By on September 21, 2012

Toyota trucks have long been the staple of practical truck shoppers, young shoppers looking for a cooler first ride, off-roaders and just about every rebel militia. What’s a company like Toyota do to keep sales of the 8-year-old truck going? Special editions of course. Despite the higher profits, Toyota decided to skip the “freedom fighter” edition with bench seating for 8 in the bed and a .50 caliber machine gun on the roof in favor of an off-the-rack off-roader. Thus the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition was born. In case you are wondering, T|X stands for Tacoma Xtreme. You know, because it is way cooler to spell extreme without an “e.”

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Exterior

The Tacoma has been with us for a long time and there’s little disguising that despite the periodic face lifts. Still, in the truck world this isn’t really a problem as styles change slowly and long product cycles are the more the rule than the exception. Despite a 2009 refresh, the most common comment I received from friends during my week with the Tacoma was:  “I didn’t know you had an old truck.” Xtreme? Not so much. While Toyota still offers a regular cab Tacoma for $17,525, the Baja Edition is only offered in with a “Double Cab” or “Access Cab.” Color options are limited to black or red for 2012.

Interior

The last time we looked at the Tacoma’s cabin, a common complaint was the car-like interior. The basics of that interior are still with us, but Toyota swapped in a chunky steering wheel, shiny metal bling and rubber flooring to butch-up our Baja. Compared to the current Nissan Frontier and Chevy Colorado, the Tacoma is a more comfortable place to spend your time and the cabin looks less dated as well. Despite the car-like shapes and Toyota sedan door handles, my forum trolling indicates the interior holds up well to abuse. While the cabin is far from Xtreme, I don’t have a problem with car cabins in trucks.

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Infotainment

All Tacoma models (including the base model) come standard with Toyota’s snazzy 6.1-inch “Display Audio” system. The touch-screen head unit is easy to use and allows full control of your USB/iDevice as well as Bluetooth audio streaming and Bluetooth speakerphone integration. The audio quality from the base speaker package is merely average, if you care about your tunes upgrade to the JBL system. Toyota’s Entune software is available as an option and enables smartphone integrated apps like iHeartRadio and Bing. Also available is a $1,930 package that combines Entune, the optional navigation software, JBL speakers, XM/HD radio and a subwoofer.

While systems like MyFord Touch, or even Toyota’s own higher end nav systems use Sirius or XM satellite radio to deliver data content, the Display Audio system pulls the information off the internet using your smartphone and data plan. As a result, there’s no need for an XM or Sirius subscription. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able OpenTable.com whileyou roll. Is a well balanced JBL system with smartphone love Xtreme? For this segment it sure is.

Drivetrain & Off-Road Enhancements

The Tacoma’s base engine is a 2.7L four-cylinder engine good for 159HPand 180lb-ft of twist. In order to get the Baja Package you have to step up to the optional 4.0L V6 which produces 236HP at 5,200RPM and 266lb-ft of at 4,000RPM. (And check that 4×4 option box as well.) While the 2.7L is still saddled with Toyota’s old four-speed auto or five-speed manual, the V6 gets a newer five-speed auto or six-speed manual. The Baja uses a traditional two-range transfer case (read: part-time 4WD) and both a “real” locking rear differential and a brake-actuated limited-slip rear differential just like the regular 4X4 Tacoma. The lack of driveline differentiation makes sense as the Baja is built on the San Antonio assembly line, then over to the Toyota Logistical Services building (on-site) where a team disassembles the Tacoma suspension and reassembles it with the Baja bits. By hand.

Compared to the Ford Raptor, Toyota’s changes to the Tacoma donor truck are less “Xtreme” with all the changes working within the stock suspension design as much as possible. For instance, despite going from 8.5 to 9.25 inches, front wheel travel is limited by the the upper A-arm design which is retained from the stock Tacoma. The enormous 60mm Bilstein shocks (originally designed for motor home use) will support more travel should a buyer decide to swap out the A-arm for an aftermarket unit. The Baja receives new springs all the way around for two-inch bump in height and rear suspension travel is increased from 8.5 to 10 inches. To help in cooling and performance, the rear shocks are upgraded to 50mm units that sport a remote reservoir.

The Baja edition also sports a TRD cat-back exhaust, some crazy side graphics and unique 16-inch wheels shod with 265-width BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. As you would expect, all the usual TRD off-road gear is included in the Baja package from skid plates up front to a 400-watt AC power inverter integrated into the truck bed.

Drive

If you’re looking for a head-to-head Baja vs Raptor comparison, you clicked on the wrong review. The Raptor is a different animal entirely and it’s just not a fair comparison to the Baja. The Ford is bigger, heavier, more powerful, faster, more expensive, and plays to a different audience.

