don’t be fooled. This truck is all about the TRD editions.
- The 2016 Tacoma’s V6 feels more powerful than the Chevy V6. No fooling here. I drove them both and the difference in HP is not noticeable.I would add that there is a different feeling when driving both trucks. In the Chevy, I was more hesitant to go fast off-road while in the Tacoma, I had the pedal all the way down. I think this has to do with Toyota’s heritage. I know the truck is tough and reliable, so I hammered it. I don’t get the same feeling from the Chevy truck for some reason and I used to own one!
- Price doesn’t matter either. The people buying them are only worried about payments. So, if the price difference is a $1k or so, that is really just $20 difference in payments.To back up my point, I was reading the Tundra Talk Facebook group page and there was a post about payments. Guys were talking about their $800 truck payment. Yes, $800 (!) payment. They didn’t care about the starting MSRP. As long as that payment fit their budget they were good.
- While Jason didn’t bring this up, other reviewers have – towing. These reviewers want to know how the truck tows. Toyota points out that towing is number 22 on the list of customer needs in the midsize market based on owner surveys. I agree. Towing with a midsize is a waste of time. I owned my S-10 for close to 2 years and never once did I tow anything. Never had the desire to. The bed was big enough to haul everything I wanted and I used the heck out of it. When someone mentioned towing, I immediately thought of a bigger truck. I think a lot of Tacoma customers are the same way. As long as it will tow dirt bikes, quads and skidoos, it will fill 90% of those customers needs.
To sum up: I think the biggest issue with many first drive reviews, stories and Jason’s point of view boils down to how you see the midsize truck market. If you think that market is comprised of just smaller versions of full-size trucks, you are dead wrong. The customer is completely different, their needs are different and the Tacoma isn’t even close to the Tundra. They are two completely different trucks meant for two different customers.
Your turn. What do you think?
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com