The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup known for durability. This second-generation Tundra was introduced as a 2007 model and updated for 2014.
For 2016, Tundra gets mild exterior touch-ups. Some 2016 Tundras get a larger fuel tank, and the infotainment system has been updated.
Only V8 engines are offered. Each performs smoothly, though trailing the full-size pack. The base 4.6-liter V8 is rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque. Standard on certain versions, the 5.7-liter V8 generates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet.
Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
Tundra falls short of domestic models in the number of available configurations, as well as fuel economy, though it comes with a choice of cabs, bed lengths, and trim levels. The range starts with an entry-level SR, progressing through SR5, TRD Pro (Off-Road), Limited, and Platinum, topped by a luxurious 1794 Edition named for the Texas ranch where the factory is located. Tundra Regular Cab models seat two or three and come with a long (97.6-inch) cargo bed. Tundra Double Cab trucks can have either a 78.7- or 97.6-inch bed. They include rear-hinged back doors and flip-up back seats.
CrewMax models are fitted with a 66.7-inch bed, four conventional doors, and a back-seat bench. Standard on Platinum and 1794 Edition trim levels, the CrewMax body style is the correct choice if six-footers wish to ride in the second row. Toyota’s largest truck lacks certain utility features, such as lockable storage within the cargo bed, damped tailgate operation, steps, and handrails.
Although basic standard safety equipment is good, including eight airbags, the Tundra lags Ford’s F-150 in active-safety features. Technology like adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings are unavailable.
Crash-test scores are better than they used to be, but still no more than 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 2016 Toyota Tundra SR ($32,190) 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 ($34,000) features off-road styling, adding foglamps, intermittent wipers, Entune Audio Plus, and satellite radio. Alloy wheels are optional. Tundra TRD Pro ($45,560) 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 ($41,720) gets leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Tundra Platinum CrewMax ($49,580) 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 ($49,580) 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. Fans of big domestic pickups might even consider the styling gimmicky. Despite a mild freshening for 2014, focusing on the tall front end, some detail work seems unbalanced.
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.
Every button and knob is big, but the chunky controls are sensibly laid-out. Overall, the layout seems meant for riders who invariably wear work gloves. Still, the cabin is on par with a Ford F-150 or Nissan Titan. Trim work on Platinum models and, especially, the 1794 Edition looks comparable to a King Ranch Ford or Laramie Longhorn.
Seats are roomy, plush, and comfortable. The central console can hold a laptop. All told, the interior suggests refinement and quietness, though materials quality isn’t quite up to domestic-brand pickups.
Double Cab models don’t have much second-row space. In the CrewMax, seating for five is a realistic expectation, with sufficient leg space for every rider. Seats slide and recline, though the backrest reclining angle isn’t too comfortable and cushions are somewhat low.
Powertrain choices are more limited than on American pickups. At 10,400 pounds, maximum towing capacity trails the domestic models. Yet, the Tundra can be a tempting contender.
Performing well generally, Toyota’s two V8 engines feel similar, at least in city-street driving with an unladen truck. Low-end acceleration is good, and a Tundra is acceptably quick, provided that it’s not loaded to its limit. Both V8s tend to lose oomph as speed rises or weight increases.
If you’re pulling a heavy trailer, pick 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, say, the length of an on-ramp. Ford, Ram, and GM pickups tend to feel more confident when 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, in a mannerly way. 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.
Tundra trails the domestics in performance and specification, as well as sales. In addition to a shortfall in towing capability, fuel economy and ride comfort, Tundra doesn’t stand out in any categories that matter to full-size pickup buyers.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.