Toyota Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road: A High Mileage Review in the Bitter Cold
Many of the new vehicles that I get for testing are fairly new, often with low miles, and that has become a point of criticism among some readers. They point out that almost all vehicles are great when they are brand new, but after a year or two and after a fair amount of driving, these test vehicles would show their true colors.
With that in mind, I was happy to get my hands on a 2017 Toyota Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road at the end of the 2017 model year test cycle. This truck had obviously been well-maintained by the fleet company, but it had around 20,000 miles on the odometer when I spent a week behind the wheel. By some standards, 20,000 miles is an average year, but with many low-mileage lease agreements including 10,000 miles a year, this Tundra can be viewed as being driven hard for the course of an average two years.
As for the driving situation, while most members of the media who test these trucks don’t tow and haul things like I do, it is no secret that the media drives all of the test vehicles harder than they would drive their own vehicles. In most cases, test vehicles have little interior issues where other writers haven’t been careful, breaking small components, tearing the leather and cracking the inner door panels – even when the vehicle only has a few thousand miles on it.
In short, 20,000 miles of media testing might not be as hard on the vehicle as some drivers, but by no means do the media pile up soft miles. That is why most automakers won’t leave a vehicle in the fleet long enough to rack up that many miles, but Toyota isn’t worried about sending out test vehicles with lots of miles and my time in this Tundra made is clear why.
Having also had a similar truck to this one when it was brand new, fresh to the fleet with low mileage, I can comfortably say that this Tundra TRD 4x4 performed just as well with 20,000 miles as one did with 1,500 miles.
High Mileage, No Problem
The weather for the week that I was driving the Toyota Tundra shown here was incredibly cold, with temperatures well below zero at night climbing into the single digits during the day. During that week we also got a few inches of snow, combining with the extreme cold to create slick roads around Metro Detroit.
In many cases, extreme cold brings out problems in vehicles, from slow starts and poor performance to odd creaks and rattles that build up over the life of the truck. This 2017 Tundra had no odd noises from the interior or the suspension on the frigid mornings, easily firing up in temps as low as -18F without any hesitation.
Also, everything in the Tundra felt tight after a year of testing and 20,000 miles, including the touch points around the interior. With some vehicles, you can see the wear on things like the door handles, the top of the door panel (where the driver’s left arm rests) and the HVAC or stereo controls, but all of those parts in the Tundra looked and felt like-new. Honestly, had the odometer said that this pickup only had 2,000 miles on it, I wouldn’t have question the number, as this truck looked and felt like it was new.
Another key area where a truck that has been ridden hard and put up wet will show wear is in the suspension system and the Oakland County, Michigan area is perfect for testing a truck’s suspension on the roughest roads possible. This area is littered with rough, unpaved roads. When the temps get very low, the mixture of mud and snow freezes, turning the road surface into a crater-filled nightmare that is just waiting to break a wheel and blow out a tire.
These roads will emphasize even the slightest suspension problem, bringing out squeaks and clunks that you won’t hear on paved roads. On my own daily driven pickup with 100,000+ miles, the local dirt roads bring out some odd noises from the suspension that I don’t hear on pavement, and this is true with many newer test vehicles as well.
However, the 2017 Toyota Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road with 20,000 miles on the ticker navigated these miserably rough roads without so much as a whisper. It is highly unlikely that any of the stock components had been replaced in a year and 20,000 miles, but even after all of that testing, the half-ton Toyota handled the rough roads as well as the brand new trucks I’ve tested.
The bottom line here is that in terms of the interior fit and finish or the drivetrain performance, this 2017 Tundra with 20,000 miles was just as solid as it was the day that it was built. So, for all of those readers who insist that we only review brand new vehicles, this is proof that we do review some vehicles with mileage and in this case, it performs just as well as a brand new truck.
Tundra Vs A Winter Storm
Aside from the mileage, the key aspect of this seat time in the Toyota Tundra compared to my previous test sessions was the weather. The extremely cold temperatures cause the local dirt roads to turn into what feels like pothole-filled-concrete, and as mentioned above, the aging Tundra performed beautifully on those rough roads.
