Quick Drive: 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T/X Baja Series


Just a few weeks ago, we covered the intro of the T/X Baja Series package from Toyota at the State Fair of Texas. We even did of a black-on-red TRD Baja Series that’s become quite popular for a lot of Tacoma and off-road fans. 

There’s no question there’s been a healthy dose of adrenaline shot into several pickup truck segments recently. Truck makers seem to want to do a better job of showing off their 4×4 credentials. No matter what you think of the Raptor or Ram Runner, they’re getting attention everywhere they’re seen. Maybe that’s why Toyota has decided to jump (actually, more of a dipping of the toe) into the marketplace with its Baja Series Tacoma.  

So when we saw that Toyota brought a black-on-black Baja Series Tacoma to the Texas Auto Writers Association Texas Truck Rodeo, we knew we had to get as much seat time as possible. 

The Baja Series is an add-on package on top of Tacoma’s TRD package that replaces the factory TRD shocks with Bilstein dual-reservoir shocks in the back and longer coils and Bilstein shocks up front. The extra height in front gives the truck a nice even look, with a good chunk of traction help from 265/70R16 BFGoodrich tires and unique beadlock-style rims. 

Toyota is likely to produce only about 1,000 of the pickups in both Access and Double Cab configurations starting in May, said Richard Bame, national marketing manager for all Toyota trucks. Toyota will assess the project at the end of 2013 and figure what’s next. 

The add-on package is installed at the factory, but all T/X Baja Series Tacomas do have to exit the main production line to have the front and rear shocks, front springs, wheels and tires installed on the truck.

Although final pricing has not been set, Bame believes the kit itself would add only about $4,000 to the total cost of the truck. (Remember that TRD Tacomas already come reasonably well equipped.) So he expects Access Cab models to be about $33,000 and Double Cab models $35,000. 

“Our thought was not to do something as drastic, engineering-wise, as the Raptor,” Bame said, “but we still knew we could do something pretty special at a much more economical price point.” 

Outside, the Baja Tacoma looks almost stealthy, unless you really look closely at the inside of the fenderwells. But the beauty of the ride, as you might expect, is at higher speeds on rough dirt roads. Thankfully, the ranch where the TAWA Truck Rodeo is held had plenty of ranch two-tracks. 

Clearly, the Bilstein shocks are tuned to absorb large amounts of energy and dissipate heat quickly, which means they don’t provide much cushion at slower speeds. Below 40 mph, you can expect the ride to be firm with occasional discomfort. Much will depend on the types of roads you have to navigate.  However, at higher speeds, around 45 mph, we found that’s where the shocks work best. At that point, you can start hitting berms and rocks and feel like you’re floating over obstacles. Cornering control is also solid as the front-end coils are longer and quicker to absorb what you think are going to be hard hits, limiting the front tires from leaving the ground when you might expect them to launch.  

If the shocks have a weakness, it’s that they don’t seem able to bypass enough oil fast enough to allow for a more comfortable slow-go feel. As a result, you’ll find yourself wanting to crawl a little faster when in 4×4 low range so you can generate a little more energy to hit that rock or logclimb. Also, unless you’re running long distances over long periods of time, you’re likely not going to reap the full benefits of the shocks’ true capabilities. But they do look cool. Lastly, we wish there was some kind of in-cab adjustability for the rear shocks (maybe the fronts, too), since that’s where most of the stiffness comes from. It might even help with load carrying and some towing as well.  

Still, given the fact the TRD package sets up the Tacoma with the transfer case, locking rear differential, skid plating, A-TRAC, hill decent control, tow hooks and more, the added shock performance just widens the truck’s extreme capabilities. We didn’t have any chance to do any back-to-back testing, but our guess would be that if you had a stock TRD and a Baja Series running over the same course for timed runs, the Baja Series would likely be a touch faster because of its added abilities in keeping the front wheels under control and on the ground. 

Bame told us there would be a team, the Long Beach Racers, that will enter the Baja 1000 in November.  If that doesn’t act as the most brutal proving ground for Toyota (didn’t the Raptor do the same thing?), then nothing will. We’ll make sure to follow and report about how they (or if they) survived. 



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