2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro - Mix to Match

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole
2015 toyota tacoma trd pro mix to match

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

4-liter, DOHC V-6 with variable-valve timing (236 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 266 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm)

5-speed ECT-i automatic

16 mpg city/21 mpg highway (EPA Rating, MPG)

17 mpg combined (observed, 40 percent highway/20 percent city/40 percent off road/100 percent totally bruh!)

Tested Options: TRD Performance Air Filter $90; Bed Mat $120; Paint Protection Film $395; Security System $469; Front Skid Plate $205.

Base Price:


As Tested Price:


* Prices include $885 destination and handling fee.

Forgive me for getting all emotional here.

The 2015 Toyota Tacoma represents to me the end of the road for the truck I knew so well, complete with a growl more familiar to me than my own father’s voice. Like many mountain-state millennials, the Tacoma seemed for me to be just the right size for a party in the mountains, a last-minute move (or eviction, perhaps), a camping trip or hauling an over-welded pig smoker and cherry picker to a friend’s backyard.

I expected the 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to be a greatest hits album, replaying the most successful tunes from my young adulthood through its chunky tires and searing orange paint package.

It turned out to be more of a remix.

When I had the chance to drive the all-new 2016 Toyota Tacoma and the 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro back-to-back, I presumed that I’d get misty-eyed and nostalgic for one; geezerly and cynical for another.

In a way, I am. The TRD Pro feels like a rough-and-tumble truck, the kind of burnt orange brick to throttle through your neighbor’s window if they call the cops too many times for loud music. The 2016 Tacoma has a 3.5-liter engine like a Camry for chrissakes.

I just didn’t count on the fact that I grew up.


If you ask me now, I’d take the burnt orange (or Inferno, as Toyota calls it) Tacoma or 4Runner. Ask me in five years and I may have a different opinion, but for now: yup, I’d take one.

The Macho Taco is really just a hyper-sexed version of the Tacoma we already know. The basic truck has gotten larger in the decades since we’ve had the Tacoma/Toyota pickup, but the proportions are still the same. The 5-foot box and double cab configuration has a barrel-chested silhouette, and the truck’s overall length — which is still about 2 feet shorter than a short-bed F-150 — belies its interior space.

Around front, our tester sported the automotive equivalent of a manicured soul patch: a very visible, very silver front skid plate (which, surprisingly, was optional). The skid plate didn’t bother me as much as the blacked-out grille and TRD Pro badges up front, but don’t ask me why.

In all, the styling on the truck makes it look like a bit of a special edition can of Mountain Dew, and that’s what owners are presumably signing up for. Have you seen the nostrils on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon?

Shod with chunky 16-inch A/T BFGs, the Tacoma looks the part. Its Eibach springs, which are TRD tuned and 2 inches taller, and Bilsteins confirm what the tires promise: it’s at home in the dirty stuff.


I won’t surprise anyone at Toyota for saying that the Tacoma shows its age more on the inside than anywhere else. I can look past the black badges, the hair-on-fire orange or even the silver skid plate, but goodness, that instrument cluster.

In reality, the Macho Taco is a very old runner in compression leggings and cross-trainers — it only fools everyone for so long. The chunky climate controls and Spartan interior aren’t exactly what you’d expect from a truck that costs nearly $40,000 and its seating position isn’t much to write home to the folks about either.

But I’m the forgiving type, and I’d rather highlight the Tacoma TRD Pro’s infotainment system, which is actually better than the new generation’s touchscreen. The tactile buttons are better and that’s because I’m an old man, but also because windows down and dust and dirt in, the thing actually works without wiping it off too much.

As found in higher trims of the Tacoma, the 6-speaker audio system is remarkably good for an unbranded unit. (A few years ago, I drove a Tacoma with a flux capacitor-looking subwoofer in the back and that was just the best. I wish we could still get subs like those.)

In back, the double cab’s rear seats sport 32.3 inches of legroom, according to the automaker. It’s enough room for my 6-foot-2-inch lanky frame to fit without changing the driving position much, according to me.

As you would expect from a truck of its age, the Tacoma sports interior materials that you’d likely find on a 1992 Corolla. Its straightforward graphite fabric and plain, hard plastics are less exciting than hold music on the phone with the IRS, but think about the patina of dirt you could grind into those bad boys! See? Every atomic cloud has a silver lining.


