The Tundra is even as capable as many of the domestic brands but in some ways it still has a way to go to truly be an alternative to Ford, GM and Ram…
If there is one segment of the auto business that takes dynamite to get people to change brands, it’s the full-size pickup truck category.
I’m sure most of us know of someone who is a “Ford guy” or “Chevy diehard” owner and getting him or her to move to a new truck would be almost impossible.
And it wasn’t until the last Toyota Tundra was introduced in 2007 that Toyota was a real contender. That 2007 Tundra and this refreshed 2014 model are designed, engineered and even built in America, helping to pull loyal domestic buyers away.
The Tundra is even as capable as many of the domestic brands but in some ways it still has a way to go to truly be an alternative to Ford, GM and Ram.
As part of the 2014 redesign, Toyota went about setting up a slightly different look for each of its trim levels. Sold as an SR5, Limited and Platinum, each has a variation of the oversized front grille.
The wheel openings are now larger and squarer, framing wheel sizes ranging from 18-inches on the SR5 and Limited and 20-inches on the Platinum.
The Tailgate has a soft open feature, stopping it from slamming down, that is fantastic but there is no side step or ladder into the bed the way Ford and the new GM trucks have. Sold as a regular car, double cab or Crew Cab, there is a model for most buyers.
Just as the outside was redesigned to have a unique character for each trim, the inside mimics this idea. The Platinum model I tested is covered with a diamond pattern, or quilted look used on the leather seatbacks, side door inserts and dash front panel.
It is a step up from the lower trims but not nearly as supple and luxurious as the new batch of interiors from Ram and GM. Those trucks, in particular, have almost luxury-sedan interiors that make the driver forget they are in a truck.
The Tundra, in comparison, is a bit stark, featuring hard, simple plastic dash and door pieces that don’t compare. The centre screen is smaller than many competitors are, and the screen embedded in the instrument cluster is small. What has been improved is the overall layout of the centre console. The back seat is massive and flips up with just one hand to make room for interior storage.
I found the last Tundra to have a very high seating position that limited headroom. This new 2014 seems to have a better seating position, no longer crimping headroom for taller drivers.
Powering the Tundra are two V8 gasoline engines. The base model has a 4.6L V8 with 310hp and 327 lb.-ft. of torque. The larger 5.7L has 381hp and 401 lb.-ft. of torque. This is one area that the Toyota cannot compete; there is no V6 offered and no diesel (Ram only), which the domestic makers do offer. By limiting the available engine options and not having a heavy-duty model will certainly diminish the number of domestic buyers willing to give Tundra a try. On the road, I was surprised at just how rough the ride is in comparison to the all-new GM trucks, which really are like driving a big sedan. I would also place the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 a very close second in ride comfort.
The Tundra is choppy on rough roads and the noise level is on the high side. Toyota claims to have improved ride quality on this refreshed 2014 model but I am not a fan of the ride.
The Tundra is a capable truck. When equipped it can tow up to 4760kg, which is on the high side in this class.
What surprised me the most was the real “trucky” ride. I have had extensive seat time in all three domestic brands over the past year and I have to say that they are best sellers for a reason– the refinement is rather dramatic.
Power: 4.6L V8 with 310hp or 5.7L V8 with 381hp
Fill-up: 15.8L/11.0L/100km (city/highway 5.6L)
Sticker price: $26,750-$54,000