Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New looks inside and out, proven mechanicals underneath.
The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup offering realistic work capability and durability. It offers three engines, three cabs, three bed sizes and five trim levels in most popular configurations. We've found the Tundra to be a stable, comfortable truck for towing a 20-foot enclosed car trailer over long distances. Towing capacities top 10,000 pounds on some models, and maximum payload ratings exceed 2,000 pounds.
For 2014, there is a new Tundra in terms of appearance. Most of the body panels are new, and to our eyes better looking. The dashboard, electronics and cabin trimming are new and also look better than before. Rear seats in four-door models are more comfortable and allow more in-cab storage. A rearview camera is standard on every 2014 Tundra. The engine, suspension and everything underneath are essentially the same with only small calibration changes most owners won't notice.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra lineup is simpler than before. The two-door Regular Cab only comes in entry-level trim levels and only with a long bed. The Double Cab with conventional front-hinged, secondary rear side doors seats five or six and comes with 6.5- or 8-foot beds. The big CrewMax has four full-size doors, most seat five, and comes with a 5.5-foot bed and vertically sliding rear window that completely disappears.
The 2014 Tundra lineup also introduces the 1794 Edition, the new top of the range that appeals to buyers who would like to be on the range. Named for the ranch on which the Tundra factory sits, the 1794 has requisite big badges, cowboy-color leather and ultrasuede interior, woodgrain trim, and things like ventilated power seats and big JBL sound system to improve the ride after a long day's work. Other Tundra models offer more towing capability, but even a Tundra 1794 loaded with five cowboys can tow more than four tons.
Updated infotainment systems for 2014 all use Toyota's Entune name. Even the least expensive Tundra has a touchscreen, CD player, iPod integration and Bluetooth, and the higher the trim the more features get added: SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, subscription-free weather and traffic (where HD radio is supported in urban areas, through your smartphone cellular data outside those regions), GraceNote art, expanded voiced recognition including compound commands, navigation, predictive traffic, radio buffer that lets you pause up to 20 minutes of AM/FM/HD radio for later playback, Entune App Suite (Bing, Pandora, Open Table, Facebook Places, Yelp and more) and a 440-watt JBL sound system.
Tundra's double overhead-cam 5.7-liter V8 engine is rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It's a good truck engine with EPA fuel-economy ratings of 14/18 mpg City/Highway, or 13/17 mpg with 4WD, and standard on most Tundra permutations. Most newer competitors offer more power, more mileage or both, but the real world difference tends to be 1-2 mpg. Tundra remains the only full-size pickup to publish tow ratings that meet a standard all full-size manufacturers agreed to for 2013, and those standards tend to lower existing ratings; the other manufacturers are continuing to use their own in-house ratings.
The smaller 4.6-liter dohc V8 engine is rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, with slightly better EPA fuel-economy ratings of 15/20 mpg City/Highway, 14/19 mpg with 4WD. Both V8 engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 4.6-liter V8 is a good choice for drivers who do not plan to do a lot of towing.
The 4.0-liter V6, available only on some 2WD Tundras, nets 270 horsepower, 278 pound-feet of torque and EPA ratings of 16/20 mpg City/Highway. V6 models can't tow as much as the V8s but easily better the V8s for payload due to the lighter weight of the engine. The V6 comes with a 5-speed automatic. It's the best choice for a budget or intercity work truck, but the 4.6-liter V8's added refinement could easily be worth the nominal fuel economy penalty.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra comes in three body styles: Regular Cab with 8-foot long bed, 4-door Double Cab with 6 1/2-foot standard bed or 8-foot long bed, and 4-door Crew Max with a 5 1/2-foot short bed. All ride on a 146-inch wheelbase except the Double Cab long bed at 165 inches. Every Tundra is available with part-time four-wheel drive, and some 5.7 V8 models are flex-fuel. Double Cab is available is SR, SR5 and Limited trim levels. CrewMax cabs are offered in SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition models all with 5.5-foot beds.
