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

Taco Baja Action II
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 a video walk-around 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 4x4 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. 

Taco Baja shocks II
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 4x4 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. 

Tacoma Baja II



The TRD shocks are stiff enough, on my 2001 Double cab 4x4 I took the Bilstiens off and installed some Rancho's and made the ride nicer on and off road. My 2001 came with the same size tires, 265/70R16 BFGoodrich tires , so that has not been upgraded in 10 years. This truck could run 285's with out any lift, not sure why they do not have them standard on this truck instead of the same tires as a standard 4x4 Taco....

A $4,000.00 shock and tire upgrade with some cute decals for good measure. What a joke!


Can the Taco enter the under $30k shootout?

I am going to wait for the trolls come out and start messing with this thread.

From what Bame told me, the $4000 would cover the stronger shocks up front, the duals in back, the rims, the longer/stronger front springs, and they're not finalled on the graphics yet. If you had to spec it all out individually, pretty sure it would be more than $4K. And if you want the supercharger installed, that's another $4K. And you're still nowhere near the expense of a Raptor or Ram Runner.

Don't worry, this isn't a Ford article, so most foaming-at-the-mouth trolls won't even post. No, expect to read oxi declare how great the Taco is, but how his Taco is the king of offroad trucks with the skid plates that are so thick it would protect the truck from IEDs, approach and departure angles the world has never seen, and the shock mounts that don't hang down below the axle!

As for this package, it is nice, but $4k for shocks and longer coils is absurd. Any DIY guy could get similar results for a fraction of the price.

$32,700 sticker for the base TRD double cab, $4,000 for the Baja kit, $4,000 for the supercharger, $6-800 to install it. $41,000 and change.

Nowhere near as expensive as a Raptor? A base Raptor is $43,500.

@Dan - you forget, according to Oxi this is a real truck, not a tank like the raptor/powerwagon so obviously for $41k it's a steal!

^^^^ Good point Dan, nowhere near as capable either

Needs bigger mud flaps...what are they 2" off the ground.
first time off road they would be littering the trail.

I know why they build these, but I assume most readers and commenters here will go aftermarket on a base TRD 4x4 or even an SR5 4x4.

For about 5-6K, you can do bumpers, winch, rails, more skids, 3" lift/suspension and 285s (a bit more if installed by decent shop, though).

Mildly lifted 2nd-gen tacomas - meaning those with something like 5100's set to 2.5" and maybe an add-a-leaf out back - suffer from a driveline vibration that is very noticeable on-road at about 35-45mph. It's an oscillating hum felt in the steering wheel and pedals. Mine has this problem as do many others on the tacoma forums. I wonder if this factory-lifted tacoma suffers from this and, if not, how did they cure it?

I think I'd prefer some OME coils and leaves, along with some 255/85's... on steelies.
@Jack- well, I think they didn't lift it quite that far. Think the front is about 1.5", no lift in the rear, maybe an inch. Its a very fine line in ride height between "no problem" and "hmm, didn't see that coming". Not sure how much research you've done, but there's a lot of front diff lowering going around, though I doubt the vibes a re coming from there. Mostly its done to adress CV boot wear. The rear may require a little playing with pinion angle. On my 4Runner all the driveline vibes went away when I bolted up some old, crusty Superswampers.

35k for a Tacoma or 42K for a Raptor? Decisions/Decisions!

Who said their wasnt going to be more trolls on on a story about a Japanese brand American made pickup over a domestic brand where the nationalistic people and hillbillies meet. Lets be honest about all the rivalries on here their is the Ford vs GM the Ford vs Toyota the Everybody VS Ridgeline and my personal fav and yours too the Everybody vs Toyota and then for some reason I dont get their is the Big 3 I feel sorry for nissan and I hope they get it together this is what they need to do to get it together because they are so much better than Toyota club. Lets be honest their will never be more trolls on a story about a pickup than a story about a Toyota pickup.

I can't wait for the Baja Series this November.

@5.3 LOL - agreed.

@Oxymoron - agreed.
4,000 for what amounts to a leveling kit and better shocks.

It is interesting how Mark Williams pointed out that they were too stiff below 45 mph. That tells me these shocks are not dialed in properly. You want controled damping throughout suspension travel not just when you hit something hard or fast or both.

