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The standard engine on the Toyota Tacoma doesn’t give buyers V6 power. But what are the differences in capability between a Tacoma with a V6 versus one with the four-cylinder engine option? Is the four-Cylinder Toyota Tacoma even worth buying?

Updated: 8/20

What is the base engine for the Toyota Tacoma? 

A green 2021 Toyota Tacoma, one of the best affordable new pickups under $30,000
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma offers a standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. This powerplant gives drivers up to 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The base engine is standard on both the Toyota Tacoma SR and the SR5 trims. 

Kelley Blue Book says that the four-cylinder option “can get the job done.” But it won’t offer the best passing power on the highway. In addition, drivers will have less power for climbing steep grades. However, the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma does get better gas mileage than the V6 option. 

According to EPA estimates, the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma with a rear-wheel-drive powertrain gets 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. With four-wheel drive, the base engine gets 19 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. 

How much power does the Toyota Tacoma V6 engine provide? 

side view of an electric green Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 2022 model driving on a sandy trail
2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro | Toyota Newsroom

In every trim level above the SR and SR5 Tacoma models, drivers get a 3.5 liter V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. However, buyers can opt for the V6 in both the SR and SR5 models as well. 

This V6 engine offers what Car and Driver calls “decent performance and towing muscle.” That said, this engine lends itself more to off-road maneuvering than powering past other vehicles on the highway. Most critics agree that both the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma and the V6 don’t exactly offer exciting acceleration. 

The V6 gets lower fuel economy, but not by much. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma, equipped with a V6, is estimated to get 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with a rear-wheel-drive configuration. The V6 with four-wheel-drive, as seen in the TRD Pro option, gets 18 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. When the V6 is paired with a manual transmission (offered on TRD trims) the fuel economy stats go down one mpg. 

How much can the Toyota Tacoma tow?

The Toyota Tacoma with the inline-four can tow up to 3,500 pounds. This is actually pretty decent, all things considered. There are a number of trailers and campers that fit within this capacity. 

That said, the V6 with a towing package nearly doubles that number to 6,800 pounds. If you know you’ll use your Tacoma for towing on a regular basis, the V6 might be a better option for this reason alone. 

Is the four-cylinder option worth buying? 

There are many critics that prefer the six-speed manual over the automatic transmission. If buyers want a TRD trim Tacoma with a manual transmission, the V6 engine is the only pairing option. That said, an SR5 equipped with a four-cylinder engine starts at $26,150, according to U.S. News and World Report.  

On the other hand, a V6 engine on any trim level has a starting price of $28,410. So buyers will pay a little more for the more powerful option. For many buyers, the four-cylinder engine is certainly worth buying. It’s a great way to get into a simple, reliable, and affordable new pickup truck under $30,000

However, the vast majority of critics advise against buying the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma. It’s hardly more fuel-efficient, and the difference in acceleration is noticeable. In general, for buyers who can afford the V6 Tacoma model, that is going to be the more satisfying choice in terms of power. Although there are compelling reasons to buy the four-cylinder model instead, as Scotty Kilmer explains in the video above, the Toyota Tacoma V6 is the more common favorite.