When it comes to the type of people you often see driving pickup trucks, you think of Latino men, white men in middle America, people who work in construction or individuals who do farming. You don’t really think of the everyday Black woman. At least, that’s what I thought when I was offered the opportunity to drive one over the holidays. I assumed the cars were still strictly what I remembered from the movies: two-seaters with massive cargo beds. My exposure to them in everyday life was minimal, aside from seeing white men pass by me in them in the Midwest (sometimes with less than welcoming decals and flags on them, but that’s another story for another day). But when I saw the 2017 Toyota Tundra I was to test drive, and thought about my other option (to rent or borrow the cars of my parents), I jumped at the chance to get acquainted with the perks of driving a pickup truck. Actually, quite a few people in this country are aware of the benefits, because according to reports, light trucks and SUVs have been the stars of automotive sales as of late, including in 2016. According to Trucks.com, there has been a renewed interest in such vehicles over the last few years for a variety of reasons.
Fuel efficiency in pickup trucks has increased, and safety features have transformed them, making them less likely to be involved in rollover crashes and much easier to park. And then there’s home construction, which they’re great for. All in all, light trucks, which include pickups, crossovers and SUVS, accounted for a whopping 59.5 percent of vehicle sales in 2016. And in 2017, pickups were also able to increase their appeal because they were souped up to a very fancy level, including the Tundra.
Some of the features of the double cab option that I loved were the heated seats (a must in Chicago weather that dipped to ridiculous temperatures), the rear-facing camera (necessary for street parking), the leather-trimmed interior, wood-style trim and how spacious the cabin truly was. I could pick up passengers with no trouble, throw luggage inside with ease and while in the driver’s seat, had all the arm and leg room one my height could ever need. And not to mention, there is a dual zone climate control that allows the driver and front passenger to control their own individual temperature settings. The car keeps you cozy and feeling like you’re sitting high off of the ground on the road (which isn’t a bad thing). And the multi-information display keeps you informed of what’s going on in the car and on the road, but in the safest way possible. Information is shared right in front of you behind the wheel.
As for the drive, as each day passed I became more and more comfortable in the vehicle. On the very first day I was paranoid about how high I felt on the road, I was scared to park in the city, and worried that if anyone got too close, the Tundra would destroy their vehicle. Even jumping in the car felt too different for me. But as I navigated the interstate, it proved that it could stand up to whatever road conditions mother nature threw at me and rode smoothly. Even after a three-inch snowfall, with the wheel handling, I was able to avoid skidding through snowy, icy streets. And the front brakes, which are powerful, definitely helped with that. In no time, I was driving the Tundra as though I was driving a small Prius.
This car is also great on gas. I only had to refill the vehicle once in the week that I had it, and that’s because I had to return it full. With a 38-gallon capacity, the Tundra can go far, and it definitely did. I went all across the state of Illinois. I trekked to the northern suburbs, the southern suburbs, the North Side of Chicago, South Side — pretty much all over and never ran into any issues. The car warmed up fast after sitting for hours and overnight, it drove well and was incredibly comfortable. Starting at $30,000, the Tundra is worth the price, and I’m saying all of this without having been able to make much use of the cargo bed, which is often the draw for many pickup owners. However, I know it could have held just about anything and everything (including two days worth of snowfall, which it did).
While I don’t see many Black women behind the wheel in pickup trucks, I would encourage you to give such cars a test drive, at the least, one day. Particularly the Tundra. The motor purrs, the spacing is amazing, the gas value is impressive, the traction is reliable and when you hop in and out, you’ll feel like the king of the road. Well, make that the queen.