Although Toyota has redesigned its Tundra full-size pickup for the latest model year, the truck features essentially the same mechanicals as its predecessor. This means that a comfortable ride, respectable power and relatively precise handling remain Tundra hallmarks, but the competition has pulled ahead in terms of interior quality and fuel efficiency.
Styled at Toyota's Calty design center in California, the Tundra's exterior is marked by rugged lines and an enormous - some might say overlarge - front grille. The bulky front end likely does the Tundra no favors in the realm of aerodynamics, although a raft of fins scattered throughout the body do help to cheat the wind and increase efficiency.
Still, fuel economy is something of a weak point for the Tundra compared with its domestic competitors. Three engines are available, all of which boast class-competitive output but are relatively thirsty.
The entry-level 4.0-liter V6 produces 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque while returning 16 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. The six pairs with an antiquated five-speed automatic gearbox and is offered exclusively with rear-wheel-drive.
The next rung up the powertrain ladder is a 4.6-liter V8 with 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque. It's rated at 15/19 mpg with RWD and 14/18 mpg with optional 4WD. Finally, the top-spec 5.7-liter V8 churns out an impressive 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque but ekes out just 13/18 mpg and 13/17 mpg with RWD and 4WD, respectively. Both V8s team with a six-speed automatic.
On the plus side, the Tundra is a capable towing machine, with the 5.7-liter V8 model maxing out at 10,400 lbs. when equipped with an optional tow package. Furthermore, the Tundra's tow ratings are devised using the demanding SAE J2807 standard - other automakers use internal testing criteria to determine towing capability, making independent verification impossible.
The latest Tundra continues to make use of the previous model's robust frame, which, instead of being fully boxed, actually allows some flexing around the cargo bed. Instead of being a liability, Toyota claims that this feature actually helps to better accommodate heavy loads.
Thanks to a retuned steering rack and revised shock absorber valving, the Tundra builds on its predecessor's handling and ride comfort strengths. For a pickup, it possesses capable dynamics and a laudable ability to swallow up potholes and other road imperfections.
Bodystyles, Cab Size and Interior Features
The Tundra can be had in three bodystyle configurations - the Regular Cab (single, row seating, two doors), the Double Cab (two row seating, back-hinged rear doors) and the Crew Max (adds front-hinged rear doors and additional rear seat space).
When it comes to bed size, there's also three choices - 78.7, 97.6 and, for CrewMax only, 66.7-inches.
Depending on trim level, the Tundra can be equipped as a spartan work truck, a leather-lined luxury pickup or anything in between. The cabin has been restyled for a more attractive appearance, and, as many workers wear protective clothing while on the job, the knobs, buttons and levers throughout the truck were engineered so they can be operated even while wearing gloves.
Material quality inside generally lags behind what rival pickup offer, although the ritzy Limited and 1794 Edition models close the gap by adding premium perforated leather upholstery, soft-touch plastics and a long list of goodies like heated/ventilated seats and a JBL audio system with navigation. Even base Tundras come well-equipped with a rear parking camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming and Toyota's Entune touchscreen infotainment system.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Tundra is available in SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition trim levels.
The SR comes standard with a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio display, an AM/FM/CD stereo with USB and AUX inputs, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, power windows and locks, cruise control, A/C, two 12V power outlets and 18-inch styled steel wheels.
The SR5 adds chrome exterior trim, a 3.5-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster, fog lights, a manual sliding rear window, a front maplight and a larger, 7.0-inch audio touchscren with HD radio, iTunes tagging, HD Traffic and Weather, and SiriusXM radio.
The Limited brings a navigation system, Entune apps, leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, woodgrain interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power-sliding rear window, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and universal garage door opener, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Platinum includes perforated, diamond-pleated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, color-keyed bumpers, a silver billet grille, a JBL premium audio system and unique 20-inch alloy wheels.
Finally, the 1794 Edition - the San Antonio, Texas, ranch lands on which the Tundra's factory is built date to 1794 - adds an old-west feel with saddle brown perforated leather upholstery, ultra-suede accents and 1794 badging.
All Tundra models are equipped with dual front, front side, full-length side curtain and segment-exclusive front-knee airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Available on Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition models is a blind-spot monitoring system with a rear cross traffic alert feature that warns the driver of potential collisions during backup maneuvers.
The Tundra squares off against the best-selling Ford F-150, which offers a potent yet relatively efficient EcoBoost V6 engine; the Ram 1500, with its class-leading interior refinement and sophisticated eight-speed transmission; and GM's highly capable Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.