2014 Toyota Tundra review

9 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Toyota Tundra review

2014 Toyota Tundra

In redesigning its Tundra pickup truck, Toyota admits right off the bat that it isn#39;t aiming to topple domestic powerhouse trucks from Detroit. Instead, Toyota seems content with maintaining the roughly 10 percent market share the Tundra has carved out over the last decade and a half.

That conservative approach might explain why, on paper, there#39;s not that much new to talk about with the Tundra#39;s first redesign since growing up into a real full-size truck back in 2007. One look at the spec sheet reveals that its engines and transmissions – ranging from a 4.0-liter V6 to a pair of V8s displacing 4.8 and 5.7 liters and including either five or six-speed automatic gearboxes – is identical to last year. And, in profile, the Tundra doesn#39;t really look all that much different either.

At this point, you#39;re probably ready to click your way to something else on the Internet.

All new where you can see it

But there#39;s more than meets the eye with the new Tundra. Yes, it looks different, although arguably not better or worse than before. Less bulbous and and more trucky, the Tundra looks better to our eyes from every angle except dead on.

We didn#39;t think it was possible for a truck to have too much grille, but, well, this one rivals a Mack truck.

Penned entirely in California, a move that underscores the fact that the Tundra#39;s development had little input from Japan, the Tundra looks best with the tony Platinum grade#39;s body-color grille surround, not the chrome job seen on other trims. Out back, Toyota has gone retro with a stamped steel badge integrated into the dampened-hinge tailgate.

Three bodystyles remain available – a regular cab, an extended cab with four forward-hinged doors and a big crew cab (pictured). Five trims ranging from work-oriented SR to range-topping Platinum and Texas-themed 1794 Edition are on offer. A little explanation on that last model#39;s name – the San Antonio, Texas, plant that produces the Tundra was built on ranch lands that date back to 1794 when Tejas was a part of New Spain.

The history is interesting, but there#39;s something sad about a 200-year-old ranch commemorated only by fancy leather trim.

Inside, the outgoing Tundra#39;s nasty dashboard and Stretch Armstrong ergonomics have been shelved in favor of an elegant and simple design. All models, even the base SR, include touchscreen audio and an integrated backup camera. Stepping up to higher grades nets larger screens in the dash and in the instrument cluster, as well as more advanced versions of Toyota#39;s Entune infotainment suite.

Materials are generally upgraded across the line, but we thought even the 1794 and Platinum grades could have used more soft touch plastics like the Ram 1500 and General Motors#39; Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra offerings.

. but familiar underneath

Tundra#39;s rugged looks are backed up by a robust frame and durable mechanicals. Instead of using a fully-boxed frame, Toyota says it intentionally allows some flex around the cargo bed in order to accommodate large loads. To prove it, Toyota swapped out heavy duty pickups used on ranches in Montana and Texas with V8-powered Tundras.

Tugging way more weight around than they were rated to do, those trucks performed essentially flawlessly for 100,000 miles.

That story#39;s worth mentioning since, for the most part, the Tundra is identical beneath its skin for 2014.

Base SR models use a strong 270 horsepower, 278 lb-ft. of torque 4.0-liter V6 mated to a five-speed automatic. Opt for the SR5 and higher grades and you#39;ll wind up with either a 4.6-liter, 310 pony and 327 lb-ft. V8 or a 5.7-liter unit rated at a robust 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft. of torque.

Both V8s are exclusively bundled to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Unlike rivals, there#39;s no new tech worth bragging about here. Ram has a flexible, performance-enhancing and fuel-saving eight-speed automatic gearbox, GM#39;s twins have direct injection and cylinder cutoff tech across their line, and Ford is rightfully proud of its twin-turbo EcoBoost V6.

And at Toyota? Well, the news here aside from the aforementioned cosmetics is relegated to some chassis and steering tuning, plus a newly available Michelin tire developed specifically for the Tundra.

Moreover, fuel economy – a huge marketing point (and, theoretically, a big selling point) is well below the standards set by Detroit#39;s Big 3. The most fuel-efficient Tundra is the 16/20 mpg (17 mpg combined) 4×2 V6. The V8s buyers are far more likely to buy top out at 15/19 for a 4.6-liter 2WD and go as low as 13/17 mpg for a 4×4 5.7-liter. By comparison, a Ram 1500 with the optional V8 and 4×4 nets 15/21 mpg.

But don#39;t get all down in the dumps just yet. When the Tundra first arrived on the scene, we praised it for its smooth ride, capable handling and solid towing ability. We#39;re not surprised that the 2014 remains a particularly comfortable highway companion or that its revised steering makes it even more precise than before.

Our test drives in rural Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia were only in four-wheel-drive models powered by the 5.7-liter V8, but that#39;s a popular combination.

The V8 provides ample thrust and a soundtrack second only to the Ram#39;s HEMI V8. Moreover, the six-speed automatic gearbox always seemed to be in the right gear, even if was down a couple of cogs compared to the Ram#39;s unit.

No automatic four-wheel-drive system is available, but Toyota#39;s high-tech traction control system can act as an automatic limited slip differential at the press of a button. On a demanding muddy off road course, we had no problem powering through muck that should have stopped the big truck in its tracks.

Aside from its below par fuel economy, Tundra is absolutely still in the hunt in terms of driving dynamics and cargo-hauling. After all that effort Detroit put into its trucks, the barely changed Tundra remains highly competitive, if not class leading in any regard.

Consider us pretty disappointed with Toyota#39;s decision not to provide any underhood upgrade to its full-size Tundra truck. It#39;s not so much that we dislike the Tundra#39;s redesign – it looks pretty good, its interior is convenient and comfortable and it rides and handles very well. But with the carryover engines and transmissions, Tundra has become a tough sell against far more efficient rivals.

That 10 percent shouldn#39;t be hard for Toyota to hang onto since Tundra remains a nice truck with a drinking problem. It#39;s just a shame that Toyota seems so content with status quo.

Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.

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