2016 Toyota Tundra TRD: True Performace Pickup Truck

Modern automotive design is forging pickup trucks — even larger class versions — that are as easy to drive as sedans or crossovers. In some cases, if the automaker throws in extra horsepower and a little finesse into the handling, those same pickups can be fun to drive.

We had the opportunity to test the limits of a big pickup’s performance with a week behind the sizable wheel of a 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD – or a 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro 5.7 Liter V8, if you prefer the full name. It’s the result of Toyota Racing Development getting their hands on the company’s biggest truck and tuning it for additional performance.

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The standard Toyota Tundra starts around a very reasonable $29,140 for its stripped down model (really not a bad price for a full size pickup like the Tundra). Once you push into the TRD tuned version, you’re looking at $42,945 for entry MSRP, with the Crewmax version calling for $45,56o.

Standard contents offer the titular 5.7 liter V8 engine and its 381 horsepower. Such a thirsty power plant in a big truck doesn’t promise the best fuel efficiency, but buyers of this machine want its power and capability, not its 15 city and 19 highway MPG numbers.

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Such engineering facts and figures like horsepower numbers mean very little for a pickup truck if it can’t put the power down to carry and pull. To that end, the Tundra promises to tow just under five tons.

A new Toyota tech feature protects your flank while putting the Tundra’s towing power to use. The  Integrated Trailer Brake Controller 18 comes standard on all 2016 Tundras equipped with the 5.7 liter V8. If the driver uses a compatible trailer, this Toyota system allows the driver to adjust the amount of trailer braking based on the weight being towed. The end result makes any trailer behave in unison with the slowing Tundra.

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The 2016 Tundra TRD really earns accolades for its suspension. After reviewing the previous year’s model, I found that the Tundra floated too high without a significant rear bed payload. That caused the truck to jump a bit when it found pavement problems.

This Tundra Pro adds TRD-tuned suspension with tuned front springs and remote-reservoir TRD Pro Bilstein front and rear shocks. You might expect this tightened performance handling in the 2016 TRD version to make that problem worse. However, the ride was generally smoother regardless of speed, road service or truck bed contents.

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But, at long last, what can be said of the big vehicles “driving ease?” I started out with the claim that large modern pickups — the machines designed to do the heaviest consumer work — are now as easy to drive as an average car. The Tundra maintains that trend with a powerful, electronics-aided power steering system that shrugs off the bulk of the vehicle with ease.

The added power of the TRD V8 engine and the enhanced suspension give this Toyota Tundra that extra little kick that should get a smiling driver out ahead of the pack on demand.