2013 Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid Video Road Test & Review




By William Maley | January 4, 2013 at autobytel.com

When the first generation Toyota Avalon was introduced back in 1995, it was positioned as the vehicle for Toyota buyers who have grown older and wanted to stay in the Toyota lineup. This would be the plan for the first three generations of Avalon. But with the introduction of the fourth-generation Avalon, Toyota wants to bring in a younger audience (40- to 60-year-olds). The new Avalon begins to shed its old person persona by going with a youthful and smooth design that features a coupe-like roofline and a highly-raked c-pillar. Despite the sleek look, the new Avalon provides almost the same dimensions as the outgoing model. Inside, Toyota applied the same sleek design from the exterior and added premium materials and features such as stitched door and dash panels, a small LCD screen mounted in the middle of the gauge cluster, and a set of Intellitouch capacitive touch buttons surrounding either a 6.1 or 7-inch touchscreen.

The base Avalon powertrain is a 3.5L V6 producing 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque that goes through a six-speed automatic. New for this generation is the Avalon Hybrid which uses a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder and electric motor producing 200 HP that goes through a continuous-variable transmission. Power for both models is sent to the front wheels. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/25 Combined for the V6 and 40 City/39 Highway/40 Combined for the Hybrid. The Avalon starts at $30,990 for the XLE model and comes equipped with seventeen-inch alloy wheels, leather, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and push button start.

Next up is the XLE Premium at $33,195 and adds a moonroof, backup camera, autodimming rearview mirror with compass, and a HomeLink transmitter. The $35,500 XLE Touring is next up and adds eighteen-inch wheels, memory seats and mirrors for the driver, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, navigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, paddle shifters, and three different drive modes (Normal, Eco, and Sport). Finally there is the $39,650 Limited that adds HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers, a hard drive-based navigation system, premium JBL audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a power rear sunshade. The Avalon Hybrid starts at $35,555 for the Hybrid XLE Premium and is followed by the Hybrid XLE Touring ($37,250) and Hybrid Limited ($41,400). The Hybrid models include all of the standard equipment from the normal Avalon models. Competitors to the Avalon and Avalon Hybrid include the Buick LaCrosseFord Taurus, and Hyundai Azera.


Toyota Happily Faces the New Year as World’s Top-Selling Automaker



By Dale Buss on January 3, 2013 05:12 PM – BrandChannel

Toyota’s report of a 27-percent gain in U.S. sales in 2012 is the latest welcome sign of recovery and revival by a company that has been tortured — by itself, by economic forces and even by Mother Nature — for the last four years. Management led by CEO Akio Toyoda has been clearing the decks for what promises to be Toyota’s best year in several.

“With sales nearly doubling the [percentage] increase of a healthy industry” overall in the U.S. last year, Toyota “had a breakout year,” said Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., in a press release. “As we move into 2013 and the market sees continued growth, we expect to outperform the industry once again with another nine product launches on the horizon.”

What’s more, Toyota in 2012 reclaimed its title as the world’s largest automaker, selling 9.7 million vehicles globally and leapfrogging GM and Volkswagen to get back on top.

It’s not just a new-product avalanche and sales trends that have Toyota rejuvenated. There’s also the matter of the $1-billion plus settlement between Toyota and class-action litigants over its unintended-acceleration recalls a couple of years ago. Toyota didn’t admit culpability, but its executives figured putting the matter behind the company at this point was the best course, expensive as it was to do.

Toyota also has recovered more quickly from the supply-chain ravages of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami than many had predicted. After suffering badly through 2011, last year Toyota regained its bearings with ample inventories for its dealers worldwide, who delivered the vehicles to customers who had remained patient, and at the same time launched some important new nameplates such as extensions of the Prius hybrid family.

It’s also boosted by the Japanese government’s newly expressed determination to allow the value of the yen to decline, which will make Toyota’s Japanese-made vehicles more cost-competitive.

