2023 Toyota Tacoma

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There is exactly one mid-sized truck you can still get with two things together – a V6 engine and a manual transmission. The others are either four-cylinder only (Ford Ranger) or automatic-only (Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier). 

And that’s just two of the reasons why the Tacoma is the best-selling mid-sized truck on the market. 

But – be hipped – those two things may not be around for much longer. A redesigned Tacoma is headed our way for 2024 and it’s not unlikely the ’24 Taco will no longer offer either of the two things so many have loved about it up to now.

Because the government regulatory apparat is making it very hard to offer them anymore.

What It Is

The Tacoma is Toyota’s mid-sized pick-up truck. It’s available in extended (Access) cab or crew (Double) cab configurations and with either a five or six foot bed. It also offers both a standard 2.7 liter four cylinder engine as well as an optional 3.5 liter V6 – the latter available with a manual transmission.      

Interestingly, the V6 is the only engine that’’s available with the manual. The four cylinder engine comes only with a six speed automatic transmission. 

Prices start at $27,250 for the base SR trim Access Cab extended cab) with a six foot bed, the 2.7 liter four cylinder engine (paired with the mandatory six speed automatic) and 2WD.

 

You can add 4WD – without adding the V6 (and the extra cost).

With 4WD (and the 2.7 liter four) the SR’s asking price is $30,325. You can also add the V6 – without being up-sold into one of the more expensive trims. The V6-equipped SR lists for $29,510 with 2WD and $32,975 with 4WD.

The Access Cab version of the Taco is not available with the short (five foot) bed, however. If you want that, you’ll have to get the Double (crew) Cab – which is also available with the six foot bed (optionally).  

But, you cannot get the manual/V6 combo with the six foot bed.

The Double Cab stickers for $28,080 to start – with the five-foot bed, 2WD and the 2.7 liter/six-speed automatic combo. 

A top-of-the-line Taco with the Double Cab, TRD Pro off-road package (locking rear differential, Bilstein heavy-duty shocks, Multi-Terrain monitor and 16 inch wheel/tire package) 4WD, V6 and six speed automatic lists for $49,390. 

You can get the same thing – with a six speed manual – for $46,685.   

What’s new for 2023

V6-equipped Tacos can be ordered with an SX or Chrome (Double Cab models only) appearance package. The SX includes black fender flares and matching 16-inch black wheels; the Chrome trim features 18 inch chromed wheels, exhaust tip, door handles and tailgate – as well as a leather-wrapped gearshift knob. 

What’s Good

A manual, if you’d like one – and with the V6.

Multiple cab/bed configurations.

Standard four is available with 4WD.

What’s Not So Good

Manual isn’t available with the four.

Regular cab isn’t offered.

2023 is probably the last year you’ll be able to get a Taco with a manual – and maybe a V6, too.

Under The Hood

The Taco’s standard engine is a 2.7 liter four that makes 159 horsepower, paired with a six speed automatic transmission. In italics not so much because it’s an automatic but rather because Toyota does offer a manual  . . . but only with the optional 3.5 liter, 278 horsepower V6 

In the past, it was usually the reverse.

The base engine in a truck especially typically came standard with a manual, chiefly because manuals cost less than automatics and because the usually smaller/less powerful base engine performed better with a manual – including better gas mileage.

Which matters to people who want to save rather than spend money.

It’s very nice, of course, that Toyota still offers a manual (six speed, too) with the V6 – especially given that no one else does, if a V6 is even available. But the Taco’s V6 has plenty of power; pairing it with a manual is more about having fun with it than making the most of it.

The four would be more economical if it were available with the manual. Both to buy – and to drive. Assuming one knows how to. And – aye – there’s the rub. A car company can tout city/highway MPG numbers achieved by programming an automatic to shift just so (and just when) for optimal results . . . on the tests that determine advertised city/highway numbers, as well as compliance with the regulatory apparat’s edicts.

On paper, the Taco with the 2.7 engine, the automatic (and 2WD) rates  20 city, 23 highway. But in real-world driving, the MPGs you see – with an automatic – are often less than touted because your right foot will over-ride the programming, in order to get the vehicle going.