It’s not hyperbole: Firing up the 4-liter V-6 sounds like home to me. The Toyota’s roar and (hollow) growl is easy to deride; its 236 horsepower isn’t exactly pushing the limit. Its real power is in its twist, which it finds higher in the range that you’d expect in a truck, until you realize that very few buyers actually tow with their Tacomas. The replacement engine for 2016 has no material improvement in torque (266 vs. 265) and actually comes on higher in its range (4,000 rpm vs. 4,600 rpm). I suspect our truck’s might was boosted slightly by its performance air filter and TRD exhaust, but only just.

In reality, the base mill is just fine. Sifted through a five-speed automatic with one overdrive gear, the Tacoma could be accused of being eager — but probably not meaty. At altitude (around 10,000 feet), the truck wheezed and huffed, but who needs air conditioning anyway? Takes me back to the old days.

One of the benefits of buying a TRD Pro, of course, is the truck’s electronically locking rear differential, which may get an equal number of “What’s that do?” questions as the “ECT Power” button. The Taco Supreme’s rear locker may be two fewer than a G-Wagon and one less than a Rubicon, but it’s probably one more than most people need.

The TRD Pro’s limited run of 1,500 examples means all the six-speed manuals are long gone, slowly depreciating in Washington garages where the owners will inevitably sell them in five years for whatever they paid for them today. It’s a shame; the manual would have been more fun and should have been more accessible.

The Tacoma’s low-range is easy to find and shift into; a rotary knob near the key is all that stands between you and conquering that rock like a boss.


There’s no reason, whatsoever, for the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to ever find dry pavement. The reasons are two-fold.

First, the Taco Supreme is sublime off road. The faster you run down dirt roads, the better the truck’s mission comes into view. I won’t evoke baja trucks and Toyota off-road racing heritage (supposedly the 2016 truck does that for you), but rather I can say that it works and work very well.

Second, if you do happen to find pavement, keep the chiro on speed dial. The Tacoma TRD Pro’s stiffened spring rate and stiff sidewalls keep the truck harder than a $10 mattress.

Ditto for the brakes, which stop harder than swearing at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. The pedal is unforgiving and so are my kidneys, which are moving around in my back like a paint shaker.

I have ridden in stiffer trucks before (Ram Power Wagon), but any fantasies of living with a TRD Pro in day-to-day commutes should end right now: it’s not that type of truck.

And that type of unforgiving truck is something I’m OK with. I appreciate automakers holding fast to their concepts, and staying true to their missions. The TRD Pro feels like a Tacoma that won’t give an inch to take an off-road mile.

It’s not the ultimate expression of what an old Tacoma should be, rather it’s the last in a line of Tacomas that are left to appreciate.

In that way it felt like the Jay-Z/Beatles “Grey Album.” That record wasn’t necessarily good (although I liked it) but rather it was good for what it was.

(Interior instrument shot courtesy of Toyota because I can’t shoot interiors apparently.)

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2 of 29 comments
  • King of Eldorado King of Eldorado on Sep 02, 2015

    I had an '86.5 Nissan "Hardbody" for 11 years that rusted into actual danger territory, followed by a '98 Civic hatchback, followed by an '09 Tacoma that now has 178k miles on it, with zero problems. I'll definitely look at this when I reach 200k, about May 2016.

  • Zackman Zackman on Sep 03, 2015

    I'm sorry, but that's one plug-ugly truck. It looks like they tried adding some nice, hard angles, but then just rounded them off and the result looks like someone took a Chevy, Dodge or Ford pickup and "European-ized" it. Or "Chinese-d" it, for lack of a more accurate term. Of course I'm talking about pure style and not about how it performs. It most likely performs just like a - well, a truck. I'm sure it's as bullet-proof as most other mid-sized(?) trucks, but "no sale" for me. I'm sure they will sell.

  • FreedMike Well, y'all wanted a brown wagon...
  • Daveo We had it in NJ and don't in Florida. Can't tell you how many cars I'm behind in traffic that have no brake lights. I think it's necessary.
  • Tassos Is there any reason you could not put the ACTUAL 348 mile number in the TITLE of the damned article, so I would not need to read the whole thing to find out?
  • Tassos Honda is bleeding billions in order to keep this loser Acura alive.In the REST of the world, Identical vehicles to Acuras are just called HONDAS. Best example, the NSX! It was NEVER called an "acura" outside the US.
  • Cprescott Very expensive all terrain golf cart.