On the road the Baja is surprisingly civilized for an off-road tuned vehicle. If you ever needed a reason to select the “factory” off-road truck instead of DIY modding, on-asphalt manners are that reason. Aside from the drone of the TRD cat-back exhaust, the Tacoma’s cabin is quiet, comfortable and a great place to be on a 5 hour road trip. However, it is out on the highway that Toyota’s V6 and 5-speed auto start to show their age. On the gently rolling hills of US-101 in California, the Baja’s lack of low end torque and tall 5th gear meant the transmission shifted frequently. The relatively low fourth gear combined with the cat-back drone spoiled an otherwise well behaved highway cruiser.

Off road, the Baja is a comfortable companion on the trail soaking up bumps without loosing composure. Like all trucks, the Baja is front heavy (56/44 % F/R) and is designed for load carrying in the bed. This combination of a light rear end and suspension designed for a load means that most trucks tend to get “squirrely” out back on washboard dirt roads at moderate speeds. The Baja on the other hand never broke a sweat thanks to the well-tuned Bilstein shocks and springs. The improved articulation of the suspension helped the Baja feel almost as sure-footed as the FJ Cruiser on the deeply rutted trails we encountered.

There are a few things that must be said. First off, pretty much nobody takes their brand-new, bone-stock anything to the off-road park and thrashes it. In our brand-new, bright-red Toyota pickup, all eyes at the SVRA were upon us as we bottomed out on a concrete pipe. They probably went home and told stories about the crazy dude in the new truck. Second, even in Baja trim the Tacoma’s approach/departure/break-over angles take a back seat to the FJ Cruiser and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Third, Toyota does not offer a locking front differential. I didn’t think the diff deficit would be too big of an issue until we were on tight switch-back turns at Hollister Hills where the large 40-foot turning circle (44 in the long bed) meant I was off the trail more than I was on it. If the Baja had a locking or limited slip diff up front, I wouldn’t have had to constantly resort to the hundred-point-turn to navigate some of the trickier descents. Despite these shortcomings, the Baja is “light” at 4,300lbs, some 900lbs lighter than a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a whopping 1,700lbs lighter than the Ford Raptor. Depending on the type of off-roading you plan on tackling, this lighter curb weight has some serious advantages.

Pricing is where the T|X Baja Edition shines. The base Access Cab model with the 6-speed manual transmission starts at $32,990 and our fully loaded four-door model with the automatic transmission and navigation rang in at $39,150. The observant in the crowd will notice two things, the Baja package costs $4,365 more than a truck without it, but more importantly (and quite strangely) it is cheaper than the Tacoma with the less rugged TRD off-road package. Go figure. While this is much cheaper than the Raptor which ranges from $42,975 to $53,000, it is strangely more expensive than the more capable FJ Crusier which rings in at $37,400  with Toyota’s “trail-teams” off-road package. Toyota plans to make only 750 due to the production limitations in 2012 but has promised the Baja will return for the 2013 model year with some tweaked options. If you’re the kind of person that’s willing to take their new car off-road, the Baja is easily the most Xtreme capable new truck for the price. I’m just not sure I’d take my shiny new truck too far off the beaten path.

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 7.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 87MPH

Average Economy: 17.5MPG over 1020 Miles

 

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30 Comments on “Review: 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition...”


  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Looks like some taggers hit it with a $2 aerosol can of paint.

    Hopefully you could remove that before you returned the truck.

  • avatar
    loj

    “Pricing is where the T|X Baja Edition shines…our fully loaded four-door model with the automatic transmission and navigation rang in at $39,150.”

    Wait, so by “shines” you mean “is completely insane”, right? Thirty-nine large for a compact truck with rubber mats? This is the real reason that nobody buys small trucks anymore – they cost the same as, often more than,their larger counterparts.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      +1

      Obviously nobody pays retail, but the last truck I bought was a nicely equipped 2008 4×4 Crew Cab Chevy 2500HD w/ Diesel, Automatic transmission, and miscellaneous other niceties, for which I paid, brand new, $37,000.

      For a 4×4 mini-truck? I would have expected low 20s.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I guess I just don’t “get” this truck. $39k buys you a lot of Jeep or a nicely-optioned domestic pickup, not to mention a whole swath of near-luxury vehicles. The combination of off-road prowess, a pickup bed, and compact size is unique, but how many people really want exactly that?

    Apparently, Toyota believes, 750.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I can’t even imagine how they’ll get 75 people to buy this overpriced mess. At this price I assumed the TRD supercharger AND a helicopter chase crew were included. $40K for a truck with only 266lbs of torque…. LOL.

  • avatar
    Silence_Dogood

    The TRD supercharger for the 4.0 might help this truck out with some of its shortcomings.
    I agree that the extremely vomitatious paintjob has got to go.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Since when is something 208 inches long and 75 inches wide considered “compact?”

