Go pro

by Haney Louka . Jun 10 2016

A little old-school, I thought, as I got out of the Tundra after my first stint behind the wheel. For starters, this $57,000 truck doesn’t have a panoramic sunroof. Only the front seats are heated, and the wipers can’t sense the rain. Park assist? Don’t think so. Remote start? Nope. It also won’t keep you in your lane or use radar cruise control to stop you from rear-ending the car in front of you on the highway.

With such a wish list, you’d think I was in the market for a luxury sedan or crossover. These are features available on Tundra’s competitors. That the Tundra doesn’t have them doesn’t make it any less of a truck — but it does hurt, as trucks increasingly fulfil the role of primary family hauler/luxury ride/commuter for Canadian families.

This particular Tundra, though, is not about coddling its occupants. For 2016, the TRD Pro Series option has added more off-road focus to Toyota’s big truck line. Available on either Double Cab (extended) or CrewMax (four door) models, it adds to the ruggedness already offered on the TRD Offroad trim.

So the TRD already came with Bilstein shocks, fuel tank protection plates and clearance sensors. The Pro adds remote reservoir shocks (for greater suspension travel), TRD performance exhaust, a skid plate and special-edition 18-inch black alloys.

Ordering the Pro starts with specifying the CrewMax SR5 with a starting price of $42,495. Standard kit includes a backup camera, 18-inch steel wheels and trailer towing preparation (for 4,445 kg maximum). And, of course, there’s the star of the show, Toyota’s 5.7-litre i-Force V-8. With 381 horsepower and 401 pound feet of torque, this brute of a power plant ensures readiness on or off the beaten track.

Adding $6,560 gets you into the TRD Offroad. In addition to the trail-ready items noted above, comfort is part of the package and includes upgraded audio, a power moonroof, heated front seats and a power sliding rear window.

Another eight grand gets you into the TRD Pro. That means this $42K truck is now a $57K truck. The increased off-road cred is enhanced by navigation, leather seats with red stitching and TRD Pro badging.

It’s difficult to argue against the appeal of the TRD Pro package, but whether the price jump represents a value is the question potential buyers will need to wrestle. It would have been great to properly test the abilities of the TRD Pro off-road, but our drive was limited to a week of driving around town, a short highway stint and moving a few boxes of patio furniture.

There are a couple of things I came away with after my week with the truck, and the first has to do with that i-Force eight-pot motor. Put the key in the ignition (old-school, right?) and twist to bring the big engine to life. It quickly settles to a burbly idle and exudes an authoritative confidence when tooling around town. But it quickly becomes apparent the 5.7 provides abundant thrust in all situations. Even more memorable is the soundtrack that accompanies said thrust. This is a muscle car for truck folks, and it will knock on Hemi’s door all day long.

Of course, with such power comes responsibility, and if the Tundra’s driver doesn’t practice judicious use of the throttle, the pain will be at the pump. The official ratings of 18.2 L/100 km city and 14.1 on the highway are intimidating and proved accurate during my week with the truck.

Something else that stood out for me was the amount of room in the Tundra’s passenger compartment. The CrewMax is a full four-door pickup with 1,075 mm of rear legroom. That’s more than Ram and Sierra but less than F-150 — for the record, current four-door pickups are all huge inside.

At 1,695 mm, the Tundra’s box length is within 50 mm of the short boxes offered by competitors. But the Big Three truck manufacturers all offer a regular box with their crew cab models, about 300 millimetres longer, which increases utility an appreciable amount.

The TRD Pro package brings a new level of ruggedness to the Tundra, a truck that wasn’t particularly lacking in that department to start with. But this generation is now nearly 10 years old, and the 2014 refresh wasn’t enough of an update to keep the truck current. As a result, this old-school truck with new-school pricing will continue to be an outlier on the sales charts.