“Toyota is now in the position — for the first time in years — where it is beating market expectations while its peers are disappointing,” Clive Wiggins, a Tokyo-based autos analyst for Macquarie, wrote recently, according to the New York Times. “We expect earnings to continue beating expectations over the next three years.”

The company’s other brands also are on the move. Scion, Toyota’s “youth” brand, continues targeting older millennials because so many recent college graduates just don’t have the financial wherewithal to buy new cars. Meanwhile, Lexus hopes to regain the annual luxury-segment sales crown for 2013 in its most important market, the United States, after two straight years in which tight supplies stemming from the 2011 natural disaster forced Lexus to yield the title to German rivals.

Now, Toyoda is more free than in a long while to pursue one of his goals for the company, which is to make truly exciting automobiles — not just reliable ones. With the company now solidly back on the road to prosperity, the sometime race-car driver will have a little more fun in the driver’s seat.

First Look: 2013 Toyota RAV4

Nov 28, 2012 , By Donny, Nordlicht Post by automobilemag.com

Toyota revealed the all-new 2013 RAV4 at the Los Angeles Auto Show this morning. The 2013 RAV4 will go on sale at the beginning of next year.


All New Look

Gone is the gawky look of the third-generation RAV4; in its place is a cleaner design more in line with Toyota’s current portfolio. That’s not to say that the new RAV4 is prettier than the outgoing model, but the overall aesthetic is more coherent and generally inoffensive. It will look quite familiar to Japanese and European Toyota buyers, as the 2013 RAV4 recalls the recently-released Auris hatchback sold overseas. The most controversial aspect of the redesigned crossover is the front end: it looks as though Toyota tried to butch-up the Camry’s nose, but instead come away with a face that looks sort of like an Angry Birds character with an overbite. The Toyota emblem sits front and center on a triangular-shaped, body-color plastic piece in the middle of a slim black grille; the fake rubber skid plate comes about halfway up the front fascia in an attempt to make this soft roader look more trail-ready. The projector-beam headlights carry over a shape as seen on the Camry and 2013 Avalon and come with LED daytime running lights. Foglights and heated exterior mirrors with turn signal repeaters are standard on the XLE and Limited models.

A New, Yet Familiar Cabin

Anyone who has been in the current RAV4 will find themselves right at home in the 2013 RAV4. The new car is a clear evolution of the same theme, from the high-mounted audio controls, to the climate control “shelf,” to the large circular speedometer. A 6.1-inch LCD Multi-Information Display (MID) touchscreen is now standard on all RAV4 models, along with a backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity. XLE- and Limited-grade vehicles add the option of navigation and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system; an 11-speaker JBL sound system is option on Limited models. The steering wheel from the Camry and Avalon makes an appearance in the RAV4, as well; there are steering-wheel-mounted controls for the audio system, Bluetooth handsfree, and the MID. Toyota claims that the Clear Blue illumination on the gauges and center stack will provide crisp and clear visibility for the controls. Also new for 2013 is the availability of a blind spot monitor system (BSM) for the RAV4 Limited. The BSM system also includes rear cross traffic alert, to detect an oncoming vehicle when the car is in reverse.

Goodbye V-6

Toyota will again offer the RAV4 in three trim levels; however, they are now more in line with the rest of the brand building in ascending order from LE to XLE to Limited. Gone is the range-topping 3.5-liter V-6 engine and its five-speed automatic; also missing from the spec sheet is the old four-speed auto. The only powertrain is the 2.5-liter I-4 from last year rated at 176 hp (down two) and 172 lb-ft of torque; the four-cylinder is paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Compared to the rest of the class, the I-4 is one of the most powerful base engines, trailing the Honda CR-V’s 2.4-liter by four hp and matching the Kia Sportage’s 2.4-liter. However, the 2013 RAV4 is down by anywhere from two hp (from the Ford Escape 1.6 EcoBoost) to 84 hp (from the Kia Sportage Turbo) when compared to the competition’s strongest engines since it doesn’t offer an optional engine upgrade. The RAV4 makes up for the lack of extra power by adding extra miles -the front-wheel drive RAV4 will achieve 24/31 mpg city/highway, the second-best mpg rating of any automatic-equipped compact crossover. Only the Mazda CX-5 tops the RAV4 in frugality: it is rated at 26/35 mpg with a manual or 26/32 or 25/31 mpg with an automatic (front- or all-wheel drive). All-wheel drive RAV4s are rated at 22/29 mpg.

