EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Well, the price is a pleasant surprise. As big pickups go, $45K is a bargain. Another surprise: The ride. I walked out to the parking lot and took a look at this thing all high and mighty and thought "Dang, where’s a kidney belt when I need one?" (Actually, the front end is only lifted a couple inches, according to Toyota; I would have guessed more.) I was surprised, pleasantly, at how well it soaks up potholes and road imperfections and the like. It rides fine: no beating at all, no harsh impact. The flipside, of course, is that there is some body roll, but I’ll take it. It rides like you’re ready to head on down to Baja. The TRD package includes Bilstein shocks, a front skid plate, a TRD dual exhaust system…I’m thinking Baja would be just a blast.

Another surprise was the V8’s smoothness and refinement. This might be among the smoothest big pickups I’ve driven, or at least that come to mind. The 5.7-liter has good power, makes cool hotroddie sounds, and is mated nearly perfectly to the five-speed.

This baby is huge. It takes up a lot of real estate in parking lots and such. It’s also quite a climb up into it. For some people, that might be a turnoff. In my opinion, it drives so well I’ll overlook that stuff. 

All Tundras start out with a quiet cabin, made even quieter by comprehensive new sound insulation methods and materials.PHOTO BY TOYOTA

EDITORIAL CONTENT MANAGER NATALIE NEFF: OK, I know there aren’t a lot of people buying full-size Toyota pickups for their child-carrying needs, but I have to say, this was the single most difficult vehicle I’ve experienced yet to install a car seat. Seriously, the LATCH anchors were buried so deeply in the cloth seats, I thought for a second they were missing. And when I finally found them, the shape of the anchors differed from every other type I’ve used, making it extra tough to clip the seat in properly. Annoying.

Then again, mommy-specific issues aside, it was pure joy driving this monster truck, even if it required a Fosbury Flop to reach the driver’s seat (short stature, high ground clearance and no running boards do not make for easy ingress). There’s just something wickedly fun about driving an off-road-minded vehicle on public roads, seeing the trepidation in other drivers’ eyes as you ply your way through traffic. The steering wheel is like the tiller of some giant barge, with the body motions to match. Not to make it sound like some antiquated ol’ floaty beast; rather, the TRD PRO (quite an unfortunate name, really) performed like a modern marvel, with power aplenty, a cabin decently isolated from the surrounds, all the amenities one looks for in a 21st-century vehicle, and a ride that, while not exactly supple, certainly did not punish its occupants. That it could pass for a reasonable facsimile of a SCORE truck, if asked, with almost 2 inches of additional suspension travel and corresponding ride height, the Tundra TRD PRO makes you smile just sitting at the curb.

My favorite part, however, had to be the TRD PRO stamped into the side of the truck bed. That little touch made this truck feel particularly special.

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