I’ve always loved “bad” cars, or underdogs. With the exception of the late Pontiac Aztek, I have a soft spot for cars that are or were doomed from the start, or that just plain should have never been made, for whatever reasons. The Chevy SSR, Dodge Neon, and Ford Escort ZX2 are only a few examples from the last few decades that get me excited when I see one today.
Now, the Toyota Tundra is not bad in the sense that it has no worth; it’s that it was only equipped to compete in its segment for barely 30 seconds before the Big 3’s offerings out-powered, out-towed, out-hauled, and now totally outclassed it. By “outclassed,” I mean that a Ford F-150 is as smooth, as luxurious, and as good to drive as a Fusion, while a 2016 Tundra is about as refined as a 1990 Tacoma. And for this reason, I love it.
As if that wasn’t enough, Toyota now offers the Tundra TRD Pro ― the loudest, most rough-and-tumble version of its half-ton truck ― and I’m absolutely smitten. I get the sense that the reasoning behind this package was: “What the hell! Let’s do it!”
This one’s designed for off-roading and is set up for the task, and damn, did I mention I love it?
What is TRD Pro?
TRD, as you may know, stands for Toyota Racing Development. The 2016 Toyota Tundra benefits from it through the addition of numerous off-roading bits that endow the big truck with true rough-stuff tackling abilities.
The package can be added to either a CrewMax or Double Cab configuration, and throws in a TRD remote-reservoir suspension kit with Bilstein shocks, dual performance exhaust, skid plates, and 18” black wheels. I was unable to evaluate the Tundra’s added skill set, but on the merits of looks and sound alone, the TRD Pro is the most interesting version of the Tundra.
This pickup does away with all brightwork and goes for a monochromatic style that looks essentially customized. These are big points for the Tundra. Inside, the cabin gets some upmarket attention in the form of heated leather seats up front with contrast red stitching, navigation, as well as a TRD shifter and carpets.
My Magnetic Grey CrewMax TRD Pro tester ($57,475) offered a large and reasonably comfortable place to hang out… as long as the truck wasn’t moving. The seats are wide as is the centre console, capable of swallowing loads of stuff. Ergonomics and the dashboard’s layout are simple and straightforward. Fit and finish are not on par with the competition, though. The rear bench will take three adults abreast without fuss.
Or not at all…
The Toyota Tundra may seem run-of-the-mill, but when the throttle’s butterfly is fully opened, you’d swear you were on the sea putting a powerboat through its paces. The extra breathing from the supplemental TRD exhaust pipes open the 5.7L iForce V8 to a whole new crescendo of notes. The engine and the noise are both fantastic.
With 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, the Tundra is no slouch. What I really do appreciate is the 6-speed automatic transmission that is always at the ready, willing to upshift or downshift depending on the driver’s desires.
In my defense, about the ruckus, the V8’s torque arrives at a relatively high 3,600 rpm. Passing manoeuvres thus require revs and, well, the melody of a proper V8 is impossible to resist.
I did not only play with the Toyota Tundra; I also made it work. And in doing so, I discovered a few things. While the payload rating might be in excess of 1,200 lbs (550 kg), loading up the bed can become worrisome as the rear leaf springs began to flatten out sooner than I expected. I estimated the weight of the items in the bed to be between 800-900 lbs, but I did not dare load any more stuff.
Although the Tundra’s stance was more gasser than level at that point, nothing changed in the truck’s stability on the highway. Steering remained light if somewhat vague.
Unladen, the ride is nothing short of rough and dry. Over a few repeated bumps, the Toyota Tundra gets bouncy and very upset. With an insubstantial load of 250 lbs, the ride starts to become lovely; with a heavier payload, all seems fine.
Speaking of fine, I think the V8 enjoyed the workout as it felt very comfortable tackling the extra weight. The brakes managed well; however, maxing out the truck’s capacity could result in some “exciting” emergency braking situations. This is to be expected, of course.
Beaten, but not broken
The 2016 Toyota Tundra is a “fun” truck with some capabilities. If you select the TRD Pro version, fun off the beaten path is guaranteed. In a world where a pickup truck has to do everything including family duty and work, the Tundra is simply too brutish and unrefined. Yet, for these reasons, I think it’s a hoot.
And for these identical reasons, as well, you might keep the Tundra off of your shopping list and head to a Ford, Ram or Chevy dealer instead. You were likely going to do that anyhow. If you don’t care about nice things like a quiet, comfortable ride and loads of modern technology, to hell with it and go against the grain.