    If someone made a truck that was actually compact, I’d line up to buy it. This thing is as big and unwieldy as a full-sizer was 25 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      They do make a truck that’s actually compact, it’s called the single cab Tacoma and you didn’t buy one. Neither does anybody else.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Sorry, that’s still not nearly “compact.” 190 inches long and 75 inches wide is about the size of a full-size sedan.

        A compact truck should be compact. As an example, the Nissan “Hardbody” regular cab, of which bajillions were sold, was 175 inches long and 65 inches wide. That’s a truck that would easily fit in an urban garage.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If you can’t fit a 190.4 inch truck in a standard garage, you probably shouldn’t be driving. The Tacoma’s three and a half inches shorter and, at 72.2 inches overall, an inch and a half narrower than a midsize car that I sometimes garage park. The shortest Nissan pickup is now 205.5 inches long, and even the cramped old Colorado is 2 inches longer in regular cab/short bed form.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Most garages in the city aren’t “standard.” They are all small — it just varies how much.

        I had one a few houses ago that fit my 183-inch Acura TSX with just a few inches to spare front and back. I recently saw one in a townhouse for sale that barely fit a Prius.

        And the surface parking spot at my last house only had about a foot to spare with my 196-inch G8 in it. The double-cab Tacoma would not have fit.

        I see the width of the Tacoma as 74.5 inches, not 72.2. Are you looking at the 2WD model?

        And… is it really that bad to want a small truck that’s actually small?

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I wish Toyota offered this package for the regular cab, 4cyl, 5 speed version of the Tacoma. Shorter wheelbase, lighter weight, and lower price makes for a better off-road oriented vehicle.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    I thought it looked like they were hauling something that spilled over the side.

    Oh, wait, silly me–haul something? IN a truck?!?!

    John

  • avatar
    ajla

    Why didn’t the Tacoma get the dual VVT-i version of the 4.0L like every other Toyota truck/SUV did?

  • avatar
    detlump

    I agree with the comments above, too expensive! This truck should top out at 30K. Just too many other options for that price tag. Plus, dealers are dealing.

    I am tempted to get a base Tacoma just to run errands, but it would be a 4 cyl, 5 speed.

    I do love that V6 though, the oil filter is accessible from above!

  • avatar
    jandrews

    Correction for the review: the truck does indeed have front limited slip. Its ABS actuated, its called A-TRAC and it works better than any clutch driven limited slip system ever did. While not as good as a true locker, in many situations it is equally effective.

    I don’t blame you for missing it…Toyota doesn’t play the feature up as much as they should, and you have to turn other on via a button in the dash…it only works in 4LO…but damn is it effective.

    Anyway, had you known about this, traction never would have been an issue. The rest of the review is accurate as far as capability goes.

  • avatar

    “266lb-ft of at 4,000RPM”

    It’s a shame this is the only option in the US. The rest of the world(even Nigeria) gets the 3.0 d4d diesel with the same torque at 1,300 rpm and 50% better fuel economy.

  • avatar
    david42

    Grand Cherokee weighs 5,200 lbs???

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    When I was looking for a new vehicle a couple of months ago, I narrowed it down to 2 choices- the ’12 4Runner and a ’12 Tacoma V6 Double Cab. I work at a Toyota dealership, hence that decision. I first drove the ‘Runner. Liked it, it fit my needs and for being a body on frame SUV, it drove well. Next up was the Tacoma. It actually drove well for a truck, but here’s the kicker; they both use the 1GRFE 4.0 V6…. but even by a ‘seat of the pants’ feel from a test drive, the Tacoma felt like it had less power, and it does. The Tacoma has 236, the 4Runner has 270. I’m not sure why it’s different, but the ‘Runner uses 0W20 synthetic oil and a ‘paper element’ oil filter, vs the Tacoma using conventional 5W30 oil and a spin on filter. Not sure why they’re different. Also what sealed the decision was the brakes. The Tacoma had a somewhat ‘mushy’ pedal feel and rear DRUMS. I just don’t trust drum brakes. The 4Runner did not exibit the mushy pedal and it modulates just fine… and it uses discs all around.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The 4Runner has an updated version of the 1GR-FE where the Tacoma is still running the old version that debuted in 2003. The updated engine got VVT on intake and exhaust cams where the old model was only on the intake. The Tacoma 1GR is a hair stronger on the bottom end, but the 4Runner 1GR is bloody brilliant if you wind it out. A body on frame SUV shouldn’t be that fast. The other changes were more fuel economy driven (roller rocker valvetrain with hydraulic lash adjusters instead of direct acting cam lobes on shim buckets, 0W-20 oil instead of 5W-30).

