2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro - The Article that killed a column

I've been writing about cars for a long time, about 40 years. I don't profess to being a great writer or journalist. I'm not uncovering deep, dark secrets. I don't do word-for-word interviews. I write about cars - new cars that I get to drive, and cars, be they classics or just daily drivers, that I work on.

In my whole career I've never had anyone tell me to write about a certain make or model, or told me not to do so. It has been a long time since I've written any review that was really critical of any vehicle. This isn't because I'm trying to promote anything but because by and large there are no terrible vehicles any more. 

I write, or rather did write, for a weekly newspaper. I have done so for years, first with the Pacifica Tribune and for the past three years the Tracy Press without a complaint. Out of the blue my column was suspended (killed would be a better word but the Press said suspended indefinitely). The only regular automotive advertiser took exception to an article about a Toyota product. Newspapers depend on advertising to pay their way and weeklies often have a hard time competing with the dailies (and the dailies have a hard time competing with electronic media). Below is the article that I believe caused the problem. Odd that in three years this was (evidently) the straw that broke the camel's back.

Your intrepid reporter and Big Blue.

We took Big Blue, yes we called it Big Blue because it was big and very blue, on a trip to Solvang. Now you might think a six hundred mile round trip in a huge 4x4 powered by a V8 wouldn’t be the first choice for a road trip. In my line of work (reviewing cars) I don’t get to choose; I take what is given. And I was given a ’19 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

Make no mistake the Tundra is a big truck, as big as any from Ford, G.M., or Ram. Tundra doesn’t have the biggest V8 but its 5.7-liter pumps out 381 hp, and 401 lb-ft. It is a thoroughly modern DOHC, 32-valve, all aluminum, smooth V8. Toyota uses a 6-speed automatic transmission. Power is transmitted through a part-time 4WD. I never used 4WD and frankly most of you won’t either.

The TRD Pro adds a rumbly dual exhaust, a front skid plate (just in case you decide to visit the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area), TRD Fox shock absorbers, and 18” BBS wheels with P275/65R18 tires.

The test Tundra was a CrewMax which translates to a 4-door, 5-passenger cab. The bed is a tad over 5.5’ long.

Those are the numbers. This is the driving –

As I said such a big truck wouldn’t be my first choice for a road trip. But it does have its advantages. Foremost was its size. No really. There are a lot of really large trucks out there – semis and such – and when you’re in a smaller vehicle you can feel pretty darn vulnerable. The roads to Solvang aren’t twisty, narrow 2-lanes (even though parts are 2-lanes); those would not have been the Tundra’s forte. The Tundra easily cruised I-5, CA-41, CA-46, and US 101.

Even though the Tundra TRD Pro is designed for off-road, or maybe because of it, the terrible condition of our roads didn’t bother it. It laughed at pot holes and crumbling pavement.

One thing that amazed me, and made me glad, was that there was not a multitude of electronic gizmos. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the vast array of buttons and switches with their little pictograms. More and more I have to get out the owner’s manual so I know what is what.

We didn’t drive non-stop, we did stop a couple of times to stretch our legs and have a bite to eat. But three hundred miles each way means a fair amount of seat time, and extended seat time means sore butts. Not a problem in the Tundra.

One problem when on a trip in a pickup is where to stow the luggage. You can throw it in the bed but every time you stop you have to move it to the cab so it can be locked up. And if it rains you want it inside. This wasn’t a problem for us, after all there was just the two of us, but if your 4-door Tundra is used as a family vehicle you might want to consider a lockable bed cover. Just a thought.

If you’re around my age (old) you may not want the Tundra TRD Pro 4X4. The step-in height was two foot. I’m 5’11” but my joints aren’t as flexible as they used to be so I had to pull myself in (no grab handle on the driver’s side). My wife, who is a fair bit shorter but more agile, used the passenger’s grab handle to get in.

I erred with refueling and it cost me dearly. I should have gotten off 101 in Santa Maria for gas but missed my exit. I thought, “I can make it to Solvang” but about 20 miles later I decided it was time to fill up (the low fuel light came on). So we pulled off at the little town of Los Alamos. Fuel was $4.69 per gallon for regular. The TRD Pro has a 38 gallon tank. The pump shut off at $99.00, its limit. The fuel gauge was only at ¾ full!

I didn’t drive the Tundra hard or excessively fast. I use cruise control on the highway and usually set it about 5 mph over the limit (even so I end up slower than many especially on I-5). The TRD Pro is rated at 13-mpg in the city and 17-mpg on the highway. I got slightly less. This is on par with the competition but I was disappointed. It is a big truck - it weighs 5,640 pounds - so I guess the economy is to be expected.

The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro lists at $49,895 plus $1,495 destination fee for a total of $51,390. I don’t need or crave a big truck but if I did this would be on my list.


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