An orange 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD is shown parked off-road after winning a 2023 Toyota Tacoma vs 2023 Nissan Frontier comparison.

Performance Midsize Trucks: 2023 Toyota Tacoma vs 2023 Nissan Frontier

Pickup trucks have never been more popular than they are now. What once were the vehicles of choice for farmers, workers, and landscapers have now become popular with non-commercial drivers as well. The reason for this is because pickup trucks have never been more comfortable, fuel efficient, and fun to drive. This is especially the case with midsize trucks, which are easier to handle and less expensive than full-size and heavy-duty models. Two models that have really been pushing the midsize truck market are the 2023 Toyota Tacoma vs 2023 Nissan Frontier.

Both of these midsize trucks have been in their respective brand’s lineups for a long time. Toyota introduced the Tacoma in 1995, and it is currently in its third generation, which came out in 2016. Meanwhile, Nissan brought out the third generation of the Frontier last year, and it has been going strong since 1997. As a result, both automakers have had time to work on their midsize trucks, making incremental modifications over the years to get them to the point where they offer drivers like you the performance you desire in your truck.

A silver 2023 Nissan Frontier is shown parked on dirt.

Different Powertrain Approaches

Right off the bat, we see two different approaches to the powertrain for these two trucks. Where Nissan has one standard powertrain for all models of the 2023 Frontier, Toyota offers drivers a number of different choices when it comes to the engine and transmission on the Tacoma. As a result, if you choose a 2023 Nissan Frontier, you are locked into the performance provided by this standard powertrain. This is not the case with the 2023 Tacoma.

Every model of the 2023 Nissan Frontier features a 3.8L V6 gas engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This engine has a dual overhead camshaft configuration (DOHC) with 24 valves for its six cylinders. It utilizes direct fuel injection to deliver up to 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque.

In contrast, you get a number of options on the 2023 Toyota Tacoma. First, you can opt for a 2.7L I-4 gas engine with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. This is also a DOHC engine with 16 valves for its four cylinders. Toyota has equipped with its variable valve timing system to provide better fuel economy. This engine also uses direct injection to provide up to 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque.

Toyota also offers a more powerful engine on the 2023 Tacoma, a 3.5L V6 gas engine with a choice of two different transmissions. It has a mild Atkinson-cycle hybrid with variable valve timing to deliver improved fuel economy. Just like the smaller I-4 gas engine, it uses direct fuel injection and has a DOHC configuration. However, with two extra cylinders it provides improved output, 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. This is a bit less than the Frontier, but the Tacoma offers a choice of two different transmissions, an electronically controlled six-speed automatic, and a six-speed manual transmission, which is a Holy Grail for driving enthusiasts. This transmission is only available on four-wheel drive models, but if you insist on rowing your own gears, the Tacoma is the choice for you, despite a bit less horsepower.

A white 2023 Toyota Tacoma is shown off-roading in dirt.

Performance Differences Between the Tacoma and Frontier

As you could probably imagine, there are some clear differences when it comes to performance between these two vehicles. To start, if your biggest concern is fuel economy, then your best choice is the 2023 Toyota Tacoma with the smaller 2.7L gas engine. This will give you up to 21 miles per gallon combined in rear-wheel drive models, and 20 miles per gallon combined with four-wheel drive. This is matched by the Tacoma with the 3.5L V6 and the automatic transmission, which also provides up to 20 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy. While in the past, manual transmissions delivered the best fuel efficiency, this is no longer the case in the Tacoma. The V6 and manual transmission combination actually deliver the worst fuel economy of any configuration, 18 miles per gallon combined with its mandatory four-wheel drive.

Meanwhile, the Frontier with its standard 3.8L V6 engine can get up to 20 miles per gallon with rear-wheel drive, but drops to 19 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy if you opt for available four-wheel drive. This fuel economy advantage for the Tacoma is due in part to its use of an Atkinson-cycle mild hybrid engine, as well as the availability of a smaller four-cylinder engine.