Ready for Off Road

All-wheel drive-equipped RAV4s now use a Dynamic Torque Control system with three modes – auto, lock, and sport. Auto does exactly what the name says: torque is sent to the wheels with grip automatically, and power is only sent rearward when it is needed. Sport mode can provide up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels under acceleration and cornering, as well as during traction loss. The new six-speed automatic also has a sport mode which will sharpen shift action and timing, quicken throttle response, and add weight to the electric power steering assist. Lock mode will be interesting for those who want to take their RAV4s for more than a little light off-roading. At speeds below 25 mph, torque is split 50/50 between the front and rear axles to aid in finding traction in sandy or muddy conditions.

Ready Next Year

Pricing has not been announced yet for the 2013 Toyota RAV4, but the 2012 RAV4 starts at $23,495 including destination. A fully-loaded all-wheel-drive 2012 RAV4 Limited I-4 rings in at $30,985. The 2013 RAV4 goes on sale at the beginning of 2013.


2013 Toyota Avalon: all new premium mid-size sedan













By:                                                                                                                                  examiner.com

Following our first drive of the new 2013 Toyota Avalon, we think that Toyota has really stepped up with their new premium mid-size sedan both in the gas and the hybrid versions. We liked what we saw and drove and we think the consumer is going to as well.

Toyota has long needed a new, fresh and vibrant look for their Avalon mid-size sedan. Earlier this year they gave us a first look at what they felt was going be a game changer and put passion back into the Toyota brand. We were pretty impressed with the new styling, upgraded materials inside and the selection of technology that Toyota intended to include.












The proof was going to be in the first drive of the new 2013 Toyota Avalon.

From our drive of the factory beta prototypes this last week, we think they have made their mark and will definitely create a new excitement as they re-position themselves to a slightly younger demographic in the premium mid-size segment with the new Avalon.

Some design and styling cues that impressed us were the subtle yet expressive improvements to the body styling front, rear, sides and roof line plus a new bold grille opening, wider wheel stance front and rear and the new Quadrabeam headlight cluster.












The newly designed interior is highlighted by a sculpted dash panel with concave surfaces that accent the features and functions of the accessories and instrumentation while giving a feel of a spacious custom interior.

 The design of the dash and instrument cluster elements almost eliminate the traditional “center stack” look giving a more distinctive almost custom separation of the driver side from the passenger side of the front seating areas of the cabin. The hand stitched premium soft touch materials are nicely matched and compliment the balance of the interior finish materials well.













































The interior cabin space is improved, in particular, by the addition of the WIL (Whiplash Injury Lessening) engineered front seating that enables a thinner seat back with actually more protection and support for the driver and passenger while giving more leg/knee room to the rear passengers.

The all-new Avalon will be available in two grades (XLE and Limited), but will have seven trim level models that cover a competitive price range that will make the new Avalon even more attractive to a broader range of consumers.

For 2013, this new five passenger flagship sedan is available with gasoline V6 Front Wheel Drive (FWD) or the Hybrid Synergy Drive power train.

The Avalon V6 model is powered by a 268 hp, 3.5 liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic that helps the car offer a combined EPA-rating of 25 mpg (21 city mpg, and 31 mpg).

The Avalon Hybrid is powered by a Hybrid Synergy Drivetrain that includes a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle, four cylinder engine, an electronic CVT that contains two electric motors, and a 244.8-volt battery that help produce an overall system output of 200 hp. The Avalon Hybrid is EPA-rated at a combined 40 mpg (40 mpg city/ 39 mpg hwy).

