Tacoma got a leading edge for 2012 with a new grille, bumper, hood with an air scoop, and headlights. Normally, such a facelift means minor changes but it really enhances the look of this truck.
On the inside is a revised gauge cluster and a center stack panel with new climate controls. If you get the Double Cab, there’s a CD stereo with satellite radio, a USB port, and Bluetooth. Another DC option is Entune, Toyota’s multimedia/concierge service.
What sets this truck apart from the runabout weekend dump runner is the TRD extra value package ($3,860) it comes with. Chief among the goodies is a more aggressive, dirt loving, P265R17 tire on 17-inch wheels, Bilstein shocks all around, a skid plate to protect the engine’s underside, a raft of creature comforts, and electronics considered standard fare in most vehicles.
The serious trucker will want the tow package ($650), only found on buys with the beefier V-6, that adds a Class IV tow hitch, 7-pin connector, trailer sway control, transmission and oil coolers, a beefed up battery, and a 130A alternator to handle it all.This setup lets the Double Cabs and Access Cabs tow up to 6,500 pounds. (For the insatiably curious, the Tundra CrewMax that towed the space shuttle was powered by a stock 5.7-liter V-8 engine, producing a maximum tow capacity of 10,000 pounds.)
What’s best about this truck is its car-like creature comforts, serious off-road abilities, and intuitive feel. Sure, the high-back buckets are well-bolstered but not in a Baja hardscrabble race way; they make getting stuck in traffic on the Jamaica Way more tolerable.
The half-door on the Access Cab provides just enough room to stuff in a tool box or most of the stuff you’d want in the back seat of your commuter car while leaving the pickup bed for the down and dirty detritus.
The word Tacoma is taken from the Salish Indian word for the mountain that provided water to their tribe (now known as Mount Rainier). The name suggests images of strength and power, which Tacoma provides plenty of.
Venturing down the path along local power lines, I pointed Tacoma toward some soft sand and drove until the rear wheels spun. Locking in the four-wheel-drive, I waited, the engine roared, shifted into Drive, and moved out without a whimper. It was there I welcomed the 9.1 inches of ground clearance to cross over some branches and ruts from other off-road rigs that had dug up the dirt.
Returning to pavement, the TacomaTRD resumed its refined road manners; it’s amazingly quiet for having such aggressive tires underfoot. It’s refined because Toyota notes that the TRD is a road-focused vehicle despite its having Hill-start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control. An automatic, limited-slip differential is standard across the model line. A locking rear differential is part of theTRD package and can be activated from the cab.
Safety items that come standard on all Tacoma models include the anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control, and smart stop technology.
As its Salish name implies, Tacoma’s popularity benefits from its numerous available options, its split personality, and ability to play on- or off-road, as well as its dependability, comfort, and economy.
Having pulled myself out of the power line sand and enjoyed the truck’s road manners, I’ve got a new understanding of why you see so many of these pickups on the road.
2012 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab TRD 4×4
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $25,9350. / $32,159. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16 mpg city / 21 mpg highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 18.11 Drivetrain: 4.0-liter, 236 hp, V-6 VVT-I engine, five-speed automatic transmission, part-time four-wheel-drive. Body: 2 passenger, midsized pickup truck.
2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4
Horsepower: 236. Torque: lb.-ft. 150 lb.-ft. Overall length: 190.4 in. Wheelbase: 109.6 in. Height: 70.3 in. Width: 74.6 in. Curb weight: 4,100 pounds.
THE GOOD: Fuel economy, handling and suspension, on-the-fly 4WD, ground clearance, backup camera in rear-view mirror. Intuitive layout that works with a gloved hand.
THE BAD: Length requires large turning radius.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An annual contender in a strong pickup field.
ALSO CONSIDER: Honda Ridgeline, GMC Canyon, Chevy Colorado