I’ve spent the day pawing through the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s just-released specs, looking for something to celebrate or dump on or at least launch a disjointed rant over. Fuel economy is weak, but otherwise it seems like a decent truck for the money. Unless you buy the four-cylinder.

For the last 10 years or so, the Tacoma and it’s only mid-sized rival the Nissan Frontier were both offered with two engines, wheezy four-bangers that got mediocre gas mileage and noisier V6s with downright embarrassing MPG stats.

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This year the Chevy Colorado stepped on the scene and actually starting raising eyebrows for how efficient a modern “mid-sized” pickup could be. Twenty-seven MPG highway? That’s not half bad for a bricky vehicle with an open cargo bed. But you can only hit that in the 2WD inline-four, which you have to strangle to get any speed out of. There go your fuel savings.

The 4WD V6, the variant that’s actually nice to drive, maxes out at 24 on the highway and just 20 in mixed driving. Says the EPA. “Meh” say those of us who look at vehicles critically. If you’re getting 20 MPG to work every day in 2015, and your work doesn’t involve loading heavy cargo or towing or going off-road, you better really love riding in whatever vehicle you have to justify that cost.

The Colorado was supposed to be your “one-vehicle” for people who want a truck but don’t want the truck running costs. Sorry guys, it’s just as thirsty as a full-sized 4x4 without the optional V8.

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The new Tacoma, which David Tracy drove, is like the old Tacoma in that it will come with an inline four-cylinder. Actually exactly like the old Tacoma. The small-engine option in the 2016 has the same displacement and output as the 2015 except it needs a little more fuel to piss out 159 horsepower since the truck’s been saddled with a few more pounds in features.

But there’s also a V6, which actually is new. It’s half-a-liter smaller than the old one, more powerful, and more efficient. And ho, there’s my favorite sentence to write!

The new 3.5-liter V6 is so dang well designed it actually gets 1 MPG better than the 2.7-liter four-banger on the highway with 4WD and an automatic transmission.

That’s right, the 2.7-liter four-cylinder has about half the horsepower of the new 3.5-liter V6 and can only beat it by 2 MPG at most and the bigger engine has the top efficiency spec. Wanna spreadsheet this sucker? Take a look up close, any positive numbers on the far right column indicates the four cylinder does better. As you can see, it’s slim pickin’s:

Tacoma Spec2.7 4-Cylinder3.5 V6Four-Cylinder “Advantage”
Horsepower159278-119
Torque180265-85
2WD AUTO City19190
2WD AUTO Highway2324-1
2WD AUTO Combined21210
4WD AUTO City19181
4WD AUTO Highway2223-1
4WD AUTO Combined20200
4WD MANUAL City19172
4WD MANUAL Highway21210
4WD MANUAL Combined20191

As you can see the four is negligibly better in the city where it can laze around idling, on-par or worse than the V6 everywhere else.

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Okay so you’re not buying the smaller engine to save gas. It must be cheaper to buy, right?

I mean, kind of. The SR5 four-cylinder is $25,385, while the SR5 V6 is a whopping $26,995. That’s both on extended-cab 2WD configurations.

Save $1,610 at the dealership, lose way more when you go to sell the thing and everybody says “no thanks, I’m looking for a V6.” Also did I mention the bigger engine has over 100 horsepower more at virtually no fuel burn penalty?

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Even if you’re not concerned about resale value, how the hell are you going to spring for a brand new $30,000 rig and not go the extra two grand to get the engine with so much more juice?!

Anyway, you’re probably not going to have to sweat it because the 2.7-liter four-cylinder is only available on the lower trims and they’re almost all extended-cab only, which no dealers are going to want to sell. I just don’t get why they bothered keeping this crappy engine around at all.

(Correction: I originally thought the four-cylinder was only available in extended cabs, but a reader pointed out you can spec an SR5 four-door with the I4 engine and 2WD.)

Image via Toyota


Contact the author at andrew@jalopnik.com.