Mountain Wheels: Looking beyond the titanic Toyota Tundra’s polarizing design
February 16, 2014
2014 Toyota Tundra Limited CrewMax 5.7L V8
MSRP: $41,895; as tested, $45,929
Powertrain: 381-HP 5.7-liter V8 engine, six-speed manual transmission
EPA mpg figures: 15 combined; 13 city, 17 highway
OK, yeah, I get it: You don’t like the uber-imposing grille on the new Toyota Tundra. “It looks like a giant Weber BBQ, on crack,” you have noted. “Or like Lil’ Jon’s teeth.”
Isn’t it funny, then, that the upcoming 2015 F-150, announced last month at the Detroit auto show, is even more unbelievably square and chrome-RoboCop-chunky than the Tundra? Making the Tundra look understated, in a way?
And yes, with all this in-fighting among Ford’s EcoBoost and GM’s and Ram’s new amazingly fuel-efficient engines, I guess you were also hoping that the new Tundra would get a bit more than 15 combined mpg from its mega-powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine. I am with you on that, my brothers and sisters.
What I can say is that the very blocky, third-generation 2014 Tundra is, on the whole, a pretty nice truck, a stable snow machine when equipped with the 4WDemand system. And if you get one with the ultra-gigantic CrewMax cabin, you get rear seats that give Maybach a run for the money in foot room for your kids, or whoever else gets to clamber up into the cab for the ride. The gigantic rear doors also close with a whisper, not a thunk. How about that?
First introduced in 1999, Tundra went full size in 2007 in the hope that the brawny machine would give Toyota a much bigger share of the pickup market.
The recession killed that momentum for all the car makers, though the old-school Big Three are now selling kajillions of trucks again; even this fully redone Tundra has apparently just not struck a chord with Guys Who Buy Big Trucks.
This is quite a shame as the 2014 Tundra has got plenty of positives that compete directly with or even edge out the domestics. Principally, Toyota has improved the ride and quieted the cabin, making it an extremely fulsome vehicle (almost 229 inches in CrewMax form, 76 inches tall) that I was able to navigate through traffic and along tight mountain roads with (almost) the greatest of ease. Its sheer width, 80 inches, and the oversized, chrome-topped side mirrors, mean you’ve got to pay some extra attention. Handling and braking are superb for the grandiose nature of the vehicle, and the six-speed automatic did a good job of helping to contain some of the mass of momentum while coming back down hills. The back-up camera (standard on all models) and front and rear sonar sensors were absolute lifesavers when trying to maneuver it into an underground parking garage, as well.
The fuel usage might become a long-term concern. Yes, the 381-horsepower V8 is a fearsome, noisy thing under full passing throttle — I hear you can get a warranty-approved supercharger kit and boost it to almost 500 HP if you want. But even very, very gentle highway cruising got me only 17 mpg. Tundra’s 5,850-pound curb weight is just a whole lot of metal; the more austere engine options, a 4.0-liter V6 and a 4.6-liter V8 are rated for 20 and 19 highway mpg, respectively, but you lose as much as 100 HP in the process.
My Limited edition, not quite the ultra-fancy 1794 model Toyota has released to compete with the King Ranches and such out there, was still pretty spiffy, with extra add-ons that included chrome tube steps (very helpful for getting in and out), a power moon roof, a blind-spot monitor system and a full bed liner for the back.
Your driving environment is not quite as confrontational as the Tundra’s bank vault-styled exterior, though it’s certainly got all the modernistic flair you’ll find across the brand. There are chunky, gear-shaped bezels on the instruments, but you also get shiny faux-wood-grain insets and better-looking, easier-to-reach AC controls. The center console box seems big enough for three bowling balls.
And the electronics now include a smaller video display between the instruments for detailed trip-computer data, plus a rejiggering of the navigation display to allow you to customize what you’d like to see (song titles, mapping, etc).