Putting Power to the Pavement/Dirt/Rocks/Sand
During the Toyota TRD Pro off-roader line launch event last year, a few choice terms repeatedly trickled out from OEM reps while discussing the Pro-ified Tundra. One of those words (OK, two) is “fade-resistant,” used to describe the hearty Bilstein shocks with their 60mm internal pistons and 48mm piggyback reservoirs. That’s a 30 percent increase in piston size over the standard Tundra. The name of the game is thermal management, and TRD engineers in attendance were confident their products would stand up to the stress of serious running on the exact opposite of glass-smooth, paved roads.
Which brings us to the next set of words: “durability” and “reliability.” Even if most Tundra TRD Pro owners aren’t gallivanting around the most desolate parts of Baja California in their $40,000 USD-plus truck 24/7, the product folks have to meet durability targets. When the most predictable element about off-roading is that there’s always something unpredictable waiting, the reassurance of the mechanicals can be worth its weight in gold.
And last but not least, “fun.” The Tundra is the TRD Pro’s flagship model and received the most substantial suspension and visual modifications. The TRD Pro-embossed box side panels are as wild as Toyota was willing to go with the exterior. On the inside, model-specific cloth seat fabric and a special insert on the center console bin top (to hold a cellphone or miscellaneous knickknacks) cover more ground than the TRD Pro Tacoma and 4Runner‘s floormats and shift knobs. But the driving qualities were highlighted as the full-size pickup’s main attraction. To paraphrase one TRD engineer’s anticipatable assertion: “I’ve driven the Raptor and I’d take our truck any day.” Not that you should expect any less of a statement.
From our trip to Cabo San Lucas the long and dusty way to toying around on our favorite back roads, the Tundra TRD Pro showed it was always up for a good time. We’ll begin with the 5.7-liter V-8 producing 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque that might actually be making 8-10 more horsepower with the Pro’s TRD dual exhaust system ($600 USD suggested price on the TRD website). Toyota hasn’t SAE-certified the power output with the performance exhaust and therefore won’t boast of any claims officially. But we do know that our Double Cab test truck with the gargantuan back seat scooted from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 6.6 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 91.8 mph. A 2014 Tundra 1794 Edition we ran was 0.1 second behind at the 60-mph spot (6.7) but finished the quarter in the same time, albeit trapping 0.6 mph lower (15.2 at 91.2). The overhead-valve and overhead-cam V-8s in the segment all are brawny and create speed to move three-ton construction-site tools easily, but the Tundra’s biggest eight-cylinder rides its 5,900-rpm redline effortlessly and feels as happy high in the powerband as it does low when crawling around.
Off cemented roads, the sensation of speed intensifies. Wearing the optional set of forged 17-inch wheels ($3,200 USD) with 285/70-17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires, the truck’s performance intentions entrench themselves deeper into off-road’s jurisdiction, as the lengthy 30.6-second figure-eight lap time, 145-foot braking distance from 60 mph, and 0.66 average lateral acceleration attest. The 1794 Edition clawed out 0.71 g on 275mm-wide Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenzas and needed 134 feet to grind to a halt. (The 1794’s testing facility did not support our figure-eight course.)
The performance numbers don’t look terribly impressive, but know what? The Tundra TRD Pro is the best-riding Tundra on sale. The suspension, wheels, and tires unite to cushion the cabin from the harshest bump and impact intrusions without allowing drivers to lose their tactile connection at the tires’ points of contact. We appreciate the high level of road feel, and maneuvering the truck was simple and instinctive whether we were cruising down a dirt road at 80 mph, sneaking through a frame-twisting rutted section, or trying to make a five-point turn on a narrow Los Angeles residential street. The steering effort is a bit high at low speeds, and the cab jiggles more than we’d like on wheel drops when filing deliberately through rocky gardens. The low-hanging mud flaps and exhaust tips might get pinched and tap an obstacle here and there on the creepy-crawly bits.
Build the speed up, and the Tundra enters its comfort zone. The 33-inch tires (an inch taller than the stock Michelins) don’t fill the wheelwells as fully as a desert racer would like, but the rubber does help filter the information that’s needed from the surface at foot, no matter the color or how loose it is. The control-arm front and live-axle rear suspension benefit from 1.4 inches more travel up front and an extra 1.5 inches in the rear that catch the wheels and superbly manage the cab motions at high speeds. This begets a comfortable off-road driving environment where novices can perfect their left-foot braking technique and the experienced can put the pedal down, enjoying a smooth ride, air-conditioning, and the cool and collected calmness gained from knowing the steering, throttle, brakes, and gear select will work in lockstep with human inputs.
Foibles? The interior has harder touchpoints and looks and feels older than that of the current Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500. We’re pretty sure our Inferno-colored truck attracted gas-siphoning bandits, as it felt like we always had to mind the 26.4-gallon tank’s fuel level (Real MPG 13.5/15.6/14.4 city/highway/combined). The headlights don’t have automatic on/off control, and dual-zone climate control is nonexistent on this grade. But hop into the Tundra TRD Pro, and it is very clear Toyota spent the money in the right places. The Big T does have some of the enthusiast spirit in it … even if it’s seemingly confined to the biggest vehicles it sells.
|2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro 4×4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$48,805|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||5.7L/381-hp*/401-lb-ft* DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,851 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||228.9 x 79.9 x 77.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.2 sec @ 91.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||145 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.66 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||30.6 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||13/17/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||259/198 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.33 lb/mile|
|*Outputs w/o TRD exhaust|