An exclusive look at Toyota’s secret Arizona site where vehicles are put to the test

Arizona's Family is giving viewers an exclusive look at Toyota’s secret Arizona site where vehicles are put to the test.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:00 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 8:13 AM MST
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WITTMAN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Press the “Rock” button on the new 2022 Toyota Tundra pickup truck and just point the nose up the rock hill. You steer and the truck does the rest.

It’s just one of the features you’ll find on the Tundra and it’s all tested on a giant, exclusive and very secret spot about an hour west of the Valley called the Toyota Proving Grounds. It’s 12,000 acres with a 10-mile oval track — Yes, 10 miles! Everything you expect your new vehicle to do is tested there before you’re able to drive it off the showroom floor.

The site features a 10-mile oval track and off-road areas to test vehicle performance.

Bob Ditner, the site’s senior project manager, gave Arizona’s Family an exclusive first-time look at what they do there. “It’s really secretive out here; we are way out here in no man’s land in Wittmann,” Ditner said. “It’s our little slice of confidentiality.”

It’s very private because manufacturers don’t want you to see what they’re designing and testing on new vehicles. That’s why the public is never allowed at the proving grounds.

The site features a 10-mile oval track and off-road areas to test vehicle performance.
The site features a 10-mile oval track and off-road areas to test vehicle performance.(Arizona's Family)

On the grounds is a 10-mile oval that’s basically used to accumulate mileage. If need be, the huge track can handle cars at speeds up to 160 miles per hour. The main thing they test here are a vehicle’s brakes, ride and handling. To do that, they have paved surfaces that simulate any and everything you might encounter such as potholes, cracks, snow and even ice. The off-road testing tracks include sand hills and the rock climbing hill we challenged the Tundra on.

Toyota sold more than 10 million vehicles last year, so why test in Arizona? Ditner says it’s simple: the great weather. “Our R and D headquarters are in Michigan,” he explained. “In the winter months, we can’t test locally there. We can here year-round; it’s great.”

A place like this would be a dream come true for any car enthusiast. That includes Ditner, who’s worked at the proving grounds for over 20 years. He calls it his dream job because he gets to drive and test everything, on road and off, in what really is the ultimate playground.