At one time, Toyota had a real shot of toppling the big three in full-size truck sales. When the second-generation Tundra arrived on dealer lots in 2007, Toyota had a huge marketing campaign for it; complete with commercials and magazine ads. People took notice of this and the automaker moved 196,555 units that year. While that still lagged behind the stalwarts (F-Series: 690,589 units; Silverado: 618,257 units), it was dangerously close to the GMC Sierra (208,243 units). But then a funny thing happened. Sales began to drop in the coming years. In 2008, Toyota moved 137,249 Tundras and in the following year, only 79,385 units. Now there are many factors that go into this such as the housing crisis and Toyota offering the Tundra in only a light duty model, but there is one key factor many agree on; after 2007, the marketing seem to disappear in a flash. An odd choice considering that many of its competitors kept advertising like crazy.
Which brings us to last year where Toyota introduced the redesigned 2014 Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show. With a restyled exterior, improved interior, and better electronics, Toyota said they were ‘giving customers more of what they want.’ The response was a bit lukewarm if we’re being a kind. But sometimes, first impressions can be deceiving. Maybe the 2014 Tundra has something up its sleeve that we’re not seeing and could give the stalwarts a run for their money. I recently spent a week in a 2014 Tundra CrewMax Limited to see.
The 2014 Tundra looks very much like the previous Tundra at first glance, thanks to the two sharing a similar profile. Get in a bit closer and its a little bit more noticeable that the 2014 model is a tad different. Toyota sanded down the bubbly look of the previous Tundra to give the 2014 model a more muscular stance. The front has a long, imposing grille with a non-functional scoop and reshaped headlights with LED accents. Around the side are a set eighteen-inch TRD off-road wheels. The back comes with the Tundra name embossed in the tailgate and a set of chunky taillights. I'm a bit disappointed that Toyota appears to only have done a mild refresh for Tundra since they could have done so much more. I look at the new Corolla and Highlander and wonder what the designers could have done if they were allowed to go crazy with the Tundra.
Unlike the mild refresh outside, Toyota engineers really went all out with the Tundra's interior. The previous model was a mishmash of hard and shiny plastics that wasn’t really fitting for any vehicle. The 2014 model takes some inspiration from Ram and Lexus with a combination soft-touch materials, leather, and higher quality plastics. The center stack has been revised with a standard seven-inch touchscreen featuring the latest version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system and a new dual-zone climate control system. The new Entune system is still easy to use, but now comes with an updated interface which brings it into the current century. It also should be noted that Toyota pulled an idea from GM’s old infotainment system as the main screen can be divided into two to three quadrants to show much more information at a quick glance.
Toyota calls the crew-cab Tundra the Crewmax and once you sit the in the back, you understand why. Sitting in the back, you feel like you’re riding in a limousine due to the comfortable seats and impressive amount of legroom. Toyota says the Crewmax has 42.3 inches of legroom, which is about 1.4 inches more than the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The Tundra Crewmax also beats the Toyota's largest sedan, the Avalon in rear legroom by 3.1 inches.
For Thoughts On The Powertrain and Ride, See Page 2
The Tundra’s powertrain lineup is carried over from the previous-generation. That includes a 4.0L V6, 4.7L V8, and a 5.7L V8. My tester came equipped with the 5.7L which makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive system. While the power figure seems impressive on paper, a curb weight of 5,890 pounds negates that. Leaving off the line, the 5.7 V8 has excellent response and moves the truck with authority. But as you climb upward in speed, the engine begins to struggle with all of that weight. Not helping matters is throttle response that is somewhat sluggish and you find yourself pushing the pedal further down to reach the power. There also is a unpleasant racket that appears as you climb in speed. The six-speed automatic redeems the powertrain somewhat as its able to deliver smooth shifts quickly.
The EPA rates the Tundra equipped with the 5.7L at 13 City/17 Highway/15 Combined. I was able to get 14 MPG for the week. A far cry from truck manufacturers who boast models that can achieve 20 plus MPG on the highway. The Tundra could really use some fuel saving tricks such as direct-injection and cylinder-deactivation.
This Tundra came equipped with TRD Off-Road package which adds eighteen-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin LTX AT2 tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates, and tow hooks. The package really makes the Tundra almost capable in the rough stuff as it was able get through some of the remaining snow in a lot. Toyota has kept solid-rear/leaf-spring setup from the previous-generation. Not surprisingly, the Tundra is a compliant rider as bumps and potholes are transmitted to the passengers. The brand could take some ideas from GM's full-size trucks as they employ the same setup in the rear, but are able to achieve a more comfortable ride. Steering is light and has very good weight whenever you are driving around.
After spending a week with the Tundra Limited Crewmax, I found myself scratching my head and wondering who should buy it? The problems with the Tundra range from poor fuel economy, sluggish performance from the V8, and a bouncy ride. But there are some pluses to the Tundra such as the improved interior, the optional TRD package, and an as-tested price of $44,459 make it a real bargain in the full-size class. While the Tundra may not have an ace up its sleeve, it is a good truck. But for many buyers in the full-size truck marketplace, good enough doesn’t cut it.
Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tundra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Limited CrewMax
Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve V8
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600
Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/17/15
Curb Weight: 5,850 lbs
Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, Texas
Base Price: $41,895.00
As Tested Price: $44,459.00 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
Limited Premium Package - $595.00
Bedliner - $365.00
Running Boards - $345.00
TRD Off-Road Package - $100.00
Exhaust Tip - $99.00
Door Sill Protector - $65.00