CALGARY -- Some folks legitimately require a pickup truck -- they tow, they haul, they play.
Calgary's Doug Thorp fits the profile. Thorp pulls a fifth-wheel RV and, with his family, travels thousands of kilometres every year in a 2003 Ram 2500 heavy-duty truck.
As a truck enthusiast, Thorp was the ideal candidate to test Toyota's redesigned-for-2014 Tundra half-ton pickup.
Toyota first introduced the Tundra in 1999, with the vehicle being sold as a 2000-model-year truck. With the Tundra, Toyota was aiming to capture some of the big-truck market traditionally dominated by Ford, GM and Chrysler.
First-generation Tundra trucks were built from 1999 to 2007 and were initially equipped with a 3.4-litre V-6 or a 4.7L V-8 engine. Once on the market, Toyota continuously updated cab styles and available engines and transmissions.
Early in 2007, Toyota's second-generation Tundra grew in size and the truck was available in 31 different configurations. The wide choice of available cabs, boxes, engines and transmissions meant the truck could be put to just about any conceivable use.
New for 2014 is the third-generation Tundra, updated with new exterior design elements that Toyota says reflect a "chiselled and modern industrial image." The truck is available in five grades -- the SR, the SR5, the well-appointed Limited, and two premium models, the Platinum and the new 1794 Edition.
The 1794 Edition is a nod to the ranch, founded in 1794, where the Tundra factory was built in San Antonio, Texas.
Thorp tested a Silver Sky Metallic 2014 4x4 Tundra Crewmax 1794 Edition -- which adds woodgrain and leather interior appointments, 20-inch, chrome-clad alloy wheels and special badging.
Equipped with a 5.7L V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the truck was fully loaded with just about every convenience and had a price tag just north of $55,824.
"I was very impressed with the visual appeal of the redesigned Tundra," Thorp says of his first impression. "Toyota has come a long way with the look of their trucks, and the Tundra appeared very solid with nice lines. I especially liked the grille and headlight treatment."
Thorp was born and raised in Ontario. His father taught him to drive a three-quarter-ton GMC pickup truck with a three-speed column shift transmission. He got his licence in 1979 and bought a Plymouth Charger for $500. He drove the Charger for two years and next bought a Plymouth K-car and drove that for more than 300,000 kilometres.
Thorp was in the military reserves for eight years and during that time he drove numerous different vehicles, from a quarter-ton Jeep to five-ton wreckers.
When the family moved west to Calgary in 1995, Thorp had a Ford Tempo, but with a growing family -- wife Laura, sons Duncan, Bryan and Robert -- a minivan soon became the family hauler. When the van became too small, Thorp bought his 2003 Ram 2500 Quad Cab, and recently he purchased a 2011 Dodge Journey R/T for driving around town.
"With our own truck we go fishing, we go camping with the fifth wheel, we drive it to the dump and to get landscape supplies," Thorp says.
He now has 175,000 kilometres on the truck and 58,000 km on the Journey.
Regarding the Tundra, Thorp was just as impressed with the inside as with the outside.
"What a gorgeous truck," he says. "The seats are covered in tan leather with suede inserts. The main instrument cluster is clean and easy to read and the centre console has a large, seven-inch, multi-function touch screen. The rear seats are quite spacious, with plenty of legroom for rear passengers."
Thorp is 6 feet tall and his two oldest sons are 6-1 and 6-4, so vehicle ingress and egress and passenger comfort are top priorities for his family. An aftermarket item he says he'd add to the Tundra is running boards or side steps.
"Anyone less than 6 feet tall would have trouble getting in and out," Thorp says.
He liked the special touches in the 1794 Edition, such as the wood trim on the dash, doors, steering wheel and gear selector.
And Thorp was impressed with the power of the 5.7-litre engine.
"I did some acceleration tests and the truck has lots of power and great throttle response," Thorp says. "The transmission shifted smoothly, and when you punch it on the highway, it actually reminded me of the Hemi in my Ram. But anyone with a heavy foot will consume a lot of gasoline."
Feedback through the steering wheel was rated excellent, and the ride wasn't harsh at all -- which surprised Thorp.
"The truck was very smooth on the road and the cabin was very quiet," he says.
Thorp also appreciated the locking tailgate, but noted it would only be useful if the short bed were fitted with a cover or canopy. The bed had a hard plastic liner with access to tie-down points at all four corners, but Thorp says climbing into the cargo area would be much easier with a rear-bumper step.
He couldn't pull a fifth-wheel trailer with the Tundra's short bed, Thorp says, but he suspects the truck could easily tow a large holiday trailer. Thorp's Tundra had a towing capacity of 4,305 kilograms and was equipped with a Class IV hitch and built-in four- and seven-pin wiring harness plugs. Thorp notes there was no built-in brake controller, but a wiring harness was included for such a purpose.
Thorp says the Tundra would suit anyone who spends long days in a truck, including those in the construction trades, or young families who do a lot of camping or travelling.
Would he buy one?
"My 15-year-old son wants me to," Thorp laughs, adding, "If I had the means, yes, I'd be very interested in a Tundra, but I'd scale back the trim level just a bit."