If you have a need for speed, then you will be served equally well by either the Tacoma with the available 3.5L V6 or the Frontier with its standard 3.8L V6. Both have a top speed of 113 miles per hour. The Frontier gets slightly better acceleration from a dead stop, able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds compared to the 7.7 seconds it takes for the Tacoma to reach this speed. This is where the Frontier’s horsepower advantage becomes clear. However, the Tacoma needs only 180 feet to come to a dead stop from 70 miles per hour, compared to the 183 feet required by the Frontier. Finally, the Frontier does better at road holding, pulling 0.76 g on the skidpad instead of 0.70 g for the Tacoma.

Finally, if you are looking to do towing, then your best bet is probably the Toyota Tacoma. While the model with the 2.7L engine can only tow up to 3,500 pounds, opting for the available 3.5L V6 boosts this figure to 6,800 pounds. The 2023 Nissan Frontier tops out at 6,690 pounds, despite having a larger engine.

A silver 2023 Nissan Frontier is shown parked on a ledge.

Hitting the Trails

Toyota and Nissan offer a number of specialized models of their respective trucks. For example, the 2023 Tacoma is available in the TRD Sport trim, an on-road specialist developed in conjunction with the Toyota Racing Development team. Similarly, Nissan offers the 2023 Frontier with a PRO-X model, with a factory lift for higher ground clearance and special features making it get enhanced road running capabilities.

If you decide that off-roading is your thing, then you can get three different models of the 2023 Tacoma and one specialized model of the 2023 Frontier for trail running. Each of these comes with standard four-wheel drive. The Frontier PRO-4X has a standard off-road suspension featuring Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates to protect the fuel tank and transfer case, and an electronic locking rear differential on its Dana rear axle.

Meanwhile, Toyota gives you the choice of three different models of the 2023 Tacoma that are designed to help you get the most out of your truck when you get off-roading. All three have an electronically locking rear differential to reduce wheel slippage. The Trail Special Edition has a factory lift, as does the TRD Pro. The TRD Off-Road has a specialized TRD Off-Road tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks. The TRD Pro also has a TRD-tuned off-road suspension, but adds 2.5-inch FOX Internal Bypass coil-overs and rear remote-reservoir shocks, with machine-forged upper control arms. All three models also have skid plates to protect key parts of the Tacoma’s undercarriage.

No matter which of the Tacoma off-road models you choose, you should be able to outperform the Nissan Frontier. For example, the TRD Off-Road has a 32-degree approach angle, 23.5-degree departure angle, and 21-degree breakover angle, which equal or surpass the 32.3 degree approach angle, 23 departure angle, and the 19.6 degree breakover angle on the Frontier PRO-4X. The only factor that goes in favor of the Frontier PRO-4X over the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is ground clearance, with the Nissan having 9.8 inches compared to 9.4 inches.

With respect to the other two off-road models of the Tacoma, each easily out-handle the Frontier PRO-4X. The Trail Special Edition has 10.5 inches of ground clearance in front and 9.9 inches in back, with a 34-degree approach angle, 23.6-degree departure angle, and 26.4-degree breakover angle. Still, this can’t compare to the TRD Pro, which has the same ground clearance figures as the Trail Special Edition, but even better off-road performance. The 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro offers a 36.4 degree approach angle, 24.7 degree departure angle, and a 26.6 degree breakover angle. If the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro can’t get over it, none of the other Tacoma or Frontier models will, either.

Two Midsize Trucks Ready To Perform

Depending on your personal desires, it is more likely that you will find what you want in a 2023 Toyota Tacoma instead of a 2023 Nissan Frontier. While these are two of the best performing midsize trucks on the market, the only area where the Frontier excels over the Tacoma is in acceleration, and that is just a slight advantage. Otherwise, the Toyota Tacoma will give you better overall fuel economy, improved road handling, better trailering capacity, and more off-road capability than the Nissan Frontier.