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Review: 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road with Manual

by Chad Kirchner
Review: 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road with Manualzoom in

    2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

  • Engine: 3.5L V6 Atkinson Cycle w/ Dual VVT-I
  • Horsepower: 278
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 265
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Drive Configuration: RWD or 4WD
  • Top Speed (mph): 114
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 17/20/18
  • Curb Weight (lb): 4,445
  • Wheelbase (in): 127.4
  • Total Length (in): 212.3
  • Width (in): 75.2
  • Base Price (USD): $32,100
  • Price as Tested (USD): $36,630

The Tacoma TRD Off-Road isn’t a new vehicle to us here at 95octane. Paul spent some quality time in the Tacoma line last year, but there was one thing those vehicles didn’t have. We even reviewed the TRD Sport and it was missing the same thing. What was that thing? A manual transmission.

Manual transmissions are going away in most applications, and it’s rare to even find them in pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. If you are lucky enough to have a truck you’re interested in with a manual transmission, it’s most likely a base truck with no options. As soon as you add on things you might like, the option for the manual transmission goes away.

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That’s not the case with the 2016 Toyota Tacoma. Toyota recognizes that some people are interested in having a manual transmission on a truck they actually want to buy, and are catering to enthusiasts by offering a row-your-own gearbox. So what’s it like to spend a week in a manual transmission-equipped off-road pickup?

The TRD Off-Road is currently the most capable Tacoma Toyota sells. If you want to go off-road, this is obviously the one that you want. To wear the Off-Road badge, the Tacoma gets a bit of a lift, different suspension tuning, off-road tires, and electronics to make off-road easier.

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Other than the obvious, the big difference between the automatic and manual-equipped TRD Off-Road Tacomas is the electronics. With the automatic version, you get the latest version of Toyota’s CRAWL control system, and a multi-terrain selection program. As we showed you in this post here, CRAWL can literally dig out a Tacoma buried up to the axles in sand. That software takes control of the transmission, throttle, traction control systems and more.

With the manual transmission, you don’t get CRAWL or the terrain selection software. But you do gain Toyota’s A-TRAC system. A-TRAC uses the braking system to act like an additional differential, sending power to the wheels with the most traction when the going gets tough. Combined with the locking center differential and automatic rear limited slip, A-TRAC helps you get through the really tough stuff. You can even override clutch-required starts by pressing a button on the dash.

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When it comes to off-roading, the manual-equipped Tacoma should do nearly as well as the automatic, at least in the hands of a moderately-competent off-roader. The automatic does make it easy for the novice, so if you plan on off-roading and you aren’t a pro, you might want to stick to the automatic.

In the day-to-day, the manual Tacoma is perfectly fine to drive. For a pickup truck, the shift throws are relatively short, but they’re still a bit long compared to most cars. The clutch pedal is light and easy to operate.

I take every vehicle I review on a 57.2 mile fuel economy loop to see how good of a number I can get, and with the Tacoma TRD Off-Road with the manual transmission I was able to achieve 21.8 mpg. Throughout the week though, most of my trips were in the 17 to 18 mpg range. I’ve driven quite a few full-size pickup trucks that get better fuel economy.

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My review unit had the Premium and Technology package, which adds niceties like dual-zone climate control, heated seats, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and more. It’s an option box I’d definitely check. Also, based on the build and price tool on Toyota’s website, it doesn’t look like you can get any options without the V6 towing package, but you probably want that anyway.

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The only thing I’m not sure about with my review truck was the tonneau cover. It worked fine and I guess I liked it, but I’m not sure if I find it $650 USD useful. I guess your mileage may vary.

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There are a lot of things I liked about the truck, especially the actual act of driving it. It felt good on the road and had excellent manners. The steering felt extremely nice and accurate, which would be great for off-roading. The Qi wireless charging pad was also a nice little bonus.

The interior is a bit plastic-y, but that’s to be expected for a truck this inexpensive. There were lots of scratches on the plastic for only having about 6,000 miles on the truck. But based on the condition of the bed liner, this truck was used pretty seriously before it ended up in my garage.

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I wish the rear sliding window was power operated. I wish the rear tailgate locked with the doors (especially since tailgate theft is pretty popular). I’d like some nicer feeling plastics inside that don’t show wear as easily. But I wouldn’t let any of these things dissuade me from buying this truck. It’s arguably the best midsize pickup truck currently on sale, and I’d still give it a solid buy recommendation. They also hold their value extremely well.

The only question is if I would get the manual or automatic transmission? That I don’t know, but I’m glad that Toyota gives me the choice.

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