Did Toyota Hit the Mark on the 2016 Tacoma?

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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?

Did Toyota Hit the Mark on the 2016 Tacoma?

Taking a second look at the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, we debate if they hit the mark.

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:

  1. Truck buyers in general value bragging rights. Having the best “whatever” in the class sells trucks.
  2. 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.

Tim Counters

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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


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  1. breathing borla says:

    I’d like to see them hit 300 hp, but they came up short. We’ll see if the gearing and new trans can make that up.

    These things are so pricey you might as well buy a full size

  2. DJ says:

    Jason hit the nail on the head “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.”

    I am a Toyota fanboy to a fault, I love Yota’s. They always built the most dependable trucks, and still do. However when is the last time a Toyota Truck had bragging rights? 2007? And guess what, current head engineer Mike Swears didn’t design/build that class leading truck that was leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

    Since Swears took over nothing much has changed, Toyota has offered old tired technology (Tundra drivetrain will be 10 years old soon with zero updates! Come on!), and been years behind (see tundra brake controller, small gas tank, no engine updates, lagging interior/tech, etc)

    This conservative approach doesn’t bother non-truck guys, but guys like myself are getting pretty sick of it.

    Overall I think they did a good job with everything on the Tacoma but the engine, is it high-tech? yes, is it class leading? No! I don’t think any truck maker has ever come out with a new engine that was this uncompetitive in the HP/Torque department, big disappointment.

  3. LJC says:

    I agree with Jason 100%! How can a more advanced engine come up short? Sweers said himself that cylinder deactivation is not the way to go, but when he applies the Atkinson cycle and extra technology, there are no gains; he comes up short!

    Remove two cylinders from the 5.7 iForce and one has 286 HP and 300 LB FT torque. The gas mileage would improve also, I’ll guess about 15%, couple that with a lighter truck and it’s pretty close to the mileage figures for the new Tacoma. I’d rather have the smaller iForce 5.7 engine instead of something much more complicated and less capable.

    Ever since Sweers became chief engineer, Toyota trucks have fallen behind. Look how long it took to get an ITBC and larger fuel tank!

    When the Tundra hit the scene back in ’07, it was bad a$$! Most truck people hated it because Toyota “threw down the gauntlet” and backed it up! Now, things are timid with Toyota trucks–this isn’t The Shire! I too resent it! Grrrrr!

  4. mendonsy says:

    I have to agree with DJ and LJC. The only news from Toyota since ’07 is “nothing happened …again”. The ’16 Taco seems to be more of the same.
    It certainly appears that the only thing Sweers is doing is trying to keep the sales numbers low enough to stay withing the SAT plant capacity.

  5. Larry says:

    I agree, I don’t care what it costs. All I know is am willing to 1000 a month for as long as I live.

    Price doesn’t matter? Who comes up with this stuff.

    Let’s see, I can pay 1000 a month for a truck and then have to get a job which will suck to make the payment plus another 500 a month in fuel, insurance and new monster wheels and tires.

    I will go with not paying 1500 a month, not getting a job, and watching my assets keep growing. If the younger generation doesn’t care what transportation costs you better run for your life because when you are 70 they are going to be running the world which is going to cut your life support because they need lower taxes to make their truck payment.

    As for Chevy, they don’t matter to the majority who are Toyota buyers. They aren’t going switch.

  6. LJC says:

    I’d like to hear what Sweers has to say about our observations and opinions.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I have a plan to visit his farm next time I go to Michigan. Probably sit around the campfire and chat kind of thing. Before I go, I’ll make sure to get lots of input on questions to ask.


      • DJ says:

        We have heard a lot of excuses from Swears why he hasn’t updated Tundra drivetrain, why he kept disc brakes on Tacoma.

        I would love to know real answers to these hard hitting realities (ie 10-year old powertrains on his full-size truck)

      • breathing borla says:

        Hey Tim,

        When you go to his farm let me know, I’ll pick you up and we’ll roll in his place with my fully loaded blacked out Ram sport, lol

        There are some things that I would love to show him about the attention to detail and usefulness of a well laid out functional interior and exterior with storage. And how a truck with more hp, more torque, shorter gearing can get good mileage. How a real remote start works, how a real stereo sounds, and how nice it is to have LEDs everywhere stock. How you don’t need AIP on a 350 v8. How it’s nicer to have a real LSD rear instead of buttons to push over and over to get the nannies to cooperate.

        Let’s roll…

        I can then be ready to buy another tundra after said directions have been given as they will have the ultimate truck, ram features and options and storage built by Toyota.

  7. breathing borla says:

    You’ll never get any real info from sweers, just more QDR, this is what our customers want bs. Mark it down now.

    Just like when they had that auto guide question and answer video when the 2014 came out. They asked why no new engine, he said he’s had things the others haven’t for years, etc.

    Who cares when the real bottom line is everyone else has more hp, more torque, and better efficiency.

    My guess the real reason is Toyota has the purse strings to tight after the bottom fell out years back, they don’t want to invest any real money.

    Just like this new Tacoma engine, it’s so advanced blah blah, who cares it has less power and less efficiency than the others already and it’s not even out yet.

    Come on yota, set the bar like 2007. I am back in the market soon and hope to see an 8 speed tundra with more improvements especially some storage solutions. I had to go to ram to get that last time after owning 3 tundras and four tacomas. Ready to come back home but need a few things here

  8. Randy says:

    Once a person understands why the out going Tacoma had major huge sales increases over the so called “new” GM twins (cough S-10s); one will also understand why the new Tacoma is what it is. And then they will understand why Toyota is making the Tacoma the way they are.