I agree with Mark Williams - what about adjustible suspension?
I would not go with "infinitely adjustable" suspension. That means there is an infinite number of ways for people to screw it up.
How about 4- 6 standard settings?
It is common practice with Euro sports cars and even Euro SUV's.

No matter what you do to that thing it's still a Taco...
Hey Tacoma 4X4 dude...for 5 -6k more you can have a real truck!

This truck is just UGLY !!! Tacoma has to be tied with the Ridgeline for looks,both are ugly,ugly and ugly !!!

@5.3LOL - I have to agree, But there's just something annoying about Toyota's emblem that get's people going.


You're right...A TUNDRA!!!!!!!

@Tacoma Washington

Sorry buddy but nothing beats the Dakota and its Bubba Gump fat lip front bumper for the Fugly award.

So I wonder how many monster kmk srh gnar sick bros will buy this model and destroy it in the desert. James will probably be one of the first.

Looks like a decent truck (hey, it's got hill decent (sic) control!), but I bet it rides like a hay wagon.

It seems like a real lack of effort to me. But if they only plan on building 1000 why invest any real engineering effort. they probably just found an off the shelf solution that would bolt on easy. Mark it way up to make a quick buck and there you go.

"$32,700 sticker for the base TRD double cab, $4,000 for the Baja kit, $4,000 for the supercharger, $6-800 to install it. $41,000 and change.

Nowhere near as expensive as a Raptor? A base Raptor is $43,500." -Dan

Your are missing one key element. A unique specialty model, such as the Ford F-150 S.V.T. Raptor or a professionally prepared Ram Runner, will retain it's value a whole lot better than a run of the mill, dime-a-dozen, Toyota Tacoma 4X4 TRD T/X Baja. Just a fact.


How many times have I agrgued NEVER buy the stickered no matter what brand pickups!

TRD, FX4, ZR2, etc...

I have NEVER bought one of those models. I always bought as close to stripped as I could and drive it around a while to figure opportunities and then build it up properly and not what some factory dudes think you should have!

I run OME struts up front with 886 coils that jack the front up 2.5 inches even with a heavier bumper and steel skid plates!

I decided to run custom Deavers in the rear to increase payload over the factory 3 spring system and basic Bilsteins in the rear...

The local shop that helps me with projects that also builds and races short course off-road racing trucks (Chevy's) was impressed after the suspension was completed on how well it was handling.

It handles much better than I anticipated and yes, no vibration issues because I limited my rear spring arch to only go up about 1.5 inches and not disturb the driveline much if at all...

I am not even at the stock price of this new Tacoma with all of my mods yet mine is pretty capable maybe not as good at speed though as the new Tacoma...

Lesson: buy close to stock and build it up yourself!

This pickup will be great like the Raptor and Powerwagon for the lazy society that wants turn key options. Yes their is a market for this and the OEM's are tapping into it...


"It is interesting how Mark Williams pointed out that they were too stiff below 45 mph. That tells me these shocks are not dialed in properly. You want controled damping throughout suspension travel not just when you hit something hard or fast or both."

In the world of off-roading you seek capabilities off-road more and less on road...

What that means is sacrificing some comfort on-road for better capabilities off-road!

A true off-road vehicle will bounce around town and seem otherwise a horrible ride YET when it enters the off-highway arena it performs like anticipated...

I would rather have a stiffer front as an example that gives me predictable control rather than a mushy comfort ride that will show its ugly head off-road...

I sacrife some ride comfort to have predictable performace off-road and not the bouncy uncontrollable ride you get with cushy suspensions!

My stock as delivered Tacoma was too loose and cushy up front. I installed Bilstein 5100 adjustable shock up front that stiffened it up and it rode fine BUT predictible. I could hit railroad tracks and knew how it would respond vs. the cushy rides that are uncontrollable...

Unless you have some seious cash to have over 20 inches of wheel travel like desert trucks which are not practical as daily drivers, suck it up and be a man I would say...

The cushy rides are for suv's and older drivers that never go off-road!

I remember my old 86 Toyota. That was never a comfort ride on the street but it was one sweet off-roader!

Lesson: bouncy headlights at night at slower speeds, the mark of a true off-road vehicle!!!

@Buy American Or Say Bye To America!,

The base Raptor or Powerwagon weighs how much again?

