Toyota’s midsize truck is facing tougher competition than ever.
By far, the Toyota Tacoma is America’s best-selling midsize truck, but the current generation has been around since 2016. It’s certainly not uncommon for the automaker to go a decade or more without redesigning a truck — after all, we’re only just getting a new Tundra and a new Lexus LX SUV. However, new players are chipping away at the Tacoma’s comfortable lead, and even the current truck is starting to show its age. If the company wants to keep drawing buyers in, it needs to keep its truck lineup fresh and modern. That’s where this comes in — the 2023 Toyota Tacoma.
At least, as far as we can divine, this is a 2023 model. These photos — snapped by our friend Jordan in Las Vegas, still show a prototype draped in camouflage. The covering hides a frustrating amount of detail, but there are a few pieces we already know with some certainty. Now that the Tundra is here, on its scalable TNGA-F architecture, we can also cheat and infer some of the new truck’s underpinnings from its full-size brother.
What we know about the 2023 Toyota Tacoma (so far)
First up, there’s the front-end styling. We may have seen a bit of this a few months back, and it makes sense that the new Tacoma would take several styling cues from the Tundra. Whether you’re a fan or not, that means a more prominent, flat grille and some interesting looking taillights around back. From what I can see here, this looks like it could be an SR5 model, by way of the horizontal bars comprising the grille. It doesn’t have the sort of mesh grille you’d expect from the TRD Pro, not to mention this truck’s ride height and the tires.
Toyota is playing coy with the rear suspension — as they did with the Tundra — and there’s good reason for that concealment. Odds are, the 2023 Toyota Tacoma will ditch its rear leaf springs for coil springs instead, which should help the car’s everyday driving chops. Most of the Taco’s rivals still use a leaf-spring arrangement, including the new Frontier, the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon and the current-gen Ford Ranger. At present, the Jeep Gladiator and Honda Ridgeline use coil springs in the rear.
New truck, new engine?
Unlike the aging 4Runner, the Toyota Tacoma at least received a new 3.5-liter V6 in its current run. Rumor has it that engine’s not sticking around for another generation, though, and we could possibly see a turbocharged four-cylinder engine take its place. The most likely replacement would be the 2.4-liter unit seen in the new Lexus NX 350. If that does happen, then the Tacoma could see a healthy torque bump from 265 lb-ft to around 317 lb-ft. Horsepower would remain nearly the same, at around 275 (as opposed to 278 horsepower now). Jordan spotted this prototype testing alongside the current, turbocharged Ford Ranger, which puts out 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.
One question mark at this point is whether Toyota will continue to offer a 6-speed manual transmission as an option. It’s likely an 8-speed automatic will be the default option, but I certainly hope they keep a three-pedal option.
Like the Tundra, it’s not farfetched to imagine the 2023 Toyota Tacoma seeing some sort of hybrid variant as well. With both powertrains, it’s more likely we’ll see Toyota’s midsize truck become more competitive on fuel economy against the Ranger — and perhaps jump to the front of the pack.