There's something to be said for not fixing what isn't broken, and technically the outgoing Toyota Tundra wasn't broken. It just badly needed an update. And though I will admit the off-roadiest version of the full-size truck—the 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro—is an exercise in overkill when you don't live near any trails, I actually grew to like it very much by the end of my 10 days with it. It makes you feel pretty invincible. Who doesn't need some of that in their lives?
To get it out of the way first, I have never identified as a Truck Person. I have never felt the desire to do Truck Stuff. Unless you own a landscaping or construction company or regularly haul things, I have always thought that pedestrian truck ownership could be replaced with a nice van or SUV and a healthy dose of reality.
But full-size pickup trucks consistently account for the top three vehicle sales in the United States, so something about these behemoths appeals to the masses. For this assignment, I put aside my 2002 C-Class-driving soul and gave myself over fully to the Truck Experience. And you know what? I came out the other side enlightened. The new Tundra TRD Pro may not be for everyone, but it sure does a hell of a lot right.
2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Specs
- Tundra base price (TRD Pro 4x4 CrewMax as tested): $37,654 ($68,500)
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid | 10-speed automatic | four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 437 @ 5,200 rpm
- Torque: 583 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
- Seating capacity: 5
- Max payload capacity: 1,600 pounds
- Max towing capacity: 11,175 pounds
- Off-road angles: 26.2˚ approach, 24.2˚ departure
- Ground clearance: 9.0 inches
- Curb weight: 6,010 to 6,185 pounds
- Estimated fuel economy: 19 mpg city | 21 highway | 20 combined
- Quick take: An impressively comfortable and powerful truck that'll happily do off-roading or run errands—at a high price.
- Score: 8/10
Toyota launched the all-new, third-generation Tundra full-size pickup last year—thus ending the second-gen's reign since it started in 2007—to sit atop the automaker's truck lineup. My wonderful colleague Caleb Jacobs has extensively illuminated what's new on this current generation, so I'll just say that it rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture-F, or TNGA-F, body-on-frame architecture.
Looking at the new Tundra, the first thing you'll notice is the giant grille. It's essentially a large and unbroken swath of rectangle and gives the front a very meaty look. Specific to the TRD Pro Tundras are a black grille, a ton of TRD badges everywhere, and wheel arches, a front bumper, and a rear bumper covered in something called "technical camouflage" which was basically black camo. Just visible are red coilover springs as part of the FOX off-road suspension system with a 1.1-inch front lift, and the exhaust tips are stamped with "TRD." This is all in case you forget what trim of Tundra you have. The whole thing rides on black, 18-inch, forged aluminum BBS wheels.
When you pull open the door, you may or may not mutter "woof" to yourself upon laying eyes on the sea of red leather. In addition to the TOYOTA passenger-side panel badge, stamped in letters so big you can probably read them from space, the camo theme continues on the seats. TRD badges adorn the starter button and the steering wheel. There's also the 14-inch infotainment screen that's available in other Tundra models as well. The truck lacked running boards, but at least it had an A-pillar mounted grab handle—something very useful to vertically challenged individuals such as myself.
The only power plant the TRD Pro comes with is Toyota's top-tier offering: the 3.5-liter, twin-turbo hybrid V6, good for a claimed 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. As a replacement for the aged, naturally aspirated V8 in the outgoing Tundra, this new unit feels like the brutish unit you want in your full-size pickup. Caleb also gave a very thorough breakdown of the new hybrid and noted how the Tundra as a whole is more about livability than outright capability. That's where it differs from other half-ton trucks.
Driving the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Being five-foot-three, walking up to and climbing into the Tundra TRD Pro was always an experience. The hood came up to my chin, I couldn't see over it at all, I couldn't see what was in the bed unless I stood on my tiptoes, and each time I wanted to drive it, I had to haul myself up into it. And if I were to stand next to it, it looks cartoonishly giant. Inside, that sense of vastness continued. I started my journey navigating carefully out of New York City and it was the worst possible place for the truck and me to get acquainted. It had the usual array of sensors and cameras for a modern vehicle, but I still found myself terrified at scraping something as I inched out of the garage and moved to pass other cars on the Brooklyn Bridge. With how tall everything about the truck is, visibility is not great.
But on regularly sized roads and highways, the TRD Pro settled down as a docile cruiser, especially when I turned on the adaptive cruise control system. It "saw" all the cars in front of it perfectly well and adjusted its speed to traffic in a very natural and organic-feeling way. Immediately, the steering and the power stood out to me as superlative; the steering wheel had a nice weight to it, even at low speeds, and took some effort to turn. I know others favor the lightweight, low-effort racks that are so prevalent in luxury cars, but in the TRD Pro, the extra heft felt appropriate. And when I put my foot down, the truck dug into its nearly 600 lb-ft of torque, leaning back on its rear suspension briefly before launching forward. It's very much a rolling-on feeling of power, not as immediate in something like a Lincoln Navigator. But there is absolutely no absence of force here; the TRD Pro can haul ass.
The suspension was on the bouncier side than in other large vehicles I've driven; in this sense, it was rather Jeepish. But transmission shifts came smoothly and the brakes worked well with easy modulation to bring the big and heavy body down from speed. There was pretty discernible body roll in corners, to be expected, but nothing that would upset passengers or loose cargo if you were careful about it.