      I have a ’10 4Runner and my dad has a 6MT ’11 Tacoma. Despite having related engines, the character is totally different. The 4Runner feels much more laid back where the Tacoma always seems to be on-boil. I think this is throttle tuning plus the 4Runner being a 5AT and the Taco being a 6MT. I think the Taco is more fun to drive but the 4Runner is much bigger inside and a better vehicle for a family man like myself. Can’t go wrong with either.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Forty grand for a compact truck… you have to be INSANE to pay that, given that with rebates most half tons can be had for much less. There’s is nothing about a Tacoma that would make me want to trade a Ram, Ford, or GM for one, unless I was really concerned about fitting into a tiny parking space.

    Only the cheap-o 20 grand 4 banger Tacos are a bargain. Throw an OME suspension on one and some good tires and you have a decent rock crawler for less than 25 grand, new. And the light weight means you won’t get bogged down. The 4 banger is also less likely to grenade Toyota’s brittle differentials.

    Skip the crap 6MT. It has car-like clutch travel (which is agony off road) and no hill-holder option. Toyota also has yet to fix the throwout bearing after a decade of making the friggin thing, and continues to blame customers for getting water into the cases if one does break.

    If you’re used to legendary Toyota quality, also be in for a disappointment. Modern Toyota 4x4s are made of cheap plastic inside and out and in no way would outlast an 80′s or 90′s era ‘yota p/u, despite dealer claims that if you just change the oil yours will last 250k–a BS claim they use to explain why a compact pickup costs as much as the aforementioned half tons.

    …or skip the drama and get a Trail 4Runner for about 37k. It’s a newer truck, more solidly built, and almost seems like it’s worth the money.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      “If you’re used to legendary Toyota quality, also be in for a disappointment. Modern Toyota 4x4s SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES are made of cheap plastic inside and out and in no way would outlast an 80′s or 90′s era ‘yota”

      There, fixed it for you. I’m in Afghanistan and have the distinct priviledge of driving a brand new HZJ78 Land Cruiser. I also get to roll in the pick up version of the same truck. It will likely still be rolling around Kandahar when the next country decides to invade this place.

      Offroad rigs are built, not bought anyway. This is a truck for the “chrome 4×4″ crowd. Why not just buy a stripped model with 4×4 and build it?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    This truck is just another indicator of how the market for small pickups is becoming more of a niche rather than mainstream, and that’s quite sad.

    With the discontinuance of the Ranger, Toyota has this market segment virtually entirely to themselves, which means there is going to be very little substantial changes to the product, other than occasional cosmetic updates. But since they’re the only game in town, well, they really don’t have to do anything else.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    This TRD version of the Taco serves a niche within a niche segment. More than half will be bought by posers who do some soft-roading as opposed to off-roading.

    x 3 on what FJ60LandCruiser said. A 2.7L extended cab with a 5 speed and some Old Man Emu upgrades would more than suffice for my needs. I prefer BLM / Forest Service roads to Jeep CJ trails.

    If you need a family hauler, then definitely pony up for the 4 Runner.

    Dereck – that nice bed liner is the cargo bed, which is made of composite plastic. Also, the synched-style infotainment center is big selling point for folks in their thirties – most of whom in my part of town will not buy a new vehicle that doesn’t have blue-tooth built in.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Bottom line, if you want a serious 4×4 and you need to haul your family around you had better learn to wrench because unless a Jeep works for you it is going to be well used. Hence my avatar.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Pssst. You’re gonna need 10 gallons of GoofOff to get the spilled tar off the back of Toyota’s truck.

    What?

    On purpose?

    Oh.

    Nevermind.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    April fools right? Nearly 40 large for this TRD-turd that looks like it was vandalized by a black can of spray paint. Just one pull of the door handle on one of these yesterday convinced us that Yota has cheapened there vehicles to a point of non recommendation. A test drive cemented that point. The 4.0 liter 236 HP sounds and feels as old as it is. It’s low 16/19 MPG figures further re-enforce that coupled to dated 4 and 5 speed transmissions. The drum brakes and resulting soggy pedal take me back to the 90′s. If that isn’t bad enough the pile upon piles of rotted out rusty frames behind every Toyota dealership send a shiver down my spine every time I see one of these on the open road hauling anything in the bed. 39 grand will buy a lot of Ford/Chevy/Dodge 4X4 truck with spare change over for real modifications and far more room than this antiquated overpriced trunk.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    I really like this truck. Just not enough to pony up almost 40 grand. Guess my 91 S10 with God knows how many miles will just have to keep on trucking.

    Count me as one of those who laments the passing of the compact pickup. The S10 isn’t one so far as I am concerned. A parade of Datsuns/Nissans that served me well cannot be replaced today so far as I can see.


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