Midsize trucks make a lot of sense off-road. They can thread the tighter trails better than a full-sized truck, yet still can be outfitted with four-wheel drive, lifted suspensions, special engines, and more from the factory. For 2023, every manufacturer offers a special midsize off-road truck that will get you, and all your stuff, where you want to go.
So how can you spot the best from Ford, Toyota, GMC, Chevy, Nissan and Honda?
Ford Ranger Raptor and FX4 could be the ultimate 2023 midsized off-road truck
The most anticipated off-road truck for 2023 is the Ford Ranger Raptor, which will be the ultimate off-road Ranger. It will be easy to spot: like it’s F-150 cousin, it gets a grille that says FORD in giant capital letters, as well as big fender flares and a not-so-subtle Raptor bed decal. Under a new hood, you’ll get the Bronco’s 3.0-liter 392-horsepower EcoBoost V6, and special off-road suspension.
Those of us who don’t want to spend more than $50,000 on an off-road truck, look to Ford’s FX4 versions of the Ranger. Ford is launching a Tremor version of its popular Maverick truck, which gets a bit of a lift. The best way to spot a Tremor will be its orange tow hooks, as well as the blacked out logos, headlights and taillights.
Toyota’s TRD Tacomas are the most popular 2023 midsize off-road trucks
How do you spot a Toyota’s small off-road trucks? The giant TRD badges on the bed are dead giveaways, but there are two different TRDs. The Tacoma TRD Sport is easily identified by the giant hood scoop. It’s a styling element that Toyota borrowed from American muscle cars of the 1960s, and it says “sporty,” even if it’s not functional.
The Sport has a sport tuned suspension for the street, while the Off-Road version has the off-road Bilstein suspension. On the Off-Road version you can get some extras like Crawl Control. All TRD Tacomas come with a 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, and four-wheel drive is optional. Also, this is one of the rare trucks that you can still order a manual, six-speed, transmission.
GMC Canyon AT4X and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 are all new for 2023
General Motors has released some details of its new ZR2 and AT4X versions of the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado small trucks. You can spot the 2023 off-road versions of these two trucks by the factory 3-inch lift, as well as the wider track accented by fender flares. The off-road versions of these trucks also have several trail cameras mounted all over them, but they’re a bit discreet, so you may want to look for the giant push-bar style grille guard that gives an AT4X away.
Hidden underneath the factory lift kit, these trucks get the fancy Multimatic shocks that are tuned for tough off-road work. These two trucks are all-new for 2023 from the frame up and come with a novel 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes as much as 310 horsepower.
Nissan Frontier PRO trucks
Like Toyota, Nissan likes to advertise its off-road trucks with giant multi-color decals on the bed and giant fender flares. For 2023, though, there two giant badges you’ll see on new Nissan Frontiers PRO-X and PRO-4X. The PRO-X version takes over where the old Desert Runner left off as a two-door “pre-runner” version of the off-road truck, while the PRO-4X has four-wheel drive.
All Frontier trucks get a powerful 310-horsepower V6 and can be ordered in two-door King Cab and Crew Cab versions. The PRO versions get Bilstein off-road shocks, and you can order top-down 360-degree cameras that act like a trail spotter inside the truck.
Look for the HPD badges on the Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline doesn’t really come in an off-road specific version. All Ridgelines come with a 3.5-liter V6 and all-wheel drive is an option, but you can order the Honda Performance Development version that adds fender flares, bronze wheels, and HPD decals. The Ridgeline got a redesign for 2021 that added reshaped bumpers, new trims, and paint.