    As long as the new Tacoma is as reliable as the old one, the sales will be even stronger, then “yes” they hit the mark dead on.

  9. LJC says:

    @Randy: you claim that the new GM twins are nothing more than the S-10. Why don’t you educate us as to why this is the case?

    And post facts, if you can, don’t continue to make stuff up.

  10. fartslmao says:

    Put a road squeegee on the front of a Tacoma and lower it and inch and you’ll see the same or better highway fuel economy as the Colorado.

    Toyota seems to have built this truck for existing Tacoma owners with no regard for the competition. It feels like the truck they would have made if the Colorado never existed. Its a lot like the current truck but better looks, nicer interior and a better engine and transmissions (4 banger ignored). They can only crank out maybe 200k of these trucks per year tops. There is a large enough owner base and enough loyalty that they can target existing owners. People with Tacomas will eventually replace them with newer, better Tacomas and the circle of life continues independent of whatever else is happening in the midsize market.

    Maybe someday some competitor will make something that beats the Tacoma on every measurable statistic. I’m sure that would cause Tacoma sales to decrease and not paradoxically increase. They hit the mark by competing with themselves.

  11. Randy says:

    I have not seen anything posted about tuners for the tundras( mine is a 2014 tss 5.7), are they worth the $? Looking at the edge or bully dog

  12. Jack says:

    I agree with Jason. I really had high hopes for the variable displacement tech and mileage. I think the new six has ‘enough’ power. It’s certainly not going to win any conquest buyers with power numbers. I really don’t understand why Toyota didn’t just discontinue the 4 cylinder altogether. It’s just about useless in anything but a 5 lug and they discontinued the 5 lug. A prerunner or 4×4 with a 2.7L won’t get out of it’s own way.

    But honestly I don’t think there is a small truck buyer out there that doesn’t take the mileage into account. The 2nd or 3rd owner may not care but I assure you that the original owner is taking it into account. All new trucks cost A LOT and buyers want to get the most for their hard earned dollars. As it stands Chevy is really giving the most for the money. QDR will only take you so far.

  13. TXTee says:

    It’s been ages but I was (or still am) a member of Tundra HQ. Well, I JUST got the 2016 TRD Sport 4×4 4 days ago. So, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with the Tacoma yet, but I’m coming out of a 2008 5.7L Tundra. Yes, it was jacked up, big tires, camper shell, etc….and I towed, hauled, and did anything with that Tundra. I miss it and have withdrawals!! However, it also came with a lot more costs, wear/tear, and size issues parking. The reasons for going to the smaller truck are clear and obvious. My Tundra was never a daily driver and neither will this Tacoma. But I’m already happy with the fuel economy regardless of what the Chevy puts out. I have more confidence in the Toyota, hands down. Cost is more than I really would have preferred and that’s why I initially went with the Tundra (size, power, etc). But I learned over the 8 years of having the Tundra that my needs no longer require all that extra oomph or an 8 ft. bed….so I’m not giving anything up.

    By the way, the Limited is a waste of time in the Tacoma. Get a TRD package whether Off Road or Sport. The base model also rides horribly in comparison to the TRD. I test drove a 4×2 and it felt as if I were in my rigged up Tundra…..the TRD rides like a truck but definitely feels better on the road. I’ll be back with more feedback as I get more than 30 miles on the odometer. The hardest part in adjusting is that 5.7L HAULED!! There’s no comparison between the two trucks when it comes to that….

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Congrats on the truck! I agree the TRD models are where it is at and would be my choice if I bought one.


  14. Tacoma18 says:

    This is my third Tacoma, I’ve owned each generation so I might be a little bias…. But I’ll try not to. The midsize truck market is for a completely different buyer/owner than a full size truck owner. I would like to have seen better fuel economy out of the new Tacoma but it’s not that far off from the Colorado’s 18/26 vs 19/23 for the Tacoma, and if any of you have ever owned a Toyota you know they are conservative on these numbers… I was getting over 18 mpg with my 2005 in the city with over 146,000 miles and sticker said 16/20. Pricing??? Did any of you actually compare the two? I almost jumped on the Colorado band wagon but the pricing was almost the same for similar features, I bought the Double cab TRD off road and the similar Colorado wasn’t even $100 less…. The Tacoma will hold it’s resale value, can you say that about the Colorado? HP??… not enough would be a bad thing for a truck but 278 or 300 is plenty for a midsize truck…. Of course those who complain it’s not enough also want a 300+ hp economy car that gets 43 mpg. When I looked at both trucks the one thing that was important to me was how much room the back seat has for my kids and the Tacoma has a little more room. There are things I don’t like about the new Tacoma, the start button is too far left and as you are sitting behind the wheel you look down you don’t see it because of the steering wheel. I lost my sun glasses compartment because that’s where Toyota put the crawl switch and controls, It no longer has a 6 disc in dash CD player as it’s limited to one CD… I know most people don’t care as they use an mp 3 device but I don’t. The center consoles compartment is too far back and not easily accessible because it opens from the front instead of the side like it use too… All these things are irrelevant on how the truck performs though… but it’s what bothers me. I’ve only had the truck for 3 days and now have around 140 miles on it (YIKES)…. need to break it in to start seeing what the fuel economy is really going to be. It is much quieter than my last Tacoma that’s for sure.

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