2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Review

How big is the gap between “resting on ones laurels” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? After a week with the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, I’d say it’s almost exactly 212.3 inches.

The Tacoma is far and away the best-selling mid-sized truck on the market, with market share approaching 40 percent. This is a fact. The Tacoma is also ancient. This is a fact, too.

That puts Toyota in an awkward position. 2023 is shaping up to be a very busy year in the mid-sized segment, with multiple new entries promising big advances in tech, comfort, and capability. Can the Tacoma’s sterling reputation for bomb-proof reliability and inflated resale value keep it looking fresh? In a word: no. But it will probably still outsell the competition—and as a simple, manual-equipped pickup, it offers something increasingly rare.

Get a Quote on a New 2023 Toyota Tacoma

2023 Toyota Tacoma Review: What’s new?

Please imagine my best Edna Krabappel laugh: ha!

The Tacoma rumbles into 2023 with mostly cosmetic updates. American buyers get the additions of Chrome and SX packages: the former does what you’d expect, while the latter adds numerous bits of black trim, and wheels. Don’t confuse it with the Nightshade, which also does the whole black-out thing.

2023 Toyota Tacoma Review

There are a whopping 34 variations of Tacoma available in America, with two options each for bed length, cab style, transmission, engine, and drivetrain. Canada simplifies a lot of that by making all offerings V6 and 4×4—no two-wheel drive or anaemic four-cylinder models up here. The important stats for the six-pot are 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This one comes hooked up to the standard six-speed manual transmission too, something that only survives on two pickups in 2023 (the other one’s the Jeep Gladiator).

While most mid-sizers (and both compacts) now only come with four full doors, the Tacoma still offers the Access Cab seen here, and its pair of half-sized, rear-hinged openings. Access Cab Tacomas only come with the six-foot bed; Crew Cabs are either that or a five-footer.

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Row your own

I was prepared to write off the Tacoma’s manual shifter as a gimmick, a nod to a vanishingly small portion of the market that insists on everything having three pedals. I expected it to make an already outdated truck feel even more off the pace.

SEE ALSO: All New 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Gets New Turbo Power, More Trim Options

I was wrong. At least, about the manual itself. Far from a rubbery guessing game, the Tacoma’s six-speed shifter is positive and direct. The throws are long, sure, but that’s a result of geometry. Even the clutch is well-judged and friendly. Truth be told, this would be an ideal vehicle to teach someone how to drive stick, more so than Toyota’s own GR86 sports car.

The rest of the driving experience is less impressive, but fine. The V6 is wheezy, sounding like a small-scale Freightliner as it labors up the rev range. The mechanical simplicity of a nat-asp V6 is understood, but the instant-access torque of competitors’ turbo-fours is hard to deny. Having to rev out a mid-sized truck to make decent progress is a chore, especially as fifth and sixth gears are essentially overdrives. Braking is best planned ahead, as the front-disc, rear-drum setup lacks bite.

Weighty steering with lots of rotation can make the Tacoma feel unwieldy in urban situations. That being said, it’s one of the easier trucks to place in the city, thanks to a low hood and shoulder line. I wouldn’t have said no to some blind-spot warning, however; it’s an option in the US, but unavailable on the TRD Off-Road in Canada.

Fuel economy was pretty bad. I averaged almost exactly 18 mpg (13.0 L/100 km), and that was with mostly highway driving.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid Review: How To Make Friends and Influence People

The simple life

2023 Toyota Tacoma Review

There are those of us amongst the industry who complain about trucks becoming too fancy. Too family-friendly. Too compromised.

Well, the Tacoma throws a wrench in the whinging machine. It is anything but fancy. The dashboard has a chunky, rectilinear design that is all work, no play. A quartet of easy-grip dials take up residence right in the middle; no guess-work or menu-digging necessary. The row of blanked-off sections below is a reminder that you didn’t pony up for a better model, though. Peasant.

From a certain perspective, this is all refreshing. A truck should be about work, after all.

But it’s hard to work when you’re uncomfortable. The Tacoma’s seats feel like padded folding chairs, with little in the way of support. The driving position is super upright too, and the wheel never adjusts high enough, so my legs hit the wheel every time I try to adjust to avoid cramping up.

The rear jump seats are a reminder of the work trucks of the past, too. Adults don’t so much as sit there as they are installed. In a parking lot, unloading groceries from back there becomes its own logistical challenge, as you end up penned in.

