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New 2016 Toyota Tacoma Test Mule Spied – What It Means

A possible 2016 Toyota Tacoma test mule was spotted doing testing in the desert this week. The exterior looks the same as the current generation, but their looks to be some mechanical improvements. Here is what you need to need to know.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

From the outside, it looks like an oddly modified current-generation Tacoma. Underneath, it is a different story.

The spy photographers at KGP Photography did an exceptional job of getting up close and personal with the “test mule.” A test mule is simply a term indicating a vehicle with mechanical changes being tested to see how well all the parts work together. These mules spend a lot of time at the so-called proving grounds, high altitudes and in hot, desert environments. For this test mule, the underside holds the real story.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

The underside holds the real story. It looks like there is plenty of testing going on here.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

A lot of focus is being spent on the mechanical changes. It looks like the exhaust may be changed and a new 6-speed transmission will be added.

KGP had this to say:

“We came upon a parked Tacoma — attached to a trailer — in what is a favorite hot-weather-testing zone for various automakers. A closeup inspection of the vehicle confirmed its ‘mule’ status with a thoroughly mocked-up interior and signs of a modified undercarriage. The test truck was packed with wires and sensors, makeshift window and door switches, and computers riding on the rear seats.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

This photo seems to indicate a new navigation screen is being developed.

“We are hearing that Toyota may drop the regular-cab Tacoma and focus solely on the Access and double-cab models. We’re not surprised, then, that it’s the double-cab model we see ‘muled’ up on the test scene.The test truck was outfitted with a six-speed manual transmission. We expect the 2016 Tacoma to drop the four- and five-speed automatics in favor of a six-speed automatic for those that don’t want to shift for themselves.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

Here is a rough-in interior photo of the power mirror, doors and windows switches.

“Our sources have told us that the revised 2016 Tacoma will use an adaptation of the current truck’s frame, and that information is confirmed by our detailed inspection of this Tacoma test mule. The Tacoma mule testing here doesn’t have any noticeable riveted sections suggesting altered dimensions, so the current truck’s footprint will likely remain the same. Expect new, restyled sheet metal and a new, upgraded interior to be the key changes. Our series of photos taken of the Tacoma mule’s undercarriage reveals a rerouted exhaust snaking around some modified parts, but it’s clear that Toyota is relying on a lot of the current Tacoma’s successful bones to keep it competitive in an evolving market.

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

The tailpipe generally tells the story on whether a truck is a diesel or not. In this case, it is a possibility, but we aren’t for sure.

“General Motors is about to make the midsize truck market significantly more crowded and competitive with its all-new 2015 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, due this fall. The new midsizers from GM look to be a serious effort, so it will be very interesting to see how they stack up against a market stalwart — and eventually the revised Tacoma (previewed here) when it reaches market sometime next year.”

2015/2016 - Toyota Tacoma What to Expect

Testing, testing, testing. There is a lot of time/effort spent on getting these trucks setup correctly.

Our take is enthusiasm should be tempered. We suspect Toyota will offer incremental improvements, much like they did with the Tundra. The hard facts remain the San Antonio plant isn’t going to expand, Toyota has more demand then they can currently handle and they are simply not going to take risks with this proven winner.

On the incremental improvements, we suspect they will offer more comfort and more fuel efficiency. The fuel efficiency will probably be done via a new 6-speed transmission and possibly direct injection.

As for a diesel or new powertrain option, it may be in the cards.

What do you think?