Tundra SR comes in Regular Cab ($25,920) with an 8-foot bed and Double Cab ($26,810) body styles and a choice of 4.0-liter V6 with 5-speed automatic transmission, 4.6-liter V8, or 5.7-liter V8 ($28,465). SR trim comes with a fabric-upholstered 40/20/40-split bench seat, air conditioning, carpet, Entune audio system (6.1-inch touchscreen AM/FM/CD/iPod/USB/Bluetooth) tilt steering wheel, power windows and locks, dual power points, cruise control, fold-up rear seats on four doors, black front bumper and grille trim, tow hooks on 4WD, heated power mirrors, easy lower/lift tailgate and 18-inch steel wheels. Tundra SR comes with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Options on SR trim include cargo rail retention system, tow hitch on 4.6 Double Cab, and a Work Truck package with vinyl seat and floor that removes cruise control, power accessories and map lights.
Tundra SR5 trim adds to SR with fog lamps, more chrome outside, Entune Audio Plus (7-inch hi-resolution touchscreen, SiriusXM radio with 90-day trial, HD radio with iTunes tagging and weather/traffic in metro areas, elsewhere with a smartphone), dark-tint manual sliding rear window, and additional instruments with 3.5-inch display. Tundra SR5 is available in Double Cab ($29,465) or CrewMax ($31,825) versions with 4×2 or 4×4 drivelines and a choice of 4.6-liter V8 or 5.7-liter V8. Optional equipment includes alloy wheels. SR5 Upgrade package includes bucket front seats, power driver seat, console and shift, tilt and telescope steering wheel, rear underseat storage tray. The TRD Off-Road Package features Bilstein shocks, unique alloy wheels and Michelin tires, skid plates, rear side window privacy glass; and tow hooks on 2WD.
Tundra Limited upgrades to dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated 10/4-way power front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, power sliding rear window (horizontal on Double Cab, vertical on CrewMax), auto-dimming mirror, deck rail tie-down cleat system, Entune App Suite, navigation, upgraded audio system and alarm system. Optional are TRD package, moonroof and blind-spot monitor/rear cross traffic alert on CrewMax. A Limited Premium package adds auto up/down power windows, park sensors front and rear, remote keyless entry. All Tundra Limited models come with 5.7-liter V8 in Double Cab ($36,94) and CrewMax ($38,845), with 4×2 or 4×4.
Tundra Platinum ($44,270) models get perforated leather diamond-quilt pattern upholstery, heated/cooled front seats, driver memory system, JBL audio system, color-matched bumpers and grille trim, auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors, moonroof, park sensors and glass breakage sensor. All Tundra Platinum models come with 5.7-liter V8 and CrewMax but offer a choice of 4×2 or 4×4 ($47,320). Blind-spot monitoring is available.
Tundra 1794 Edition has Platinum-grade features and options, but uses unique upholstery with ultrasuede and woodgrain trim, silver front bumper and grille, 1794 badging, and offers chrome-clad wheels as an additional option. All Tundra 1794 Editions come with 5.7-liter V8 and CrewMax but offer a choice of 4×2 ($44,270) or 4×4 ($47,320).
Running boards are optional on any Tundra four-door cab and extendable heated towing mirrors are optional on any with the 5.7-liter V8. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include destination charges.)
Safety features that come standard on every model include front- and side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger (the latter with an off switch in Regular Cab models), side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor, driver and passenger knee airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control with traction control, and trailer sway control. The standard rearview camera can enhance safety by helping the driver spot children behind the truck when backing up. Parking sensors front and rear, and blind-spot monitoring are available on some models.
This second-generation Toyota Tundra is an honest-to-goodness, full-size pickup, regardless of how you measure. By wheelbase, width, track and height it is among the largest of half-ton pickups. Now squared off and angularized like a body-builder's jaw, it's the most visually imposing Tundra yet.
For 2014 the rounded lines that led to an inflated look are gone. The leading edge of the hood is more than an inch and a half higher than before but you don't notice from the driver's seat because the gain is all out front. And the bumper top is lower, so while SR/SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794 all get different grille arrangements, those grilles are considerably larger than before. We won't call it blunt but it does suggest if you hit a wall you'll worry about the wall more than the truck.