Both of these power train combinations performed exceptionally well in our test drives. Power, acceleration and ride were definitely premium level responsive for all the models and trims. The new Avalon cabin was very quiet in all the drive situations we experienced, a notable improvement in cabin ambiance from the earlier generations.

In particular, the Drive Mode System is well tuned to the power train, steering and suspension of the new Avalon. The settings for the V6 model are ECO, Normal and Sport. For the Hybrid, the settings are EV (to stay in electric drive mode at low speeds), ECO and Sport

The trim levels for the Avalon are gas – XLE, XLE Premium and XLE Touring. For the XLE Hybrid, the trim levels are Premium and Touring. The Limited model has a single trim level only and is available with both gas and Hybrid power trains.











MSRP pricing for the new 2013 Avalon line is as follows:

XLE $30,990
XLE Premium $33,195
XLE Touring $35,500
Limited $39,650

XLE Premium $35,555
XLE Touring $37,250
Limited $41,400

Toyota has designed and engineered the new Avalon to provide the most standard equipment and functionality at each trim level price.

Toyota has packed the new Avalon with standard equipment by trim level as follows:

XLE – 2-door Smart Key, 17-inch Alloy Wheels, Heated Outer Mirrors, Leather Seats, 6.1-inch Touch Screen Display, Audio with 8-Speakers, Heated Front Seats, Outer Mirror Turn Signals and Power 8-way Driver Seat & 4-way Passenger Seat.

XLE PREMIUM – adds to the XLE features the following: 3-door Smart Key, Backup Camera, Auto-dimming Mirror w/ Compass, Moon roof, Garage Door Opener and the 3-button Eco Switch for the Hybrid.

XLE TOURING – adds Fog Lamps, Display Audio w/ Navigation & Entune audio system with 9 Speakers, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Outer Mirror & Driver Seat Memory, 18-inch Alloy Wheel (gas model), 3-button Eco Switch (gas) and Paddle Shifters (gas).

LIMITED – adds HID Headlights, LED DRL’s, Premium Perforated Leather Seats, Auto-dimming Outer Mirrors, Puddle Lamps, Rain Sensing Wipers, Ventilated (cool) Front Seats, Heated Rear Seats, 7-inch High-resolution Touch Screen Audio w/ Navigation, Entune & JBL 11-Speaker with two Subwoofers Audio System, Color HVAC Screen, Power 10-way Driver Seat & 8-way Pass Seat, Sunshade, Rear Seat HVAC, Ambient Lighting and the Toyota Safety Connect system.

In fact, in the effort to provide the customer the most value for the money without confusing extras and optional packages to consider, Toyota is offering only one optional package (Technology Package – $1,750) on the Avalon Limited gas and Hybrid model only. This package includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams and Pre-Collision brake assistance system.

This new Avalon will also enable Toyota to sell into a new market, Car Service/Livery, where Toyota believes the new Avalon will provide exceptional value, reliability and comfort for operators and customers of the Car Service industry. Toyota has created a special edition Avalon L model (in both gas and Hybrid) based off the XLE to address this market segment.

The V6 Avalon and Avalon Hybrid arrive in dealerships at the beginning of December.

We think Toyota has a winner here and look forward to being able to take a longer test drive on the new 2013 Toyota Avalon premium mid-size sedan.

Toyota Dealers Would Rather Sell Hybrids Than EVs

Electric cars are having a hard time reaching massive acceptance among the car-buying public, and it isn’t just consumers who are concerned. A new study shows that Toyota’s own dealers prefer selling hybrid models like the Prius to pure electric vehicles. Just one more roadblock to EV acceptance.

