The market for small pickup trucks is getting smaller with the death of the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota. Meanwhile, the market for seriously off-road capable compact pickups stands at one, thanks to the recent release of the special edition 2012 Toyota Tacoma T|X Baja Series.
As the name suggests the T|X Baja is inspired by the Baja 500 and 1000 desert races, in which Toyota's Toyota Racing Development (TRD) wing been quite successful. Fittingly, TRD has tweaked the 2012 Tacoma to make it more of an off-road warrior, and tossed in a few visual upgrades to make it look the part.
Baja Series trucks are based on standard Tacoma four-wheel-drive models equipped with the existing TRD Off-Road package. Available in both Access (i.e. extended) and Double (i.e. crew) Cab forms, Baja trucks are available only with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, along with either a six-speed manual (a new addition for the 2012 Tacoma lineup) or a five-speed automatic. The TRD package also adds an electronically locking rear differential, hill-start assist, and a brake-based downhill speed control.
The T|X Baja adds a few new components designed to increase suspension travel. Up front, the truck receives 60mm Bilstein race shocks and TRD-tuned coil springs up front. In back, the Baja truck uses 50 mm Bilstein dampers with a remote oil reservoir. Toyota says the front suspension travel is an inch greater than stock, while the rear suspension can articulate by an extra inch and a half. Cosmetic upgrades include special 16-inch gunmetal wheels with BF Goodrich tires, a TRD-crafted cat-back exhaust system, and special Baja Series graphics along the length of the pickup bed.
Why unveil the T|X Baja in Texas? Toyota says the launch commemorates the fact that the truck -- like all 2012 Tacomas -- will be built within Toyota's assembly plant in San Antonio. Expect the special-edition truck to arrive in showrooms in spring 2012. Pricing has yet to be announced for the package.