2012 Toyota Tacoma
Base price: $16,875 – $27,835
As tested: $34,740
MPG: 16 city/21 highway (four-wheel drive, V-6, automatic transmission)
- Nicely restyled, looks great
- Excellent manners on or off road
- Well-constructed, excellent reliability and resale value
- Configuration choices are confusing
- Noisy and annoying optional exhaust on TRD
- The silly hood scoop
By Jim Prueter
Toyota Tacoma arrived on the scene in 1995, and was completely redesigned a decade later, in 2005, growing larger and beefier. The third generation comes out in 2012, keeping basic underpinnings of the previous generation with essentially the same chassis, cab options, engine and transmission.
The 2012 Tacoma has been restyled from the windshield forward, getting a new front grille, hood, headlamps, and upper and lower bumper areas. The fog lights also have been updated. The look mimics the Toyota 4Runner, which was completely restyled for 2010. There’s also a revised instrument gauge cluster and a new steering wheel on all models.
The Tacoma’s wheelbase can range from 109 inches to more than 140 inches, depending on the model. Tacoma offers a choice of three cabs: regular, extended cab and a four-door double cab. Both five- and six-foot-tier beds are available with every size cab. Both cargo beds are fully lined with a durable composite bed and include four adjustable tie-down cleats to secure cargo.
In addition to the choice of cab types, Tacoma offers a confusing array of configurations and trim levels.
The Tacoma X-Runner performance truck ($26,380) returns for 2012, offering a 4.0-liter, V-6 engine with a specially tuned chassis and a six-speed manual transmission. The X-Runner drives and performs like a sports car.
The SR5 package, only available on the extended “Access Cab” models, includes power outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, chrome around the grille and rear bumper, a color-keyed front bumper and overfenders, fog lamps, a sliding rear window with privacy glass, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated backup camera display, and more.
The more specialized and popular TRD Sport and Off-Road models come with progressive-rate front springs, Bilstein shocks, BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a non-functional hood scoop we deem completely unnecessary.
The TRD Sport Package comes is monochromatic, and has new water-resistant fabric seats, side mirrors with turn-signal lamps, street-tuned suspension and low-profile 17-inch tires, with optional 18-inch chrome wheels available.
Inside, the 2012 Tacoma’s interior gets an updated look with a black high-contrast center console, switch plate covers and dash, and upper door trim.
Leather seating is not available on the Tacoma.
Two engine choices are available for 2012. A 2.7-liter, I-4 is standard, offering 159 horsepower, while a 236-horsepower, 4-liter V-6 is optional. Both engines have variable valve timing. The V-6 can be controlled with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The 4-cylinder model gets either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Four-wheel-drive is available throughout the line.
We drove a V-6 Double Cab with a short bed, five-speed automatic transmission, and the $6,595 TRD Sport Upgrade package, which included Toyota’s new Entune media system, which works with a smart phone through either Bluetooth or a USB cable.
The TRD Off-Road package includes Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). HAC operates by independently controlling the brakes at each wheel as needed to help prevent the vehicle from rolling backward or slipping sideways during a transition from a stopped position to climbing a grade. An Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto-LSD), which uses brake intervention to help reduce tire slippage at the rear wheels, is standard on all Tacoma models.
Safety features include antilock brakes and other stabilizing forces. Models with automatic transmission include Hill-start Assist Control, and TRD Off-road models add DAC. In addition, front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models.
As of this writing, the 2012 Tacoma has not been crash tested, but it did receive four out of a possible five stars in rollover ratings.
As the best-selling compact pickup truck on the market, the Tacoma is intended to be tough, comfortable and reliable. It’s good on the road, but far more capable and durable on rough and rugged terrain. The ranges of configurations, while somewhat confusing, allows the truck to fit a wide range of needs and budgets.