The same vehicle with a manual might not tout MPG numbers as high, but in real-world driving will often do better, assuming the person shifting knows what he’s doing. And even leaving MPGs aside, it’s undeniable that a manual costs less to buy than an automatic – erasing the usually picayune and purely putative MPG cost savings promised by the automatic. Manuals also help make the most of a small engine, that does’t make much power – an intangible that’s hard to put a price on.

The good news is that Toyota doesn’t upsell you into the V6 in order to get 4WD. You can get that with either engine. You can also use regular 87 octane with either engine, because neither engine requires premium to deliver on its advertised horsepower or MPG numbers.

Also, neither engine is a direct-injected engine. This is no small thing – if you care about long-term durability/long-term low-maintenance.

Both the 2.7 four and the optional 3.5 V6 are still fed by simpler electronic fuel injection. This is very unlikely to be the case with whatever powers the pending 2024 Taco because Toyota, like every other car company, is probably going to have to “DI” the engines in the new Taco in order to appease the regulatory apparat. DI offers no meaningful benefit to the vehicle owner; the mileage gains are small – and the added cost/complexity of the system is high. But DI – in which fuel is directly injected into the cylinder under extremely high pressure (typically, around 3,000 PSI) allows micro-fine-tuning of combustion to fractionally increase operating efficiency; this has become necessary for regulatory compliance reasons.

You can pull up to 3,500 lbs. with a four cylinder Taco. V6-equipped Tacos can pull almost twice that – 6,800 lbs. This figure puts the Taco in between the Chevy Colorado – which has the highest maximum tow rating in the class (7,700 lbs.) when equipped with its optional diesel engine  and just ahead of the Nissan Frontier – which maxes out at 6,700 lbs. The Ford Ranger can pull up to 7,500 lbs. – even though it’s the only truck in the class that comes only with a four cylinder engine.

Every Taco comes standard with a Class IV hitch, 4-7 PIN connector and engine/power steering/ATF (automatic-equipped models) coolers.

On The Road

Driving the Taco is like driving a half-ton truck  . . . from the ’90s or earlier.

It is a hefty feeling but not huge-feeling truck. More substantial, certainly, than compact-sized trucks like my ’02 Nissan Frontier that no one makes anymore – but not dissimilar in terms of its footprint in the garage or how much of a footprint it needs to fit into a car-sized parking spot. It is about half-a-foot (no joke) less wide than a current half-ton (e.g., 74 inches vs. more than 81 inches for the current Chevy Silverado 1500) and that is perhaps the biggest difference in feel between a current mid-sized truck like the Taco – that is dimensionally about the same size as a ’90s-era half ton – and the current half-tons, which are dimensionally comparable to ’90s-era 2500s.

You ride higher up, but not so high you need a ladder to to get up. From behind the wheel, you have a better sense of the road because the hood isn’t too broad and the road isn’t so far away. “Advanced driver assistance technology” isn’t needed to avoid bumping into things. Unfortunately, several such “technologies” are standard; however, they can be turned off  – with the exception of the traction/stability control, which comes back on after you’ve turned it off if your speed exceeds 30 MPH.

Probably, this can be defeated, too.

There is no ASS – automated stop/start “technology,” an annoyance that is almost impossible to avoid buying, if you want to buy anything new. Except for this truck – and that absence by itself almost makes it worth buying a new Taco.

Another thing that sets this truck apart is its door glass to door metal ratio. Some of the trucks in this class have more metal relative to glass, which makes narrows almost to a slit and makes it seem as though you’re in a pillbox rather than a pick-up. The Taco’s glass is taller because the door sides aren’t. It is much easier to see using your eyes for that reason – rather than cameras and “advanced driver assistance technology.”

This is a truck, in sum, that’s both easy to live with and almost half-ton-capable, which my little ’02 isn’t. The double cab Taco V6 they sent me to evaluate can pull a 6,000 lb. camper/trailer with capacity to spare – without being a behemoth. Maybe you need more capability – insofar as pulling – in which case a half-ton may be needed. But the Taco still has the edge – in capability – when the trail is narrow.

Try getting a current wide-load half-ton in between a pair of inconveniently spaced trees on a narrow off-road trail.