Bumpers at both ends are sectional: If you bend a corner on a post you replace only the corner, not the entire thing. Fog lights are recessed for protection and headlights are single-bulb units; we couldn't verify performance given lightning activity, but every example we drove from SR5 to 1794 had a manual in-cab adjustment for vertical aim, handy for keeping light on the road with a load or trailer on.
We find the rear view more improved than the front, the completely horizontal aspect framed by chiseled vertical lights. The Tundra name is embossed in the lower right tailgate so no one will remove the name badge. The tailgate is damped to avoid a heavy thunk when opened, and every Tundra has a rearview camera adjacent the Toyota-stamped tailgate latch. Trailer plugs have been moved into the bumper: License plate lights illuminate the area at night. The downside: An aftermarket bumper calls for additional wiring work.
The horizontal styling lines carry the full twenty-plus feet, amplified by larger, squarer wheelwell openings fitted with deeper lines. It's labeled as new sheetmetal but the roof of every cab and the majority of the door panels look the same to trained observers, so any styling change in the doors is nominal.
All four-door Tundras offer running boards which take a couple of inches off the step-up height. Shorter drivers or those with suspect knees may appreciate them, others will only get their pants dirty or hang them up off the pavement somewhere.
Wheels vary in material and style with chrome covers available on the 1794, but we'd stick with the alloys it comes with.
Nothing stands out in the bed layouts or design, with plenty of molding for using 2x8s to create multiple load levels. A deck rail system along all sides except the tailgate offers tie-down cleats for better load securement.
A Tundra cab is big, regardless of which one it is. A Regular Cab will hold a standard 5-gallon paint bucket flat on the floor in back. Only an F-150 SuperCrew has more rear seat room than a CrewMax, and the Tundra Double Cab matches the new Silverado Double Cab for space.
Materials are generally appropriate. Base models can have rubber flooring rather than standard carpet, and even the fancy top-line models have easy-clean hard lower door panels where your boots wills scuff them.
Visibility from the driver's seat is very good. The bodywork corners are reasonably well defined, and the pillars aren't too big. Rear-seat headrests that are tall enough to protect a 6-foot, 3-inch rider drop forward allowing a good view through the rear window, and that defrostable window disappears vertically like an old tailgate, not just sliding the center section sideways. A rearview camera is standard on all models. Park sensors for both ends are available on upper trims.
The standard mirrors are large, and can be adjusted to deliver a panoramic view aft of the front doors. The optional tow mirrors (or preference) feature a large traditional element that's power operated, with a small convex mirror at the bottom that's manually adjustable. Adjusted properly there are no blind spots. The mirrors can be manually extended outward to help the driver see around trailers, and they can be folded inward when parked to reduce the chance of damage in tight quarters.
Front seats are comfortably cushioned but not too soft, with modest side bolsters to hold you in place without making entry/exit a chore. Deep seat bottoms provide ample thigh support, adjustable on some. The fabric upholstery feels durable and the leathers do to a varying extent; we were overtly cautious with jean rivets on the Platinum's diamond-quilted cowhide. We've found the seats very comfortable for towing thousands of miles.
The backrest on Tundra Double Cab rear seats is now reclined nearly twice the angle of before for better comfort. It's cozy for adults but not markedly more than a SuperCab, King Cab, Quad Cab or GM Double Cab. The cushions fold up in a 60/40 split for tossing large cargo on the floor.
CrewMax is the adult rear seat arrangement, with recline and essentially no less room or comfort than the front except your feet aren't resting on an angled floor. For 2014 this rear seat folds up just as the Double Cab, lowering the loading height and increasing storage space notably.
Tundra has its fair share of interior storage and conveniences. The passenger seatback in the Regular Cab folds forward to present a flat area for a desktop, and the front bench seat center section pivots forward to reveal an otherwise fully concealed storage compartment.
