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All this certainly sounds impressive but how well does a new 5.7-liter Tundra Double Cab 4x4 TRD half-ton handle the tough stuff off the asphalt?  To find out we took one for a drive at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) just outside Hollister, California, about 40 miles south of San Jose.

Hollister Hills offers some of the most challenging off-road trails in Northern California. Like a ski run, each trail is marked from easy, green circle, to difficult, blue square, to super tough, black diamond.  In addition to the trails there are also special areas to test you and your vehicle’s 4x4 mettle, including a mud pit, obstacle course, hill climb, and rock challenge.

It’s getting to be a cliché to say the Tundra is a big truck. It is.  But those same full size physical dimensions that made the Tundra a true member of the half-ton club can count against you when you’re in the wilderness and need to wind your way up a tree covered trail or make it over a steep grade without scraping bottom.

We started out on a green circle route in 4-Hi to build a feel for the truck and to make our way to where we’d be doing the tough tests.

With a width of almost 80-inches the Tundra sucked up nearly the entire dirt path at points. On the hard packed ground, with some moderate to deep ruts, the ride was stiff but never harsh. The Tundra has very accurate and easy steering at low speeds which helped make turning tight corners a breeze while the A-Trac system made 4-Hi bearable by helping prevent the ‘scrubbing’ feeling you get in standard 4x4 setups. Some portions of the trail had a thin layer loose rock and sand but wheel slippage in these conditions was minimal. There was never a problem with the Tundra’s ground clearance, even through the deepest ruts ran to about 6-inches deep. Toyota claims 4x4 Tundras stand 10.8-inches off the ground, but with the optional TRD skid plate that number looked to be nearer to 10-inches at the front axle, where the shielding curves under the truck. There were a few minor uphill climbs that the 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 made short work of. No lack of power there.

Still, there’s some work Toyota could do to improve the inside of the truck for this kind of terrain. Driving over these aggressive fire roads there was a surprising amount of cowl shake in the top of the Tundra’s instrument panel. So much so that it was difficult to read the clock embedded in the top of the dash while driving at more than 5-mph down the trails. Along with this motion was also a moderate rattle that accompanied the vibrations. Not what we’d expect for a Toyota, and much more pronounced than we’ve experienced in Ford and GM’s current half-tons under similar conditions.

It took about 10 minutes for us to make our destination, where the tough testing started. It’s called the ‘Quarry’ and it’s pretty much what you’d expect with a name like that. Large piles and pits of granite and rock make an obstacle course that’s about a 3/4-acre in size. The course consisted of three parts - a swimming pool sized depression with shallow walls made up of granite chunks, a rock lined hill with steep ascent and descent angles and a narrow pinnacle, and a very technically challenging steep descent that hugged a hill on the far side of the course.

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