Toyota Tacoma SR5 Vs TRD – Differences and Which Is Better?

Are you in the market for a new truck but are caught between the Toyota Tacoma SR5 vs. TRD? Which one of the two is better? What are the differences between the Toyota Tacoma SR5 vs. TRD?

The biggest differences between these two trim levels of the Toyota Tacoma include, but are not limited to:

  • Base Engine and Power Output
  • Base Towing Capacity
  • Base Price and Available Options

Read on to learn more about the differences between the Toyota Tacoma SR5 vs. TRD editions. These variants are serious investments, so know as much as you can about both to make an informed decision.

Toyota Tacoma SR5 Vs. TRD – The Differences

toyota tacoma sr5 vs trd

The Toyota Tacoma SR5 and the TRD may be the same model, but they are different trim levels. If you are stuck choosing between the two variants, here are some major differences. Hopefully, these areas will help you determine which one is the best for your needs:

1. Base Engine and Power Output

SR5 Comes Standard with a 159 horsepower, 4-cylinder Engine

Comparing the Tacoma SR5 vs. TRD edition based on their power output will depend on their engines. The SR5 comes standard with a 159 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine.

TRD Has 278 horsepower V6

Now, compare that with the 278 horsepower V6 with the TRD. As you can see, the TRD comes out as the clear winner in this regard. This is not surprising, seeing as it is a higher trim level.

SR5 Has Enough Horsepower Under the Hood

Despite the lower power output, the base Tacoma SR5 still has enough horsepower under the hood. This is so it can get through rough terrains and weather conditions.

Better Suspension System for TRD

However, the TRD also has the advantage as it has a better suspension system. This allows more power transfer from the engine to the road.

Both Trucks Come Standard with a Double-wishbone and Stabilizer Bar

Speaking of the suspension system, both trucks come standard with a double-wishbone and stabilizer bar at the front. There are also leaf springs, outboard gas shocks, and a stabilizer bar at the rear.

For the TRD Edition, you will notice the TRD-tuned suspension system. It also uses Bilstein shock absorbers.

2. Base Towing Capacity

You are buying a Tacoma because you will use it as a tow vehicle. You are making the right choice because both the SR4 and TRD versions of the Tacoma have great towing capabilities.

Features That Enable These Trucks to Have Great Towing Capabilities

This is largely in part because of these features:

  • The class-4 tow hitch receiver
  • Automatic Transmission Fluid Cooler (obviously not available in the MT)
  • Oil Cooler
  • Power Steering Cooler
  • Huge 130A Alternator
  • 4- and 7-pin connector with a converter (great for towing campers)
  • Trailer-Sway Control for V6 variants only

TRD Sport Can Tow Heavier Loads

Because of its bigger engine and power output, the TRD Sport can tow heavier loads, capped at 6,800 pounds. However, the base SR5 is not a slouch either, with a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. This makes the SR5 more than capable of towing a small camper or boat trailer.

3. Base Price and Available Options

Tacoma TRD Is More Expensive Than the Base Tacoma SR5

The Tacoma TRD is almost $5,000 more expensive than the base Tacoma SR5. However, this huge difference in the price tag is because of the bigger engine and the upgraded suspension.

One can argue that the SR5 can get the same performance using aftermarket upgrades for less cost. However, it is still not the same as having a TRD-tuned truck.

TRD Edition Comes with More Additional Packages

In addition, the TRD edition comes with more additional packages compared to the SR5. The packages for the Tacoma TRD are:

  • Premium Audio and Dynamic Navigation System
  • Upgraded LED headlamps
  • Premium TRD Off-Road Package
  • Technology Package
  • Advanced Technology Package
  • Premium Package for Double-cab models

Tacoma SR5 Only Comes with One Package Option

The Tacoma SR5 only comes with one package option. This is the Convenience Package, which adds a keyless entry option.

Auto LSD on a Toyota Tundra, Tacoma, RAV4, and more [Guide]

Origins of the Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Released the First Generation of Pickup Line in 1969

Toyota is primarily famous for its compact and mid-sized sedans, like the Camry and the Corolla. Note that its line of trucks also has a rich and colorful history. In 1969, Toyota released the first generation of their pickup line.

This is the Hilux, which would be one of their best-selling vehicle lines. Until today, the Hilux is still one of Toyota’s best-selling vehicles, although it is no longer available in North America.

Toyota Introduced Tacoma as a Replacement for the Hilux

Toyota introduced Tacoma as a replacement for the Hilux in the US in 1995. Toyota no longer sells the Hilux in the US ever since the imposition of the “Chicken Tax” law.

This law imposed a 25% tariff on small displacement pickup trucks. This made Toyota decide not to sell the Hilux and replace it with Tacoma instead.