Storage for odds and ends and beverage containers to 22 ounces is plentiful and varies by cab and trim level. Bucket seats means a center console with padded armrest twice as wide on the driver side and plenty of capacity within. The floor shift is a gated unit that requires no thumb or finger button-pushing and never gets the wrong gear. The column shifter with manual +/- toggle is big, so big it might block some of the nav/audio screen for shorter drivers.
Ergonomics inside the Tundra are much better because the center dash controls are now in the center of the truck, not nearly three inches to the right. The top-right rotary knob is still a mild reach, but no longer feels like you're searching the glovebox for something. The omni-directional air vents get what you need where you need it, and the climate controls are easy to use. Only some ancillary dash switches adjacent the steering column may be difficult to see.
Gauges are clear white-on-black, only the base models lack a rev counter, oil pressure and voltage indicators; the transmission fluid temperature gauge has been replaced by a warning light. Bezel notches on the primary gauges match the gradations so they appear asymmetrical. The 3.5-inch display is easy to read and operate, in part because it doesn't offer as much information or configurability as most competitors.
Audio systems are new for 2014. All have iPod/USB integration, Bluetooth and a touchscreen display, with radio sources and voice recognition expanding by model. You can get navigation on an SR5 and the JBL sound system on a Limited, while Platinum and 1794 come with everything. However, even on a Platinum CrewMax with three power points there is only one USB port.
Despite the engines' overhead-camshaft, four-valve-per-cylinder architectures, the Tundra V8s tend to make their peak power earlier at lower rpm, where you want it in a truck, than most competitors' engines. All the power figures quoted below are on gasoline; ratings for flex-fuel, E85 engines usually vary.
The 4.0-liter V6 is sufficient for propelling a two-wheel-drive Tundra and towing a lighter trailer, say 3500 pounds or less, on relatively flat terrain. Its 270 horsepower is about 35 hp shy of Ford's 3.7-liter or Ram's 3.6-liter V6, but Toyota's 4.0-liter V6 doesn't need to be revved to 6500 rpm and torque is equal at 278 pound-feet. GM's new 4.3-liter V6 is 285 hp but wins on all-important torque at 305 pound-feet. All three have an EPA fuel economy edge, in part because they use 6- and 8-speed automatics where the V6 Tundra uses a 5-speed automatic.
The 4.6-liter V8 delivers 310 horsepower, 327 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16 mpg Combined city and highway. The Toyota 4.6-liter V8 is smooth enough to find use in Lexus luxury SUVs. Ram's 395-hp 5.7-liter and 8-speed automatic get similar economy. Ford's 5.0-liter delivers 360 hp with similar EPA ratings. GM's new 5.3-liter brings 355 hp and better economy. At just 1 EPA Combined mile per gallon lower than the 4.0-liter V6, Tundra's 4.6-liter V8 deserves consideration for general-purpose use where towing capacity is not paramount. Tundra's 4.6-liter V8 comes with a 6-speed automatic.
The 5.7-liter V8 produces 381 horsepower, 401 pound-feet of torque. Ram's Hemi slightly eclipses those values with 395 hp, 407 lb-ft, while Nissan Titan works more like a truck engine with 317 hp and 385 lb-ft at the lowest revs of any half-ton V8. GM is offering a new 6.2-liter V8. Ford has two big engines, a 6.2-liter V8 with 411 hp, 434 lb-ft, and a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 dubbed EcoBoost that brings 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque at just 2500 rpm. Many users find Ford's 5.0-liter V8 and 3.5-liter turbo V6 get the same mileage in real-world use.
On the road, power delivery from any Tundra engine is linear, and commendably strong at low engine speed. This is especially so in the 5.7-liter, where 90 percent of the torque is on tap from 2400 rpm to 5500 rpm. We find the 5.7-liter V8 a solid powerplant, very responsive when quick acceleration is needed, smooth and powerful when cruising.
Maximum towing capacity of 10,400 pounds applies to an unloaded Tundra Regular Cab 2WD 5.7 V8; the top-line CrewMax 4WD rates 9,000 pounds. Maximum on F-150 is 11,300 pounds, the new GM's will probably exceed the Tundra 10,400 max, the top Ram is similar and the Titan a bit lower. However, the Tundra rating is the only one quoted to SAE standard J2807 that all manufacturers said in 2011 would apply to 2013 models. Only Toyota lived up to the pledge, so no apples-to-apples comparison can be made.
