2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Pickup Truck: What The Fuss Is All About

The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling mid-size pickup truck, and the TRD Pro is the fan favorite. We took it for a full family test drive to see why.

The Solar Octane Orange Makes The 2023 Toyota Tacoma Trd Pro Look Badder And Bolder. Photo By Allison Bell

You don’t have to show off to make people like you.

Normally, when I get to test drive a car, I like to do a bit of research about it first. I want to know the key features I should be looking for, what’s new for the latest model and any other information that might be helpful in crafting a helpful review for my fellow drivers out there. But when I learned that I’d get to drive a 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro for a week, no prior Googling was necessary. As the best-selling midsize pickup out there with an impressively loyal fanbase, the Tacoma’s reputation preceded it. 

Well, it may come as a surprise, but when I hopped behind the wheel of the Tacoma TRD Pro for the first time, my initial reaction was: “Huh. That’s interesting.” Now, before I get attacked by an angry mob of Taco lovers, let me explain what I mean. And don’t worry — it’s not all bad. 

What did we think of the redesigned Toyota Tacoma pickup truck? Here’s our video:

Related: 2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: A Redesigned Taco For Everyone

The Tacoma Trd Pro Looks Sharp From Every Angle. Photo By Allison Bell

The Tacoma TRD Pro looks sharp from every angle. Photo: Allison Bell

Who Should Buy a Tacoma?

There are two kinds of truck people out there: People who like big trucks and people who like small trucks. Obviously, the Tacoma is geared toward the latter. When you want an old school, no-gimmicks pickup that’ll get the job done without too much fuss, the Tacoma’s a pretty safe bet. And if you’re an off-road fanatic, the top-of-the-line TRD Pro model will likely leave you grinning from ear to ear. (It’s popular for a reason, people.)

It wasn’t until I drove the Tacoma that I realized what kind of truck person I am: I like big trucks and I cannot lie. That said, I can certainly see the appeal of the smaller Taco. Its ideal buyers might include:

Off-road enthusiasts

  • People who want a basic, reliable work truck
  • Drivers who want a truck with high resale value
  • Small families (one or two kids) who don’t need a lot of space

Related: Toyota Tundra vs Toyota Tacoma Pickup Truck: Which Truck is Right for You?

The Steering Wheel Sits A Little Close To The Lap In The Tacoma. Some Might Like It. Others Won'T. Photo: Allison Bell

The steering wheel sits a little close to the lap in the Tacoma. Some might like it. Others won’t. Photo: Allison Bell

What This Pickup Truck Costs

The starting MSRP for the 2023 Toyota Tacoma ranges from $27,750 for the base-level SR trim to $49,390 for the top TRD Pro trim. My TRD Pro tester came in at $51,229.

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The Toyota Tacoma Gear Shift And Cupholders. Photo By Allison Bell

The Toyota Tacoma gear shift and cupholders. Photo: Allison Bell

Is the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Fun to Drive?

Okay, Taco fans. Please don’t get upset and start throwing tomatoes at my house when I say this, but the daily driving experience in the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro was a bit — underwhelming. I found it to be a little loosey-goosey on the road unless I happened to run over large bumps. Then it really shined. I could almost hear it say, “Whee!” when we hit particularly rough patches of road. Other than that, the Tacoma seemed bored to be toting me around on paved, tame roads. It shifted gears a little lazily and acted like I had splashed cold water on its face to wake it from a nap when I floored it on the freeway. Shop For A Toyota Tacoma

Had we unleashed this beast in the wild, I’m sure we would have seen it at its best. When you’re in four-wheel drive, the Tacoma TRD Pro lets you choose from five different terrain modes with an overhead dial: Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul and Rock. (Do you think this thing likes rocks?) You can also adjust your crawl control with the same knob just by flipping a switch. Someday, perhaps we’ll get the chance to test these modes out, but the wintry weather wasn’t going to allow for much off-roading where we live. At least not anything I was willing to risk with my kids in tow. 

Related: Keeping Kids Happy In Car Seats: All Our Secrets

Overhead Buttons On The Tacoma Trd Pro Let You Adjust Your Terrain And Crawl Control Among Other Things. Photo By Allison Bell

Overhead buttons on the Tacoma TRD Pro let you adjust your terrain and crawl control among other things. Photo: Allison Bell

Basic — But in a Great Way

An admirable quality of the Toyota Tacoma is that it doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. Toyota doesn’t overwhelm you with a complicated multimedia system or an overabundance of buttons and knobs. In fact, without looking at a picture, I can almost recite the controls from memory. You’ve got your basic volume and multimedia controls on the steering wheel, along with voice command and drive information gauges. The mostly analog gauges frame a small digital screen that shows your fuel economy, tire pressure and other stats as you scroll through different options. 

I appreciated the simplicity of the 8-inch multimedia touch screen, which allowed me to quickly access audio, navigation and any other apps I might need within seconds. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available but not wireless, so be sure to bring your USB cord along for the ride. In terms of fancy tech, Toyota does include a wireless phone charging pad — and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets.

The Tacoma Trd Pro Is Rated 172120 Mpg For Cityhighwaycombined. We Got 15.4 Mpg. Photo By Allison Bell

The Tacoma TRD Pro is rated 172120 mpg for cityhighwaycombined. We got 15.4 mpg. Photo: Allison Bell

Fuel Efficiency Is Not Bad –for a Pickup Truck 

Unless you’re driving an electric truck, it’s not likely you’ll be bragging about its fuel efficiency — even in a midsize pickup like the Tacoma. According to the window sticker, our 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro has an EPA-estimated rating of 18/22/20 mpg for city/highway/combined. We averaged about 15.4 mpg.