The Taco goes where others must stop. It is legendary for its off-road tenacity, which is as much a function of it being the right size as well as having the right equipment. You can have all the right equipment – heavy-duty steel frame, two-speed transfer case, skid plates, favorable angles of approach/departure – but it won’t matter if your vehicle is the wrong size for the available space.

A word or three on speed.

The Taco’s not as quick – even with the optional V6 – as rivals that come standard with stronger V6s (like the Nissan Frontier) or that offer them (Chevy Colorado) and even four-cylinder-only rivals like the Ford Ranger, which offer more power courtesy of boost. But none of the others let you play the way the manual-equipped Taco does, with a shifter rather than a gear selector – and a clutch rather than “sport” and “normal” settings for the automatic transmission.

And the six speed automatic that you can choose if you prefer not to shift for yourself doesn’t shift as much (or as often) as the eight, nine and ten speed automatics that are your only options in rival pick-ups. It is apt to be a more long-term reliable transmission for that reason, as well.

At The Curb

A Double Cab Taco is 127.4 inches long. A 1990 Ford F-150 regular cab with a short bed was 194.1 inches long. That’s also about a foot less-long than an Access Cab Taco, which is 212.3 inches long.

That’s a measure of the difference between half-ton trucks and mid-sized trucks today. And – by the way – that ’90 F-150 (with its standard 4.9 liter inline six) was only rated to pull a maximum of 7,500 lbs.

And – also by the way – a new half-ton crew cab with a short bed – Toyota’s just-redesigned Tundra, for instance – stretches out to 233.6 inches.

So, if  you’d like a “half-ton” pick-up the way they used to make ’em, here you go!

Well, with one exception. Unlike the ’90 F-150 and other trucks back in the day, you cannot get a Taco (or any other truck in this class) in regular cab configuration. It’s becoming hard to find a half-ton that’s available in that configuration (e.g., the new Tundra, which is no longer available that way; ditto the Ram 1500 and the Nissan Titan).

The Taco offers Access Cab and Double Cab configurations – the former coming only with the six foot long bed and the latter offering either the six foot or a five-foot short bed that can be made effectively longer using a bed extender that flips over the lowered tailgate.

Neither bed is eight feet long, which you’d get (or could get) in a half-ton truck both then and now. But, the Taco’s bed walls are not the Walls of Jericho – insurmountable without divine intervention (or a step ladder). You won’t need neither to get at whatever you put in the bed – just as used to be true of most half-tons before they got super-sized. If the Taco’s bed (which is made of composite, so doesn’t need a bed liner to keep it from rusting out) were wide enough to allow for a 4×8 sheet to be laid flat it would arguably be a more usable truck than the current crop of jacked-up half-tons.

As an aside, there is one mid-sized “truck” in the Taco’s class that can carry a 4×8 sheet flat in its bed. That one being the Honda Ridgeline (reviewed here). But, it’s not really a truck. And that’s why it can carry a 4×8 sheet flat. Not a slam – just a fact. The Ridge is more of an alternative to a traditionally designed mid-sized truck.

Inside the Taco will not find a digital/LCD gauge cluster – or an electric parking brake. The Taco is among the last trucks that still comes standard with analog gauges and a manual, pull-up emergency brake. Italics to emphasize the difference. An “e-brake” is on – or off. You cannot modulate its application. It is also electronic – and so, involves electronics. A pull-up emergency brake is mechanical – and gives you control.

There is a small (7 inch) secondary touchscreen that houses the audio system but there are manual knob controls for adjusting the station and volume. It looks – and functions – more like an aftermarket unit installed in an older truck, like the one I put in my ’02 Frontier. And that’s a compliment. The Taco’s cabin is comfortably no-nonsense, as a truck’s cabin ought to be.

The Rest

Toyota offers some unusual features you might be interested in – such as a factory-installed armored/key-combo’d lock built into the center console that is just the place to safely secure a pistol. Every Taco comes standard three USB ports and Wi-Fi.

If you’d like a bit more height (and ground clearance) you can get it by ordering the Trail Edition, which includes a 1 inch suspension lift and also adds additional lockable storage in the bed and a 120V power point.

The TRD Off-Road package adds heavy-duty Bilstein shocks and removes the front air dam that comes standard in other Tacos, to increase the truck’s angle of approach when off-roading. You also get an off-road-programmed traction control system with multiple terrain settings and a rock crawl mode.

