A Toyota Tundra pickup truck dangling from a crane marked the exact location of the huge Toyota Tundra truck display and off-road driving course at the three-day World Ag Expo held in Tulare, Calif.

Thousands of licensed drivers age 18 and up test drove the Tundra on a dirt, off-road course featuring a high-angle embankment, plus climbing and descending a steep hill.

“The ride was awesome — I loved it,” said Patrick Fisler, a welder and crane operator, Lindsay, Calif. “The Tundra has lots of power. I'm definitely looking at buying one.”

Fisler's smile stretched ear to ear after he completed the obstacle course. Other Tundra strengths included the four-wheel drive and handling performance, he said.

The Toyota Tundra's standard engine is a 5. 7L DOHC 32V i-FORCE V-8 packing 381 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute (rpm). The torque rating is 401 lb.-ft at 3,600 rpm with an aluminum block with aluminum heads, acoustically controlled induction system, dual stage intake manifold, and a compression ratio of 10:2:1.

The drive train features a six speed electronically controlled transmission with intelligence, sequential shift mode with uphill/downhill shift logic, and a tow/haul mode.

The standard suspension system features: front independent coil-spring double-wishbone with stabilizer bar and low-pressure nitrogen gas shocks; rear live axle with trapezoidal multi-leaf rear suspension; and staggered low-pressure nitrogen gas shocks.

Motor Trend magazine selected the Toyota Tundra as its 2008 Truck of the Year.

The basic nuts and bolts Tundra price tag starts at $22,290 (manufacturer suggested retail price). A fully-loaded, smorgasbord Tundra with all the options including a rear camera, navigation system, JBL-10 speaker sound system, and DVD player is priced just over $50,000.

Loren Elmer, subject matter expert for Toyota, was on hand to answer questions about the Tundra.

“I know this vehicle from bumper to bumper,” Elmer said. “It's a half- ton pickup truck but when you look at the statistics on the truck's capabilities, the Tundra borders on a three-quarter ton truck. It's powerful and impressive.”

Gasoline mileage ranges from 16-20 miles per gallon (mpg) with an aggregate of 17-18 mpg, Elmer said. When pulling a low profile trailer, the mileage is 13-14 mpg.

“The Tundra is incredibly comfortable due to the new triple tech frame,” Elmer said. It's boxed where the engine is. A reinforced C-channel under the body cuts down on noise, vibration harshness, squeaks, and rattles. It's very stable no matter what speed you're traveling,” Elmer said.

In the six speed transmission, the sixth speed is actually a double overdrive gear. Pulling 10,000 pounds on flat level ground at 65 miles per hour will run at 2,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). Elmer said the Tundra easily tows 10,000 pounds.

“It pulls the load without even blinking,” said Elmer. “When people pulled a five-ton trailer on the off-road course, some looked in the rear view mirror to see if there was actually a load behind them. They couldn't believe the truck was towing 10,000 pounds. It's that impressive.”

The Tundra ride was quiet, said Melinda Martin, Visalia, Calif. “I wasn't allowed to floor it and take a wild ride like I wanted, but the truck seemed to handle well. When we started up the hill, it had quite a bit of horsepower.”

Gene Roeben, Visalia, Calif., Martin's father, took the passenger seat with his daughter at the wheel. “I was impressed by the Toyota Tundra,” Roeben said. “When we drove the uneven course, I expected the truck to creak and groan. It was a lot quieter than I thought it would be. When we rode over the hill, the Tundra had a bit more pickup than I'd expected.”

Roeben previously farmed, growing kiwi, plums, walnuts, and cotton.

The truck's standard suspension includes — front independent coil-spring double-wishbone with stabilizer bar and low-pressure nitrogen gas shocks; rear live axle with trapezoidal multi-leaf rear suspension, and staggered low-pressure nitrogen gas shocks.

“The suspension was good,” said Reuben Gomez. “The Tundra was very nice, comfortable, and handled well in the bumpy areas.”

The standard brake system includes a power-assisted four-wheel anti-lock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, plus traction control and automatic limited-slip. The brakes are massive — 13.9 inches on the front and 13.6 inches on the rear.

The steering is rack-and-pinion hydraulic power steering (standard).

Is the Toyota Tundra well suited for farm and ranch use? “There's a lot of utility in this vehicle — power, towing capability, plus with the four-wheel drive it will drive over anything,” Elmer explained. “The Tundra has an auto limited slip on the differentials front and rear. If the tire starts to grab, it will grab the brake to stop the slipping.”

Elmer said Toyota has built a truck that provides a broad range of service — a comfortable ride plus power and utility when loaded.

Greg Fox, Tule Lake, Calif., a flying service employee, took the Tundra for a spin on the challenge course. “The Tundra was really solid and a very good ride — nice pick-up. If they come out with a three-quarter ton diesel, I might get one.”

College agricultural student Jan-Francois Mercier, Quebec, Canada, noted, “The ride suspension was good — good visibility in front of you — and easy to climb the hills.”

Toyota builds Tundra trucks at plants in San Antonio, Texas and Princeton, Ind.