2016 Toyota Tacoma: A rugged off-roader gets a little quieter

Well the new Tacoma is here, and it comes as no surprise that its unveiling has been extremely well covered by just about every major publication and website.  As the runaway favorite among mid-size pickup shoppers, a vast improvement in ride quality is certainly something to take note of.  We took one for a spin to see if the new Taco has lived up to the hype.

The most obvious changes to the Tacoma start on the exterior.  An all new front end presents a more aggressive grill and headlight configuration, coupled to new headlights that house projector headlights.  The new grill seems to sit higher and give the vehicle a better approach angle, adding to the overall truck-ier appearance of the Taco.  Couple that with an updated rear end and some new wheel options, and the little truck that could never looked better.

Thankfully, the biggest changes exist inside the cabin.  Toyota has been touting the additional sound deadening and new dash layout, claiming it drives more like a car than ever before.  A laminated windshield, better door seals and additional material in the headliner and floor all contribute to a quieter cab at speed according to the Japanese manufacturing giant.  First-hand experience showed us that it has indeed gotten quieter overall, and the new dash layout is very intuitive while still showcasing several new features previously unavailable.  Standard features now include Bluetooth and the Entune stereo system, signs that Toyota knows that it needs to up the interior game if it wants to stay on top of this market.

There are only a couple drawbacks, and they are mostly associated with interior dimensions.  In true Tacoma tradition, the cab is a little cramped and headroom isn’t exactly abundant if you’re over 6’ tall.  The rear seats leave a little to be desired and as with the front, the seating positions wouldn’t be ideal for longer journeys.  However, this is all coming in a package that is designed to get the job done and never let you down, so little issues such as these seem to be worth the overall reliability you get with the Toyota name.
The new Atkinson cycle 3.5L V6 is a smooth performer, if not a slightly talkative one, as there is still a little bit of noise when you put your foot down.  Torque is fairly accessible down low but the V6 doesn’t mind being revved out either.  The slick 6 speed transmission shifts well and overall the drivetrain is happy in almost any situation.  There is still a traditional manual transmission available for those with a strong left leg, but don’t expect to see many of those available at your local dealer.

This latest generation of one of the all-time favorite pickups represents a significant move by Toyota to keep increasingly picky buyers interested.  Not only would we bet money that this outlasts the competition from GMC/Chevy, but it will look good doing it!

“Never drive your heroes” they say…the e39 M5

Well folks, this is one of the big ones.  The number 5 is pretty average, nothing to write home about, a pretty boring digit on its own, but as soon as you stick an M in front of it, things change pretty quickly.  And as if that isn’t enough, add e39 to the equation, and you end up with pure magic.  To many, this is still the best driver’s sedan on the road, despite being over 13 years old.  A car that represents one of the greatest vehicles to ever leave the BMW factory, an analog example of what a super-sedan should be.  And now, probably one of the most affordable fun cars on the road, that is, if you can find one.

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Well we did.  This particular vehicle, a 2000 M5 with a hair over 100k miles is listed for sale in Weymouth, MA for the price of a new Toyota Yaris.  We couldn’t resist the urge to drive, photograph, and review this aging wolf in sheep’s clothing in an attempt to help it find the enthusiast it deserves.  The M5 represents a car that we have been longing to drive and despite the risk of it not living up to all of the hype, we decided to take the plunge anyway.

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First impressions are important.  From a distance, this car could be confused with a typical early 2000’s well-equipped 5 series.  The subtle styling, classic understated front fascia coupled with the slightly aggressive quad exhaust tips make this thing fly under the radar unless you have a keen eye for an M badge.  This particular model had upgraded headlights from the later 2001 and up M5’s, which make a world of difference in giving the front end a more modern look.  The stance, the body lines, everything is as you’ve seen in the pictures, awe-inspiring class mixed with subtle hints that say “I mean business”

The drive is hard to pin down.  On one hand, you are driving a 16 year old car that some could call outdated, but most would see as simply worn down.  On the other hand, in all the important ways it is still very much an M5 and unequivocally deserving of the name.  The interior may be a little worse for wear in some spots, but the engine is so eager to get going, and the shifts, to use a cliché, like a well-oiled bolt-action rifle, that you quickly forget that the cupholders have seen better days.  Thanks to near 400 hp, acceleration is still kick-you-in-the-pants fast, and the ride is sublime despite some additional rattles due to age.  You get a sense that this car is still holding on to the glory days, yearning for a new owner to clean it up a bit and show it a little TLC.

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We came away in awe of the tire-munching machine and how well it has aged.  After all of these years never having driven what many consider to be the auto epitome of class/badass, we can safely say it was far from a let-down.  Often the hype misleads everyone and the cars have a tough time living up to the excessive praise of reviews and publications, but this tired M5 showed so much life, one could only dream about what it was like new.  It’s safe to say that this generation of M5 has made the list of performance bargain cars considering that near-mint examples can be had for under $25k.  It is hard to find something that will excite a real driver this much and still be able to pull up to the Four Seasons and not look out of place, the M5 is still that car, and imitators are still playing catch up.

A big thanks to 777 Auto in Weymouth, MA and Svetlin for letting us test drive this car.  Their selection of fun European autos is sizeable and their pricing reasonable, definitely check them out.

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