The Bottom Line

This may be your last chance to buy a new Taco with a stick – and a V6. So if you’d like either – or both – be aware that the clock’s ticking.

. . .

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Eric, you’re 6’3 right? How was the room for you? How was the ride and seat comfort? How were road trips? Could you fit people comfortably in the rear seats?

    Im 5’9, so if you’re fine, Ill be fine. We got a leased Equinox as a work vehicle and it sucks in terms of guts and comfort, so thinking once I step up in the company, Id buy myself a Taco to replace it, while also getting it with Stick.

    • Hi Zane,

      Yup – and the Taco is plenty spacious for my big geek self. Even as far as headroom with the sunroof. I expect you’ll be fine but s I always counsel, each of us has our own body type and fit is highly personal. I’d suggest going to sit in and drive one to see whether it suits.

      • Thanks Eric, I’m gonna soon, probably Saturday when I get my Broncos windows tinted

        Trying to figure out if this Equinox needs tires or a suspension upgrade in the meantime, no confidence once it rains, even in AWD mode.

        Said it before, test drove them and loved them, but that was back in ‘16, so more forgot the details

    • I’m 5’9″ myself. As Eric said, your body type might be an issue. When I bought my 2012 Taco 5 years ago, I was quite a bit heavier than I am now. Buckling the seat belt when I bought the truck wasn’t fun. However; losing some weight fixed that problem.

      I don’t know about 3rd Gen Tacos, but my 2nd Gen Taco feels more like a car while in the driver’s seat but feels like a truck while driving it.

      I’m willing to bet Eric did not try on the rear seats as he probably would have found the leg room lacking. I fit OK in the rear but it isn’t Cadillac in the back as far as leg room is concerned.

    • I believe the frame rust issue was only on some Tacoma’s thanks to Dana corporation manufacturing frames for Toyota that weren’t up to spec. Most Tacoma’s didn’t have the rust issue.

    • Hi Anon,

      Yes. 2005 -2010 were the years that were the biggest problem. While many trucks are now out of an extended warranty due to a lawsuit, many 2nd gens are still under warranty for frame rust for 12 years.

      I have a 2012 and I have until 2024 to get it in to a Toyota dealer for a free frame inspection. If any damage is found to be beyond 10mm depth, Toyota will either replace the frame or give you 150% of the Excellent Blue Book value for the vehicle.

  2. I’ve had 2011 and 2017 Tacos, 4WD (because of where I live).

    A few months ago I wanted to trade my ’17 in for a new one, but the wait was 6-8 MONTHS. I said forget it, and the salesman was a jerk anyway.

    Thanks, world governments, for forcibly shutting everything down for a man-made bio-weapon — funded by our tax dollars.

    So, no Taco. I picked up a ’23 Mazda CX-5 on Halloween night. Not enough snow yet to test out my uphill driveway with the AWD, but we’ll see. I’ve always had a truck since 1975, but am old and retired now so (hopefully) I won’t need one anymore.

  3. Clicked play on the Rumble video for the Tacoma review (ex had a brand new 2013 dual-cab, was a very nice ride, always thought it would be my first choice if I ever got a pickup), stayed and replayed for the comrade who warned you of the road pirate ahead ❤️

    In the weekend traffic ticket/defensive driving class in Montgomery County back then, the piggy instructor actually took the time to tell us all how flashing our headlights is pointless “because it means too many different things to different people so why bother”. But really, it universally means ‘danger ahead’, whether that danger may be in the form of an armed govt thug looking to take our lunch money, or an accident in the road, or a deer looking to ruin someones day, it’s merely a heads up to proceed with caution (and a form of protected free speech). So the piggies must really fear for their ticket quotas and the power that us peasants have to negatively impact them with a simple flash of the headlights, if they are incorporating “don’t signal our piggy presence” driving tips into lessons given to groups of serfs who just happened to get swept up in their net and couldn’t afford points on their license.