Tacoma Is Bigger Than the Hilux

However, even though Tacoma is bigger than the Hilux, it continued and improved upon the original design. This is the reason why Tacoma has a pedigree spanning almost 50 years.

1969-1972 Toyota Hilux (1st Generation)

toyota tacoma sr5 vs trd off road
1972 Toyota Hilux

Not as Big as the Other Pickup Trucks

When Toyota introduced the first-generation Hilux, it was not as big as the other pickup trucks at the time. The Toyota Hilux had a significantly shorter wheelbase. It had a 1.9L gasoline engine that could only produce 84 horsepower.

Came Standard with a 4-speed Manual Transmission and Rear-wheel Drive

The original Hilux also came standard with a 4-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. Toyota also used the typical pickup setup at the time. This consisted of A-arms and regular coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the rear.

Manufactured Exclusively in Japan

The 1st generation Toyota Hilux was manufactured exclusively in Japan. It was produced as a replacement for the Toyota Stout, an older and bigger model. However, with the second-generation Hilux, Toyota listened to the consumers and gave it a longer wheelbase for more utility.

Chicken Tax

The imposition of the Chicken Tax put a 25% tariff on light truck imports. The 65 Toyota Hilux had to get an engine upgrade and an extended bed. However, it was to meet the new standards. There was not that much that changed in terms of power output.

For reasons only Toyota of America knows, the third generation of the Hilux was the Toyota Truck. This was up until the last North American version got sold in 1994.

Are you a fan of the Back to the Future movies? The truck that Marty McFly drove in the second and third films was a Toyota Truck. To be more specific, it was a 1985 Toyota Xtra Cab SR5. It is still a cool truck to this day.

Again, what is the difference between Toyota Tacoma SR5 and TRD? Toyota Tacoma SR5 is equipped with a 159-hp four-cylinder. Meanwhile, TRD has a 278-hp V6. These engines are good enough for crossing rugged terrain, on-road and off.

1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma (1st Generation)

Improved Handling and Upgraded Creature Comforts

In 1995, Toyota finally decided to give their mid-sized truck a name. This started the Tacoma lineup. This “new” truck had significantly improved handling and upgraded creature comforts. It also had additional trims in the next couple of years.

Additional Features

By the 2000s, the Tacoma came standard with Daytime Running Lights, ABS, stability, and traction controls. They also had many other handling improvements.

What did not change much was the styling of the Tacoma. It stayed pretty much the same in the first ten years. The main reason is that Toyota focused mainly on performance and safety features.

Change in Appearance

However, in 2001, Tacoma had a major facelift. It added exterior paint options and even more trim levels.

2005-Current Year Toyota Tacoma (2nd Generation)

Most Successful Era of the Pickup Truck

The second-generation Toyota Tacoma was arguably the most successful era of the pickup truck. The Tacoma bagged quite an impressive number of awards.


One of them was the prestigious Truck of the Year 2005 from Motor Trend for the Tacoma X-Runner. The X-Runner trim got introduced for that model year. It featured a massive 4L engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox.

Change in Appearance

The next major facelift for Tacoma did not come for several years until 2009. The 2009 Tacoma got a fully-revised grille, LED taillights, and smoked headlamps for certain trims.

Pros of the Toyota Tacoma

1. Built to Last

For more than 25 years, the Toyota Tacoma has enjoyed a solid reputation for being a reliable truck. No other pickup truck in its class has a dependability rating higher than the Toyota Tacoma.

Tacoma owners rarely report any major mechanical problems. With regular servicing and maintenance, the Tacoma can easily last for more than 300k miles.

It also commands high resale values because of its bulletproof design. This means that you can expect a great return on investment should you choose to purchase one.

2. Comes With a Highly Recommended V6 Upgrade

The Toyota Tacoma base model comes with a 4-cylinder engine. However, if you have a bit more room in your budget, you should upgrade to the V6 option.

The V6 engine can generate up to 278 horsepower. You will feel the difference when you are behind the wheel. Also, the bigger engine can increase the towing capacity from 3,500 pounds to 6,800 pounds.

3. Provides A Comfortable Ride

The previous Tacoma models received criticisms for having awkward driving positions. This is no longer a problem with the latest model having a 10-way powered driver’s seat.

This means you can adjust your driving position to your heart’s content. The new Tacoma will be a joy to drive regardless of your height.

Other nice amenities include heated front seats and dual-zone A/C climate controls for the higher trim levels. In addition, the much-improved suspension will make rough roads, and smooth pavements feel almost the same.

