We can’t say that we’re really sorry the Mayan calendar thing didn’t pan out, but come the next apocalypse, we would opt for the 2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD Baja Edition.
Toyota is legendary for building great, strong, reliable trucks – just look at the used prices and you’ll find well-worn, high mileage models still going for big bucks. So when Toyota announced that they were going to build a Tacoma that was something special – more serious, more capable and even more fun – we knew it was something we had to test.
Well, it certainly is easy to pick out of a parking lot. This is one Tacoma that likes to stand out in a crowd. It sits tall and proud, with a 1.75-inch lift in the front, and nearly a half-inch higher at the rear. Our tester, a Double Cab standard bed in Barcelona Red Metallic with unique Baja side graphics looked tough and aggressive. Sitting on top of mammoth BFGoodrich T/A KO all-terrain tires with gunmetal grey16-inch TRD beadlock-style wheels, our Baja reminded us of Ford’s über-off-roader, the Raptor.
So we took it…on the freeway. OK, we did not have a chance to do anything like the challenging off-roading this Tacoma can handle. But we do have plenty of friends who do serious off-road, and the consensus is that the Tacoma (and actually, most Toyota 4x4’s) are impressively stout and capable even in the worst conditions.
The big, bad, Baja’s off-road equipment starts with the Tacoma’s TRD Off-Road Package including Bilstein shock absorbers, an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, Active Traction Control with Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control (sounds like they’re control freaks) and other off-road essentials like an engine skid plate, front tow hook plus a host of comfort and convenience items.
Step up (literally and figuratively) to the Baja, and you get longer wheel travel, special TRD springs (race units at that) and Bilstein dampers up front. Out back, you’ve custom-valved Bilstein 5160 remote-reservoir shocks at the rear. The off-road gurus were unanimous – with all this stuff you’d have an insanely capable truck.
They also opined that much of the goodies on our Baja are what off-roaders would often add on to the truck after it was purchased, so here you’re getting top-shelf equipment factory installed with a manufacturer’s warranty, and financed right along with the Tacoma. So the Baja’s not just tough, it’s smart too.
We were prepared to be smarting ourselves, as trucks that have this serious of a suspension can be extremely harsh on the concrete superslab. So what a nice surprise to find a supple ride, as well as a very controlled, flat feel during cornering. The steering precision was remarkable. This is a tall vehicle, so while we wouldn’t take it to the local autocross, it is extremely comfortable and competent on those winding roads that take will you to your favorite off-road location.
Another surprise was the power. This is a big, relatively heavy truck, including, in our tester’s case a 5-speed automatic. Good news comes in the form of a standard TRD cat-back exhaust system. It looks great with it’s chrome badness poking out behind the right rear wheel, and the 4.0-liter V6 sounds fantastic with a deep rumble at idle and a rich baritone growl as the revs rise. It was never too loud or boomy – just perfect. Best of all, you get a slight bump in power, and it seemed to give our Baja strong acceleration whether pulling away from a stop or passing at speed.
This Tacoma is also a great place to be. The front seats are as supportive and grippy as many we’ve found in European sport sedans. The interior is "truck done right", with big, easy to reach controls, high-quality materials that look like they will last a lifetime, and a handsome black and faux-metal look, combined with all the modern hi-tech goodies we’ve all realized we can’t live without.
So here we are, driving around in a raised and ready, legitimate hell-and-back off-road monster and what are we thinking? This would be a great vehicle for a family vacation! Give Toyota and TRD a huge hand for making something so focused so easy-to-use for the day-in, day-out as well.
The Baja is a great ambassador for the entire Tacoma line up. If you don’t need the extreme off-road equipment the Baja offers, the Tacoma Double Cab starts at just $22,535. Throw in the V6 and automatic and you’re at $27,685. We love the Baja, though and you can get one in the Access Cab with manual transmission for $32,990. Our loaded Double Cab came in at just over $37,000. So there’s pretty much a Tacoma for every budget and need.
Now that we think of it, maybe the Mayan’s didn’t have it completely wrong. Forget to carry a digit here or there, and maybe the big stuff is coming in the next couple years. Probably a good idea to have a 2013 Tacoma Baja tucked away, just in case. And in the meantime, you’ll love every minute of owning this handsome, talented and capable truck.