    The remarkable part of me ending up in that ‘classroom’ at all, the stupid pig that pulled me over around 1am had to have been going after the vehicle that I watched blow past me on southbound 81, but they were long gone so he pulled me over instead, and the ticket the pig wrote indicated he clocked my speed three miles before he pulled me over at the Christiansburg exit..three miles to catch up to a little stock 93 Civic sedan? Well I wasn’t speeding that night cuz I couldn’t afford to risk any fines, I’d just gotten it back from the shop the day before and had dumped a ton of money into it. Wish I’d had the dashcams back then to be able to fight it. Ohh and the shit that pig gave me “because I seemed nervous” (I was consuming around a pot of coffee a day back then between working long hours and hanging out in the Noke at night), of course he wanted to search my car and I declined, and then he asked me why so I told em plainly “because I know my rights”. Fuckin butthurt losers, man.

    If everyone passing by a traffic stop would just emphatically yell out their window at ’em, “Get a real job!”, maybe one by one they’d wake up and do just that. Can’t imagine trying to legitimize a gang that harasses and extorts people just for happening to be traveling a road that the govt’s patrolling for revenue and control all under the guise of safety.

    I hope motorists like the one in that truck are increasing in number down there, the ones who recognize it’s hard enough maintaining the simple quality of life they’ve got, and they and their neighbors don’t deserve to be interrupted, detained, harassed and extorted for traveling efficiently (or for traveling at all). When I got that ticket, just about every friend I mentioned it to made some sorry excuse for the pig or blamed me..takes a very twisted culture to normalize such an infringement on basic personal freedoms.

    • Pigs being Pigs. Hate em

      I need to get a dash cam for that reason, always paranoid when they see me. I also flash still to warn people, fuck ’em if they don’t appreciate it and who cares what some UAGW claims in a class, they want more people pulled over to keep that scam going as well.

      What ever happened btw, fight it and won in court?

      • When I finally did get the dash cam (Thinkware brand has been good to me over the years, BestBuy has em on sale sometimes around the holidays) it came in handy a couple times to prove others were at fault. I also started rigging up an old smartphone with a USB webcam inside the car in case anything ever popped off on a stop. But nah that pig backed off of the unwarranted search and wrote me a bs speeding ticket that was like 9 or 10mph over, I went to court to get the fine lowered and the excessively long Saturday class was part of the reduced fine deal. As far as I knew back then I had no way of proving that the pig was full of shit, it was their word against mine. And you know how rigged that system is, the judge and the pigs and even the attorneys are all just coworkers, they take the pigs word over anyone elses. It’s crazy the level of cognitive dissonance it takes for the average tool to seriously believe that it’s perfectly acceptable for gov to fuck people over like this, just because.

        Won’t be out getting any surprise tickets late at night these days though, too many carjackings going on in this greater Philadelphia area. Can’t enjoy freedom of mobility in AGW territory, can’t enjoy it in ever-broadening impoverished territory either, and ya know govts to blame on both counts, keepin people broke and desperate and sufficiently brainwashed by the media to desire a certain lifestyle for themselves and their offspring. It’s the holidays, gotta get the money to buy the things, consume and reproduce and consume some more.. ugh.

  4. The one that I never got.

    After my Mustang, I needed a Truck and wanted a Manual Taco, but the company deemed I needed to tow a bobcat, so there went that idea. I would have gotten an Offroad trim as well.

    I remember test driving them fondly as well, whole “$50 gift card to try our cars”, drove both previous and current gen models, good time. 3rd Gen reminded me so much of my Audi stock clutch wise, the drums in the back could be replaced, just if I ever need a new(ish) truck(lette), I’d get one in a heartbeat.

  5. It’s great that Toyota is still sees a future with ICE. They are about the only ones left now it seems. They understand that the current and near future battery tech isn’t there and likely never will be. Nobody has a replacement for the heavy, expensive, dangerous and largely stupid lithium batteries they have all bet on (largely because that is what uncle wants).

    The unfortunate part is that they aren’t fighting for the RIGHT sized engines. I know they are under intense pressure from governments around the world to get rid of ICE completely. But underpowered ICE could make the situation worse. It may slow the phase out of ICE but doesn’t stop it. They need a plan to stop the phase out. You can’t count on reality to cancel this nonsense.

    • Hi Rich,

      I agree. Part of the problem as I see it is that – as this goes on – fewer remember what engines (and cars) were like before both became Universal Appliances, i.e., a crossover with a small turbocharged four.