SEE ALSO: 2023 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Nightshade Review

The first full week of January offered little opportunity to tow or even haul. The Taco’s rated to a max towing amount of 6,400 pounds (2,903 kg) with the V6. That’s over a thousand pounds off the class leaders, but realistically, anybody regularly towing those amounts would be better served with a full-sized rig.

Tech? What tech?

As I alluded to above, the Taco relies on a lot of tried-and-true physical controls, and that’s great. The Entune infotainment system still haunts its 8.0-inch touchscreen, because why would Toyota swap something else in near the presumed end of a generation. Happily, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work without issue.

The LCD climate display looks straight out of a ’90s Tacoma. That and the small info screen sat between the dials is about it for the TRD Off-Road’s tech suite. The optional Multi-Terrain Monitor, which offers multiple camera angles for the trails, isn’t equipped here, as it isn’t even available on this trim in Canada. The rear-view camera is grainy, with a hard-to-judge perspective.

On the safety front, the Taco also comes up shy of a full meal. It does have automated emergency braking, lane departure alert, and auto high beams, but that’s about it. Toyota deserves credit for equipping its dynamic cruise control here—it’s still optional on some other trucks—but it’s not the full-range system in the brand’s cars and SUVs.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone First Drive Review: Fancy Flagship

2023 Toyota Tacoma Review: Dollars and sense

An asterisks here: this truck doesn’t exist in the US.

While America has almost three times as many Tacoma types to choose from, the specific combo of TRD Off-Road 6MT 4×4 Access Cab is a uniquely Canadian one. There’s one with the six-speed automatic, which ends up at $39,305 including destination. Or you can opt for the Crew Cab with the five-foot bed, which does offer the six-speed manual, for $38,410. There are a few options from there, adding things like a tonneau cover, LED head- and foglights, and the Multi-Terrain Monitor. A premium package adds fancy fripperies like dual-zone auto climate control and leather-trimmed seats; that feels like anathema to the Taco experience. I’d recommend the blind-spot monitoring, however.

Our Canadian-spec tester rang up to $45,240 CAD, including destination. It gets heated seats as standard, because Canada; they’re optional in the US.

In both cases, that’s a decent chunk of change for something pretty agricultural in nature. The new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pack a lot more modernity—but we can’t say for certain whether they’re worth it until we drive them. The recently refreshed Nissan Frontier is still a relative deal, too. If you want simple and don’t actually need to head off-road, the Ford Maverick does it well. You just have to actually find one, is all.

Verdict: 2023 Toyota Tacoma Review

2023 Toyota Tacoma Review

The 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road is an aging automotive curio. Hopelessly out-of-date, that hasn’t impacted its sales figures. Like the 4Runner, the Taco appeals because it’s old. Are there better value, better-equipped, better-to-drive options in the segment? Yes to all of the above.

I believe the rest of the segment will make a dent in the Taco’s dominance at the end of 2023, as there are a whole lot of strong competitors this year. Yet none of them offer what is, essentially, an old truck with the warranty and expected lifespan of a new truck. For a small subset of buyers, a manual Tacoma TRD Off-Road makes some perverse level of sense. 


  • How much does the 2023 Toyota Tacoma cost? 
    • The Tacoma starts at $29,085 for a 2WD four-cylinder SR model, including destination. Canada’s truck is only available with the V6 and 4WD, which explains its relatively higher $43,280 CAD sticker.
  • Will there be a new Tacoma for 2023?
    • No, this is part of the third generation, which debuted in 2016. We expect a full model change soon.
  • Will the 2023 Tacoma have a V6?
    • Yes, and will only have that in Canada.

Discuss this story on our Toyota Tacoma Forum

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Leslie Kuretzky says:

Pricey yes, Noisy yes, BUT no one can beat the reliability of this vehicle. NO ONE

Leslie Kuretzky says:

This thing is a lot more relevant than any Electric vehicle will ever want to be.

WV Driver says:

Brakes, tires, oil changes, filter changes and over 120,000 miles with only a torn seat. Driven off road back in the woods and dirt back roads. May be old technology, but it’s almost bullet proof.

Rick says:

I just bought my fourth Tacoma, a 2011 regular cab 4×4. They can’t be beat for reliability and just being a basic truck.