2nd Place Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja
For those of you keeping track, technically the Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series truck was eligible for last year's PTOTY test, but Toyota was unable to get us a tester in time. This gave the company the ability to slide into this year's competition. The Tacoma TRD (Toyota Racing Development) T|X (Toyota Xtreme) Baja Series is billed as a desert-ready truck that gives you all of the standard features of the Tacoma TRD, with more suspension travel and off-road prowess. As is the theme with many of the modern off-road packages these days, the Tacoma has some real function to go with its form. The TRD T|X Baja is fitted with a selectable rear locker, a torquey V-6, and specially-valved front and rear Bilstein shocks which net the truck 9.25 inches of front and 10 inches of rear suspension travel.
Couple this travel with a set of 265/70/R16 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KOs on stylish 16-inch aluminum wheels, and it starts to paint the picture of truck that has much more to it than an over-top sticker package. Our Access Cab tester was what's considered a pre-production test vehicle. This meant some of the small details were in the final stages, but the vehicle was otherwise how you will get it off of the dealer lot.
The 16-year-old kid in all of us was pretty excited over the appearance and stance of the Tacoma. The tire and wheel package is spot-on, the stance is aggressive, and the dimensions seemed just right. The sticker package was a hot topic, with most of the judges not digging the size, look, and placement. Fortunately, it's just a sticker, which makes it easy to remove for those so inclined.
The front of the Tacoma may be getting a little long in the tooth, but we're still excited that it offers a fair amount of clearance. Two front tow points, along with a rear receiver gave the truck recovery options and the ability to tow 6,500 pounds. The bed of the truck was very fitting in both size and attachment points, but some of the judges felt the bed liner might not handle long term abuse like hauling heavy axles and parts. The bed organizer and tie-down points makes it very usable. Overall, Toyota hit it out of the park visually.
Toyota has been known for its dependability and well-engineered pickup platforms for decades. And while the powertrain engineers seem to be doing a great job, the interior designers seem to be falling a little behind. When you step into the Tacoma it looks and feels a bit dated. It's almost so dated and simple that it makes you feel nostalgic about older trucks and you sort of like it. We're all for classic and Spartan styling, but when it's fitted with a modern price tag, it needs to be done well.
A set of Baja-inspired racing seats would go a long way into getting this truck up to date and carrying the off-road theme inside of the truck. Storage was pretty good for such a small pickup and the ability to fold the rear seats out of the way makes the access portion of the Access Cab very usable. Overall comfort and quality was a little less that we would have liked to have seen for a 2013 model truck. Surprisingly, it's not out of the question that you could take four adults in the truck, though you'll likely grow tired of the rear passengers breathing heavily onto the back of your neck.