By on September 2, 2015


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.

2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(4_of_8)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.

Toyota Tacoma GaugesIn 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.

2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(6_of_8)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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29 Comments on “2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro – Mix to Match...”

  • avatar

    $40,000? FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. For a Tacoma. I love my 2002 tacoma. I’ve had it since new. It’s never failed to get me somewhere or offer it’s solid plastic dashboard for breaking a hard boiled egg.

    I paid $22k for that truck. I realize that it’s a long time ago, but holy poop. $40k is full size truck territory plus some. $40k is fine German sedan territory minus some.

    • 0 avatar

      When I test drove one last year, a 2014 short bed quad cab 4wd TRD-offroad package truck (rear diff lock, bilstein shocks) with the 5spd auto could be had for about $28k after negotiations. Given the rate of inflation, that’s not too far off the 22k you paid in 2002.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’d expect $28K for a 4WD 4-door version comparable to your 2002. This $40K TRD Pro is a niche offering for a certain subset of folks who, unlike me, are willing & able to throw another 10 grand on top of an already pricey vehicle to give it even more offroad chops. If you want it, there isn’t much else like it, so you’re gonna pay.

  • avatar

    Agreed re: price. However, as an alternative to the Wrangler Rubi, it is easier to rationalize. I absolutely love this truck as a practical, durable, reliable outdoor recreation beast.

  • avatar

    I know the pics were taken from a perspective to enhance the ruggedness, but that sucka looks BIG!

  • avatar

    Lot of good info here, but very hard to read. How about spending a little more time on editing TTAC?

    • 0 avatar
      Kosher Polack

      Yeah! You should ask for your money back!

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Cole

      Hard to read how?

      • 0 avatar

        A lot of confusing or unnecessarily wordy sentences. I understand you’re going for a kind of casual/conversational tone, but it just doesn’t flow well.

        “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.”

        “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.”

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Whatever, that gauge cluster is great. Big speedo in center, sizeable tach on one side, temp & fuel on other. Very legible, very simple, and symmetrical. Sure, you’ve been looking at them for 10 years, but it doesn’t detract from their fundamental strengths.

    I wish the Tacoma and every other 30, 40, 50-thousand dollar truck had 1992 Corolla material quality. That car had a richly padded dashboard and door sills. Like the mid-90s Camry, it was exceptional for the class.

    I’m very curious as to how the new 3.5L V6 will compare to this old 4.0 in fuel economy, acceleration metrics, and real world feel. The new Chevy 3.6 in the Colorado hasn’t exactly put the Toyota 4.0 to shame in those metrics.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha I had a similar thought when I saw the ’92 Corolla comparison “I wish!”

      Having said that, when I test drove a 2014 Tacoma, I found the interior materials sturdy and solid, if not soft-touch-padded. Now, try sitting in an Xterra or Frontier for comparison, yeesh! I’m generally not one to grouse about soft touch yada yada in utility vehicles, but the Nissans are just plain nasty. Doesn’t stop me from lusting after a 6spd Xterra Pro-4x, my bigger beef with the Xterra is the tight-ish interior and use of leaf springs out back, yet having a pretty low payload.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I really like those gauges.

      Clean, easy to read, clear.

  • avatar

    An all new vehicle, improved in every metric, is now out after years of people complaining that it never gets updated.

    Time for auto bloggers nostalgia about how the old one is vastly superior.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

  • avatar

    Does it come with a standard cab? How about a long bed, and what is the length of the long bed?

  • avatar

    Those tires look like original KOs not KO2. Is Toyota getting a deal on NOS tires or something? KO2s have way better side tread, look cooler (imho), wear way better on the highway and are nearly the same price.

  • avatar

    So when you’ve got something AWD with a “snow mode” that forces 25% equal power to all four wheels at up to a certain speed – is that locking the diff(s) or the transfer case? Or something else.

    Are there any items left with a manual, mechanical locking diff (LR Defender or something)?

    • 0 avatar


      To get a “forced” 25/25/25/25 split, you first need to both achieve a 50/50 hard split front to rear via any number of options: traditional part time transfer case, a full-time transfer case with a locking center differential, a viscous coupling with an override features for the electronics to lock it up (rav4, suzuki SX4 has this). Next you need to lock the wheels on each axle 50/50 hard split with respect to each other. The most sure way to achieve this is with a hard-locking mechanical differential lock that is driver actuated. GM’s G80 is an ‘auto-locker’ that is not quite the same thing in terms of actuation, or staying actuated, but when it’s locked up it’s locked up. Traditional limited slip differentials have smoother on/off sort of engagement than that GM unit. Modern traction control systems can use the multi-channel ABS system and wheel speed sensors to brake individual wheels that start to slip/spin, Jeep’s ‘BLD’ system (Brake Lock Differential) can do this in as little as 1/64 rotation of the slipping wheel as I recall. Toyota’s ATRAC-II system does the same thing, as does Land Rover’s and everyone else’s, with varying degrees of efficacy and response speed. Jeep, LR, and Toyota are generally regarded as some of the best at this.

      Of course, on a uniformly slick surface, something like a stick shift Subaru with a nominally 50/50 viscous coupling split will inherently send 25/25/25/25 across the wheels. As will a part time 4wd system with open differentials. But as soon as one side of the axle slips that might go out the window.

      By ‘manual’ mechanical locking differential, do you mean actually pulling on a lever and that human mechanical force transferred to the rear differential at the back of the truck? Can’t think of any like that off the top of my head. Most factory and aftermarket locking differentials are either electrical solenoid (such as this Tacoma) or air powered (most aftermarket, Mitsu Montero).

      If you haven’t noticed, I get a HUGE kick out of nerding out over AWD/4WD systems.

      • 0 avatar

        Lol, ermahgerd so much information!

        Thanks though this was my question. So it takes more than just one thing. F/R distribution, then L/R distribution.

        And for the mechanical question, yep I was meaning literally a vehicle with a lever you’d pull hard to actuate it. That’s why I suggested Defender – most primitive current vehicle I can think of.

  • avatar

    You’ve got to power wash that engine bay before taking it to the dealer for service. They’ll void your warranty sure as sh!t. Even if it’s marketed as the ultimate off road truck, it’s not to be submerged in water/mud. I’ve seen the Toyota dealer deny claims of everything from electrical problems to twisted connecting rods, once they ‘determine’ you use it like a submarine.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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