My buddies gave me grief about driving a Japanese pickup when I showed up in a Tundra.
Just to set the record, and them, straight, Tundras are built in San Antonio Texas and have 73.5 percent North American content. For all the Big-Three fans out there, Tundra has more North American content than any other pickup sold in North America. The 4.6 and 5.7 i-Force V8s are manufactured in Huntsville, Alabama.
My test Tundra came as a TRD PRO which is one of the three main option packages. Start with large tires and a bit of a lift in the suspension to get enough ground clearance to clear a small house, then notice the special paint and trim and you have a good idea of what a TRD PRO is supposed to do.
The suspension is stiffened up to handle the more robust nature of non-paved roads. Running boards are a separate option that didn’t come on this test truck.
Once I made the leap inside, Tundra is very comfortable and the driver’s seat has a full range of power adjustments. Instruments are large and easily read. Off to the centre of the truck are the climate control and the prerequisite LED screen so that you can monitor everything, including some things you might never have thought of.
Should you choose to head down the highway to parts unknown or at least unfamiliar, programming the GPS can be done when stopped. From the inputs I made, the maps are as complete as possible with only some of the newest construction projects not being shown. While traversing these unknown black holes of GPS programming, Sirius XM can sooth your frenetic soul or you can make adjustments to the interior climate at your discretion. The only switch that I had to hunt for, because I couldn’t find it originally, was the seat heater switch. Once located the position seems quite logical.
As a real 4×4, the Tundra does have 2H, 4H and 4Lo, all controlled by a rotary dial on the dash. In today’s world going from 2H to 4H is just the slight turn of your wrist away. The shift is as smooth as any other gear change. Going more than 100 kilometers per hour in 4H is not recommended. I found the system changed to 4Lo with the fewest problems if the Tundra was in park when I turned to that position on the dial.
I admit that when I went down the trail I chose, I could have done it in 2H, except for one part. Loose gravel seemed to be the perfect place to stuff it into 4H. In some places the gravel was loose enough that it seemed like I was on ice. When the loose gravel is in a corner, the Tundra goes from understeer to oversteer really fast.
All four doors on the Tundra are generous enough that no one should have trouble getting in, except for that great leap up. In the back, the seat will hold three adults comfortably or it can fold up to provide storage for all your groceries. Move a bit further back and the 6.5 foot box came with a spray-in bed liner as well as Toyota’s cargo tie-down system.
The tail gate is what I would consider a soft open and close-type tail gate. It goes down easily and it can be closed with one hand. There is a lock and a rear view camera in the lock handle. Your tip of the day is that you have to have the tailgate closed before the backup camera is of any use.
Driving in town is no better or worse than any other four-door pick up. You will need plenty of space when trying to parallel park.
Tundra TRD PRO is a blast to drive but it does have a few chinks in its otherwise excellent armor. The one I heard about the most was that it could only pull a 4,400 kilogram, 9,700 pound, trailer. I would suggest that this is only important if you regularly haul a 4,400 kg. trailer with a light duty pickup. Most people I know move up to a much heavier truck if that is their load of choice.
The other weakness is in advertised fuel economy. Toyota doesn’t do turbo 4four cylinder engines or small sixes so that it might be able to advertise favorable fuel economy numbers. What you see is what you get, and after going for a drive what I got was impressive.
In any case, your choice of truck is up to you. Take a Tundra for a drive, experience it for yourself and then decide if it’s the North American machine you are looking for.
Charles Renny is a Canadian professional automotive reviewer.