The Toyota Tundra is a capable pickup. Introduced for 2007, then revised for 2014, it’s the oldest design of the full-size pickups. The 2017 Tundra adds new colors to the palette along with a power passenger seat, but otherwise it’s carryover from 2016 when there were some minor updates.
Primarily due to its age, the Tundra ranks at the bottom of a list of superb full-size pickups: Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan, and Ram 1500. Ram is almost as dated, but its replacement will be here shortly. Prices have been lowered on most 2017 Tundra models.
All Tundras come with a V8: the 4.6-liter with 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and the 5.7-liter rated 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
Fuel economy isn’t as good as what some of the domestics offer. EPA estimates are 15/19 mpg City/Highway or 16 mpg Combined for 4.6-liter 2WD, 13/17/15 mpg for 5.7-liter 4WD.
Tundra may not offer as many configurations as the domestics but it offers the ones most people want, with a choice of three cabs, several bed lengths, and multiple trim levels. Regular Cabs seat two or three and come with a traditional 8-foot bed. Double Cabs offer 8- and 6.5-foot beds and feature rear-hinged rear doors and flip-up back seats. CrewMax models have 5.5-foot beds, four conventional doors, and a rear bench seat suitable for six-footers. Alas, here in Tundra-ville you’ll find no lockable storage within the cargo bed, no damped tailgate, no bumper steps, no tailgate-mounted walking stick.
Passive safety features are here, including eight airbags, but active-safety features, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings are unavailable. Then again, we hate those features.
Crash-test scores are average. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Tundra four stars overall (five for side-impact protection). Some versions get only three-star rollover ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates Tundra Good, but only Acceptable in the small-overlap crash test.
The 2017 Toyota Tundra SR ($30,120) comes with fabric upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, smartphone connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone/music streaming, and 18-inch steel wheels. A Work Truck package substitutes durable vinyl upholstery and flooring.
Tundra SR5 ($31,930) features off-road styling, adding foglamps, intermittent wipers, Entune Audio Plus, and satellite radio. Alloy wheels are optional. Tundra TRD Pro ($46,110) features off-roading upgrades, including Bilstein trail-tuned dampers, 18-inch TRD alloy wheels, skid plates, and black leather-trimmed seats with red stitching.
Tundra Limited ($39,380) gets leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Tundra Platinum CrewMax ($47,080) features perforated leather upholstery; 12-way power driver’s seat with memory; heated/ventilated front seats; 12-speaker Entune Premium JBL Audio with navigation, and a moonroof. Tundra 1794 Edition CrewMax ($47,080) matches Platinum trim, adding special brown premium leather-trimmed seating with embossed and ultra-suede accents. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Like other full-size pickups, Tundra emphasizes burly proportions, yet its overall appearance lacks the clean, crisply chiseled appearance of Ford and GM models. The current grille looks best in Midnight Black Metallic, so you don’t see it as much.
Bodysides and the rear end look more familiar, and the stamped tailgate comes across as rugged and understated. Cargo-bed utility trails the domestic pickups, notably the current Ford F-150 and Ram 1500.
Tundra seats are roomy and comfortable. Trim in Platinum and 1794 Edition looks comparable to a King Ranch or Laramie Longhorn. Controls are large and logically arranged. The central console can hold a laptop.
Double Cabs don’t have much second-row space.
CrewMax offers seating for five, with sufficient leg space for every rider. Seats slide and recline, though the backrest reclining angle isn’t comfortable and cushions are low.
Tundra’s powertrain choices are more limited than what’s offered by Ford, GM, and Ram. At 10,400 pounds, maximum towing capacity trails the domestic models. Yet, the Tundra can be a tempting contender.
Toyota’s two V8 engines feel similar in city-street driving with an unladen truck. Both perform well, with good low-rpm acceleration, making the Tundra acceptably quick. Both V8s tend to lose oomph as speed rises or weight increases.
If you’re pulling a trailer, spring for the 5.7-liter engine. The 4.6-liter Tundra starts to feel anemic when carrying four tons or so. Even with the larger V8, the Tundra isn’t all that eager to attain freeway speed in the length of an on-ramp. Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Ram 1500 offer more power for accelerating with a substantial load.
Expect easygoing behavior when driving through traffic. Ride quality is reasonably comfortable, though pavement bumps and seams typically produce impacts beyond the normal range. Light steering isn’t as quick as it would be in an F-150 or Ram.
In urban use, the Tundra handles well. Choose a TRD model with its upgraded suspension and tires, however, and the ride won’t be quite so enticing.
Despite its 310-horsepower rating, the 4.6-liter V8 cannot quite compare with V6 engines from Ford and GM. Acceleration is hardier with the 5.7-liter engine, but even that V8 doesn’t really match a Silverado V8 or Hemi Ram.
Both V8s use 6-speed automatic transmissions, which shift smoothly and respond promptly enough.
Gas mileage is a sore point. With rear-drive, the 4.6-liter V8 is EPA-rated at 15/19 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined. A rear-drive Tundra with the bigger V8 is EPA-rated at 14/18 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined.
The Toyota Tundra is a good pickup, but it’s been passed by newer machines from Ford, GM, and Nissan. Tundra does not stand out in towing capability, fuel economy or ride comfort. Look for deals on these.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reported from New Jersey, with staff reports from The Car Connection.