2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro review by Ben Lewis

What makes a best seller? A simple question, but not always a simple answer. Often, it’s price driven – America’s best-selling hamburger is not likely the tastiest one you’ll find. On the other hand, big box office boffo blockbusters are often really good. But not always.

Well Toyota’s Tacoma is certainly one of the best-selling small trucks, and lately is also the king of resale value – often times demanding prices higher than new! So, we wondered, is the 2023 Tacoma a budget burger, or a movie star with enduring power. Let’s find out.

Movie Star Looks

Well, this is certainly no indifferently cooked patty, this is one rugged beast. O.K, we need to point out that our tester was the top-of-the-line TRD Pro, and that bristles with all sorts of off-road goodness that just adds to the trucky looks. Adding to that was our tester’s new-for-2023 Solar Orange paint – one friend described it as a “Flamin’ Hot Cheeto” and we love that imagery.

That orange also makes a gorgeous contrast with the blacked-out parts on our Tacoma, creating one head-turning Truck.

Up front, the TRD Pro makes a bold first impression with a heritage inspired front grille with big block letters spelling out TOYOTA, and color-keyed surrounds. We love the LED headlights with sequential turn signals and signature “TRD” lettering on the right side, and “Pro” on the left. Tucked below are Rigid Industries (and it says so) LED fog lights for some added off-road cred. Underneath there’s an aluminum front skid plate with TRD lettering, while up top a blacked-out hood scoop with cool terrain map graphic finish off the look.

The profile is equally impressive. The double-cab Pro stands tall thanks to an off-road focused lifted suspension sitting on gorgeous 16-inch TRD lightweight black alloy wheels and massive 265/70 Goodyear Wrangler tires. Wrapped in black over fenders, the ‘Taco looks ready for anything. In case there’s any question what you’re looking at, there are nice blacked-out Tacoma badges on each front door, while “TRD PRO” is stamped in the bed’s flanks behind the rear wheel for a custom look.

At the rear, there’s some added blacked-out badging, a stamped TACOMA logo in the truck bed, and a robust-looking TRD-tuned cat-back exhaust poking out underneath. All in all, this is one jaw-dropping truck!

True Truck Cabin

Inside, the Tacoma gives off that durable, no-nonsense vibe you want in a truck, but throws in a surprising amount of tech at the same time.

Open the door and step up – you might need to grab the wheel to help pull yourself in – and you’re greeted by large, handsome analog gauges. No frou-frou digital instruments here! Leather-wrapped front buckets with TRD PRO stitched into the headrests add to the feeling you’re in something special.

The plastics in the interior are workmanlike, and border on stark in places, but we’ll bet they’ll still look great when that odometer clicks over a couple hundred thousand miles – Toyota knows how to engineer in durability and toughness where it counts!

A nice fat steering wheel with a perforated grip feels great in your hands and when you reach down – voila! An honest to goodness manual transmission lever. With a large oversize knob with red TRD striping (something spread around the cockpit), it feels great to palm forward or fingertip backward as you row through the gears.

Another surprise – you start with a key, no pushbutton ignition here. We think it might be there to let you walk it on the starter in certain off-road conditions, because other luxuries like heated seats, a power driver’s seat and even a 360-degree overhead multi-terrain monitor show the Tacoma is well equipped.

The center stack includes an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a wireless charging pad ahead of the shifter. Another surprisingly nice luxury was the power moonroof – rare in a Tacoma, but we loved the extra light and ventilation. Speaking of ventilation, a power sliding rear window is a nice touch as well.

Those in the back will find tight quarters, but upright seating brings good visibility if not luxurious comfort. Most trucks in this size suffer a similar fate to be honest.

The truck bed looks up to serious work as well. In our tester it’s a 5-foot bed, with a heavy-duty liner, tie-downs and lockable storage, while an in-bed outlet lets you power up the tools or the toys you want to bring along.

Putting the TRD in Tacoma

All of the above makes one nice truck, but when TRD puts their name on a product, they get serious about the running gear.

Under the hood is Toyota’s familiar 3.5-liter V6, pumping out a respectable 278 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Taking advantage of this is a TRD exhaust that gives a wonderful deep burble at idle and sings as the V6 runs through the rpm range. Another wonderful feature here is the 6-speed manual transmission. Yay! Nothing feels so trucky as stirring the gears, easing off the clutch pedal, downshifting and letting the engine brake to slow you down. Fun, fun, fun!

TRD makes sure you have the gear to meet your off-road needs, including a special lifted TRD-tuned suspension with FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks tuned by TRD, plus TRD-engineered upper machine-forged aluminum control arms. It’s also great fun to look into the wheel wells and see all that stout gear just waiting for adventure!

For you technical types, the increased suspension lift provides real-world improvements for trail and obstacle clearance thanks to a 36.4-degree approach angle, 24.7-degree departure angle and its 26.6-degree breakover angle.

When the going gets tough, the TRD Pro instrument panel integrates a 4.2-inch color Multi-Information Display with an inclinometer and tilt gauge, plus displays for outside temperature, odometer, trip meters and average fuel economy estimates.

While we didn’t get a chance to go off-road, we can say that the long travel suspension makes for a super-smooth ride on the pavement, and the big truck is also impressively quiet on the freeway. Downsides of the design include a somewhat large turning circle, so tight parking spaces are a bit of work. That said, the multi-terrain monitor with overhead 360 view does make lining up for the spot easy work.

If you’re bringing the toys, the 6,800 lb. towing capacity lets you bring what you want. We found it easy to meet the 18 mpg combined estimate for the TRD – you kind of knew going in that a big truck with tall tires and a raised suspension was not going to be a Prius!

Can I Afford to go Pro?

There’s a wide range of Tacoma models to fit your truck-buying budget. The lineup starts with the SR model, with 2WD, 4-Cylinder ruggedness, but still goodies like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Toyota Safety Sense standard. A rugged workhorse that should give you decades of solid service, for just $27,750.

At the other end of the spectrum is our TRD Pro model, which is the whole enchilada, plus a bunch of TRD side dishes, starting at $46,685. You’ll pay $425 for the Solar Octane paint, and $1,335 for Destination, ringing the bell at $48,445.

Competitors would include the Honda Ridgeline, at $50,930 – more car like, but we’d guess it lacks the TRD’s off-road capability. If you want to go tough, the Jeep Gladiator is an excellent of-road choice, but at $59,510 fully loaded, it’s significantly more expensive. We’ll take the flaming’ hot Cheetos, thanks!

Rugged and handsome, with pure truck DNA and added TRD capability, the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro is an enduring best seller with real star appeal.