  6. I had an 89 Toyota pickup 5 speed with the 22re engine, 4×4 31 in tires

    Man, loved that truck. Wish I still had it but no room for a baby seat and passenger ended that.

    • Hi Dan, I had a friend who had a ’86 4Runner with the 22 RE engine. He loved that truck. Wishes he still had it but his soon-to-be fiance wrecked it two times too many.

  7. Wow you can get a RWD 278hp manual truck for under 30K? That’s a helluva value. The glass to metal ratio in the cockpit is a real thing and a major difference between the friendliness and visibility out of older cars compared to today’s rides.. I drove a BMW Z4 recently and while nice and powerfull as hell, it had that sitting in a bathtub feeling. Also, it was pretty wide whuch makes it feel less nimble, fun and tossable. As far as manuals and fours, I feel like my Crosstrek would be undrivable without a manual. Great writeup as always Eric, this car is officially on the list.

    • Hi Mark,

      Much as I love my ’02 Frontier,, I’d love to have a Taco. A V6 Taco, with the manual. It would be capable enough to pull what I need to pull without being huge – like the current half tons. It’s just a great rig, all around.

  8. I remember shopping for a truck about 2002 or so. Stopped in to see what ATOYOTA Tacoma would be like, just interested. Didn’t bite, although, Toyota is a killer company, never have owned one.

    Was riding in one that got rolled on a city street, heading directly for a tree, just before hitting the tree, hit the curb, the Toyota rolled to its top, got out and walked away. Didn’t get hurt, my friend driving hit ice and lost control. The engine was still running, had to stop the engine by turning off the ignition key.

    My dad bought Fords, nothing else, so I am brainwashed to buy a Ford, have been for a long time, have owned other brands, but Ford is the first choice. Sorry, I could be wrong, doesn’t change my mind. At the end of the day, in the final analysis, you buy a Ford.

    Well, I never been to Heaven
    But I been to Oklahoma
    Oh, they tell me I was born there
    But I really don’t remember
    In Oklahoma born in a coma
    What does it matter
    It really doesn’t matter
    – Hoyt Axton, Never Been to Spain

    • Ford people seem to be the most that way. They have offered some of the worst engines in pickups over the last 25 years. The 4.6, 5.4, 6.0 diesel, 6.4 diesel.

      Many Ford guys will lie right to your face and tell you the 6.0 diesel is a great engine.

      Interesting crew you Ford people are.

  9. ‘The Taco is among the last trucks that still comes standard with analog gauges and a manual, pull-up emergency brake.’ — eric

    A manual trans and a functional parking brake are not so much to ask. The number of acceptably-equipped vehicles continues to dwindle.

    Now there’s 20 model years (2004-2023) of second and third-generation Tacomas out there, to serve when all new vehicles on offer become insufferably festooned with e-junk, 13-speed automatics, two dozen cameras and airbags, and similar idiotic gimcrackery.

    A 10 to 15-year-old Tacoma might be on my shopping list in two or three years, after Depression II sets in good and hard … as in this famous November 1929 photo:

    https://tinyurl.com/472h3fjb

    • A 2015 is just the ticket for the second gen Taco. Last year of the 4.0 v-6 instead of the 3.5. They still put it in the 4Runner. You just have to be prepared to pay a premium for the Tacoma. I believe it has the highest resale value of any vehicle in the U.S.

      I own 3 Toyota’s and a Lexus GX. I wouldn’t mind rounding up a few more for the coming “Depression II”. There’s a reason the teeeerists in 3rd world shitholes love them. It ain’t because they’re the prettiest.

      • I see Tacomas everywhere, old and new, everywhere. You are right Eric, can’t tell the difference between the new ones and a Tundra until they get close enough.
        Ancap—was going to say on the ‘nature’ shows I watch that are of course in Africa, most of the vehicles are Toyotas of some kind. I hadn’t thought about terrorists, but their preferred truck is also a Toyota, lol.

        • Those nature shows in Africa probably have the Land cruiser 70. They are simple, indestructible and still built and sold in markets outside of North America. We can’t have the best vehicles here. Must have electronic appliance type vehicles. Keep that debt train rollin.

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