The 2023 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is a solid yet imperfect ATV hauler (REVIEW)

Toyota tried to outdo the American trucks at their own game when the brand debuted the second generation of the Tundra for the 2007 model year. Burly styling and a beefy optional 5.7L V8 paired with Toyota’s famous reliability and durability, which was prioritized over cutting-edge tech over the vehicle’s run through 2021, meant it walked to the beat of its own drum. The third generation of the truck launched in 2022 with the TRD Pro trim returning as the top-tier trim for off-roaders. To test it, I tasked the Tundra with a long road trip laden with a heavy Polaris ATV in its bed, an adventure that saw the Tundra do everything from cruise control on tarmac to crawling along steep unpaved driveways and trailheads. How’d it do?

Good inside and out, but could be better

First, the Tundra’s appearance. While styling is subjective, I and those who spent time around this Ice Cap (i.e., white) truck were happy with the way it looks. It has a serious presence and a menacing stance, though the 285/65/18 (32.6×11.2”) Falken Wildpeak tires are small in a world of 37”s. Sure, there’s likely a Trailhunter model on the way, but 35″s are the new 33″s, and the Falkens here are a bit wimpy against the competition’s standard offerings. Also, the gray camo on the fenders (which makes its way into the interior) is over the top if not a bit tacky. Inside the Tundra is more modern pseudo-toughness, and though I quite like the bright red theme, it likely isn’t for everyone.

The straightforwardness of the controls and infotainment is appreciated. Everything is easy to use and smartly laid out, though the far side of the 14-inch touchscreen requires an eyes-off-the-road reach for those not graced with long arms. Also, the hybrid battery living under the rear seat severely compromises storage space inside the cabin. Toyota gets points for retaining physical controls for the HVAC and stereo, though.

The hybrid battery compromises interior space

New powertrain impresses

Far and beyond the most controversial part of the third-gen Tundra is the powertrain. This TRD Pro is powered by the “i-Force Max” 3.4L twin-turbo V6 paired with a hybrid battery, which is good for 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque. There’s no question that it’s a huge amount, though it would be better represented if the truck didn’t weigh 6,015 pounds (roughly 500 more than the prior-gen model). Still, the power and torque are stout; the Tundra accelerates with authority and makes highway passes when loaded down as if it was unladen. And say what you want about the fake, pumped-in V8 engine noises; I’ll take that over a “meh” sounding V6 any day, even if it makes me long for two extra cylinders under the hood.

Most impressive and pleasing when it comes to the Tundra TRD Pro’s capability is how it hauled the Polaris Scrambler XP 1000 S. Though the rear end squatted under the quad’s near-half-ton mass as more off-road equipped trucks tend to, the Tundra’s 1,600-pound payload perhaps does it a disservice at least on the surface. Much to my surprise the truck couldn’t have cared less about the weight in its bed. It did as well as, if not better than, the almost-$112,000 Ford F-150 Raptor R that I loaded with this very same ATV a few months back. The Tundra held highway speed happily and managed backroads and dirt roads with ease. Though I didn’t test the truck’s 11,175-pound towing capacity, I have no doubt it would have fared quite well at the task.

Aside from the hauling ability, the powertrain also proved a positive in the fuel economy department. In the old 3UR-FE V8-powered truck I struggled to get low-teens gas mileage without a load in the bed. Over the ~700 miles I put on this third-gen truck, almost all of which were hauling the Polaris, I managed 15.3 MPG; I can’t help but think in last-gen rig it would have been 11-12 MPG.

Tundra on the test trip

I’ve made something of a ritual doing the adventure that I took the Tundra on year-after-year with my family and friends, having done so hauling a UTV with a Nissan Frontier, running a Honda Ridgeline as support vehicle, loading a Chevy Traverse full of people and things on last year’s journey, and so on. These trips involve long highway stints from home to retreat, many of which are over significant elevation changes, plus plentiful mountain and country-side back road traveling. The TRD Pro was among the best of these vehicles I’ve done this trip with, and it was more than happy to turn around and do the reverse trek home through the remnants of a Tropical Storm.

Toyota truck owners and enthusiasts are a loyal, faithful bunch. They stand by their trucks and count on their trucks to stand by them. So when a beloved model is phased out and replaced by an all-new generation, one that is only the third iteration of the vehicle since its inception and which eschews the traditional powertrain for future-focused choices, it’s no easy feat to please the die-hards. As a Toyota truck fan myself (and host of a podcast that spends a lot of time covering the subject), I had high hopes for the TRD Pro version of Toyota’s full-size pickup and while I was somewhat let down by the early-build 2022 Tundra Limited that I tested in 2022, the TRD Pro was a pleasant surprise.

Up against tough competition, but still solid

So much of the viability of a truck is how it feels to drive and live with, and the Tundra TRD Pro, even at its $72,204 as-tested price, is an impressive piece of kit. Whether this money is better spent at another manufacturer entirely hinges on the perspective of the buyer, and as a bona fide Toyota fan, I do truly like this truck. As an unbiased automotive reviewer, I can’t say it’s better than the competition; there are compromises on space, usability, and capability versus the competition (at least on paper). Then again, vehicular purchases aren’t entirely objective and I do think that in a somehow overcrowded segment the Tundra TRD Pro is a fun, unique, pleasant-to-live-with truck that, as always, marches to the beat of its own drum. Whether it’s good for you is anybody’s guess, but there’s no doubt that I enjoyed my time with it and can report that it’s a fantastic ATV hauler.

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2 responses to “The 2023 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is a solid yet imperfect ATV hauler (REVIEW)”

  1. Salguod Avatar

    I’m curious about the dynamic weight rating for that tailgate. I don’t know if it’s true, but I was told that most truck tailgates aren’t rated for a dynamic load exclusively placed on the tailgate like you get when transporting an ATV. I was that Honda is one of the only ones to publish one, which kinda makes sense since they want customers to know they can safely haul their Honda ATV in their Ridgeline.

    Does Toyota publish a dynamic load rating for their tailgate?

  2. Billie Avatar

    Toyota’s “i-Force Max” powertrain dominates the road, a hybrid system that links a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 to a 10-speed automatic, with an electric motor sandwiched in between and a battery suika game pack behind the back seats.

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