More significantly, on the first day that I had this Tundra, Metro Detroit was buried by heavy snowfall. The bitter cold temps had created some icy surfaces and when the snow piled up on top of the already-slick roads, some treacherous conditions were created. While making a long drive for work that first night, I saw countless vehicles that had failed to negotiate the slippery roads, including plenty of 4WD and AWD trucks and SUVs.
The drive to my meeting was made on the highway, where a surprising number of vehicles had lost control and slid into the center divider or the ditch on the outer edge. The road was very slippery, but the Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road handled them nicely, although I was driving very cautiously. In some places, people had tried to slow down for one accident and lost control, creating more little wrecks around the initial impact, but with the heater blazing, the half-ton Toyota easily made its way to my destination.
After spending a few hours in the meeting, I went out to the Tundra, only to be greeted by even more snow. I drove a few miles on the highway but in seeing what a mess of wrecks and people driving far too fast in their sedans for the conditions, I took tertiary roads on the way home. These roads were more heavily covered with snow, but since the speed limits are far lower, fewer people were driving too fast and wrecking – so it was slightly smoother sailing.
At one point, I came to a long uphill climb from a stop light and as I waited for my light to turn green, watching several vehicles make it about halfway up the hill, only to carefully turn around and drive back down when they couldn’t tackle the steep hill. In front of me was another 4WD pickup from another automaker and as he started up the hill, I hung back a bit and gave him plenty of space to attack to slippery slope. Around the halfway point, he started to struggle, with all four tires slinging snow into the air as the truck shifted from side to side on the road.
It took him a few minutes, but after a pause that I assume was used to shift into 4-Low, he managed to creep his way up the hill. When my turn came to make a run up the hill, I was a little concerned. I had the Tundra in 4-High and I thought that I might need to shift to 4-Low to make it to the top of the long climb, but much to my surprise, the Toyota easily made it to the top of the hill.
Around the halfway point, it spun the tires a bit, but once I had maneuvered out of the icy path of the truck in front of me, I had no problem making it the rest of the way up the hill. I continued my slow, careful drive home as the snow continued to deepen, passing several stuck trucks in the process. At one point, I even stopped to help a guy who had gotten stuck in the mouth of a gas station parking lot by using his tow strap to pull his modified midsized pickup onto the road. He asked that I not take a picture of the situation and I respected that request.
Over the course of the next few days, we got more snow and the Tundra handled it all with ease. Some people insist that even large, four wheel drive trucks need dedicated snow tires to dominate the worst weather conditions, but the 2017 Toyota Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road performed perfectly on our slick local streets.
Pulling a Huge Trailer in the Snow
Finally, before the fleet company came to retrieve the 2017 Tundra, I had to run a quick errand with a 30-foot car trailer. Using a weight-distributing hitch, I loaded up a 4,500lb muscle car into the 3,000lb trailer and headed out onto the snowy roads. Once again, I was particularly careful on the slick streets, but the Tundra pulled the heavy load in the huge trailer very nicely. I did avoid the highway and highway speeds with the slick roads and heavy winds, but with the help of four wheel drive, this Tundra safely pulled my car trailer to its destination.
As you can imagine, handling and braking distances were extended with the slippery conditions, but the 2017 Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road did a great job of handling the big car hauler in the harsh winter weather.
The Final Word
Some test vehicles might begin to show their age after a year of media driving it for 20,000 miles, but the Toyota Tundra is not one of them. Considering the brand’s reputation for quality and longevity, it comes as little surprise, but the Tundra with all of those miles performed just as well as brand new Toyota pickups I’ve tested in the past. Even on particularly rough roads in temperatures well below 0F, this truck didn’t show any sign of those 20,000 miles.
More importantly, the Tundra TRD 4x4 Off-Road handled the snow-covered roads with confidence, clearing paths where other four wheel drive models hadn’t been able to go on and in some cases, it did so with a 30-foot, 7,500lb trailer out back.
I have said it before and I will say it again – the current Tundra is the best truck that Toyota or any Japanese automaker has offered in the US. The Tundra handles rough roads while offering a smooth ride on paved roads and it handles a big trailer as well as the competitors from the Big 3.