Not a single electric spark fell from the overtly orange Toyota Tundra shading most of my driveway.
This was absolutely not another halo-hybrid from some automaker determined to save us from ourselves, I smartly concluded.
And boy, was I right.
On Earth Day, a couple of people in starched shorts and $200 walking shoes gave me one-finger salutes as I trundled through the neighborhood in my citrus-colored giant.
Actually, they might have been reacting to the storm of rumble and thunder that tumbled out of the Tundra’s prominent dual exhausts, blowing leaves off nearby trees and jostling small dogs on the sidewalks.
If your image of Toyota revolves around Dudley-do-right, planet-saving Priuses — as mine does — we may need to reboot.
The 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Off-Road pickup I had recently was wonderfully polarizing — even without a gun rack or a “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Republican” bumper sticker.
And that may be real progress.
As you know, for decades, Toyota achieved great success building billion-dollar babies like the Camry and Corolla that neither stirred nor shook buyers.
They played to the mushy middle with reliable quality and styling so invisible that you could park a Ta-yoot on the emerald-green grass in front of the First Suburban Church of Success and no one would notice.
But even the English build reliable cars now. Toyota needs some style and attitude, and the TRD Pro — Mr. T — just might suffice as a start.
My preproduction TRD Pro looked about as demure as a tattooed college linebacker with a summer Mohawk and a belly full of “juice.”
Dipped in metallic burnt orange, the big truck had been raised 2 inches to increase its off-road ground clearance and rolled on slotted black wheels.
I could rest my chin on the edge of its puffed-up hood — a sight so pathetic I did not capture it in a selfie.
Up front, the TRD glared at the mean old world with a blacked-out grille the size of a small billboard, sporting a nifty horizontal bar across it with “Toyota” stamped into it.
Still too square for me — ironically — the blocky Tundra Double-Cab at least had character lines in the front fenders and sides that gave it some sculpting.
Moreover, all of the chrome had been blacked out, and those 18-inch Mad Max wheels were shod with pretty meaty 275/65 tires.
And just for the record: Mr. T was the loudest Toyota I have ever driven. Come to think of it, it was the only Toyota I have ever actually heard.
But even with all of its attitude and personality, the TRD Pro doesn’t come across initially as the sort of brash off-roader that could ever tangle with the highly revered Ford Raptor — most likely the truck’s inspiration.
Heck, it doesn’t even have real off-road style knobby tires.
Like the Raptor, though, the TRD Pro packs some substantial parts beneath its shiny surfaces. Toyota, for example, designed the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Bilstein shocks, relying on 30-plus years of off-road racing experience.
Those shocks fortify a mostly stock front and rear-suspension on the four-wheel-drive Tundra, providing an extra 2 inches of wheel travel in front and 1.25 inches in the rear.
And it all apparently works far better than some of us had anticipated. I didn’t have the budget for a quick trip to Baja, but magazine writers who drove the truck off-road praised its prowess.
“On windy, rocky trails crisscrossed with abrupt ledges and washouts, the TRD was capable of speeds that would break a lesser full-size pickup in a matter of yards,” Car and Driver said.
Since I was forced to remain behind as a concrete cowboy, I can report that — like the Raptor — the truck is also a pretty decent city steed.
As you might expect, it was fairly stiff. But the truck runs slightly softer springs to increase wheel travel and rode reasonably well.
Bumps still provoked some bounce, but the big truck maintained its composure well.
Like most Tundras since 2006, the truck relied on Toyota’s trusty and torquey 5.7-liter V-8, this one spitting out 381 horsepower.
It spun a six-speed automatic that worked pretty well, though it slurred some shifts and paused between gears under hard acceleration.
Still, the big truck jumped aggressively away from stops with serious thrust.
Although the Tundra has fallen behind the Detroit Three in engine and transmission offerings, its performance is hard to fault.
The 5,700-pound brute ran to 60 in a very quick 6.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, though it remains pre-2008 in fuel economy, rated at only 13 miles per gallon in town and 17 on the highway.
The truck’s steering, meanwhile, felt thick and a bit slow in town but got more lively and linear with speed.
Likewise, the truck’s black interior looked somewhat dated compared with the new Chevy Silverado or Ram Laramie. Most of its surfaces were hard.
A big, flat dash in grainy black plastic wrapped around a huge silver center stack that featured a relatively small touch screen.
Fortunately, all of the controls on the busy-looking stack were highly functional and easy to use.
Leg and headroom in the back of my double-cab truck were fine for me, but leg room might be tight for high-altitude people.
The seats featured grippy black cloth with psychedelic red-and-black cloth inserts.
While hardly segment-leading, it worked fine and seemed a good fit for the rugged TRD Pro.
As a preproduction vehicle, Mr. T did not arrive with a window sticker. But based on the price of a well-equipped Tundra Double Cab, I would guess that it will come in at around $42,000 or so when it arrives this fall.
Until now, I’ve never been tremendously fond of the Tundra, an awkward-looking truck that just feels like it’s a couple of notches off from the Detroit Three’s vehicles.
But the TRD Pro Off-Road is a smart, well-tweaked, carefully compromised vehicle — a pickup with deft off-road moves that rolls reasonably well on concrete.
Maybe Toyota is finally learning to speak “truck” fluently — and it hasn’t even arrived in Texas yet.