• Auto123 reviews the 2023 Toyota Tacoma Limited Nightshade.
• This is the “darkest” trim offered on the popular Tacoma pickup.
• Is it the right mix of luxury and capability?
I‘m honestly a little scared as I sit down to write this. Why? because, like so many pickup owners and drivers, Tacoma folks really do love their truck and heaven forbid I should get something wrong. I could be run right out of car-journalism town on rail covered in tar and feathers!
That said the Tacoma people I know are a little different than the F-150, Silverado or Ram people I know. And yes, I know more of the former than of the latter.
We’re not talking mainly labourers, construction workers or RV haulers either. We’re talking bankers, stockbrokers and doctors. But they are all outdoor enthusiasts, who love their mountain biking, camping, hiking. For these folks, a CUV or sedan isn’t really cutting it.
All to say that the Tacoma is a lifestylist’s truck.
See also: 2023 Toyota Tacoma details, pricing announced for Canada
See also: 2023 Toyota Lineup in Canada: Models and Changes
The exterior of the 2023 Toyota Tacoma
While the Tacoma is technically available with two bed lengths and two cab styles, the top-spec Limited seen here comes one way and one way only: with a 4-door Double Cab and 5-foot bed. Other trims get the smaller Access Cab with a 6-foot bed.
Styling-wise, the Nightshade package – which is the only way you can get the Limited for 2023 - really is all about that: style. It adds cool blacked-out grille and wheels as well as blacked-out wing mirror caps, badges, exhaust tips and running boards.
It looks very sinister, and know that the Nightshade is available only in white, grey or black. The name makes that an obvious limitation, but would it have killed Toyota to offer a dark blue or red or something? And who says “Nightshade” has to mean a dark body colour? Aren’t all those dark badges, grilles and wheels enough?
- Latest front fascia a modern take on the pickup
- Very cool blacked-out grille
- Tame exterior colour options for Nightshade package
The interior of the 2023 Toyota Tacoma
The Tacoma Limited includes pretty much every creature comfort you can get for the Tacoma: 18-inch wheels, leather seating, JBL audio, wireless charging, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and multi-view parking camera. Which, with the press of a button, can be activated while off-roading to get a better sense of what’s going on beneath your wheels.
No heated steering wheel, though, which is disappointing especially at this level, considering MSRP for the Limited hovers around $57,000. Really? There are base-model sedans these days that get a heated steering wheel as standard. Not having one in a truck meant for the outdoor adventurer – whose adventures will often occur in colder climes – is a surprising oversight.
Inside, the high floor means great ground clearance, but it will also taller folks to suffer a little as it forces knees up, even more so in the back seat. The tilt/telescope wheel helps, but there isn’t a huge range of movement here and my hands kept getting sandwiched between my leg and the wheel. That’s really only bothersome when you have your hand at the 6 o’clock position while backing up with a trailer, but it did cause me slight grief in more everyday manoeuvres as well.
Otherwise, there’s a commanding view out over that big, blocky hood that the seating position provides, the view out back is very good as well. I also appreciate the power sliding rear window.
- Nice synthetic leather seating
- Wireless charging
- Good visibility
- No heated steering wheel
- Seating position for tall occupants
- Snug back seat
The drive of the 2023 Toyota Tacoma
All Tacomas sold in Canada get 4 x 4 and a single engine choice: a 278 hp 3.5L V6 that also makes 265 lb-ft of torque. That’s actually down a half litre in engine size from the earlier (pre-2016 model-year) Tacoma, but with the Atkinson Cycle mild-hybrid format it actually makes more horsepower than before and roughly the same torque. And it uses less fuel even though it revs higher. Other markets get a 4-cylinder option but alas, that’s not the case here.
Another big add with the Tacoma is a 6-speed automatic transmission, a big improvement over the previous-gen’s 5-speed auto, to be sure. In the old truck, the transmission and engine seemed never really be in sync when under duress, forcing lots of shifting and hunting for ratios. It was loud, and it was a killer on fuel.
That is no longer so, as the new transmission makes for much better shifting and smoother, more efficient progress. Gears are held onto when you expect them to be and dropped when you want them to be. For more control, there’s a manual mode as well. Or, go all-out and opt for a six-speed manual, though you’ll have to forego the Limited trim as it’s not available with a stick shift.
That would fit the Tacoma’s old-school ethos, though; its ride is still a bit John Deere-like in quality and it kind of sounds like one, too. Heck, this thing even has a mechanical handbrake, for goodness sake!
Speaking of outdoor adventuring: the Limited does come with the same electronic limited-slip differential all Tacomas do, but you cannot spec the TRD Pro package required to get a locking rear differential. That means you also don’t get the Bilstein offroad-spec dampers, either. If you want four doors and the TRD Pro package, you’ll need to select the Double Cab SB package.
That’s not to say, of course, that the Limited can’t be used for off-roading. I scrambled up a few forestry roads during my time with the truck and it was capable of tackling pretty much everything I threw at it. We’re not talking bouldering here, but at its core, the Tacoma’s half-boxed chassis is the same as it is everywhere else in the lineup and this truck is perfectly capable in the hands of less-seasoned off-roaders.
About the Limited, because it is clearly the most ‘round-town version of the Tacoma, what with its standard chassis but upgraded interior, it’s kind of in a weird spot. The bed features lights, rails, tie-downs, power outlet and a small supplementary storage bin on one of its walls, but is all that stuff really going to be used all that much here? I fee like most Tacoma Limiteds are going to get fitted with canopies and their owners are never going to look back.
Which is OK, I guess, because it works fine as a more everyday vehicle with wheels and tires that ride quieter than the TRD trucks, a great JBL audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (both were new to the Tacoma for 2020) and all those niceties mentioned earlier.
- Feels nearly unstoppable when off road
- Six-speed auto a big upgrade
- Ride is somewhat tractor-like
- Only one engine choice in Canada
The final word
The real question is whether or not this is what someone who spends north of 55 grand on a Tacoma is going to want. There are other great vehicles out there that command that kind of money that are better suited as daily drivers.
Indeed, dropping a TRD Pro package on the trim that sits one below the Limited will leave you with a truck more in-keeping with the Tacoma’s ethos - though you will have to drop an additional $5,000 or so to get it.
The Limited? Oh, it can walk the walk, all right, but its when it needs to talk the talk that it kind of loses the plot. It’s a fantastic vehicle, make no bones about it. It’s just one with a bit of a confused identity.
Keep in mind, there’s an all-new Tacoma on the horizon, and it will likely be turning the Tacoma on its head with the addition of even more electrification. We will see a Tacoma that could revolutionize the small/mid-size pickup once again, and carve out a brand-new identity in the process.
Here are a few of your questions about the 2023 Toyota Tacoma Limited Nightshade:
Can I tow with the Tacoma Nightshade?
You sure can! To the tune of 6,500 lb in this specification.
Is there any additional storage in the cabin?
The rear seat cushions flip up to reveal two separate locking storage bins.
Competitors of the 2023 Toyota Tacoma