4. Capable On- and Off-road

The nice thing about owning a Toyota Tacoma is that you can take it anywhere. You will love the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, and Pro trims if you have an adventurous personality. Although you will be paying significantly more for these higher trim levels, you will find them well worth it.

The Tacoma TRD comes with a front skid plate and electronically-locking rear differential. This lets you take it for some serious off-roading adventures.

Need to cross a river? No problem. The TRD version comes with Crawl Control, which assists drivers when traversing tough terrain. This truck will have no issues tackling the paths others fear to tread.

5. TRD Sport Is a Great Street Machine

Toyota understands that not all truck owners like to take their vehicles off-road. Some want something fun to drive, and this is what the Tacoma TRD Sport is for.

In addition to the souped-up engine, this truck also comes with a sporty suspension. There are also street grip tires that improve handling. The sporty exterior and hood vents also give this an aggressive stance.

6. Availability of Replacement Parts and Cheaper Repair Costs

What’s good about owning a Toyota vehicle is finding parts is more accessible and more affordable. Also, many garages will have no issue taking care of your truck. The reason is that it is quite easy to diagnose and fix its problems.

Cons of the Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular trucks today. However, it also has several issues you should consider when shopping for one. Among them are the following:

1. Not Quite as Spacious as Other Trucks

Although the Toyota Tacoma comes with crew cab versions, a medium-sized family will find the interior cramped. The rear seats also do not have a lot of legroom.

Some tall passengers may not find long road trips on the Tacoma enjoyable. If you want ample legroom and seat space, you would better get a Toyota Tundra instead.

2. Higher Trims are Incredibly Expensive

Although most people are perfectly fine with the base Tacoma SR5 and TRD, the higher trim levels are quite expensive. For instance, if you want the Tacoma Nightshade, expect to pay $41k. Also, if you are thinking of getting the TRD Sport edition, you need to pay at least $45k.

3. Fuel Mileage Is Not That Good

Compared to other midsize trucks, Tacoma’s fuel efficiency is somewhat sub-par. Even the base 4-cylinder engine can only get around 20 miles per gallon. Compare that to the Chevy Colorado with its diesel engine that can get at least 30 miles per gallon.

4. Not as Capable at Towing Compared to Other Trucks

The Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck. Despite that, its 6,800-pound maximum tow rating still seems low compared to other trucks in its range. The Tacoma may lack a bit if you plan to use this for towing anything bigger than a toy trailer.

In addition, Tacoma’s bed is significantly smaller when compared to other trucks, like the Chevy Colorado.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

toyota tacoma sr5 vs trd suspension

Why Is It Called the Tacoma?

The real reason why Toyota decided to rename the Toyota Truck to the now-familiar Tacoma is known only to Toyota. However, some theories are floating around the internet. Some people believe that the truck got its name from the city of Tacoma, Washington.

Another theory is that the Toyota Tacoma got its name after a Native American word. It is specifically Salish for Washington’s Mount Rainier, the tallest peak in the state.

Toyota did confirm that the Tacoma name suggests that it is perfect for the great outdoors. It also symbolizes strength and an adventurous spirit.

What Model Year Tacoma Is the Most Reliable?

If you are looking for a secondhand Toyota Tacoma, check out the ones that came out between 1995 to 2004. This is the first generation. Users did not experience mechanical problems until the odometer reached 100k miles.

There might be a slight chance that a minor issue would come up within the first 50k miles. However, it would usually take less than $500 to repair it.

Also, because Tacoma came from Toyota, finding replacement parts for repairs and improvements is easy. It is also often quite affordable.

You can also check out 2014, 2018, and 2019 model years. They are also reliable but not quite as much as the first generation. The later models share a majority of issues. However, they appear much earlier in the newer generation of Tacoma.

What Does the SR5 Mean on A Toyota Tacoma?

You will usually find the SR5 tag on Toyota trucks, like the Tacoma and the Tundra. The SR5 tag refers to the higher trim levels above the base trim. Also, the improvements are usually for convenience and aesthetics.

Typically, Toyota trucks with the SR5 badge have more options available. These include engine upgrades. In the older models, it also means it has air conditioning.

Originally, SR5 meant Sport Rally 5-speed. You can also see it attached to other Toyota vehicles, like the Corolla and the Camry.

Conclusion – Toyota Tacoma SR5 vs. TRD

The most noticeable differences between the Tacoma SR5 and TRD editions include the ones in the following areas:

  • Base Engine and Power Output
  • Base Towing Capacity
  • Base Price and Available Options

The Tacoma TRD is a higher trim level than the SR5, so it has better performance and features. Do not expect the SR5, which is just a step above the base Tacoma model, to compete with the TRD in performance. However, the SR5 is cheaper than the TRD but is still a reliable machine.

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