Off-road driving enthusiasts have never had a hard time finding vehicles that can tackle just about any terrain, but these trucks required customization that usually cost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, voided factory warranties. Fortunately, a growing number of automakers have begun building trail-ready trucks straight from the assembly line, and the latest such vehicle is the 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition. The Toyota Tacoma is far from a newbie when it comes to off-roading, but the new T|X Baja kicks things up a notch with a beefed-up suspension, performance upgrades and, of course, a few styling changes. The TRD T|X Baja Series package was officially introduced at the 2011 (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas and it won't go on sale until late spring, but we recently had the chance to get down and dirty with this new Tacoma model in some pretty challenging Texas terrain.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition First Drive Review
No assembly required
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition First Drive Review
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series: Pricing and Trim Levels
Like all Tacoma models, the 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition will be assembled in San Antonio, Texas, and although official package pricing has yet to be announced, we would expect it to add somewhere between $5,000 to $7,000 to the overall cost of the truck considering the TRD Off-Road Package includes some similar features and ranges from $4,210 up to $5,645. The TRD T|X Baja package will be offered on the Tacoma Access Cab 4x4 and Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 models for now, but there is a possibility that it could be added to the two-wheel drive Tacoma PreRunner. As for the "Limited Edition" part of this truck's extremely long name, Toyota has not announced any specific availability for the T|X Baja, so it isn't clear whether or not production will actually be limited to a certain number of units. Aside from this specific package, the 2012 Tacoma comes in three body styles, two bed lengths and 11 possible build configurations, and in a time when mid-size pickups are dropping faster than body-on-frame SUVs, that added choice for buyers bodes quite well for Toyota.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Competition
With the 2012 Toyota Tacoma positioned in the shrinking mid-size pickup truck market, the TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition model will compete directly against some of the more rugged offerings in the segment like the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X and Chevrolet Colorado Z71, but, to some extent, it should also be considered against more serious off-road trucks such as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, RAM 2500 Power Wagon and even the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. No, the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series isn't a street-legal trophy truck like the Raptor, but for those not fortunate enough to live near a desert that can allow high-speed off-roading, the Tacoma's relatively compact size is a great selling point with an overall width slightly wider than a Wrangler and about a foot narrower than a Raptor.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Exterior
Four-wheel drive Tacomas are already rugged-looking trucks, but the 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition gets a more distinguishable appearance with a taller ride height, unique body graphics and exclusive wheels and tires. On this black model we drove, the matte gray body graphics were very subtle, but on other colors, such as the Barcelona Red Tacoma that Toyota had on display at the 2011 SEMA Show, the graphics really stand out.. even more so than the Raptor's "digital mud." The main decal is mostly on the bed but bleeds over into the cab while a smaller logo at the back of the bed near the taillights indicates that it is the TX Baja Series and TRD model. Visually, the best part of the T|X Baja package are the 16-inch, gun-metal gray wheels and meaty BF Goodrich T/A KO LT265/70R16 tires.
Aside from this package, all 2012 Toyota Tacoma models received a noticeable styling update focused on the front of the truck. New headlights and grille design give the 2012 Tacoma a more menacing face, while the hood and front fascia have also been revised to finish off the relatively minor styling change on a model that should be set for a redesign soon (the current Tacoma design was introduced in 2005).
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Interior
Like the exterior, all 2012 Toyota Tacoma models got a slight update which helped improve the styling as well as toss in some much-needed cabin technology. A new steering wheel, instrument gauge cluster and an updated center stack all give the Tacoma's cabin a fresher look. Some of the other off-road 2012 Toyota Tacoma models (T|X Pro package and a TRD Off-Road Package) offer a new water-resistant fabric on the seats, but the prototype version of the TRD T|X Baja Series we drove seemed to have just cloth seats (although it would be hard imagine Toyota not offering this fabric on this truck). The big news for the 2012 Tacoma Double Cab is that it will now offer the Toyota Entune system as a part of an optional navigation/JBL Audio infotainment system. Entune allows drivers to connect to and access various apps through their smartphones, and so far this system can connect with iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Although the 2012 Toyota Tacoma offers a standard 2.7-liter inline-four engine, the TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition will only come on models with the 4.0-liter DOHC V-6 under the hood, but buyers will still have the choice of either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. In base form, this V-6 produces 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, but Toyota Racing Development (TRD) got involved and included a free-flowing cat-back exhaust system. No word on if this will affect the power output or the fuel economy, but the Tacoma V-6 4x4 has EPA fuel economy estimates of up to 16 miles per gallon in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and a rating of 18 mpg in combined driving.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Driving Impressions
Our time spent with the 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition consisted of spending a couple days blasting the truck through some wide-open two-tracks as well as through moderately challenging rock crawling areas. The most unique part of this package are the Bilstein race shocks which help optimize the Tacoma's abilities just about any terrain. Up front, the shocks add TRD coil springs and have an increased wheel travel of one inch, while the rear shocks get remote oil reservoirs and an added wheel travel of 1.5 inches; while this is nothing like the wheel travel that the Power Wagon, Rubicon and Raptor are capable of. For improved off-road driving, the T|X Baja package also includes an electronic locking rear differential, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). The improvements made to the Tacoma's suspension were definitely focused on the off-roading aspect of the truck, so buyers looking for a casual pickup truck may want to stick to some of the tamer Tacoma models.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Final Thoughts
Toyota's focus on building fuel-efficient family vehicles goes without saying, but the rugged 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition proves that it hasn't entirely forgotten about enthusiasts either. Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the Tacoma T|X Baja's ability to tackle just about any terrain ranging from high-speed desert driving to abusive rock crawling and just about everything else in between. The 2012 Tacoma is already offered with a T|X Pro package and a TRD Off-Road Package, but the TRD T|X Baja Series is a range-topping off-road package that helps the Tacoma feel more stable in higher speed off-roading compared to a Wrangler Unlimited and more manageable in close-quarters trail driving better than the super-wide Raptor. The Toyota Tacoma and the closely related Toyota Hilux are known for being one of the best off-road vehicles around the globe, and the addition of this new package to the 2012 Tacoma should only help to solidify this reputation even further.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series Limited Edition: Pros and Cons
- excellent off-road capabilities straight from the assembly line
- rugged looks match the truck's abilities
- Tacoma adds Entune for 2012
- not for the casual pickup buyer
- aging exterior design
Toyota provided the vehicle for this review.
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
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