The 2023 Toyota Tacoma SR5 has a very misleading name

The SR5 is an old Toyota badge dating back to 1973. You may be surprised to hear that it first appeared on the Corolla before it became common on Toyota trucks. But whatever the model, the SR5 badge originally meant a Sport model with a five-speed manual transmission upgrade. You can still buy a Toyota Tacoma SR5 in 2023. But in an ironic twist, you can’t order the popular Tacoma manual transmission option in a modern Tacoma SR5. An updated use of the classic badge would be a nice nod to Toyota’s history.

What does the Toyota SR5 badge mean?

Toyota began putting the letter “SR” on the fenders of various performance models in the 1970s. Depending on the market, this stood for “Sport Rally”, “Sports Runabout” or “Sporty Ray”. When the automaker added a five-speed option across its range, it doubled down on the importance of that ‘SR5’ badge.

Toyota Pickup Truck Extra Cab SR5 4×4 Hilux | Bring-A-Trailer version

Wait, SR had multiple meanings? Yes, my colleague Peter Korn has revealed that the original meaning of SR in Toyota cars is up for debate. The global automaker likely affixed the badge to vehicles, and local marketing teams then interpreted it. So, in the United States, you may have heard the phrase “Sports Rally”, while the phrase “Sports Runabout” has been used in places where people already use the word “Runabout” to describe a type of car. “Sporty Ray” seemed to indicate that the car was as fast as sunlight.

But for the mechanically minded, Toyota probably didn’t need to explain the badge at all. That’s because the “R” was Toyota’s popular engine family of I4s that powered Corolla and Toyota trucks in the 1970s and 1980s. So, “Sporty R” spoke for itself.

In the United States, “SR” first appeared on the 1973 Corolla. It spread to the Toyota truck in 1979.

Is the 2023 Toyota Tacoma SR5 a good truck?

The SR5 is an entry-level model of the 2023 Tacoma, one step above the “SR” work truck. It has a touch of chrome, leather-trimmed seats, and remote door locks. You can order it with the V6 engine but not a manual transmission.

A 2023 Toyota Tacoma SR5 is parked off-road, with a campfire in the foreground.
Toyota Tacoma SR5 2023 | Toyota

The SR5 is a popular model of the Toyota Tacoma because it offers a little more style and comfort than the SR, but it won’t break the bank like higher-end luxury trucks. It is the first “named” trim level of the Tacoma as the SR doesn’t even wear “SR” badges.

But since the Tacoma SR5 gets its name from the old “Sport Rally five-speed” trucks, it’s ironic that you can’t get it with a manual transmission. Both the I4 and V6 SR5 models come with Toyota’s six-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission was once an entry-level option, but has now become a premium Tacoma feature available only on upper trim levels.

Toyota, what about the Tacoma SR6?

So hear me out: I think the old “Sport Rally” and “Sport Rally 5” models have been wasted on entry-level Tacomas. I know “badge inflation” happens, and Toyota has come out with several better-equipped models since the SR5 days. But it can still have great functionality in the modern Tacoma lineup.

Transmission in the 2023 Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup truck.
Toyota Tacoma SR5 2023 Automatic Transmission | Toyota

What if the automaker renamed its base models with any other pair of letters, then slapped an “SR6” badge on the fender of any Tacoma equipped with the six-speed manual transmission?

This badge can be similar to the “4×4” fender stickers that most pickup trucks wear when equipped with four-wheel drive. These stickers make sense because all-wheel drive is an expensive option that changes a truck’s capabilities and is something people like to show off.

An “SR6” badge on a manual Tacoma—of any trim level—indicates that the owner has requested a gear change, which is often a source of pride. It will do so in a way that subtly nods to the rich history of Toyota trucks.

Next, discover the secret ingredients of legendary Toyota reliability or learn more about Toyota pickup trucks in the video below:

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