Normally, when sitting in a vehicle and staring straight ahead at a 40-degree upward grade, I start thinking about staying calm and keeping firm but even pressure on the gas pedal. In the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, however, all I do is press a button and remove my feet from the equation. I'm happy to report that the new off-road-specific tech that's baked into the 2016 Toyota Tacoma is fully up to the challenge of clawing its way up, around, over, and through the toughest obstacles I could throw at it. An experienced off-roader can do just as well, but the Tacoma is now packed with computerized brains to make obstacles disappear for anyone who can at least keep the steering wheel pointed in the proper direction. A minefield of boulders isn't all that stands in the way of the redesigned Tacoma on its path to continued sales dominance. The Chevy Colorado and its GMC Canyon sibling are formidable foes that General Motors hopes can chip away at the Tacoma's 10-year reign atop the midsize truck segment. Continued success is no sure thing for Toyota, in part because GM has a few tricks remaining up its sleeve for small truck shoppers, most notably a new diesel engine option. The good news, at least for Toyota, is that the 2016 Tacoma is improved in every meaningful way over the machine it replaces. The Tacoma's biggest single change for 2016 is under the hood. A new 3.5-liter V6 engine replaces the previous-gen's 4.0-liter unit, and though it's down on displacement, it's up on power. A peak of 278 horsepower means the new truck has 42 more than in 2015, though torque does drop one pound-foot to 265. Before you pour one out for that lone lost torque, know that the new truck feels genuinely spritely at city speeds so long as you keep the revs in the meat of the mid-heavy powerband, and it's maximum tow rating of 6,800 pounds is 300 lbs greater than before. Toyota's new V6 engine is filled with some pretty cool technology, starting with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligent Wider Intake (VVT-iW) and both port and direct fuel injection (D-4S). Basically, these two bits of tech help improve efficiency when full power isn't needed, going so far as to rely on the efficient Atkinson cycle when the higher-power Otto cycle isn't needed. Any changes as the engine switches modes go completely unnoticed by the driver. A six-speed automatic transmission was the only gearbox Toyota allowed me to test, though a six-speed manual will be offered for those who truly want to row their own. In reality, that'll be next to nobody. Also on the options sheet is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, available with either a six-speed auto or a five-speed shift-yourself transmission. Either engine can be had with either two- or four-wheel drive. Taking those engines, transmissions and drivelines into account, and then mixing in extended Access Cab and four-door …
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