2013 Toyota Tundra CrewMax
Power: 310 hp, 327 lb-ft.
Engine: 4.6L i-FORCE V8
Fuel Consumption: 16 city/20 highway

When I asked my west coast friends about the drive from L.A. to Las Vegas, their responses were not dissimilar to my feelings about the trip I made tens of times from Chicago to St. Louis as a college student. “It’s not a big deal,” they said. “It’s really quick and easy.” I was expecting three hours, maybe a little more.

It didn’t take three hours. It took seven.

We were headed to Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, show. I was given the option to fly straight to Vegas, where the aftermarket bonanza goes down, but couldn't pass up the chance to drive a brand new vehicle on roads I'd never explored.

The vehicle I was paired up with was the 2013 CrewMax Toyota Tundra. I was originally told I’d have an FJ Cruiser, so my eyes lit up when I was staring at a bright red behemoth that looked like it had just nommed on an FJ and was storing it in its full-bellied cabin.

How big is it? Consider this: Toyota's trucks have nearly outgrown hotel parking garages (I was nervous to the point where I had to get out of the truck and check to see if I was about to decapitate the thing). Once I got over the sheer size of the pickup—this is a lie. I never got over the size—it was time to start putting the essentials of a solid to the litmus test. To us the first was obviously music.

 

The devil of the road, construction at the California-Nevada border, did us in.

 

Our CrewMax was loaded with the optional 6.1-inch display that included the navi, SiriusXM Radio, a USB iPod connection, voice recognition, and wireless bluetooth streaming. Connecting was simple. The iPod basically took one click-in of my friend’s now-obsolete 30-pin iPhone 4, and after fiddling with my Windows Phone 7 (never quite compatible with anything), I had my choice of tunes direct from my personal library. Never expecting anything fantastic from a stock truck, the six-speaker system actually sounded great. Well, as good as it can with the sounds of Danny Brown’s extremely explicit, yet oddly enjoyable, lyrics pumping out the doors.

Once out on the open road—a straight line to Vegas—the vehicle gave you a confidence boost as big as the V8 engine underneath hood. After testing a smart car recently, I felt as if I had the power to bully whatever, and whomever, I wanted. If that meant gunning it to jump past a string of annoying casual drivers, the 310 horsepower from the 4.6-liter engine (it’s also available in a 5.7-liter, 381hp model) gave me the necessary jolt to slide into position.

Up until this point, the drive had been peas and carrots. We’d been cruising for a few hours, had already comfortably parked in the “trailers only” section at a quick In-N-Out pit, considered seeing how many pairs of Reeboks it would take to fill the bed at the outlet store, and were ahead of schedule to make it into city they say is so full of sin. That’s when we saw it: The frightening trail of vivid red lights that were stacking up quicker than the bricks of a first-time Tetris player. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We were out of L.A. We were in the middle of the desert.

The worst part of a jam is not knowing what the root cause is. Was there a crazed 89-year-old going down the highway on a tricycle? Were people stopping to watch some rare desert bird mating dance? Or was it as simple as a giant cactus finally crashing down across the road, after 168 years of superior H20 preservation. This lock-up, which put us at a dead halt and slowed us to a pace of five miles in two hours, was the result of going from two lanes to one lane. That’s it! The devil of the road, construction at the California-Nevada border, did us in. This was another test of road tripping: Comfort.

Considering how large the size of the CrewMax cabin is, we probably could have hosted a small shindig, while we were waiting for traffic to move five inches per five minutes. We were tempted to hunt some desert hares and see if the sun would bake them up on the tailgate. Traffic jams are murder for the fidgety, but the CrewMax's spacious interior relieves anxiety. The seats were cushioned, the air was cool, and we were getting some riveting B-roll footage of the stand-still from the GoPro on top of the roof.

 

 

The truck didn’t exactly fit in on the strip, but we liked to think that all the lights were for a showcase of how well it handled the road trip.

 

Amidst the trouble one crucial road trip key did occur to us: Gas. Thankfully, we’d already filled up on one of the previous stops. The Tundra is still a truck and would have been cutting it close had we relied on the 26.4 gallons, without filling up. The 15 miles to the gallon we were getting was typical and expected and a big reason why you don’t see too many full-size trucks taking long trips.

Just when our patience was hitting the brink of driving off the road and leaving the lot of cars in a fury of kicked up rocks and red dust, the traffic finally broke apart. Just like that the nearest cars were 50 yards in front of and behind us.

After about another 45 minutes, we had finally arrived (late to our dinner, thank you very much). The truck didn’t exactly fit in on the strip, but we liked to think that all the lights were for a showcase of how well it handled the road trip. Every now and then, we’d just as soon as take the Tundra out for an extended than sit in a rattly little coupe that’ll leave us claustrophobic in the event of gridlock.