For weeks, the winding, downhill dirt road between our house and the highway was an ice sheet.
It was treacherous enough that leaving home invoked a three-step ritual: 1) engage the lowest gear available in whatever rig we were driving; 2) take a deep breath; and 3) point rig downhill.
There’s a tried-and-true technique for driving downhill in slippery conditions: brake as little as possible — braking can cause traction loss — and let engine compression slow the vehicle instead.
Engine compression is the force that slows your car when you lift your foot from the brake; the lower the gear, the greater the compression. As opposed to cars and crossovers, which use a single set of gears, trucks and SUVs with 4WD have a second set of low-range gears.
Hence, more compression and more braking action.
Which means today’s tester was a godsend; the 2017 Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup with available 4WD. It’s available in six trim levels, one of which is the off-road ready TRD Pro.
In addition to its 4WD system, with two-speed transfer case, the TRD Pro runs a set of sticky Michelin all-terrain (not all-season) tires and includes an off-road-ready suspension. Its purpose-built, heavy-duty shock absorbers feature three-stage compression damping, internal hydraulic bump stops and external reservoirs.
Extra-long wheel-travel eases the TRD Pro over boulders and downed trees and underbody skid plates protect the fragile bits below.
At the top of our improvised luge run, I’d engage 4-low and, with the transmission in first gear, let the truck crawl down the icy surface, sans brakes.
The TRD Pro is available in five- or six-passenger double- and crew-cab body styles and features a unique grille, TRD Pro bed-panel stamping, matte black badges and black headlight bezels. Inside, there’s leather upholstery with the TRD logo and red stitching, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power front passenger seat, an upgraded 7-inch touchscreen and navigation.
It’s powered by the larger of Tundra’s two available V-8 engines, a 5.7-liter iForce eight that makes 381 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque and will tow up to 10,600 pounds.
The base engine is a 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 310 horsepower and 327 pound feet of torque and can tow as much as 6,800 pounds.
All Tundras drive like trucks — i.e., no cushy ride or car-like handling — and, with its lifted suspension and long wheel-travel, the TRD Pro exaggerates the truckiness. An empty bed spells a fair amount of bounce and body lean in corners.
Vague steering-feel and the absence of a solid on-center groove require a certain amount of course correction to stay in-lane.
Tundra is sturdy, strong and capable, but lacks the finesse and the cutting-edge tech of its competitors. A blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors are available on other trims, but not TRD Pro. A rearview camera is standard.
Tundra’s appeal may be less wide-ranging than its competitors’, but few are more capable.
Contact Don at email@example.com, or visit www.dadair.com.
2017 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Vehicle base price: $30,500
Trim level base price: $42,445
Options: The TRD Pro is a fully equipped trim; our tester came with no options.
Tow rating: 6,800/10,600 pounds
EPA rating: 15 combined/13 city/17 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified