2012 Toyota Tacoma
There’s something inherently satisfying about pickup trucks. It’s hard to say exactly what: it’s not a guy thing, or a rural versus urban thing. Pickup trucks just project a feeling of Getting Things Done, even if all that’s on your agenda is doing the grocery shopping and balancing your checkbook.
Me, I always seem to have a boundless supply of truck-worthy tasks lined up when one arrives, so when Toyota parked a new Tacoma in my driveway, I had it hauling scrap metal, moving a futon, bookshelves and helping to dispose of some nasty used motor oil, among other things, in short order. Pickup trucks that can’t back up their claims of toughness are quickly revealed as poseurs in my driveway. The Tacoma, which enters 2012 with an updated face and interior, is definitely a serious truck.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise; Toyota’s pickups have been regarded as nigh- unkillable since the 1970s, thanks in part to robust underpinnings. The suspension features double wishbones up front and a standard solid axle at the rear. The TRD-equipped tester I drove was all geared up for off-roading, with a locking rear differential, unique Bilstein shocks and thicker anti-roll bars, progressive-rate front springs and off-road tires. A hill-start and descent control are also included. The high-stepping stance is a trademark of Toyota’s 4x4s, and provides nine inches of ground clearance as well as a commanding view of the road. Stability and traction control are standard equipment, but the Tacoma wasn’t designed for road trips. In fact, it isn’t particularly gleeful on the freeway at all, thanks to the stiff off-road suspension and big tires. There’s a tendency to wander over big bumps, and shock rebounds can be harsh. Fuel economy is also pretty dismal at freeway speeds.
At all other times, the grunty 4.0 liter DOHC V6 is a fine powerplant for a workhorse. With 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque available, variable valve timing, dual overhead-cam construction and electronic throttle control, the Tacoma’s V6 is a high-tech workhorse. Power is ample throughout the engine range, and when equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission a V6-equipped Tacoma will tow up to 6500 pounds and haul just over 1300. A six-speed manual transmission is also available for the V6. The Tacoma’s not afraid of hard work. For more frugal running, there’s a 159-horsepower 2.7 liter four-cylinder available.
Boxier and bulkier styling is on the menu for 2012, as the Tacoma picks up the angular styling of the 4Runner. The new front end is noticeably taller, with powerful grille bars and a cliff-like lower bumper. Boxy fender flares give the Tacoma a rugged look, and available fog lights and mirror-mounted turn signals in body-colored housings provide a finished touch. As in previous years, the Tacoma is available as a two-door Regular Cab, four-door Access Cab or four-door Double Cab. The Double Cab is available with a roof rack, and has short- and long-bed configurations.
The interior was ultra-modern a few years ago, and has aged to be merely businesslike. Updates for 2012 improve the visual appeal slightly, with distinctive black trim around the center stack and a new steering wheel. The round, retro-ish gauges and straightforward layout are fundamentally unchanged. Trucks have gotten a lot nicer inside since the Tacoma was first designed, so it’s no surprise that the Tacoma’s interior feels a little cheap in comparison to the F-150 and Silverado. Being smaller, this truck shouldn’t be expected to compete directly with those vehicles—however, with a $30,000 price tag on the well-equipped TRD version, it actually does. At that price point, picky buyers might notice the lack of a navigation system and seat heaters, and the cabin’s low height and high ground clearance make for a less comfortable, legs-out seating position as well.
What the Tacoma gives up in comfort, it makes up for in willingness to work and available creature comforts. Seat fabrics and available flooring are designed to repel mud and water more efficiently, and the stubby cargo bed features D-rings for tying down cargo, an electrical outlet for tailgating and a standard bedliner. A backup camera is available, easing trailer hookup. Toyota’s new Entune infotainment system is available, as are Satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and HD Radio with iTunes tagging and text-to-voice services. Behind the scenes, JBL GreenEdge speakers reduce the sound system’s power needs.
The Tacoma lineup is broad enough to please sport-truck and off-road fans too. The X-Runner sport pickup is back for 2012, offering a unique lowered suspension and very un-pickup-like handling. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the T|X Package borrows from the TRD parts bin to add 16-inch beadlocked wheels, taller tires and unique graphics. My tester was a four-wheel drive Double Cab that fell somewhere toward the upper end of the middle, with a towing package, TRD Off-Road package and all-weather floormats, and it stickered for $32,772.
All specifications are for the 2012 Toyota Tacoma.
Length: 208.1 in.
Width: 74.6 in.
Height: 70.1 in.
Wheelbase: 127.4 in.
Curb weight: 4185 lb.
Towing capacity: 6500 lb.
Payload: 1315 lb.
Base price: $27,025
Price as tested: $32,772
Engine: 4.0 liter DOHC V6
Drivetrain: five-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 236 @ 5200
Torque: 266 @ 4000
Fuel capacity: 21.1 gal.
Est. mileage: 16/21