The study, done by AutoRetailNet, highlights one of the main issues in EV adoption; lining up buyers and sellers. Many car dealers hardly know their own vehicles, and electric vehicles really seem to throw them for a loop. Most dealerships involved in the study would rather continue selling popular hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. Perhaps Toyota was right to kill its all-electric Scion iQ?

It certainly looks that way, as the study finds that 85% of dealerships agree with Toyota’s decision to shelf sales of the Scion iQ EV. Only 5% of dealers believe that EVs will be their best-selling models in the next five years, though 61% of the dealers believe an all-electric car will show up on their lots some time in the future.

That said, if the dealers aren’t behind a product, how can they be expected to sell it to customers? Many Nissan dealerships appeared woefully unprepared for the rollout of the all-electric Leaf, as were many Chevy dealerships in regards to the Volt plug-in hybrid. If you have a salesperson trying to get you to buy a $30,000+ vehicle that they don’t seem to have any knowledge or passion about…it could be hard to make a sale. With Toyota’s first all-electric vehicle, the Rav4 EV, costing around $50,000, sales will be even more difficult.

The dealers did offer some interesting insights though, as 70% of them thought hybrids would continue to dominate sales. Just 10% believed plug-in hybrids would become major sellers in the next five years, but 15% of those surveyed put faith in fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota has a fuel-cell vehicle due out in 2015, and it should sell in the $50,000 range. Will Toyota dealers prove more accepting of hydrogen fuel cells than they are of electric vehicles? Time will tell…for now though, EVs seem to be getting shuffled to the back of the bus.

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BMW-Toyota JV to Yield New Supra?

Partly due to the huge success of the GT86, Toyota’s new partnership with BMW could result in a new hybrid sports car that could revive the Supra name and spirit.
Back in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, BMW and Toyota announced a partnership to develop a new sports car to incorporate environmentally friendly technologies. Likely translation: a hybrid sports car. More specifically and to the excitement of many, this could very well become an all-new Supra.From the floor of the Paris Motor Show, Toyota’s UK chief Jon Williams stated that this new sports car will “likely be a hybrid”. Given some of the hybrid sportscars currently under development, that could be no bad thing.

Furthermore, based on the huge success of the GT86, Williams noted, “Our dealers want exciting cars that bring in new buyers… and we are rewarding customers with a smile. That is all about driving and the thrill of driving. That has come back with the GT86 and will continue.”Sounds like positive news to us and with BMW on board to assist in driving dynamics and perhaps even carbon fiber technology, a 21st century Supra could be just what the proverbail doctor ordered for a Toyota’s resurgence into performance automobiles. We’ll have to wait to see how the partnership develops, but for fans of Toyota’s most celebrated sportscar, things are looking good so far.


Toyota iQ EV Unveiled: 2012 Paris Motor Show Preview


Debuting later this week at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the Toyota iQ EV has just been unveiled as the second all-electric vehicle in the brand’s lineup.


The electric version grows five inches in length and gains 275 lbs compared to the gasoline version while retaining the same storage capacity thanks to a flat underbody.

A 47-kilowatt air-cooled electric motor is fitted to the iQ EV which offers 120 lb-ft of torque delivered to the front wheels instantly. Reaching 62 mph takes 14 seconds in the iQ EV, while the cars top speed is rated at 77 mph. Aimed almost exclusively at city driving, the range is rated at 52 miles on a full charge. While that isn’t all that far, the key is that with the use of a quick charger, 80 percent battery power can be achieved in just 15 minutes of charging. For a full charge using a 230-volt outlet will take three hours.

Minimizing power usage was a priority on this EV, so Toyota fitted it with a low power consumption heat pump air conditioning system, optimized seat heaters, as well as a new heated windscreen defroster that will help to keep the windshield fog free without the use of AC or heat.

The whole car utilizes a black-and-white color scheme inside and out and comes fitted with standard features like a smart entry & start system, a six-speaker audio system and hill start assist.



