A solid truck that you must pass

Truck buyers are different because they don’t always want the latest and greatest equipment. It’s usually okay if the pickup truck they’re shopping for doesn’t have every feature known to man because they just want it to run and perform well. At the same time, it’s hard to justify spending a large sum of money on a new but outdated showroom model when a completely new and more innovative version is still less than a year away. That’s the struggle with the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

This generation of Tacoma was launched as a 2016 model, and the TRD Pro was introduced later in 2017. It hasn’t changed much since then — it received a (very) mild facelift in 2020 — which means it still has the slow-rate 3.5-liter V6 Leaves it in the dust of local competition. The next-generation model for 2024 will come with a hybrid powertrain that should provide plenty of power, adding to the current truck’s existing weaknesses even further.

It would be wrong to say that the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro is bad. It wouldn’t be right to call it great. With the fourth generation of tacos coming soon, I think it’s best for everyone to wait.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 2023 specifications

  • Base price (as tested): $48,520 ($51,229)
  • Power generation: 3.5L V6 | 6-speed automatic transmission | Possibility of choosing between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with high and low ranges
  • Horsepower: 278 at 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 265 lb-ft at 4600 rpm
  • Curb weight: 4,550 pounds
  • Maximum load capacity: 1,155 pounds
  • Maximum towing capacity: 6400 pounds
  • Off road corners: Approach 36.4 degrees | 26.6° refraction | Departure 24.7 degrees
  • Ground clearance: 9.4 inches
  • EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city | 20 highway | 18 combined
  • Quick take: A well-designed, absolutely gorgeous SUV that will be enough if the next-gen truck doesn’t soon come with everything better.
  • a result: 7/10


Toyota is a very traditional brand, so it makes sense that the Tacoma will always be a favorite of people who prefer simplicity over modern, complex technology. Case in point: You can still get it with a six-speed manual transmission in 2023 — yes, even in TRD Pro trim — so it’s fine with that. This top-tier off-road model is for more dedicated drivers who want capability and versatility, along with the most advanced features the Tacoma has to offer. It’s a somewhat confusing mix of modernity and vice versa.

I’ll give props to the Tacoma’s exterior design, especially on our tester’s Solar Octane paint system. The LED headlights look very sharp, thanks in part to the prominent DRLs, and I like the hood scoop. It’s quite long, especially when you look out the windshield from the cab, but it doesn’t affect outward visibility directly in front of the truck.

A benefit of Tacoma’s current old-school feel is its clean, simple interior design. It has an 8-inch infotainment screen fully integrated into the dash, while physical buttons and knobs handle stereo and HVAC duties. It’s a nice place to be, even if it’s a bit cramped for tall people like me who have family. I’m six foot five, for what that’s worth.

The place where the Tacoma shows its age the most is in its powertrain. The 3.5-liter V6 produces just 270 horsepower—compare that to 310 hp from the Nissan Frontier’s 3.8-liter engine—and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts at interstate speeds to keep engine revs high. It’s not a pain to turn on the truck’s ECT power mode, which adjusts shift points and keeps you in the powerband often, but that’s likely the default setting. Without it, the Tacoma can be annoyingly slow.

Driving a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

It’s clear from the start that the Tacoma is solidly built. It doesn’t creak or squeak, which is something worth celebrating when so much of what we use every day seems disposable. Toyota’s dedication to quality, durability and reliability shines here; The same conventional thinking that results in an underpowered but bulletproof truck V6 is what got us here, and it’s almost an even trade.

The ride is truck-like, which means it’s pretty rough. I’m not about to crack down on it, though. The Tacoma TRD Pro is an off-roader that shines on tight, technical trails; it’s not a Ford Raptor, so the suspension isn’t tuned for wide-open desert running. It recalls the SUVs we grew up with, the ones that many of us who live far from the dunes still appreciate.

Even though it’s larger than the Tacoma of the past, it’s still much easier to drive and park than a full-size truck. He acts confident and does what you ask of him unless you ask him to pass someone in a hurry. Fortunately, with simple steering and driver assistance like radar cruise control, the TRD Pro isn’t such a powerful SUV that it sacrifices road manners.