The Tacoma'S Second Row Is Fairly Accomodating For Small Children. Photo: Allison Bell

The Tacoma’s second row is fairly accomodating for small children. Photo: Allison Bell

Cramped or ‘Cozy’? You Decide

Our 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro technically had seating for five passengers, but even with our small family of four, things were tight in this midsize truck. With a 7-year-old in a booster seat and a 4-year-old in a forward-facing car seat, that didn’t leave much room for anything else in the second row. 

Speaking of car seats, installing them was another adventure. The Tacoma has two sets of lower LATCH anchors on the outboard seats and all three seats have one rear anchor each — which you have to access by folding the seats down. It’s definitely doable, but I suggest you stretch first.

Sitting in the driver seat, I immediately took note of the interesting placement of the steering wheel. It was so low, it was practically in my lap. I didn’t feel like I was driving a truck so much as a sports car. It didn’t bother me — it just took some getting used to. As an adult in the second row, my 5-foot-9 frame was decently comfortable. My knees touched the front seats and my head wasn’t too far from the roof, so it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for long trips.

Two Back Seat Essentials Heavy Duty Floor Mats And Cupholders. Photo By Allison Bell

Two back seat essentials heavy duty floor mats and cupholders. Photo: Allison Bell

But Where Do I Put My Stuff?

I don’t think Toyota envisioned many handbag-toting drivers behind the wheel of the Tacoma, which explains why there’s no special cubby for your Prada purse. In fact, there’s not much storage space at all throughout the cabin. There are some “secret” compartments underneath and behind the back seats, but the only easy-access storage is a small square cubby in the center console under the armrest. It’s just big enough to hold your sunglasses, keys and maybe a bottle of Tylenol in case your off-roading gets a little too wild. 

The Tacoma Trd Pro Features The Toyota Heritage Grille. Photo By Allison Bell

The Tacoma TRD Pro features the Toyota heritage grille. Photo: Allison Bell

The James Dean of Trucks

The Tacoma may not be the brawniest of pickups, but there’s no denying this midsize truck has style. The TRD Pro trim is particularly eye-catching with its blacked-out features, fake hood scoop and Toyota heritage grille. And though some may think it’s too bold, we thought the Solar Octane paint job enhanced its rugged appearance nicely. 

One thing I found very entertaining was Toyota’s obvious pride in the TRD Pro designation. In case you had any doubts about which model you were driving, the truck is decorated inside and out with various TRD Pro badging. Finding them all became a sort of game I made up for myself. “There’s one on the hood scoop. Oh, and on the wheels. And the gear shifter. And the seats. And on the shocks. And hidden in the headlights. And three times around the bed.” In all, I think I counted 16 TRD badges. And I still probably missed some. 

Driving A Truck Means I Have To Crank Some Country. The 8-Inch Touch Screen Was Very User Friendly! Photo By Allison Bell

Driving a truck means I have to crank some country. The 8-inch touch screen was very user friendly! Photo: Allison Bell

Value for the Price

If all you want is a Tacoma and you don’t care about any of the extra bells and whistles, the base SR trim will certainly save you some cash with a starting price of $27,750. But if you want the ultimate off-roader, the TRD Pro, that price nearly doubles.

Our TRD Pro tester came at a base MSRP of $49,390, and with a premium paint charge, door sill protector and delivery fees, it rang up at $51,229. If you’re a die-hard trail runner and rock crawler, the price difference may seem negligible in exchange for those TRD Pro goodies (FOX shocks, 16-inch black alloy wheels, TRD front skid plate, TRD Pro leather-trimmed seats, etc.). Besides, in the unlikely event that you fall out of love with it, the Tacoma retains its value so well, you’ll have no trouble off-loading it to another Taco lover without losing much money.

Not being a big off-roader myself, I’d happily opt for one of the lower-priced models.

Sitting In The Back Row Of The Toyota Tacoma Trd Pro. Photo By Allison Bell

Sitting in the back row of the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Photo: Allison Bell

What We Loved

  • It’s easy to drive thanks to its compact size. You can park it perspiration-free.
  • The exterior styling details on the TRD Pro trim are delightfully eye-catching.
  • Effectively absorbs big bumps in the road thanks to its off-road ready Fox shocks.
  • Excellent safety features: Toyota Safety Sense, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, blind spot monitoring, 360-degree camera views, etc.
  • The interior is straightforward and the tech is user-friendly. 
  • Heated front seats and a fast-acting climate control system (at least in the cold weather).
  • Seats are easy to clean.
Driving A Truck Means I Have To Crank Some Country. The 8-Inch Touch Screen Was Very User Friendly!

Driving a truck means I have to crank some country. The 8-inch touch screen was very user friendly! Photo: Allison Bell

What You Need to Know

  • Starting MSRP for the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro: $47,185
  • 3.5-liter V6 engine
  • 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque
  • EPA-estimated 18/22/20 mpg for city/highway/combined driving
  • Six-speed automatic transmission is standard but a six-speed manual transmission is optional with the V6 engine.
  • Solar Octane color is exclusive to the TRD Pro for 2023.
  • It seats five, but adults may feel cramped in the second row.
  • It can also fit three car seats in the back, but installing them can be challenging due to the lack of space. Two is probably a safer bet. 
  • The Tacoma is a great option if you’re looking for a reliable midsize truck that holds its value.

Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro for this review. All opinions are my own. 

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Allison is a freelance writer, a mother of two, and the wife of a car-obsessed husband who got her... More about Allison Bell