Leaf springs are an old-school approach. It is the most widely-used design in spring-mounted suspension systems. Leaf springs consist of one or many pieces of rectangular spring steel. The arc-shaped architecture of leaf springs is many times more capable than coil springs in terms of carrying heavy loads.
In the case of a Tacoma, the rear axle is suspended by a multi-leaf spring, with each end of the spring connected to the chassis. This means that, in fact, the only thing holding the axle in place is the leaf spring and associated shock absorber. Depending on the year and model trim of your Tacoma, with the factory three-leaf spring in the rear, the payload can be as high as 1620 pounds.
While leaf springs are great for commercial vehicles and heavy-duty off-road machines due to their load capacity, they are far from perfect. Leaf springs are not designed to flex as much as coil springs, which can result in a poor or bumpy ride, particularly when unloaded. Less flex also means higher chances of losing wheel contact over the ground when driving over uneven terrain.
On the other hand, coil springs are round torsion bars that are wound to produce a coil shape. This design allows for a wider range of suspension articulation compared to leaf springs. Coil springs are preferred in terms of high-performance applications. However, coil springs are more expensive to manufacture compared to leaf springs. Coil springs are also not as capable of carrying heavy loads. This is why the majority of trucks – Tacoma included – still use a leaf spring in the back to deliver good payload capacity.
But when it comes to ride, body control, handling, and overall refinement, coil springs are better than leaf springs. These are the reasons why the front of the Tacoma comes with coil springs and the rear is equipped with leaf springs. Toyota wants a civilized truck that behaves admirably whether on or off-road, and doing all of that without major compromise on the cargo-carrying and towing capabilities of the vehicle.