No matter which model, truck owners love taking their vehicles off-road, and the Toyota Tundra is no exception. But just because it’s a truck doesn’t mean it can immediately tackle any trail you find. First, it’s important to know your strengths and limitations. Then, you can address any shortcomings you find before you tackle those tough trails.
To help you out, we have searched high and low for the best information on taking the Tundra off-road. From Toyota’s own website to the various forums and off-road specialist sites, we have covered our bases. We will include a section discussing the various Tundra trims that work particularly well offroad, as well as a section to inform you of all of the best off-road modifications for this model.
Here are the best off-road modifications you can put on your Tundra:
- Off-Road Tires
- Lift kit
But there is so much more to off-roading than the mods. Starting with the truck you are sticking them onto. So, keep reading as we dive into the details of Tundra off-roading, starting with which models are best.
Tundra Off-Road Capabilities
Which Tundra Model is Right?
For starters, every single Tundra is going to offer some basic off-road readiness. All are built on a stout ladder frame chassis and offer some ground clearance for maneuvering over obstacles. That’s about where the similarities stop, however. Base models will not give you 4-wheel drive, locking differentials, or the most power available. Here is a breakdown of some of the best Tundra trims for off-roading.
Tundra SR5 Double Cab 4×4
Whether you choose the 4.6-liter or the mighty 5.7-liter V8, the Tundra SR5 is a great platform to use for off-roading. That’s because, even with 4-wheel drive and the larger engine, you can get into a brand-new Double Can SR5 for under $40,000. That means you won’t be breaking the bank, leaving more money for camping and off-roading accessories. And, because this is the 4×4 model, it offers the same 10.6 inches of ground clearance as the mighty TRD Pro.
If you would rather have the dealer do all of the accessory work, that is available for you. A TRD Off-Road option package adds in engine and fuel tank skid plates, TRD shocks and anti-sway bars. The wheels and tires also receive an upgrade, as do the lights (to LEDs). So, clearly, this is a very solid choice for an entry-level Tundra 4×4.
Just because you are willing to get your truck dirty doesn’t mean you don’t want a little refinement inside the pickup. If that sentiment resonates with you, check out the top-of-the-line 1794 Edition Tundra. It comes with the full suite of luxury inside the cab, meaning you will be coddled to the extreme.
And, because the TRD Off-Road package can be installed, the 1794 Tundra can be optioned into an off-road warrior. Sure, it’s heavier than the SR5, but that’s a small price to pay for such a premium interior.
As the ultimate offroad Tundra, the TRD Pro is as good as it gets with the Toyota half-ton. It comes standard with the Crew Max cab and 5.7-liter V8. Of course, 4WD is included as well.
Sure, it can’t match the Ford Raptor, but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer some impressive off-road tech. For starters, all-terrain tires are standard whereas they must be optioned onto lesser models. The 5.7-liter engine is standard as well, giving the TRD Pro plenty of power.
A great-sounding TRD exhaust gives the truck a mean growl, while the 18-inch BBS wheels have a mean look to match. The 275/65R18 all-terrain tires are a slight improvement over the other models’ all-season treads. The front suspension features a highly-specialized TRD system that gives the truck a 2-inch lift. What’s more, this setup also provides you with an extra 1.5 inches of suspension travel – great for keeping the truck planted as you traverse difficult trails.
The rear axle features a leaf-spring setup that uses staggered outboard-mounted TRD Fox shock absorbers. This suspension system gives the TRD Pro an advantage when it comes to approach and departure angles, even if the ground clearance remains the same as on the SR5 models. The approach angle is improved from 26 to 31 degrees. Around back, the SR5 double cab’s departure angle is bested by just 1 degree, while it remains the same as on the SR5 Crew Cab.
The Tundra’s Weaknesses Strengths
The Toyota Tundra is consistently ranked as one of the most reliable pickups on the market. And that’s a big plus when you are counting on your vehicle many miles from civilization. The TRD Pro model also offers a great suspension setup that is similar to those of other off-road models such as the Ram Rebel and Sierra AT4.
Compared to the likes of the Ford Raptor, the Tundra is more civilized to live with on a day-to-day basis, even if it can’t compete in most off-road scenarios. That might not sound like a great attribute in an off-road comparison, but even the most hardcore enthusiasts still have to drive their trucks on the road at some point.
By this point, Toyota has built itself quite a reputation for wonderfully capable offroaders. While the Tundra might not seem superior to every other truck on paper, the name (especially the TRD Pro name) holds a special place in the off-road world.
You will find this anytime you are looking to buy a TRD-specified Tundra, as the prices are always several thousand dollars higher than comparable non-TRD trims. From the venerable Landcruiser to the 4Runner to the TRD Tacoma, this credibility was earned. Toyota knows what they are doing when it comes to building adventure rigs.
