Video: The New Toyota Tacoma with a Manual Transmission is Great – Except When it’s Not!

2021 toyota tacoma trd pro manual towing

We finally got a chance to tow with a 2021 Toyota Tacoma manual – and it was…

Towing a combined weight of 5,000-lbs, Andre got a chance to tow with a Toyota Tacoma over about 50 miles. The Toyota Tacoma with a manual transmission is kind of a rare breed nowadays. Only Toyota and Jeep offer manual transmissions in their midsize trucks. During the drive, we’ll focus on how the Tacoma handles towing, along with technical information and a total real-world MPG number.

There is no standard factory-installed towing brake controller, so we used our remote brake controller and a GenY Glider hitch. Despite some noticeable squat, the load is well-balanced and comes in well under the Tacoma’s 6,400 lbs towing limit.

Not exactly a rocket in the Rockies.

Our Tacoma tester is the TRD Pro 4X4, so its suspension is better suited for off-road bouncing rather than towing. Still, it provides a great ride, good stability, and is competent for basic towing. It comes standard with the 278 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that makes 265 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, it is a bit anemic up in the Rocky Mountains. It works well enough, but a turbo-diesel is a better choice up here.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about buying a Toyota Tacoma manual: price, economy, capability, and towing. There is an approximate difference of $1,800 between getting a manual over an automatic, so you save dough on the manual. Although both can tow, the automatic’s gearing is actually not as good as the manual’s for towing – especially off the line. Toyota sells WAY more automatic transmissions in their Tacomas, so finding a manual in a desirable trim is difficult. The automatic transmission returns better fuel economy too. It gets a combined 20 mpg vs. 18 mpg for the manual.

Keep in mind: the manual is geared differently than the automatic, with a 4.30:1 rear end, it has a 44 to 1 crawl ratio (in 4LO). This is great for off-roading, which we did in a separate review on TFLoffroad.

It’s a shame that there are so few manual transmissions available in trucks today. Andre had a blast rowing his own gears, and some of our staff swear by manual transmissions. Hopefully, we can do a similar test on a Jeep Gladiator with a manual transmission soon!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.