However, it is meant to shine more than the pavement. I took the bright orange excavator to our family’s creekside property, where jagged rocks and loose gravel abound, to test its ground clearance and approach, departure, and breakover angles. It performed well thanks to its Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain vehicle, two-speed transfer case, and 127.4-inch wheelbase, which is shorter than some UTVs I’ve tested. It’s an impressive creeper. Shift it to 4LO and you won’t have to touch the throttle on most reasonable inclines.

Just don’t turn on crawl control. The four-wheel assist system is meant to maintain a steady pace while ascending or descending, but it’s so jerky and loud that it’s unusable. This is nothing new, this feature has been bad for many years, but Toyota fixed it in the new Tundra and Sequoia. I imagine the next Tacoma TRD Pro will get the updated crawl control system as well, but I really hope the 2023 has that.

Highs and lows

The Tacoma is exceptionally maneuverable, even with a trailer hitched in the back. I haven’t towed anything on the highway, but I had two trailers to retrieve it from our property before the flood. The Toyota didn’t lick anything, even when it approached its 6,400-pound tow limit, and rearward visibility was great when it was time to back down our long, busy driveway.

If the transmission system had more pressure, the on-road driving experience would be more enjoyable. However, it doesn’t happen, and what you’re left with is a boring day on the street that even the bright paint and TRD exhaust can’t liven up enough.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Features, Options and Competition

The Tacoma’s TRD Pro model is all-inclusive, and there are no additional packages available. A 1.5-inch front lift is standard, as are interior shock absorbers, TRD skid plates, Rigid Industries foglights, and surround-view cameras that feed live video to the infotainment screen. You can also get Toyota Safety Sense which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and blind spot detection. The JBL Audio stereo setup is also great.

Drive/Caleb Jacobs

It competes with other midsize off-road trucks like the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X and Ford Ranger Tremor. The Nissan is most similar to the Tacoma with its naturally aspirated V6, although it has a larger, more powerful 3.8-liter engine with 310 horsepower. Meanwhile, the Ranger Tremor is propelled by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 270 horsepower — which is on par with the Tacoma — but 310 pound-feet of torque, a 45 pound-feet advantage. None of them are total rock stars at high speed; Instead, they are best suited for road driving and all perform exceptionally well.

If I were to buy a Tacoma TRD Pro, I would spec it exactly like my tester. I personally dig the orange color because the paint looks great in direct and indirect sunlight. I’ll probably remove or cover up all the red accents because they don’t match the Solar Octane scheme, but aside from that, the truck you see here is pretty much the perfect setup for me.

Fuel economy

I know, I know, the EPA website won’t let me option a Tacoma TRD Pro with an automatic transmission, and it uses a photo of the previous generation Chevy Colorado. However, these numbers should be accurate.

The Tacoma TRD Pro isn’t great on gas. Fortunately for Toyota, its competitors are not like that. The Nissan Frontier Pro-4X sees combined mileage slightly better thanks to its 2 mpg highway advantage, while the turbocharged Ford Ranger achieves 19 mpg in the city and on the highway with a combined average of 19 mpg per gallon. The 2023 Chevy Colorado wins this one thanks to its 2.7-liter turbocharged engine that also packs a punch.

Value and judgment

Toyota trucks hold their value so well that it’s hard to call the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro anything less than a solid buy, even at nearly $52,000. If anything, you can drive one of these cars home now and then sell it for $20 less a few months down the road when the next generation hits dealer shops. This may be adding an unnecessary step, but really, I can’t blame anyone who wants one. Personally, I’d save up for the 2024 model, assuming it’s as good as Toyota promises.

In short, the TRD Pro Tacoma is as decent as ever because it hasn’t changed much. If you’d rather avoid electric cars for as long as possible, this is the new Toyota for you. But if I’m open to a hybrid for better performance and fuel economy, I’d hold on to it longer until the new one comes along.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: caleb@thedrive.com

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