COAL: 2015 Toyota Tacoma — Lessons Learned

I foolishly titled my previous COAL entry “Ready For The Long Haul,” when writing about my 2014 Toyota Corolla.

Spoiler Alert, this in my driveway. Before we get to the 2015 Toyota Tacoma, I owe you an update on the Corolla, any why sometimes always isn’t forever.

When I bought the Corolla, I was coming off an accident that totaled my previous car and had a nice insurance check burning a hole in my pocket. I ordered the Corolla new, as it checked all my boxes. I needed something that got good gas mileage and that I could use to take our kids with me when needed. At the time, I did a lot of driving, and the Corolla did what Corollas do: work reliably and efficiently, albeit without a lot of pizzaz.

However, life changes. Since buying the Corolla, we’ve had our third (and final) kid, and I started working for myself, from home. This meant that there were many weeks the Corolla barely moved at all, keeping the miles low.

The Corolla was perfect; it never showed a single issue or hiccuped, even on long highway drives to Georgia or the coast of North Carolina. It felt a little down on power driving across the Smokey Mountains and the CVT sometimes just couldn’t make up its mind, but I think that would be true of any car of its class.

The Corolla did have a nasty habit of needing to have it hood re-painted. The first time it earned a re-spray after some neighborhood kids egged a bunch of cars up and down the street. As I wasn’t driving the car very often, this went unnoticed for several days, and by the time it was spotted, the summer sun we get here in Tennessee had really done a number on the paint across the hood and front driver quarter panel. A local body shop did the work, and it looked like new just a few days later.

Then in 2017, my neighbor’s oak tree dropped a limb during a thunderstorm, and the Corolla caught it across the hood and windshield. When I called the body shop, they joked that normally like to see their work last longer than a year and a half. I painfully agreed.

Past flying eggs and falling limbs, the Corolla served my dutifully, but after four years, the itch came back. As if they know, the dealership I ordered it from started bugging me about trading it in. On the last Friday night of September, I dropped it by “just to see” what they’d be able to offer me. In short, they made an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I wasn’t really in the market for a new vehicle at this point. We had just replaced my wife’s aging Honda Odyssey with a 2016 model over the summer, and while we had talked about me buying a pickup truck at some point, little did I know that time had come.

As the sales department looked over my Corolla, which they praised for its low miles, I noticed a 2015 Toyota Tacoma on the lot.

I’ve long admired the Tacoma line, but knew they kept their value extremely well, making even high-mile models more expensive than other trucks of their size. This model, however, was reasonably priced, and armed with my high trade-in value and it being the last weekend of the month, I made a call home about negotiating a possible deal. With visions of house projects in her head that a pickup would make easier, my wife signed off if I could keep the note less than my current one, without signing onto a loan that would add too many more years to my current one.

The truck in question is a 2015 Tacoma PreRunner V6 Double Cab of the SR5 variant. That is a lot of words, but in short, it’s a 2WD tuck with the suspension and ride height of a 4WD Tacoma. That’s what the “PreRunner” badge means, and I have to say, I think the stance of the truck looks great. I don’t need 4WD, and didn’t want the added complexity and decreased gas mileage, so it felt like the right compromise for me.

The Double Cab means I can stash some kids, in booster seats, pretty comfortably in the back seat. The leg room seems on-par with the Corolla, but the step-in height means little kids need some help, even with the optional running boards that my truck has. The back seats fold down for flat storage, and underneath them is a wide, shallow storage area. It’s great for things like ratchet straps, but I wish they — or the deep center console — could be locked for secure storage.

The SR5 trim lacks some of flashier options found on the TRO Tacomas, but that is fine by me. I do find the chrome at the front and rear of the truck nice, but I’m thinking about swapping out the running boards for something a little less shiny.

Out back is the short bed, measuring in at just five feet. That does limit larger loads, but honestly, I don’t think that will be a big deal for me or my list of house and yard projects. The Tacoma’s bed comes complete with a factory rail system with adjustable tie-down cleats that makes strapping larger loads down in the composite bed really easy. The cleats can travel back and forth along the rails with a simple twist.

This rail system is also found in the front of the bed, under the back glass, making for a convenient place to stash a couple of bike mounts:

The 2015 is the last model of the long-running second generation of Tacoma. Today both GM and Chevy are peddling a nice mid-sized pickup and the Ford Ranger is set for a comeback, but for years, Toyota had no real competition in the mid-size truck market. The Tacoma was the truck to buy if you didn’t want something huge, and I think Toyota got lazy in that environment. Over that time period, the truck got some new options and a minor facelift, but under the skin, my 2015 is pretty close to what shipped in 2005.

This means that some features, like the side-curtain airbags have been retrofitted in some pretty obvious ways. However, it also means that the interior is simple enough that I was able to drop in a Sony CarPlay-equipped head unit without too much trouble.

That includes the 4.0-liter V6 under the hood, which produces 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This gives the 2nd gen Tacoma a tow rating of 6,500 lb and a payload capacity of 1,650 lb, and from what I have read, is a pretty bulletproof motor. Coupled with the 5-speed automatic in my truck, it can get a bit noisy on the highway, but around town, it is smooth enough for everyday driving.

The new Tacomas have an updated version of this motor that displaces 3.5 liters for better gas mileage. Around town, my 4.0 is doing about 17 MPG, while doing 21 MPG on the highway. That’s not great, but it’s better than I feared it would be. Adjusting my heavy right foot has been required, however.

A few months in, and I’m in love with the Tacoma. I’ve always know they have a loyal fan base, and I understand that now. What I understand even better: I think I may have always been a pickup kind of guy, and just didn’t know it until a rather quick purchasing decision. Sometimes, something just feels right, and this red truck is one of those things.