2012 Tacoma New Car Test Drive
The 2012 Toyota Tacoma arrives with a new look inside and out, new and more sophisticated audio choices, and the same basic mechanical underpinnings that have made it a favorite in its class for almost a decade.
Tacoma owns the compact pickup market. Toyota sold more than 106,000 Tacomas in 2010, which is nearly twice as many trucks as the Tacoma's nearest competitor.
The Tacoma was named 'Most Dependable Midsize Pickup' in the J.D. Power & Associates 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study, and Intellichoice called it a '2011 Best Overall Value' in the compact pickup segment.
Like any serious pickup, the Tacoma comes in a wide range of configurations to please a wide range of buyers. But every 2012 Tacoma will greet the world with a new grille, engine hood, front fenders, and front bumper. The new look is at once both fresh and familiar. You'll know it's the new Tacoma the moment you see it.
Inside, the instrument cluster, center stack, and steering wheel are all new or significantly changed as well. The audio systems begin with four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input, and range all the way up to a seven-speaker JBL GreenEdge system with Bluetooth, navigation, and Toyota Entune.
All Tacomas come with air conditioning and, more importantly, Toyota's Star Safety System, which includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TC). An Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto-LSD), which uses brake intervention in place of a mechanical-type limited-slip to help reduce wheel-spin, is standard on all Tacoma models with the exception of those fitted with TRD Off-Road packages, like our test model; those will have a separate locking differential.
For those who drive hard, there is a dealer-installed TRD Big Brake system developed by engineers with the Toyota Technical Center and Toyota Racing Development to provide effective braking performance under sustained heavy use. It improves pedal feel and substantially reduces brake fade from repeated high-speed applications.
The Tacoma offers a comfortable cab, a refined ride, and quality construction. Its on-road handing is responsive; its off-road capability is proven. The Double Cab delivers more rear-seat comfort than most of the competition, with enough room to rival a small sedan. Properly equipped V6 models can to tow up to 6,500 pounds.
Models range from a basic work truck with a four-cylinder engine and 2WD to a loaded V6 4WD Double Cab Long Bed. The base model is among the few regular-cab pickups still available, as the market has moved to extended-cab and crew cab styles; it excels at durability and reliability. Our test model was a 4WD V6 Access Cab with the TRD package.
Tacoma PreRunner models can make you feel like you're practicing for the Baja 1000, while the sporty X-Runner may make you feel like you're preparing to take it sports car racing.
Compact pickups aren't what they once were. For one thing, they have not been compact for many years, they're midsize. Nor are they uncomfortable. They're more comfortable and more capable than ever before.
The 2012 Toyota Tacoma is available in 20 different configurations, including Regular Cab, Access Cab (extended cab) and Double Cab (crew cab) body styles. Regular and Access Cabs come with six-foot beds; Double Cab comes with the choice of a shorter five-foot bed or a standard-size six-footer. The base engine is a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional ($900). A 4.0-liter V6 is standard on X-Runners and 4WD Double Cabs, and optional on some, but not all, other models.
Tacoma Regular Cab ($16,875) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA four-speaker sound system, tachometer, digital clock, two 12-volt power points, fuel warning light, tire-pressure monitor, service reminder indicator, dome lamp, rear mudguards, 15-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire.
Tacoma Access Cab ($19,655) and Double Cab ($22,175) models add more standard features, including bucket seats and functional consoles for the floor and ceiling. Access cabs have power windows and locks; Double Cabs add power mirrors. Access and Double Cabs also get satellite-ready six-speaker audio systems. Double Cab V6 models offer a premium JBL system (that's wrapped into other packages) with amplified subwoofer, Bluetooth, XM, and Toyota Entune. The audio upgrade includes steering wheel controls.
Tacoma PreRunner models are 2WD, but feature the high stance and general appearance of a 4WD truck. (Desert racers use this style of truck to scout or pre-run the course before the big race.) The four-cylinder Access Cab with 4-speed automatic transmission ($21,325) is the entry-level PreRunner. The V6 is optional ($1435) on PreRunner Access Cabs and Double Cabs.
Four-wheel-drive is available throughout the line, in Regular, Access and Double Cabs. Four-cylinder and V6 engines, along with manual and automatic transmissions are available, including a 5-speed manual and 6-speed manual, or 4-speed automatic and 5-speed automatic.
Tacoma X-Runner ($26,380) features unique styling cues and a chassis tuned for on-road performance. Its name refers to the additional X-shaped brace added to stiffen its frame against high cornering loads. X-Runner is offered only in the Access Cab style, and only with the V6 and 6-speed manual.
SR5 packages bundle styling and comfort features, including color-keyed overfenders and front bumper, chrome grille surround and chrome rear bumper, bucket seats with lumbar support, and a long list of car-like conveniences. These packages can be added to any Access Cab or Double Cab with automatic transmission.
The TRD Sport Package starts with SR5 equipment and adds or substitutes P265/65R17 tires, sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, sport seats, overhead console and with compass and outside temperature, plus a hood scoop, lots of body-color trim, and its own graphics package. New for 2012 are turn signals integrated into the outside mirrors. Eighteen-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels are optional. The TRD Sport Package is available on V6-powered Access Cabs and Double Cabs with either manual or automatic transmission.
The TRD Off-Road Package starts with the SR5 equipment and adds or substitutes BF Goodrich P265/70R16 OWL tires, locking rear differential, off-road suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, engine skidplate, sport seats, overhead console with compass and outside temperature, heavy-duty front tow hook, 115v/400w deck-mounted power point, and unique TRD graphics. TRD Off-Road is also available only on V6 model Access and Double Cabs, but not on Double Cab Long Beds.
An optional tow package ($650) for V6 models comprises a 130-amp alternator, heavy-duty battery, transmission oil cooler, and a Class IV hitch with seven-pin connector.
Safety features that come on all models include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, and the Automatic Limited-slip Differential. Models with automatic transmission also include Hill-start Assist Control, and TRD Off-Road models add Downhill Assist Control. In addition, front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models.