Top 10 Used Overland Vehicles


"You will also notice that Toyotas dominate the top half of the list – well, that is because Toyotas do make the best used vehicle choice on the market"

#2: Toyota Tacoma (2001-2008) $10,000-25,000

"Both the Gen 1.5 and Gen 2 Tacomas are excellent vehicles and nearly match the mythical Hilux in all areas but payload and diesel power plant. These trucks are simple and effective, rewarding the adventure traveler with excellent value, reliability and good on-road comfort. They can be overloaded, overdriven, abused, rattled and frozen without protest."

"...In the world of off-roading you seek capabilities off-road more and less on road...

What that means is sacrificing some comfort on-road for better capabilities off-road!

A true off-road vehicle will bounce around town and seem otherwise a horrible ride YET when it enters the off-highway arena it performs like anticipated...

I would rather have a stiffer front as an example that gives me predictable control rather than a mushy comfort ride that will show its ugly head off-road...

I sacrife some ride comfort to have predictable performace off-road and not the bouncy uncontrollable ride you get with cushy suspensions!..." -oxi

That is exactly why independent front suspensions (4X4s) do not belong on pickups. Especially on heavy duty pickups. Solid-front axles all the way!

Oxi - are you really the George guy you say you are? Your posts keep us wondering.

Changing springs, shocks and bumpers would hardly be called "building" a 4x4. Especially if you have someone else do it for you. Plus, you completely ignore the fact that their are many types of "wheeling" that each require very different vehicle setups.

Yes, you are right, desert running (or any high-speed motorsports) will be setup with stiffer springs and shocks for high speed control. You will also have ladder bar type of setup to fight axle wrap and limit articulation.

If you are running slow speed uneven trails then you don't want that setup but you want a softer suspension and you may even remove sway bars so they don't limit your flex.

Now which one is a "real" 4x4 setup. Can you answer that?

@ Buy american - I do have to take issue with your solid front axles. They are superior in most situations with the exception being (once again), hi-speed running where an IFS provides better control. Which is better? Just depends what your trying to do. Your Powerwagon and a Raptor or Ramrunner are different animals and it's comparing apples to oranges

@toycrusher84 +1 sir.

and for all those oxi haters, yeah he can be exceptionally biased towards toyota, but i'd like to point out he has been doing a better job of backing himself up with facts rather than being like michigan bob, and just ranting off topic for days. so @oxi, +1 to you to sir.

@oxi - your whole suspesion setup theory is in the realm of old school "it ain't what really works" reality.

You need controlled damping. Read some of the stories about the Raptor. Funny. Most testers are surprised at how well it works on and off road.
There are multiple factors in setting up good suspension.
1. springs.
Their job is to carry wieght and allow for wheel travel.
Nothing Else.
That obviously becomes a compromise. The Raptor has less cargo capacity than a conventional F150. Stiffer springs interfere with wheel travel. Especially rapid wheel travel.
The Power Wagon rides rough but articualtes well over obstacles. Why? Stiff springs respond well to slow inputs.
Race trucks only need to carry the weight of the vehicle, fuel, tools, tires, and drivers. They can match the best spring combo to the truck.
2. Shocks or dampers.
The old orthodoxy of stiff is better is completely wrong.
On a narrow focused mx bke or race truck - maybe, but even there, those suspensions are only real stiff at the end of the suspension travel.
The first part of the travel is softer and progresively stiffens.
A stiff ride on a smooth surface usually means too much low speed compression damping and probably too much high speed damping as well.
In other words, an improperly set up suspension.
Variable rate damping is what is required.
Most MX bikes, and quality offroad bikes have low and high speed damping. Many also come with mid range damping. Another factor is rebound damping.
you need high speed damping for spikes to the suspension - rocks, roots, square edged lips are an example. Anything that cycles the suspesion rapidly is "high speed". Low speed damping are whoops, g-outs, rollers, hummocks etc. They cause slower wheel travel.
Rebound damping is just controlling how fast the wheel returns to its normal state. Remember - a spring stores energy and will want to return forcefully back to its neutral state. Not enough rebound damping (often happens when you mount stiffer springs) will cause bounce. Too much rebound damping and you get suspension "packing" or squating.

I've been playing with adjustable suspensions all my life. I have a buddy who is a suspension builder and tuner. I've learned all this on dirt bikes and high performance street bikes. You screw up the suspension on a truck - well, you get a sucky ride like what you describe.
You screw us suspension set up in the cycle world - you end up hurt or dead.
(unless you ride a cruiser - those things are a lost cause).


