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2015 Toyota Tundra vs. 2015 Toyota Tacoma: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2014

If you're searching for a tough new truck, a Toyota dealership is an obvious place to look because they offer two different pickups: the notoriously dependable Tacoma and the V8-powered Tundra. But what's the difference between Toyota's pickups? To find out, we're taking a closer look at the 2015 Toyota Tundra and the 2015 Toyota Tacoma to see exactly what separates them.

Exterior

Styling differences between the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra are immediately obvious -- and that's not just because the Tundra is much larger than the Tacoma. Though born in 2007, today's Tundra has received substantial updates over the years, compared to the largely unchanged 2005-era Tacoma. The result is that the Tundra offers a smoother, more modern, more aggressive look, while the Tacoma has more of a nonthreatening small-truck personality. Of course, the Tacoma's large wheel arches and the Tundra's huge grille are unmistakable.

Interior

One big difference is obvious the moment you climb inside the Tacoma and the Tundra: The Tundra has more room. The interior is wider, there's more headroom and the rear seats are simply huge in 4-door CrewMax guise. The Tacoma, meanwhile, has a more traditional midsize truck cabin, with average interior space and a no-nonsense dashboard layout with little style and a simplistic design. Thanks to its 2-tone center stack, the Tundra offers a bit more style, especially if you get a high-end model with luxury features such as contrast stitching.

Mechanicals

Under the hood, the Tacoma and Tundra are equipped exactly as you might expect: with dramatically different powertrains based on their respective sizes.

The Tacoma offers two engines: a meager 159-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or a more muscular 236-hp 4.0-liter V6. In the Tundra, that V6 was once the base engine, but for 2015, it was stricken from the lineup in favor of two available V8s. The base-level V8 is a 310-hp 4.6-liter unit, while the optional 5.7-liter V8 generates a bulky 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. In other words, when it comes to engines, the smaller Tacoma certainly knows its place behind the brawny Tundra.

Features & Technology

Like most midsize trucks, the Tacoma offers only the basics. Standard features are, as expected, fairly limited. But that's true of the Tundra, too, as both models offer something of a bare-bones work-truck variant.

As you progress through the trim levels, however, you realize that the Tacoma never really gets luxurious. Sure, there's a navigation system, synthetic leather upholstery and heated front seats -- but that hardly compares to the Tundra's opulent suede trim, ventilated front seats, 12-speaker JBL sound system and power sunroof. Both trucks offer Toyota's excellent Entune infotainment system, however, so it isn't just the Tundra with all the toys.

Driving Experience

In our experience, some midsize pickups drive a lot like their full-size counterparts, but that isn't the case here. When compared with the Tundra, the Tacoma feels nimble and spry -- two things that aren't really true if you compare its dimensions to a standard passenger car.

In fact, the Tacoma's driving experience is a lot more like what we expect from a traditional pickup. The Tundra, on the other hand, drives more like a heavy-duty truck or a commercial vehicle -- it's just that big. The Tundra's size is especially evident when compared to the all-new Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150, which feature similar dimensions but far more manageable handling.

As a result, we suggest the Tacoma for most shoppers who live in the city or for those who don't need full-size truck capabilities. When you're on a narrow street or when you're trying to parallel-park in a small space, you'll thank us.

Safety

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing, both the Tacoma and Tundra performed similarly, earning 4-star overall scores. The two trucks also come with an impressive amount of safety features, though neither one stands out dramatically above the other. Both feature standard anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control and side-curtain airbags. The Tundra features a standard backup camera while the Tacoma offers it as an option. Perhaps the Tundra's only real safety benefits over the Tacoma are a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, which are optional only on the high-end Tundra Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition trim levels.

Conclusions

We think one word can describe the major differences between the 2015 Toyota Tacoma and the 2015 Toyota Tundra: capability. Generally speaking, the Tundra offers a lot more of it in every sense of the term, from carrying passengers to towing, hauling, accelerating or even providing you with a high-end, upscale driving experience. Meanwhile, the Tacoma is something of a scaled-down Tundra, perfect for drivers who don't need the Tundra's extra capability, large engines or huge size.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Toyota Tundra vs. 2015 Toyota Tacoma: What's the Difference? - Autotrader