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Car makers love to add mysterious letters and numbers all over our cars; 2LT, 300ZX, Z71, RS, SS, 350Z, IROCZ, and SR5. Why? Why are alphanumeric car names so popular? These models listed here are only but a tiny sampling of the many car names like this. We won’t even start on alphanumeric motorcycle names. Either way, we are here to learn about where the legendary Toyota SR5 designation came from and what it means. Do you know what SR5 stands for? 

Toyota Pickup Truck Xtracab SR5 4×4 Hilux
Toyota Pickup Truck Xtracab SR5 4×4 Hilux | Bring-A-Trailer

What does SR5 mean? 

Simply put, SR5 stands for “Sport Rally 5” or “Sports Runabout 5,” depending on who you ask. The “5” was originally meant to signify a 5-speed manual transmission. 

According to Mechanic Ask, this designation was introduced to the Toyota Pickup in 1979 to appeal to the “sport-truck buyer” – a group of buyers Toyota thought the fourth-gen Toyota Pickup 4×4 could appeal to. The 5-speed transmission was a pretty cool upgrade at the time. 

There is a second, more detailed branding explanation that Mechanic Ask posits is something a bit more interesting. The SR5 badge came earlier than the Toyota Pickup. So when the “S” is meant to mean a car with sporty features, it makes a little more sense. The “R” represents a “ray of light,” indicating a car capable of fast speeds. The “R” also doubles in meaning to include a Toyota engine code. And the “5” was only meant to designate the cooler 5-speed transmission. 

What was the first Toyota to have the SR5 badge?

1973 toyota corolla sr5 in yellow
1973 toyota corolla sr5 | Wikimedia Commons

According to Mechanic Ask, the SR5 name, although we mostly associate it with pickup trucks, is actually spread out among multiple vehicles. In fact, the first Toyota to get the name was the second-gen Toyota Corolla (1970-1978). It was the 1973 year model that the SR5 trim Corolla first appeared. 

What does SR5 mean on Tacomas today? 

Today, we still see this designation on Toyota’s sportiest (smallest) pickup truck, the Toyota Tacoma. The SR5 badge is also found on Tundras, 4Runners, and Sequoias. However, it has a different meaning today than it did on Toyota’s earlier pickups. 

As my colleague, Dan Mayfield writes, “On the Tacoma, the SR5 is the base trim, and it starts at $27,150. The SR is usually spotted by its lack of any decals.” The once premium SR5 trim offered the fancier 5-speed transmission, as opposed to the layman’s 4-speed, which now signifies one of the lower trims. The SR5 in today’s vernacular bestows some things like leather upholstery, a more powerful engine option, and a six-foot bed. Items like Bluetooth and heated this and that, weren’t even a twinkle in the original 1970s Toyota Pickup truck’s eye.

SR5 has a long and winding history

No matter where you know the trim name from, most Toyota fans have some experience with an SR5. Whether you have an SR5 Tacoma today, drove the sporty little SR5 Corlloa back in the day, or like Marty McFly and me, dream of owning a 1980s Toyota Pickup 4×4 SR5, this badge has meaning – and now you know what it is.