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March 16, 2014

Toyota Tundra wears grit on new fenders

The Toyota Tundra pickup truck is a brute. Driving a long, wide, high-riding CrewMax version last week — with a back seat that seemed as large as a one-car garage — I felt like I was maneuvering an 18-wheeler.

When I needed to jump-start a car stranded in my driveway, the Tundra was supremely capable. But first I had to edge the big pickup through a 90-degree turn to face it nose to nose with the disabled auto. The tall snowbanks lining my driveway confined the Tundra. I had to step it around gradually, swinging just a few degrees forward, then a few backward, then repeating, practically standing in the driver’s seat whenever I needed to peer over the hood to make sure the truck’s nose cleared obstacles. After I lost patience, I turned the selector knob to switch the Tundra from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. Then I just bumped the truck over the tall snowbanks that hemmed it in. It slanted up steeply onto a ridge of hard snow alongside my driveway, stepped down again effortlessly, and settled with nary a sigh in front of the stranded car.

The big Toyota was just as serene after I hooked it to the dead battery, which pulled power through the jumper cables to start the stalled auto. But then, I think the 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 in my evaluation model — the biggest engine Toyota offers in its biggest pickup — could have started a de-energized nuclear power plant.

None of that will be taken as criticism by pickup drivers. Just the opposite. To say that a pickup is a brute is high praise. The abilities of the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup justify all the praise that a hard working, heavy rolling driver could offer a vehicle.

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