In Southern California, Toyota Tacomas are everywhere. Driving into work, we often see all generations of the compact/midsize wearing the Tacoma badge (which was introduced in 1995) on the road, and a surprisingly high number of these trucks are from back when they were simply called Pickup. Small Toyota trucks are a vital part of the automotive scenery in Los Angeles. So when Toyota introduced the TRD T|X Baja Series limited edition, which looks and sounds very different from the standard Tacoma, we were eager to try one out.

For 2011, Toyota introduced the T|X line of packages for the Tacoma. (T|X stands for Tacoma Extreme, and was inspired by trucks Toyota built for the SEMA show.) This low-volume line includes styling and performance features packaged to cost less than buying each item separately. The Baja Series is the newest member of the T|X line, named for Toyota's decades of racing history at the Baja 500 and 1000. The Baja offers the 4.0-liter V-6 backed by either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, as an Access Cab or Double Cab. Our tester, a preproduction model, was a Double Cab automatic.

It comes standard with the TRD Off-Road package, which includes hill-start assist, downhill assist, traction control, and an electronic rear-locking diff. That package is available on other trucks, but there are plenty of other features that separate the Baja Series from the rest of the Tacoma flock. The Baja is shod with BFGoodrich T/A KO tires on 16-inch gunmetal gray beadlock-style wheels. In front, the suspension uses 60mm Bilstein race shocks and TRD coil springs; 50mm remote-reservoir race Bilsteins grace the rear. Ride height is up by nearly 2 inches, and wheel travel is up by 1 inch in front and 1.5 in the rear. On the performance side, Toyota added a TRD cat-back exhaust and, as you can see here, flat-black graphics seen only on the Baja Series.

This truck weighs more than the four-wheel-drive 2012 Tacoma we tested earlier this year, so the Baja's 7.6-second 0-60 time is 0.2 second slower than the standard model's, despite the different exhaust. What the TRD system gives the truck is much better response off the line and better acceleration at speed. It also adds an exhaust note that is louder than in the regular unit, but we quickly got used to it. The added liveliness in acceleration made it easier to tolerate a five-speed automatic that's far from being the fastest-shifting transmission out there.

Ride feels slightly firmer than in other Tacomas, and at low speed and when going over dips, there is a slight shimmy in back, due to the suspension changes. The truck sits taller than a non-Baja model, and there's a little more tire noise, but otherwise it offers a good balance between perfectly good daily driver and impressive off-roader. The interior is essentially the same as in other Tacomas, and includes the Entune infotainment system. One gripe: You have to press the Apps button and then Map to get the map on the screen. It should be easier to access than that.

Most people who saw this truck liked its appearance. Tacomas look good lifted and with a bigger wheel and tire package. Add the Baja graphics and beadlock wheels, as well the more aggressive 2012 front end, and you get aftermarket style with the Toyota warranty. It seems a great value for the money, and those who love adding aftermarket touches wouldn't have to do much. Our wish list? Flat red paint and flat black wheels to match the graphics. Maybe Toyota could come up with a special edition of this special edition.


2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series
Base price $34,000 (TT est)
Price as tested $35,000 (TT est)
Layout Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
Engine 4.0L/236-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 127.4 in
Length x width x height 208.1 x 74.6 x 70.3 in
Curb weight (F/R dist) 4374 lb (56/44%)
GVWR 5500 lb
Payload capacity 1126 lb
Max towing capacity 3500 lb
0-60 MPH 7.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 MPH 139 ft
EPA city/hwy fuel economy 17/21 mpg
As-tested fuel economy 14.8 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.04 lb/mi
On sale in U.S. June 2012 (est)