Review: 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition



Toyota trucks have long been the staple of practical truck shoppers, young shoppers looking for a cooler first ride, off-roaders and just about every rebel militia. What’s a company like Toyota do to keep sales of the 8-year-old truck going? Special editions of course. Despite the higher profits, Toyota decided to skip the “freedom fighter” edition with bench seating for 8 in the bed and a .50 caliber machine gun on the roof in favor of an off-the-rack off-roader. Thus the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition was born. In case you are wondering, T|X stands for Tacoma Xtreme. You know, because it is way cooler to spell extreme without an “e.”


The Tacoma has been with us for a long time and there’s little disguising that despite the periodic face lifts. Still, in the truck world this isn’t really a problem as styles change slowly and long product cycles are the more the rule than the exception. Despite a 2009 refresh, the most common comment I received from friends during my week with the Tacoma was:  “I didn’t know you had an old truck.” Xtreme? Not so much. While Toyota still offers a regular cab Tacoma for $17,525, the Baja Edition is only offered in with a “Double Cab” or “Access Cab.” Color options are limited to black or red for 2012.


The last time we looked at the Tacoma’s cabin, a common complaint was the car-like interior. The basics of that interior are still with us, but Toyota swapped in a chunky steering wheel, shiny metal bling and rubber flooring to butch-up our Baja. Compared to the current Nissan Frontier and Chevy Colorado, the Tacoma is a more comfortable place to spend your time and the cabin looks less dated as well. Despite the car-like shapes and Toyota sedan door handles, my forum trolling indicates the interior holds up well to abuse. While the cabin is far from Xtreme, I don’t have a problem with car cabins in trucks.


All Tacoma models (including the base model) come standard with Toyota’s snazzy 6.1-inch “Display Audio” system. The touch-screen head unit is easy to use and allows full control of your USB/iDevice as well as Bluetooth audio streaming and Bluetooth speakerphone integration. The audio quality from the base speaker package is merely average, if you care about your tunes upgrade to the JBL system. Toyota’s Entune software is available as an option and enables smartphone integrated apps like iHeartRadio and Bing. Also available is a $1,930 package that combines Entune, the optional navigation software, JBL speakers, XM/HD radio and a subwoofer.

While systems like MyFord Touch, or even Toyota’s own higher end nav systems use Sirius or XM satellite radio to deliver data content, the Display Audio system pulls the information off the internet using your smartphone and data plan. As a result, there’s no need for an XM or Sirius subscription. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able OpenTable.com whileyou roll. Is a well balanced JBL system with smartphone love Xtreme? For this segment it sure is.

Drivetrain & Off-Road Enhancements

The Tacoma’s base engine is a 2.7L four-cylinder engine good for 159HPand 180lb-ft of twist. In order to get the Baja Package you have to step up to the optional 4.0L V6 which produces 236HP at 5,200RPM and 266lb-ft of at 4,000RPM. (And check that 4×4 option box as well.) While the 2.7L is still saddled with Toyota’s old four-speed auto or five-speed manual, the V6 gets a newer five-speed auto or six-speed manual. The Baja uses a traditional two-range transfer case (read: part-time 4WD) and both a “real” locking rear differential and a brake-actuated limited-slip rear differential just like the regular 4X4 Tacoma. The lack of driveline differentiation makes sense as the Baja is built on the San Antonio assembly line, then over to the Toyota Logistical Services building (on-site) where a team disassembles the Tacoma suspension and reassembles it with the Baja bits. By hand.

Compared to the Ford Raptor, Toyota’s changes to the Tacoma donor truck are less “Xtreme” with all the changes working within the stock suspension design as much as possible. For instance, despite going from 8.5 to 9.25 inches, front wheel travel is limited by the the upper A-arm design which is retained from the stock Tacoma. The enormous 60mm Bilstein shocks (originally designed for motor home use) will support more travel should a buyer decide to swap out the A-arm for an aftermarket unit. The Baja receives new springs all the way around for two-inch bump in height and rear suspension travel is increased from 8.5 to 10 inches. To help in cooling and performance, the rear shocks are upgraded to 50mm units that sport a remote reservoir.

