I'm doing 55 miles per hour in a 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, and it's positively thrilling. My hands are locked at nine and three while my right foot dances between gas and brake, fighting to maintain momentum. I try to breathe normally as my eyes frantically scan the surface ahead, looking for threats. Even a momentary lapse in concentration could put the truck right on its roof.
Welcome to the world of high-speed off-road driving, where it's all fun and games till somebody hits a hidden ditch and cartwheels off into the desert.
Yet I find myself oddly at ease. It's hard to believe, but this Tundra feels better the faster I go. At 50 mph, I'm gliding serenely over ruts and rocks that felt treacherous at 20. We're at a Toyota-sponsored event in middle-of-nowhere Nevada on some pretty gnarly terrain, and the Tundra TRD Pro isn't even breaking a sweat.
One thing keeps crossing my mind as I blast ahead with a massive dust cloud in my wake: "I thought only the Ford Raptor could do stuff like this."
TRD = "The Real Deal"
Actually, it stands for Toyota Racing Development, but there's no doubt that the TRD Pro line is a game-changer for Toyota's off-road performance division. Although Toyota has been offering TRD accessories for years on its trucks and SUVs, the 2015 Tundra TRD Pro and its Tacoma/4Runner stablemates mark the rebirth of TRD as the company's seal of off-road excellence. All three models are equipped to handle just about any challenge, but the Tundra in particular grabs headlines because of its potential threat to the Raptor's supremacy.
Indeed, the Tundra TRD Pro is full of precision-engineered extras designed to elevate its off-road performance to new heights. Perhaps most notably, the seemingly invincible Bilstein shocks were developed specifically for this application. They're the size of dump-truck shocks, for one thing, and they also boast 3-stage position-sensitive valving that yields two additional inches of wheel travel, giving the truck an incredible ability to absorb hard impacts in the dirt. The Eibach springs are instrumental as well, as they've been tuned by TRD with a decreased spring rate for more suspension compliance. Additional features include a 2-inch suspension lift, black alloy wheels and a formidable-looking front skid plate.
Same V8, New Voice
Under the Tundra TRD Pro's hood resides one of my favorite engines in any vehicle: Toyota's 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8, the original engine when the current-generation Tundra debuted back in 2007. I'm here to tell you that it hasn't aged a day. Throttle response is quick and emphatic, and there's some serious midrange torque on tap when it's time to haul the mail. About the only thing Toyota could improve about this motor is the way it sounds, and lo and behold, that's exactly what they've done for TRD Pro duty: The standard performance dual-exhaust system emits a nice throaty roar when you're hard on the throttle. Toyota even claims that it adds 5 to 8 hp to the already-mighty V8.
Whereas the muscled-up, ridiculously wide Raptor wears its off-roading heart on its sleeve, the Tundra TRD Pro -- available in either double-cab or crew-cab form -- is more circumspect. Sure, you can get an Inferno orange paint job that's exclusive to the TRD Pro line, but otherwise, only diehard Tundra fans will know they're looking at something special. On the one hand, that means you might be disappointed if exuberance is what you're after. But on the other hand, not everyone wants to advertise their truck's talents to the world. The Tundra TRD Pro lets its performance do the talking, and that should suit a lot of folks just fine.
A Peach on the Pavement
Remarkably, the same truck that did 55 mph across the desert felt right at home on the freeway as we drove back to our hotel in Las Vegas. The Michelin LTX AT2 off-road tires tracked straight and true, with none of the intrusive noise that's typical of enthusiast rubber. As for the ride, if anything it's smoother than that of the regular Tundra, thanks to the ultra-absorbent TRD Pro shocks and springs. Imagine that: a factory-prepared desert racer that's equally confident on concrete.
The Bottom Line
A crucial question is how much the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro will cost, and Toyota didn't have an answer as we went to press. But if this truck lists for thousands less than the Raptor, as we expect it will, Ford could really have a dilemma on its hands. Stay tuned for more information as the Tundra TRD Pro's fall 2014 launch approaches.