Concerning half-ton pickups, there are the big 3 and then there are the Tundra and Titan…the latter being the also rans when it comes to sales but by no means insignificant; Toyota still sold over 80,000 Tundras last year and that outgoing model was in no way competitive at that point.
Though Toyota isn’t going toe-to-toe with the American trio in terms of sheer configurations this new Tundra does present a second engine option for 2002 – a mild-hybrid powertrain called i-FORCE Max that does little for fuel efficiency but lots for added power.
But the Tundra I’m driving this week features the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 without electric assist, in the biggest CrewMax bodystyle with the smallest 5 and a half foot bed in the middling Limited trim, fitted with the more adventurous TRD Off-Road Package with options for an as-tested MSRP of $60,188.
That would have sounded pricey not long ago but considering the full-size truck market these days that number actually seems very reasonable considering all that this truck delivers. For some perspective, the top-trim Tundra Capstone encroaches on $80,000.
Beyond on the new engine, there’s an all-new chassis with a coil sprung rear suspension from Ram’s playbook, a wider rear frame for improved towing capability, hydraulic cab mounts between the cabin and the frame for added comfort, a lightweight composite bed that better resists dings and rust and a completely overhauled interior that brings the Tundra up to date in terms of infotainment and modern tech.
It’s a beautiful truck shining in this gorgeous Supersonic red paint contrasting with the tougher elements from the TRD package.
That includes 20” wheels and Falken all-terrain tires, some basic skid plates and mud guards.
The rock rails are a separate option. Put it all together and you’ve got the sharpest looking truck on the market. Kudos to Toyota designers for their impeccable execution.
Other TRD Off-Road goodies include Bilstein shocks tuned for the rigors of rough travel, a locking rear differential in case you get stuck, and the Multi-Terrain Select system with Crawl Control and Downhill Assist.
Throw in the red start button, leather shift knob and sport pedals and it’s $3,000 well spent. Perhaps with the exception of the short bed – and you can get this one with the 6.5’ box – this is the perfectly spec’d Tundra.
Look, all of the full-size trucks on the market are pretty amazing…there isn’t a bad choice in the lot. But this Tundra Limited with the TRD Off-Road Package is a near-perfect blend of luxury sedan and weekend warrior hitting all the right notes in terms of comfort and capability.
I love this truck for all that it is…but I just can’t believe Toyota didn’t give the 4-wheel drive system an auto setting…the other truck makers have learned that lesson but here you’re either in 2-wheel drive or 4-high with no variability for changing road conditions.
2WD, 4High and 4Low are your only choices -in other words no center differential – so unless the road surface is consistently low friction you’re going to bind up the drivetrain in 4X4 mode. Otherwise, having just tested the new Lexus LX the controls in here are very familiar.
Buttons and a dial on the console rotate through the on- and off-road modes making it simple to change things up on the fly. This truck has the simpler of the 2 available driver displays but it’s still solid with some fun opening animations.
Toyota wanted to make the Tundra the leader in driving comfort and this is a beautiful drive with car-like precision that’s been engineered into all of these new trucks. And with the off-road suspension you can tear down that trial while floating over the rough stuff.
The new V6 grumbles like the V8, there’s plenty of power and the drive modes are intuitively integrated. Other than the lack of 4WD Auto this is a great setup for a truck that can do it all without going to extremes.
389 horsepower, 479 pound-feet of torque and a 10-speed auto breathe new life into the Tundra backed by a rousing interior soundtrack under full acceleration that’ll have you believing the V8 is still here. And gas mileage – always a Tundra trouble spot – goes from 14mpg to 19mpg while still using regular unleaded. The active aero on the front end helps with achieving 22mpg on the highway. As for towing, if you do it often the hybrid is the best choice for that added electric torque. Here it’s good for a healthy 11,120 pounds and with the optional Towing Technology Package you get this Trailer Backup Guide system with Straight Path Assist in addition to Trailer-Sway Control and Brake Control. There’s also a Trailer Merge Warning system and a thousand camera views to help.
And hey, the Power Vertical Rear Window is still here…a longstanding Tundra favorite.
Having just tested the new 6-figure Lexus LX, it’s amazing to think that this $60,000 Toyota does the new truck thing even better. This is the screen that the LX should have had and this one has some of those features the LX is missing not to mention this one is far roomier.
In this CrewMax configuration the rear seats are enormous…
Like the Platinum, 1794 or Capstone which come with leather, heated and ventilated rear seats and a pano roof. But I love this synthetic Boulder fabric design and because this isn’t a hybrid you get all of this under seat storage.
No trick multi-flex stuff here but at least there’s an optional bed step on this truck because with the tailgate lowered there’s no place to put your foot on the bumper.
LED lighting, an electrical outlet, cutouts for DIY bed solutions, movable cleats and a bed mat round out the action.
The ride quality is actually more sophisticated the farther off-road you go with the Bilsteins doing a stellar job of soaking up the rough stuff.
And the cabin is very impressive with the big screen dominating the scenery. It’s not the most robust interface you’ll ever see but it does offer wireless phone connections, controls that are simple and the JBL audio system sounds better than the Mark Levinson unit in the LX. The one problem I’ve had is getting my phone to stay centered on the charge pad…I love the vertical nature of it but it’s tough to keep a connection.
The center console is cleverly designed with a sliding tray on top and deep storage, there are memory settings for the driver’s seat and even a camera mirror…very feature rich in all areas including safety tech. And all of the touchpoints feel of the highest quality.
I’ve really connected with this truck; it hits all of the right notes. Too bad it doesn’t fit in my garage.
2022 TOYOTA TUNDRA TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES | TESTDRIVENOW.COM 2022(c)