Testing… testing – A Scion FR-S (now Toyota 86) on the TAPG track prior to launch. Nearly every model sold in North America must make it through stringent performance and reliability tests before coming to market.
It’s a testing facility so secretive, a lot of Toyota team members don’t even know it exists. Even fewer will get a chance to visit.
But as Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds (TAPG) celebrates 25 years, we’re getting you acquainted and up to speed. So here’s what you should know about TAPG:
Out of the Way
TAPG is way off the beaten path. It’s located about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, on a remote patch of the Sonoran Desert. The nearby town of Wittman is home to just under 7,000 people, according to the 2010 census. TAPG was developed in 1993 to help Toyota better develop vehicles for the North American market. Construction began in 1991, and the team worked at the Gardena office during construction.
By the Numbers
TAPG is vast. It’s Toyota’s largest testing facility, and one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. It covers more than 12,000 acres and has 77 miles of testing surfaces: 25 miles of paved, 52 miles of dirt. If all the asphalt at TAPG were combined, it would cover more than 154 acres.
It’s Always Sunny
Where the Rubber Hits the Road – Manager Richard Woodroffe checks the surface of a TAPG testing track.
Why Arizona? It’s not just the relative obscurity the desert affords. The climate is ideal. The temperature drops below 50 degrees just a few days a year. It’s consistently warm and sunny, meaning weather delays due to rain or cold temperatures are rare. Occasionally, the temperature can top more than 120 degrees, perfect for TAPG’s hot-weather performance and exposure testing. When it does
rain, the main road to TAPG may close because of flash floods, forcing the team to take a 45-mile detour to get to the track.
It Starts Here
TAPG has played a critical role in the development of nearly 50 different Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Nearly every North American model on the road today had to make it through stringent performance and reliability testing standards at TAPG before making it to market.
Playing it Safe
Whether testing is done in a garage or speeding down a track at 200 miles per hour, safety is top of mind. The team members there are proud of that commitment: It’s been nearly three years since there’s been an injury at TAPG. “We’re proud of that safety record,” says Manager Richard Woodroffe. “Each and every day we’re committed to doing our best.”
As Seen on TV
Bird’s Eye View – An aerial shot of the TAPG testing track while it was under construction.
TAPG has been used as the location for several Toyota commercials and product reveal videos, including Tacoma, Camry and the NASCAR Camry.
The Secret is Out
TAPG’s existence used to be much more secretive, quietly hidden from all but the occasional low-flying plane. But after the advent of satellite mapping sites like Google Earth in the early 2000s, photos of TAPG’s tracks began to appear on the Internet. The secret wasn’t so secret much longer.
There are “hide sheds” throughout TAPG to protect vehicles from unauthorized photography. They’re basically covered parking spaces where drivers can park and hide from overhead eyes angling to get a glimpse of upcoming products.
It’s not just cars in development at TAPG. Team members can also take a driver training program, featuring different levels of instruction ranging from basic driving skills to advanced levels of off-road handling.
By Kristen Orsborn