But before we could start we ran into our second minor issue with the Tundra. The transfer case wouldn’t shift from 4-Hi to 4-Lo, which was an absolute necessity for driving the Quarry. It took several minutes of low-speed forward and reverse driving, and back and forth 4WD dial turning in neutral, before the 4-Hi light in the instrument cluster stopped blinking and was replaced by a solid lit 4-Lo indicator.
Finally we were able to take a dip in the granite pool. Stopped at the edge, it was difficult to see over the front of the Tundra’s broad nose to the floor below but we knew the Tundra could handle the angle of its walls. We went over the side and nimbly shimmied down the wall without a complaint or slip. Then we quickly crawled across the loose floor and out the other side. No problem.
It was clear, though, that the steep hill in the middle of the Quarry was a no-go zone for the Tundra. The 146-inch wheelbase and 10.8-inch ground clearance created a break-over angle that was too shallow to clear the top of the peak without getting stuck perched on the frame rails with the front and rear wheels hanging over the edges of the tall mound. A FJ Cruiser could make the climb without difficulty but any full size pickup that tried to hike over this point would have been out of luck, like the Tundra.
So we maneuvered up to the last obstacle – a steep 50-yard or so long trail that wound its way down around a hill of bare rock, small pebbles, and slippery dirt. Every ounce of 4x4 capability was required for this test, to safely navigate the 5,600-lb pickup back to the bottom of the Quarry. In addition to 4-Lo, first gear was used to engine brake the Tundra and human spotters helped us steer and guide the truck along the best path because the narrowness of the trail made it impossible to see every view and angle from the cabin. It was extremely slow going. With spotter advice we constantly turned the wheels a few degrees left or right to avoid hitting the side of the hill or going up and over the lip of the path – the full size of the Tundra once again proving to be a negative off-road. One very steep section was further compounded by a deep divot that caused the left rear wheel to lose contact with the trail entirely, but the Tundra’s A-Trac system helped ensure there was zero slippage from the right wheel and strengthened driver confidence. The only casualty on the truck during the descent was a plastic mudflap that scratched the ground loudly through one troublesome spot. Soon the trail broadened towards the base and all four rubber patches on the truck’s tires found traction. From this point it was a relative breeze to walk the truck the rest of the way down. Overall, the hill was a very good demonstration and highly challenging test for the Tundra’s off-road capabilities. It’s amazing to think a near 3-ton truck could wind its way down such a goat path successfully.
After two more good runs down the same steep hill it was time to call it a day and reflect on what we’d learned taking the Tundra D-Cab 4x4 TRD off road.
While not perfect, buyers can expect a truck that can tackle the occasional rough trail and steep topography moderately well because Toyota has equipped this pickup with a rich set of 4WD tools and components to make it easy for the driver to get the job done.