Towing With a 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Loaded Down Across The Heartland
While the 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is probably best known for its off-road prowess, it is still considered to be a quite capable 1/2-ton truck including the ability to tow a considerable amount of weight. We decided to put this to the test by towing more than 7,000 pounds on a 1,324-mile journey across the upper Midwest. Here is what we learned about towing with the TRD Pro.
The trip consisted of leaving western Nebraska, heading through South Dakota, down through Illinois, and up to Michigan. It involved two long days behind the wheel with early mornings and late nights totaling some 26 hours of driving. There was also an additional short day of driving to deliver the towed 1963 International C1200 to the future owner’s house.
Throughout this journey, the various features that make a TRD Pro version of the Tundra different from the standard version were put to the test in a new way. For example, the Bilstein 2.5-inch coilover shocks do a great job responding when off-roading, yet how do they hold up when doing this amount of towing? Also, the TRD exhaust sounds incredible, yet after that many hours non-stop, would we still love the sound? Finally, the 5.7L V8 engine is a robust machine capable of producing lots of thrill on a sand dune, yet weighed down how would it perform and how much fuel would get sucked through it? These questions and more dominated our drive as we tested them out.
Starting with the shocks, we got our first nervous moment on the trip when the rear end sank down considerably after loading the 3,795-pound 1963 International onto the 3,500-pound trailer. The 7,295 pounds of weight should have been easily handled by the truck’s 9,800-pound towing capacity. Yet, it didn’t immediately seem that way with the truck squatting under the load.
We spoke to Toyota’s Mike Sweers, Tundra chief engineer, about the issue and he said it was directly due to the TRD Pro’s shocks. He assured us if this were a different trim level of Tundra, the truck would have barely squatted under the load.
Reassured that the trailer and tongue weight weren’t an issue, we set off. During the trip, the South Dakota countryside providing plenty of rolling hills and brutal crosswinds, killing any thoughts of good fuel economy.
As we drove an interesting thing happened with regards to the cruise control. Climbing up and over the hills, the truck would shift down to maintain the set speed, however, after downshifting once, the cruise control would kick off on the subsequent downshift as rpms climbed close to 4,000. Also, the TRD exhaust note would completely cut out and it created a sense of urgency since it felt like the truck was shutting down. Pressing down on the accelerator pedal brought the truck back to life, but not after a few anxious moments (there aren’t a whole lot of places to stop for help in South Dakota). What was going on?
Again, Sweers provided the answer.
“It is the fourth exhaust note causing that issue when you double-shift down,” said Sweers. “You are opening up all the airflow coming through the engine and it triggers a safety feature which shuts off the cruise control.”
It is worth noting when cruise control was not engaged, we were able to power the truck over the hills with little trouble.
Speaking of the exhaust note, we have to admit after a while and at certain times it got a little tiring hearing it roar. Specifically, early mornings and late nights were definitely times we would have liked a quieter truck. However, we still enjoy the throaty exhaust.
Finally, how did the 5.7L V-8 engine handle the long-distance tow? It handled it with plenty of power left over and our only constraints were the trailer speed and road speed limits. This truck was ready to go faster and tow more than we were willing to allow it.
Our only real reminder of the engine is when we stopped for fuel which wasn’t really too often. Fortunately, Toyota gave the 2016 models a boost in fuel tank capacity to 38 gallons, allowing us to drive more than a hundred miles further than the smaller 26-gallon tank would have allowed. In fact, topping off in the morning let us drive for a large part of the day before stopping for fuel again.
The size of the tank definitely proved to be a great asset with our final fuel economy average coming in at 12.6 mpg. This fuel economy is the byproduct of a loaded-down, 1/2-ton truck with a naturally aspirated (and thirsty) V-8 along with the six-speed transmission.
We’re not surprised at the fuel economy, as we think most 1/2-ton trucks would see this kind of efficiency dip when towing such a big trailer. In the real world with real loads, it’s difficult to meet EPA numbers.
In the end, towing with an off-road truck is an interesting experience with many unique challenges of controlling the load and dealing with inconsiderate drivers. The trucks, like the 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, can handle the job, but it is probably better left to heavy-duty trucks.