I.F.S. has it's place, indeed. For playing in high-speed desert situations or comfortable highway rides.

S.F.A. is suited for work. Abusive off-highway situations and for hauling & towing strength.

It all depends on what you plan to do with it. I prefer the strength and work aspects. That is why I would never trade my (love) Ram 2500 Power Wagon for (lust) an F-150 S.V.T. Raptor.

Yup Yup, all true. What we all tend to forget when we freak out at the $4,000 price tag of an off-road package is that you aren't just paying for the sum of the parts. What you are paying for is the time spent testing different spring / shock / tire combinations until they found the setup with the least trade-offs.
Trust me, money goes REALLY fast when you do your own R&D

Ahh yes the old solid front axle vs IFS!


Why is the U.S. military especially the U.S. Marines buying more IFS and fully-independent suspended tactical trucks?


They want to have a better survivability rate in the world of war!

IFS or fully independent heavy trucks are the future of the U.S. military and they do quite a bit of off-roading!

It's like the legacy solid axle MRAP's that keep getting stuck and breaking their axles in Afghanistan!


The M-ATV, a fully independent suspended vehicle based on the MTVR proven chassis that rarely gets stuck and can get in and out of hot zones faster than solid axle trucks!


Shannon won in an independent suspended vehicle in an arena that is dominated by solid axle types, the King of the Hammers!

So rims, tires, a shock with a resoviors that dont add much to the ride, and longer coils for $4000.. BWAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!

My 9 year old S10 ZR2 is just as good/bad as this overpriced piece of plastic. and it was 10K less than the price they are suggesting for this thing.

33K to 35K for a midsize.. a couple more grand and yoiu have a Raptor. Way too expensive for what it is..


Your old S-10 ZR2 is a fine pickup with some flaws:

Torsion bars up front let alone they are also mounted on the lower control arm...

Leaf springs are fine below the axle but at least tuck away the lower shock mounts. Makes having those nice stock tires such a waste when it comes to ground clearance...

Ford is without a doubt my personal choice for trucks, but I am in no way a Toyota hater. In fact I openly admit I know less about Toyota than any other brand. They aren't important to me in any way, good or bad. I have many times stated that full size trucks is all I will ever buy. I know Toyota makes a full size but to me it's not really a competitor in the full size market. Case in point, where was the Toyota in the 30k and under shootout? I'm not bashing by saying that. Do they have a model less than 30k, or were they not invited? I do remember hearing a lot about their V8 at one time but not so much anymore. Maybe I don't go to the right websites or read the right magazines. I'm sure some people have them and love them. I just don't happen to know anyone that owns anything but the smaller ones. They may very well be the best trucks built, but if so there are lots of people like me that haven't learned that yet. I wish the Tundra had been included in the shootout, and wish the entire competition hadn't been handicapped by the price. Like has been stated numerous times, who pays sticker? Also who buys strictly by sticker? I bet more people buy used to get the truck they want if they can't afford or don't want to pay the price of a new one, rather than spend 30K on something that's not what they really wanted. I would have loved to have seen a run what you brung 1/2 ton contest with all makes included, but with closer to max capacity hauling and towing test included. Anyone else want a half ton hurt locker? Heck, even do a mid size shootout like that when they are available. Even if the ranger isn't available if Ford doesn't sell it here oh well. There are plenty of other manufacturers to make it work, as a truck enthusiast I would still enjoy reading it.

Oops just reread the under 30K shootout. My bad, it was there. Had been a while since I read it and I obviously did a poor job retaining parts of it. Just reread the Toyota part much closer so I won't make the same mistake twice. My wish for an unrestricted test still stands though. Case i point, Ford V6's are outselling V8's in the trucks lately. Even though the 5.0 did rather well. I'm sure other brands could also bring much closer to what the readers/buyers would prefer to see/buy. Even from an enthusiast standpoint who had no plans to buy anytime soon, when they were ready to make that purchase, they would like to know how each brand's best stacked up. Hopefully they would retain it better than I did too.... But if it had been no holds barred, I bet my memory wouldn't have been so poor. I did remember the winner even though it wasn't my favorite however.


I would sure like to see a money no object, towards capability and not towards comfort/luxury, half-ton shootout. The best of the best. Haul with them, off-road them, and tow with them. Work attributes and not so much unloaded drag racing tests.

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