Crossing a Frozen Landscape in the Toyota Tundra

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It was a cold New England Friday… nothing out of the ordinary this year, but still a good day to have a rain, snow, and ice-busting truck with heated seats at your disposal.

The shear magnitude of the 2014 Toyota Tundra made for a great cold-weather traveling vehicle when crossing the state for a weekend trip to visit family. At the height of the holidays, my passenger, Ben, and I loaded up the back seat of the Tundra with our weekend bags, a smattering of gifts, and a few bags of food and beverages, and headed three hours East to Cape Cod.

The first clue that we’d also be traveling in comfort were the heated seats with lumbar support, and the 2014 (the third generation) Tundra’s interior has been redesigned as well. The 3.5 inch information screen that leads to a navigation system, audio panel, back-up camera, and more is large enough to view without moving from your driving position, and the cab also had updated ergonomics and a reworked dashboard that add to that insulated feeling inside the truck. I didn’t feel cramped, but I didn’t feel as though I was piloting a tank, either.

The Tundra feels grounded to the road without the bouncy, ‘floaty’ feel that some large pick-ups have, and Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and electronic brakeforce distribution are all standard. I was able to appreciate each of these in my own way as I rumbled down familiar Berkshire roads, long stretches of highway, and the narrow streets of Cape Cod, my destination.

There’s much to be said for the safety features and their effects on comfort; it’s much easier to feel at ease in a large vehicle knowing that you’re flanked by dual front airbags, front row side torso airbags, and rollover sensing side curtain airbags for both the front and rear rows. In fact, I learned after testing the Tundra that it was the first full-size pickup to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick accolade.

We had a smooth ride for the bulk of the trip to Cape Cod, and towards the end of the route, the Tundra got its first test from the elements. The rain had been beating down on the lower Cape for most of the day, and as is bound to happen, some of the lower-lying stretches of busy Route 6 were obscured by inches of rainwater that couldn’t escape fast enough into the drains and run-offs. Traffic slowed and some cars pulled over precariously to the side of the road, unsure of how much success they’d have plowing through.

Indeed, as we barreled through near-flooded conditions, the subsequent splash reached the side windows of the Tundra, but we moved on without a problem. In fact, we seemed to be clearing the way for several of the smaller cars behind us.

We arrived at my parents’ house having made great time, and parked at the top of their long gravel driveway to make sure other relatives had plenty of space to park. The position created quite the viewing area for the truck; one-by-one, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws arrived to be greeted by a sparkling new truck with its redesigned grille and body (Toyota calls it ‘American-style). Throughout the day, relatives took mini-field trips up the drive to have a look, and dinner conversation was peppered with comments about the Tundra’s distinction as the only pick-up to have successfully towed the Space Shuttle Endeavour across a bridge in 2012.

A little driveway-level boasting wasn’t enough action for the Tundra, though, and the next day we set out for the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History for a woodland hike that features the broad marshes of Cape Cod Bay, only accessible by hearty trucks with great wheels and plenty of gumption. We couldn’t help but giggle as the Tundra dwarfed most of the other trucks on the marsh, driven by stalwart fishermen and clammers who knew the landscape as well as the deep lines on their palms.

Adventures aside, however, the best gift the Tundra gave us was space and hauling power on the way back to Western Massachusetts as we prepared to depart. Our every day cars are fuel-efficient hatchbacks that usually serve us quite well, but preclude us from ever traveling with anything larger than an end-table stowed in the back.

It only took three Bungee cords and a little bit of help from the brawnier members of my family to fill the massive bed of the Tundra with more furniture than we’ve ever moved without the help of a rented moving truck. My parents had been hoping to unload much of it for years to make space in their 1786 farmhouse for some more modern trappings, and Ben and I were more than happy to replace our sagging mattress and over-flowing chest of drawers with some new-to-us pieces.

In went a mattress, a bureau, a desk, some assorted bedding, and the gifts we’d accumulated, along with a cooler of leftovers, without anything jutting, protruding, or smashed into the back at a worrisome angle. Even our vision wasn’t obstructed through the rear window, and we made use of the bed-light to get everything in as dusk (and out later at night) without stumbling.

Our final review is that, while we were a little scared of driving such a big, formidable vehicle at first, that fear soon subsided when we realized we were well protected in a truck that handles well – smoothly and quietly, not like a roaring behemoth. As a small-car driver, I also appreciated that feeling that other drivers were well aware of me on the road; the Tundra does indeed have a presence that’s hard to ignore, and it handles the ever-changing New England weather with ease. In the rain, it cuts through puddles without any hesitation. In the snow and ice, it’s steady and feels ‘sticky’ without a hint of slip and slide.

And in the shining sun, it rolls along easily, the driver supported by warm, adjustable seats and soothed by any number of tunes coming from the multi-source sound system. On a weekend trip in New England, it’s not surprising that we were able to test the Tundra in all of these conditions, and then some.

Jaclyn Stevenson is a guest blogger and driver for Haddad Toyota.