But American pickups aren't just about work; there's a huge play aspect involved, too. Look at the desert-storming Ford F-150 SVT Raptor or the Ram Power Wagon – these butch trucks are built with superb off-road prowess in mind, and Detroit's Japanese rivals have once again largely been silent in this segment. Until now.
Introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota now offers the TRD Pro series of models that, in addition to the crazy-orange Tundra seen here, includes the smaller Tacoma pickup and 4Runner SUV. And this isn't just some pretty appearance package, either – there's honest-to-goodness capability baked into all of the TRD Pro models. Intriguing, for sure, so I recently spent a weekend with the big boy Tundra to see what's what.
- Let me get this admission out of the way right now: I was offered a short, last-minute test of this pre-production model (notice the missing "T" from the grille), so I didn't take it off road. Correction: I drove through some abandoned lots in dismal Detroit settings and blasted down some manicured dirt roads, but that hardly counts.
- Had I found some suitably rough trails to blaze, the TRD Tundra is equipped with goodies to make it more capable than other Tundras. There are uniquely tuned Bilstein shocks at all four corners, as well as TRD springs that not only offer two extra inches of ride height up front, but also include decreased rates that make the ride a bit more forgiving when crawling over harsh terrain. Of course, the flip side to this is that the Tundra's on-road manners are more vague, with pronounced body roll and less feedback through the front suspension. The TRD Pro offers a smooth and comfortable ride on highways and city streets, but the P255/40R18 Michelin ORP tires don't offer a ton of grip on the pavement (it's really easy to get them to chirp) and they're noisy at freeway speeds.
- Speaking of freeway speeds, the Tundra TRD Pro gets there with ease thanks to the plentiful power on offer from the 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V8. 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque is more than enough for this truck, and the TRD dual exhaust gives it a pretty sweet aural element. There's a nice burble upon idle, and a progressive growl that's certainly more pronounced than in the standard Tundra, yet it still won't wake your neighbors.
- This Toyota still can't really compare to the outgoing Ford SVT Raptor, however, a truck that offers more power from its 6.2-liter V8 and substantially revised suspension geometry that makes it a more formidable off-road monster. I've driven the Raptor on-road, though, and it feels about the same as this TRD Pro – quick, somewhat vague, and kind of fun to bomb around in.
- Toyota sets its TRD Pro models apart with some noticeable visual tweaks, including the Inferno orange paint you see here. Additionally, the Pro gets a unique front grille, blacked-out headlamp bezels, 18-inch black wheels, red stitching throughout the interior, a TRD shift knob and floor mats, plus the obligatory TRD Pro badging on the exterior.
- Moving back to the cabin, it isn't otherwise changed from the standard Tundra, with thick, comfortable, cloth seats, and an easy-to-use center stack with Toyota's Entune infotainment system. Buyers can opt for either the Double Cab version seen here or the larger CrewMax cab configuration.
- The Tundra TRD Pro is available at dealerships now, priced from $41,285, not including $1,100 for destination. Stepping up to the CrewMax will set you back $43,900. That's a slight discount over the $44,995 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor, but in my book, you get what you pay for.