Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Tundra Took Georgia Like Sherman Took, Um, Georgia.

It's not often a carmaker's media launch of some new or redesigned product is close enough to Greenville for me to drive rather than fly. One such event was Toyota's introduction of the renovated Tundra pickup several weeks ago. Toyota threw this outing – the Tundra East Coast Drive Camp, they called it – at Barnsley Gardens Resort. Located just northwest of Atlanta, it was about a three-hour haul from Greenville. I slog nearly that far to the airport when I fly out of Atlanta. 

A couple of years ago, Toyota used Barnsley Gardens to host the launch of something else – what exactly escapes me. I've probably been to 30 such events since then. This stuff just doesn't stick with me. In fact, I didn't realize I had been to Barnsley before until dinner that night, which was in the ruins of the mansion that once served as the home to the property's owners. I looked at the lounge areas set up inside the ruins and it all looked suspiciously familiar. 

I don't know how big a deal the Tundra is for Toyota. Toyota would love to be a major player in the full-size truck arena; but truck owners are stubborn coots and Toyota hasn't been able to elbow past the domestic brands. Consequently, one gets the impression Toyota has sort of reconciled itself to being satisfied with making a solid truck pleasing a smaller audience.

As is always the case with a full-size truck, Tundra's array of trim levels, engines, cab configurations, options and so forth could confound a squad of Mensa members. No point in boring you with all the ins and outs; I don't have the energy any way. Among the facts you might want to know, though, is that Tundra is purely a product of North America. It was designed and is being built right here in the U.S. of  A.

Pricing starts at $25,920 for the SR Regular Cab 2WD version and meanders all the way up to a whopping $47,320 for the 1794 Edition CrewMax 4x4. Each of the five grades has a distinct appearance. The liftgate is lockable and a power-operated rear window is available on some models. One 270-horsepower V6 and two V8s – a 310-horsepower 4.6-liter and a 381-horsepower 5.7-liter – comprise the engine choices. 

The interior of the 1794 Edition, named for the year the ranch was founded where the assembly plant now sits.
Driving on pavement, as well as off road, Tundra is a comfortable, competent pickup. Its cabin features quality materials and is carefully assembled. I'm not a big-truck kind of guy, but I could live with Tundra. Well, for a while at least.

My little cottage in the woods.
 I arrived at Barnsley Gardens in time for lunch on day No. 1 of our two-day familiarization. Lunch was in a lawn dining area in the center of the living-quarters section of the complex. There was no wondering what meat was being served. I was just glad it wasn't beef or alligator. 

Mmmm....they certainly know how to make a boy's mouth water.
 Toyota experts tutored us in all things Tundra, as well as delivering a mini update on the 4Runner that was also at this program. We then tackled paved and off-road routes in both. 

Cocktails and dinner that evening were in the aforementioned ruins. I found myself cursing the “damn yankees” as I strolled around the place. I do that only because I'm from South Carolina. They had nothing to do with the destruction of the mansion that was the result of a fire and simple neglect. 

After dinner we were encouraged to fill Tundra-labeled little airplane bottles with spirits supposedly blended just for us. I eventually staggered back to my cottage where I had a private room and bath attached to a common living area and kitchen. Nice digs!

On the trail with our intrepid guide, Dusty. Well, maybe it wasn't Dusty.
After breakfast the next morning anyone so inclined could tow a boat or whatever behind a Tundra. I passed on that and went directly to the stables where I mounted up and got a little tour of the surrounding woods from the saddle. This was the first time I'd been on a horse in three or four years. I had dragged my riding boots along on this trip and was happy to use them again. Some journalists headed for the clay-shooting range, while others tried a little fly fishing. Yes, Barnsley Gardens has plenty to keep one entertained.

Polishing off a quick lunch, I was ready to slug my way through the outskirts of Atlanta and head home. At least I didn't need to deal with the TSA.

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