2014 Toyota Tundra
It’s interesting how Toyota eased into the full-size-truck market in the U.S. After years of building small pickups, the company introduced the slightly larger T-100 for 1993, adding the Xtracab extended-cab model in 1995. The darling of landscapers everywhere, there are still plenty of T-100s on the roads towing Dixie Choppers on small trailers, with lawn trimmers, rakes, and edgers packed in the bed.
Almost as if the T-100 had served some perceived apprenticeship, Toyota introduced the still-larger Tundra in 2000, with an available 4.7-liter V-8, and in 2004, a Double Cab model with four real, front-hinged doors. Tough and, for many consumers, pretty right-sized, this Tundra lasted through 2006.
Then, with the apprenticeship presumably complete, Toyota allowed itself to build a full-on, whopper-sized pickup for 2007, figuring on three things: that, with 14 years of in-market research complete, Toyota now really understood what truck buyers want; that existing customers weaned on the T-100 and first-gen Tundra would embrace this new beast; and that Toyota’s reputation for build quality would draw plenty of Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge customers into the fold. It seemed almost mercenary that the new Tundra was to be built in San Antonio, as if imparting the truck with some sort of homegrown geographical pedigree and credibility.
Even if it knew internally that it would never approach Ford or GM sales figures, Toyota still made a few strategic errors in launching the Tundra. The styling was polarizing, the model lineup a bit confusing, and the price nowhere near low enough to be a factor in drawing defectors from other brands. Mostly, though, Toyota underestimated just how good the Big Three’s full-size pickups were (and are) and how loyal their customers were (and are).
An all-cap “TUNDRA” is stamped into the tailgate, and the front and rear bumpers are now three-piece modular designs. The front of the hood has been raised 1.6 inches to “emphasize the full-size truck look.” The rest of the exterior mostly carries over, including the bed sizes of long (8.1 feet), standard (6.5 feet), and short (5.5 feet).
Inside is where the real improvements have been made, especially on the upper-level models like the Platinum and 1794 (an upper, upper-level model named for the founding date of the Texas ranch on which the Tundra plant was built, which seems like an odd, “sorry about your ranch” salute). Leather on those models is Lexus quality, and the center-stack and dash trim materials are impressive.
Even the SR and SR5 interiors are no penalty boxes, and the Limited is pretty nice. The new center console box is huge. Rear-seat room in the Double Cab is more than adequate, and in the CrewMax, downright cavernous. Five six-footers can ride comfortably in that truck all day long.
Mechanically, there’s not much new with the powertrains. Base SRs and SR5s get the 4.0-liter V-6, with 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. Next up is the 4.6-liter V-8, with 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque. But if you really want a V-8, we’d suggest giving up a little in fuel economy for the 381-hp, 5.7-liter engine that, at 401 lb-ft of torque, has all the power you need. It’s smooth, nicely matched to the six-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed auto comes with the 4.0-liter), can tow more than 10,000 pounds in regular-cab guise, and sounds great. We’ve never had a complaint about this big-inch Tundra V-8.
On the road, the Tundra drives a little smaller than it is, which is a compliment. The brakes are a bit touchy, but the steering is precise and its feedback appropriate, even on four-wheel-drive models, which require the 4.6- or 5.7-liter V-8. There’s an available off-road package with Bilstein shocks and retuned springs that make mudding and rock crawling a lot of fun.
As you’d expect, gas mileage is nothing special: 16 mpg city and 20 highway for the 4.0-liter V-6; 15/19 for the rear-drive 4.6-liter; 14/18 for the 4.6 4x4; 13/18 for the rear-drive 5.7-liter; and 13/17 for the 5.7 4x4 model.