Is a thorough refresh enough to keep the Tundra competitive against Detroit's pickups? We find out.
With the battle of the full-size pickups continuing to heat up, we were curious as to how Toyota's entry in the segment is doing.
Fresh from an updating for 2014, the Tundra has received a few nips and tucks here and there, but its platform and powertrains carry over largely unchanged. Are the revisions enough to turn the truck into a real player?
We spent a week in a Tundra Platinum CrewMax 2WD to find out.
What is it?
The 2014 Toyota Tundra is a light-duty, full-size rig built in the state of Texas, where the state bird may as well be a pickup truck.
Our tester was powered by a 5.7-liter "iForce" V8 engine that produces 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. A 270-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 and a 310-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 are also available. All three are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, while our rear-wheel-drive model was fitted with a 4.3 ratio rear axle and boasted a 9,900-lbs. maximum towing capacity.
Built on a boxed frame chassis, the Tundra utilizes a front double wishbone suspension with stabilizer bar and gas shocks, while the rear is a live axle with trapezoidal multi-leaf springs and inboard-mounted gas shocks. Load leveling-equipped, the shocks always maintain a level footing, even while towing. Steering is via a tried and true hydraulic rack and pinion setup.
Fully configurable for those needing more, the Tundra is offered as a Regular Cab with two doors, a Double Cab with two smaller rear doors or, like ours, a CrewMax with full-size rear doors and ample space for five passengers. Short (66.7 inches) or long (78.7 inches) cargo boxes can be spec'd, and four-wheel-drive is of course available.
The Tundra comes in a variety of grades, depending on the needs of the buyer. These include base SR, mid-grade SR5, Limited, Platinum, and the new range-topping 1794 Edition, which is named after the founding date of the Texas ranch that the Tundra factory is built on. Too much concept, if you ask us, but it sports a western theme and is designed to compete directly with Ford's King Ranch F150.
What's it up against?
The Tundra is pitted against the capable Ram 1500, with its nicely furnished interior and eight-speed automatic, as well as GM's recently-redesigned glimmer twins, the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Then, of course, there's the Ford F-150, which will soon launch as an all-new 2015 model with lightweight, aluminum-intensive construction. The Tundra has some serious competition to contend with.
How does it look?
Of all the medium duty full-size pickup trucks currently on the market, the Tundra and the Ram 1500 possess the two faces that closest resemble the brutish toy trucks we remember as children. But the reality is that all the trucks in this segment share imposing looks. Some are just more imposing than others.
The refreshed Tundra's styling is less bulbous and now more creased than its predecessor, but it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. Gone are the soft, roundish curves in favor of more rigid and squared-off character lines that impart a feeling of strength and power. Our Platinum featured a new subdued platinum-colored grille and a bevy of scoops, both functional and faux. LED lighting finds its way to the rather prominent leading edge of this truck, and a rearview camera is newly standard to assist with backup and one-person trailer connections. A Tundra logo is now stamped into the rear tailgate, again to show how strong the vehicle is. The trailer towing electrical pickup is located above the receiver hitch, embedded directly into the rear bumper, which should add to the overall durability of the connections.
And at the rear of it all, chrome exhaust tips are like dessert at the end of a meal.
And on the inside?
The interior design gurus at Toyota have seen fit to make the Tundra's cabin a competent and functional space that most everyone can live with. The information pod sports a new set of analog-display gauges, which result in a look that we describe as pretty rudimentary. The dials and knobs on the centerstack are now nearly three inches closer than in the previous model, allowing for easy access instead of what used to be an epic reach across the console. The new Entune-equipped Navigation system with its seven-inch display screen lets users take advantage of smartphone apps to enable various functions including XM NavTraffic, XM Weather, reviews from Yelp, and more. We are blown away by the fact that it has a 3D map display mode, which mysteriously has yet to find its way into some of the interiors of its high-end Lexus cousins.
The interior of our CrewMax was cavernous and featured typical Toyota build quality. Seating now features a new design and improved ventilation over the previous version, along with a rear seat that folds up for increased cargo-hauling capabilities.
Despite the high-tech accoutrements and solid design, the interior suffers when compared to its competition. With its diamond-tufted leather panels over the glovebox and seat backs, along with a high-quality pebble grain material across the dashboard, the Tundra's interior will most likely satisfy the faithful, but not if they have recently driven one of the other available trucks. To many a driver's dismay, there is a distinct shortage of USB chargers and power ports, which are quickly becoming de rigueur in the connected vehicles and mobile offices that large trucks are becoming today.
But does it go?
The Tundra's 5.7-liter V8 supplied stout acceleration with only a gentle jab of skinny pedal, letting you pass highway traffic in a single bound. Steering is very direct from the traditional hydraulic rack and pinion system, which turns out to be quite responsive and transmits loads of good feedback from the road.
On the downside, we noticed that the Tundra tends to have a magnetic personality when it comes to passing gas stations; officially, the EPA rates the 5.7-liter rear driver's fuel economy at a simply dismal 13 city/18 highway mpg. A cylinder-deactivation system, direct injection and/or an eight-speed automatic would likely do much to lessen the pickup's drinking problem. Additionally, we did notice a fair amount of wind noise, which was probably a result of the pull-out towing mirrors.
Road handling abilities of the Tundra were typical of such a full-sized brute. Firm and rigid, it displayed good, but truck-like road manners, albeit not the type that encouraged corner cutting and sportscar maneuvering. In our estimation, the Tundra's ride quality also lags that of offerings from other brands.
Leftlane's bottom line:
A solid offering with durability and towing capability to spare, the refreshed Tundra is nonetheless not as efficient or sophisticated as the Ram, F-150 or GM duo. We're sure it will appeal to the brand faithful, but if prospective buyers are looking for a high level of comfort and content, they'd be well advised to check out the other contenders in the segment before signing on the dotted line.
2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum CrewMax 2WD base price, $44,270. As tested, $45,794.
Running boards, $345; Alloy wheel locks, $81; Spare tire lock, $73; Bedliner, $365; Destination, $975; Heated trailer towing mirrors, -$315 discounted.
Photos by Mark Elias.