I pulled onto the 10-mile dirt road that would take me to King of the Hammers, an off-road race that's kind of a cross between Burning Man and Mad Max. Showing up to King of the Hammers in anything but a four-wheel drive vehicle is akin to wearing white at a funeral, so my ride for this adventure was a 2016 Toyota Tundra 4x4. And though the Platinum CrewMax trim line of my test model is built more for towing and hauling than it is for off-road hijinks, I found the Tundra to be an acceptable, though not outstanding, truck.
The reason I wanted a truck for this weekend trip was space for my camping gear, food and supplies for the weekend. But the Tundra's CrewMax cab is so spacious I didn't even need to put anything into its 5.5-foot bed. If I had needed more space, I could have flipped up the rear seats, making the rear of the cab even more practical.
The Tundra is a large truck. I am not a small woman, but I still had a tough time reaching the center stack without stretching forward and calling upon The Force to help me push the infotainment buttons, and I had to lean way out in order to close the door. Fortunately the driver's seat is power-adjustable 12 ways, and the steering wheel both tilts and telescopes, so I was able to find a comfortable driving position very easily.
Toyota adds convenience to the cabin with storage space in the console large enough to hold a laptop, along with spaces just below the stack and on the passenger side of the console. In addition, the Tundra's cabin includes 13 cup and bottle holders.
Too little tech
Coming from a small daily driver to the full-size Tundra is a bit of a jump. I was thankful for the blind-spot monitoring system, which eased my mind when I wondered, "Am I about to hit a motorcycle with this lane change?!?" The Tundra's backup camera and rear cross-traffic warning are also a necessity, given its size.
Still, the Tundra lacks technical features that are available on many other trucks. Ford has technology that makes backing up a trailer a cinch, while Chevrolet has wireless charging, 4G/LTE connectivity and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Further, both Ford and Ram offer adaptive cruise control.
The throaty 5.7-liter V-8 engine rumbles off the line and produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The six-speed automatic transmission easily puts the power to the pavement. It's much better than the six-speed transmission in the Tacoma, which can't seem to get out of its own way. Shifting in the Tundra is smooth and easy, and it holds the revs while going uphill or accelerating past slower traffic.