It happened to snow nearly the entire time we were up in Vermont with the truck (hence these photos, taken in February), so I happily tried out the 4HI and 4LO modes. 4HI gave me a lot of peace of mind when I was driving up and down an unplowed mountain road; it felt like the snow and layer of ice beneath that weren't even there. The one time I did need 4LO, I'd pulled into an embankment and needed it to pull the truck back over a mound of snow. A bunch of the cameras come on when you put it in 4LO mode, but perhaps because there is so much truck to see around that the fish-eye footage that appeared on the 14-inch screen was dizzying if I looked at it for too long.
Roominess is also no problem in the Tundra. Five adults would fit comfortably in the seats and the rest of the cabin has thoughtful storage features, like the little upright phone slot that doubled as a wireless charging pad. I'm always looking for a place to put my phone where I can see it in the cars I drive, and the Tundra provided one ready to go.
And this is not a mark against the Tundra, but I just wish all trucks came with a tonneau cover as standard! We had to keep everything in the cab because of the long drive and shitty, sub-freezing weather.
The Highs and Lows
If you're looking to throw a tailgate party, look no further than the TRD Pro. My favorite feature was its cab-mounted LED cargo bed light, standard on this trim. Even with the truck off, the light stays on for long moments at a time, making the tailgate the perfect place to set up food and drinks. Later on in the evening, we needed to hook an electric leaf blower up to the power outlet in the bed (to help the bonfire along, you see) and the Tundra again proved to be the MVP. That bed came in handy again when we used it to haul firewood. It's coated with aluminum-reinforced composite, so I didn't feel bad about tossing stuff up in there and getting it dirty.
I disliked the 14-inch infotainment screen. It was so large to the point that I had some difficulty taking in information on the right side of it if I glanced over. I think it should have been oriented more toward the driver; that way, I wouldn't have needed to turn my head as far. And despite the hard buttons and dials for the climate and radio volume, the UI itself on the screen already appeared and felt dated. But seeing as so many people rely on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay these days (both standard features on the TRD Pro), this probably won't bother too many folks.
Toyota Tundra Features, Options, and Competition
Tundra TRD Pros get part-time four-wheel drive with an electronically controlled, two-speed transfer case. Other off-road hardware includes a TRD front stabilizer bar, 2.5-inch FOX internal bypass coilovers, and suspension with 1.1-inches of front lift. There are also the forged BBS wheels and Falken all-terrain tires. There's a 120-volt power outlet in the bed, front and rear mudguards, and an LED light bar. Inside, there are heated and ventilated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital driver information cluster, a heated steering wheel, and the 14-inch infotainment screen. It's unclear if all of these features are standard (as I suspect them to be) because the test vehicle was pre-production and did not come with a traditional window sticker.
I wouldn't say the TRD Pro is as hardcore an off-roader as the Ford Raptor. Rather, it'd probably kick it better against the Ram 1500 Rebel, Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2, and Ford F-150 Tremor. Of the bunch, the TRD Pro is the only one that comes with a hybrid V6; the rest come with either V6s or V8s. The Toyota is priced above the Ram and Ford, but is also cheaper than the Chevy. I haven't driven the American competition, so I can't say which I'd have. But I do know that Toyota's reputation for reliability has to count for something.
There are hybrid cars such as the Prius that focus on efficiency ahead of everything else. The Tundra TRD Pro does not do this. True, it can drive on electric power alone at low speeds, so experiencing this very large truck go into silent stealth mode in parking lots is very amusing, but the hybrid system is more there for outright performance. Though the TRD Pro returns marginally better gas mileage than its competition, that extra hybrid boost is there for acceleration and towing. I didn't get a chance to tow anything—though I'm told the Tundra handles the job very well—but I can attest that its force off the line (and gusto with which it will charge up an on-ramp) is more than impressive.
That 22.5-gallon tank will be painful to fill with current gas prices, though. Such is life for any pickup truck or SUV driver.
Value and Verdict
If you've seen the news recently, you won't blame me for thinking a lot about bug-out bags and what vehicle I'd take if the world suddenly went to hell in a handbasket. I didn't really have an answer until I drove the Tundra TRD Pro. The truck was so big and so unfussed about everything that I couldn't help but feel safe when I drove it. There were three tons of aluminum and steel around me. I had lofty ground clearance and the tires, suspension, and four-wheel-drive system to stomp on the face of anything that'd try and eat me. What was the worse that could happen? (I should also note that while big cars and trucks may make their occupants feel safer, they're actually more dangerous for pedestrians and other people sharing the road.)
Apocalypse fever dreams aside, the TRD Pro proved to be a highly livable vehicle in spite of all its off-road mechanicals. I liked the high perspective its seating position offered and that I wasn't pressured to treat it as preciously; it's not a luxury vehicle (though it's certainly priced like one), and so I was free to use it as a tool.
But I also couldn't shake the feeling that the truck itself was doing some major overcompensating. Something about all the tacti-camo, violently red leather, the fact that the hybrid system is literally called "i-Force Max" (so it sounds cooler? I don't know) and how the V6 was tuned to sound bassy and V8er at low revs all made me roll my eyes. All of a sudden, it was 2002 again and I was Avril Lavigne, trying to convince the truck to chill out. I liked it the way it used to be.
Perhaps this is just Toyota bowing to market pressure. As I said at the start of this review, truck people are a unique breed of buyers. What doesn't work for me could very well work for them. All that said, though, the 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is a more than capable daily driver with the hardware and power to pull you out of most of life's situations. You'll even crack a smile while barreling on to the next best thing.
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