The Tundra’s Weaknesses (When it comes to off-roading)
Tundras are Old
Seriously – they haven’t received a major update since 2007. No other half-ton platform is even close to that old. The engine options are nearly as old. In fact, the big 5.7-liter V8 is the same age! While it still offers plenty of power, the fuel economy figures are where its age starts to show. Sure, it has a stellar reputation for reliability, but its 13 city/17 highway MPG ratings are nothing to be proud of.
Fewer Configurations and Options
Compared to other half-ton trucks from mostly American automakers, the Tundra offers relatively few choices when it comes to cabs, bed lengths, and engines. While Ford offers its line of powerful, turbocharged V6s, a gas V8, and even a diesel on the horizon, Toyota only has its two naturally-aspirated V8s on offer. It also lacks the high-end off-road models like the Ford Raptor or the Ram Powerwagon.
Another weak spot is the tires. Toyota is notorious for putting road-biased tires on their trucks. Even the TRD Pro’s Michelin All-Terrain tires are seriously under-equipped when compared to the stock tires on just about any other off-road oriented competitor.
No Locking Diff
A locking rear differential means your truck can spin both rear wheels at the same time. This gives your truck more traction on tough and steep obstacles. While many trucks today offer this feature, the Tundra makes do without, even on the TRD Pro. Instead, the A-TRAC traction control system helps out, but most reviewers find it is not as beneficial as a true locking differential.
Okay, so now we have a basic idea of what the Tundra is all about. To see for yourself how the TRD Pro model fares on rather tough off-road trails, check out this great video comparing it to the Ram Rebel:
The Best Off-Road Upgrades for Your Tundra
While the stock Tundra provides plenty of off-road capability for most owners, with just a few upgrades, they can really shine. That’s why so many owners choose to modify their trucks with some choice off-road accessories. Here is our list of the best modifications for Tundra owners wanting to get even farther off the beaten path.
Tundra forums claim that you can safely fit 285/70R18 tires on an unlifted truck. If you are serious about getting through some sticky off-road situations, my advice would be to do just that. The larger tire gives you more ground clearance and larger diameter to more easily roll over objects such as rocks, logs, and other trail obstacles.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Upgrading to an AT (all-terrain) or MT (mud terrain) tire gives you much more grip than with stock tires. For example, these Nitto AT tires will outshine those stock units in just about any situation. Or, for owners who plan on encountering mud on their trails, these Mastercraft Courser MT tires will get you through most of the muck you can throw at them.
From simple leveling kits that give you some extra height up front to a whole new suspension system, lifting your Tundra is another great way to improve its off-road abilities. That’s because this modification lifts your truck up higher, improving its approach, departure, and breakover angles.
But lift kits are for more than just sitting higher – they also give you more clearance for fitting larger tires. For example, according to that previous tire forum thread, installing a modest 3-inch lift means you can now fit 305/70R18 tires. And more tire means tougher trials – right on!
If you plan on taking any off-road trails at night, good off-road lights are key. Sure, you could upgrade your headlights, but most folks opt instead for an LED light bar setup. While these lights, like this 54″ light bar, aren’t legal for on-road use, they provide unmatched illumination on the trails. That way, you can see everything you are approaching in order to avoid any scratches or dents on your new Tundra.
Lift kits aren’t the only thing that can help with your approach and departure angles. Off-road bumpers, both front and rear, can also help out in that area. In addition to better angles, these bumpers can also provide other services for offroading, including beefy tow hooks, integrated trail lights, and winch mounts. What’s more, you can use them as hi-lift jacking points should you need to perform any trail repairs.
If you do decide to get one of those bumpers, it’s time to consider a winch. Any time you find yourself stuck on the trail, a winch is your best friend. Simply hook it to the nearest tree and let the winch drag you out of trouble. Sure, you could get a much cheaper tow strap, but that will always require another vehicle to use. If you ever plan on taking your Tundra offroad without a buddy, I highly suggest investing in a winch.
Do you need a camera to go offroad? Of course not. But it can be really fun to use a high-def dashcam like this one to record your adventures. You can re-watch your adventures, show off to your friends, or even create sick videos to upload to Youtube. Many people also enjoy running their dashcams on the road as well – they can provide you with peace of mind should you have an accident and need to verify what occurred with the police or insurance companies.
If you really want to get into the off-road footage game, consider a camera like this GoPro Hero6. It can be mounted on pretty much any location, inside or outside of the truck, and it is tough enough to withstand almost anything you throw at it.
Hit the Trail!
Okay, now that you have read our primer on Tundra offroading, you are all set to get your tires dirty. Don’t feel like you have to test the limits of your truck to have fun, either. Even light offroading on forest service roads can be a blast – anything that allows you to enjoy your truck and the nature surrounding you is a worthwhile experience.
Remember: go prepared, drive safe, and leave nature as you found it. Aside from that, have a blast. Whether you are planning a multi-day overland expedition or a short drive on a local trail, offroading can become a lifelong passion. And for more great information, refer to our previous post for great general off-road advice.