Ford and GM, along with Chrysler have dominated the full-size pickup market for decades. Toyota positions the third-generation Tundra as a direct alternative to the light-duty trucks from the Detroit manufacturers. Completely redesigned for 2014, Toyota wisely focused on functional enhancements to the Tundra and added new models to the lineup to attract more customers.
The Tundra range expands to five models: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, and new 1794 Edition. Pricing starts at $25,290 (SR 4 x 2) and tops out at $47,320 (CrewMax Platinum and 1794 Edition). According to Toyota, the 2014 Tundra is slightly less expensive relative to a comparably equipped 2013 model.
Engine choices remain unchanged with a base 270-bhp/278 lb.-ft. 4.0L V-6, accompanied by the 310-bhp/327 lb.-ft. 4.6L, and 381-bhp/401 lb.-ft. 5.7L V-8 powerplants. The V-6 is mated to a 5-speed automatic, but both V-8 engines are coupled to a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy for the 4.0L/2WD powertrain is 16/20 MPG (city/hwy.). The midrange 4.6L/4WD achieves 14/18 MPG (city/hwy.). Opt for the 5.7L/4WD combination and the EPA rating drops to 13/17 MPG (city/hwy.). Both V-8s gain one MPG in highway mileage with 2WD.
During our test drive at the press introduction, we sampled the Tundra CrewMax Platinum 4x4 and DoubleCab Limited 4x4. Toyota's typical excellent build quality is evident with tight panel fits and padded surfaces at most touch points. The Tundra's interior design has clearly been influenced by its Detroit competition, although Toyota has done a commendable job keeping various buttons and knobs easy to use without taking eyes off the road. Leather seats are standard in the Tundra Limited, but the Platinum is offered with diamond-pleated perforated leather and an upgraded JBL audio system. The new 1794 Edition gets unique leather upholstery, chrome-clad 20-inch wheels, and additional exterior chrome trim, but is otherwise equipped identically as the Tundra Limited.
Toyota laid out several routes ranging from twisty gravel trails, two-lane mountain roads, and local highways to provide a wide range of road surfaces to evaluate the Tundra's ride and handling. On paved roads, the Tundra's compliant suspension absorbed bumps and potholes without the customary shudder and vibration typical of most full-size pickups. On an extended drive on gravel-surfaced access roads, the Tundra's accurate steering and competent handling allowed us to drive on the trails with confidence. Although lightly loaded with two occupants, the Tundra's smooth ride on the park trails was a pleasant surprise.
As a demonstration, Toyota loaded up the Tundra with an 8,300 lbs. trailer to let journalists sample its towing capabilities. Powered by the 5.7L V-8, the Tundra had no difficulty hauling a trailer holding a Ditch Witch trencher, although the six mile route we drove was relatively flat. Unlike its American counterparts, Toyota certifies that the Tundra complies with the new SAE J2807 truck towing standard. Maximum 5.7L V-8 towing capacity ranges from 9,000 lbs. (4x4 CrewMax) up to 10,400 lbs. (4x2 Regular Cab). Payload ratings range from 1,255 lbs. (4x2 CrewMax) up to 2,040 lbs. (4x2 Regular Cab).
Toyota's new Tundra combines superb comfort and ride quality with serious payload and cargo hauling capability. The new 1794 Edition and Platinum are aimed at premium truck buyers, but the SR5 and Limited will likely be the volume leaders in the lineup. Toyota knows that full-size pickup customers tend to be fiercely loyal to their brand, but the Tundra is certainly worth consideration by truck owners looking for a new light-duty pickup.