For towing trailers in the 4,000- to 7,000-pound range the Tundra does a good job. Overkill with tow rigs is nice on long nights, in inclement weather, during strong winds or dealing with hilly country. For routine towing of trailers anywhere near 10,000 pounds you'd be better served by a heavy-duty pickup from Ford, GM, or Ram.
Unlike some other half-ton pickups, the Tundra does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller. We'd prefer that it did, but a host of aftermarket controllers do the job well.
Overall, both the 5-speed and 6-speed automatic transmissions work well. Gear changes are smooth, though more apparent when trailering. Automatic downshifts during braking on downhill grades are well managed, properly timed and helpful. In sum the Tundra's transmissions are unobtrusive, which in a truck is usually the best compliment because in a truck if you frequently notice how the transmission is doing its job, it probably isn't doing it as well as it could. The Tow/Haul mode is designed for better trailer towing operation and improved transmission durability for loads more than approximately half rated towing capacity.
Ride and handling in the Tundra are both up to snuff. Steering response is sure and certain, though perhaps not as advanced as an F-150 with any engine except the 6.2-liter. Somehow, Toyota's suspension engineers have delivered a setup that leaves no doubt the driver is operating a truck, but isn't reminded of it at every bump and dip. Over severely uneven pavement, the solid rear axle makes its presence known with a slightly skippy feeling, but the Tundra's unladen rear end feels less skittish than some other max-rated pickups, and there is rarely any disruption that even instantaneously moves it far off the driver's intended path. As with most pickups, the ride gets bouncy on bumpy freeways with an empty bed; any pickup may have the wrong wheelbase to avoid tiring bobbing on expansion joints so do your test-drive on a variety of road surfaces.
Braking is solid, with firm pedal feel. The Tundra's standard four-wheel discs are among the biggest in the segment, as is the rear differential. The ABS includes electronic balancing of brake force and electronic stability control is standard on every Tundra.
The TRD Off-Road Package delivers excellent handling on pavement, and it's especially noticeable when Tundras so equipped are driven quickly on winding, two-lane roads. New Michelin branded tires are a good compromise between off-highway traction and on-highway grip and quiet.
Tundra 4WD does not offer an all-wheel drive setting for on-pavement use in inclement weather, but that makes no difference to braking in the snow. For more severe four-wheel-drive use, the Tundra offers decent articulation and good low-range gearing. When enabled, the traction control can be intrusive. Unlike many pickups, the Tundra 4WD has a switch that backs off the thresholds for deploying the side-curtain airbags. This can be helpful on side-angle trails and ditches that might otherwise trigger an unwanted side curtain deployment.
Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup in every sense of the term, and is competitive with those from Ford, Chevy, GMC, Ram, and Nissan. The Toyota delivers power, payload and tow ratings to handle all but the heaviest loads or the largest trailers. Tundra is quite comfortable, and it's easy to drive. Tundra shoppers buying as a second car should first consider cab style and seating space. Those buying for truck use will first consider payload and cost. The next choice is either the V6 or one of two V8 engines, and finally the trim package or level of standard equipment. The Tundra offers models to suit the needs of the majority of buyers.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale reported from California and Pennsylvania; with Mitch McCullough in California; J.P. Vettraino in Detroit; and Tom Lankard in Louisville, Kentucky.
Toyota Tundra SR Regular Cab V6 2WD ($25,920); Regular Cab 5.7L V8 4WD ($31,515); Tundra SR5 Double Cab standard bed 4.6-liter V8 2WD ($29,465); Double Cab Limited standard bed 4WD ($39,990); CrewMax Limited 2WD ($38,845); CrewMax Platinum 5.7L V8 2WD ($44,270); CrewMax 1794 Edition 4WD ($47,320).
San Antonio, Texas.
Options As Tested
Toyota Tundra Platinum 4x2 ($44,270).
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