The Baja edition also sports a TRD cat-back exhaust, some crazy side graphics and unique 16-inch wheels shod with 265-width BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. As you would expect, all the usual TRD off-road gear is included in the Baja package from skid plates up front to a 400-watt AC power inverter integrated into the truck bed.


If you’re looking for a head-to-head Baja vs Raptor comparison, you clicked on the wrong review. The Raptor is a different animal entirely and it’s just not a fair comparison to the Baja. The Ford is bigger, heavier, more powerful, faster, more expensive, and plays to a different audience.

On the road the Baja is surprisingly civilized for an off-road tuned vehicle. If you ever needed a reason to select the “factory” off-road truck instead of DIY modding, on-asphalt manners are that reason. Aside from the drone of the TRD cat-back exhaust, the Tacoma’s cabin is quiet, comfortable and a great place to be on a 5 hour road trip. However, it is out on the highway that Toyota’s V6 and 5-speed auto start to show their age. On the gently rolling hills of US-101 in California, the Baja’s lack of low end torque and tall 5th gear meant the transmission shifted frequently. The relatively low fourth gear combined with the cat-back drone spoiled an otherwise well behaved highway cruiser.

Off road, the Baja is a comfortable companion on the trail soaking up bumps without loosing composure. Like all trucks, the Baja is front heavy (56/44 % F/R) and is designed for load carrying in the bed. This combination of a light rear end and suspension designed for a load means that most trucks tend to get “squirrely” out back on washboard dirt roads at moderate speeds. The Baja on the other hand never broke a sweat thanks to the well-tuned Bilstein shocks and springs. The improved articulation of the suspension helped the Baja feel almost as sure-footed as the FJ Cruiser on the deeply rutted trails we encountered.

There are a few things that must be said. First off, pretty much nobody takes their brand-new, bone-stock anything to the off-road park and thrashes it. In our brand-new, bright-red Toyota pickup, all eyes at the SVRA were upon us as we bottomed out on a concrete pipe. They probably went home and told stories about the crazy dude in the new truck. Second, even in Baja trim the Tacoma’s approach/departure/break-over angles take a back seat to the FJ Cruiser and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Third, Toyota does not offer a locking front differential. I didn’t think the diff deficit would be too big of an issue until we were on tight switch-back turns at Hollister Hills where the large 40-foot turning circle (44 in the long bed) meant I was off the trail more than I was on it. If the Baja had a locking or limited slip diff up front, I wouldn’t have had to constantly resort to the hundred-point-turn to navigate some of the trickier descents. Despite these shortcomings, the Baja is “light” at 4,300lbs, some 900lbs lighter than a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a whopping 1,700lbs lighter than the Ford Raptor. Depending on the type of off-roading you plan on tackling, this lighter curb weight has some serious advantages.

Pricing is where the T|X Baja Edition shines. The base Access Cab model with the 6-speed manual transmission starts at $32,990 and our fully loaded four-door model with the automatic transmission and navigation rang in at $39,150. The observant in the crowd will notice two things, the Baja package costs $4,365 more than a truck without it, but more importantly (and quite strangely) it is cheaper than the Tacoma with the less rugged TRD off-road package. Go figure. While this is much cheaper than the Raptor which ranges from $42,975 to $53,000, it is strangely more expensive than the more capable FJ Crusier which rings in at $37,400  with Toyota’s “trail-teams” off-road package. Toyota plans to make only 750 due to the production limitations in 2012 but has promised the Baja will return for the 2013 model year with some tweaked options. If you’re the kind of person that’s willing to take their new car off-road, the Baja is easily the most Xtreme capable new truck for the price. I’m just not sure I’d take my shiny new truck too far off the beaten path.

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 7.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 87MPH

Average Economy: 17.5MPG over 1020 Miles

Posted in Car Reviews, Toyota