Mountain Wheels: Toyota’s totally rebuilt Tundra is a menacing, powerful contender
If you happened to see a very bright red 2022 Toyota Tundra in Breckenridge or Vail last weekend, chances are it was my test vehicle — as I too have not yet seen another ’22 Tundra in real life.
The fully remade and reimagined Tundra is indeed a quantum leap for the company, with impressive towing capacity, an entirely redesigned look and both vastly improved gas mileage and ride quality. Those last two points are pretty important as the previous, Texas-built Tundra was notorious for 15 mpg (on a good day) and a bouncy ride.
I had a slightly atypical model of the new family: a TRD Off-Road CrewMax crew-cab with a shorter 5.5-foot-long bed, in Limited trim, priced at $60,273. It also had literally 700 miles on it, so my initial mileage impressions — which included several days pushing 19 mpg — would likely move closer to the 22 highway mpg figure the EPA has suggested.
As you may have heard, Tundra is coming out of the gate with either a new 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged i-Force engine, rated at 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, or the hybrid i-Force Max engine, which ups that power to 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet. That’s the power plant that will underpin a setup rated to tow up to 12,000 pounds.
I’ll be excited to try out the hybrid later this year, and see how its engine/electric motor/1.87 kilowatt-hour battery pack smokes tires. In the meantime, the standard i-Force engine is no slouch, and comfortably delivered that copious uphill power when asked to do so.
Driving was, yes, absolutely devoid of the trampoline bounce found in older models or on some off-road specialists from other brands. The only bounce I really noticed was up the already tracked-out middle lanes of I-70 eastbound, and even that was controllable.
It’s certainly a big beast, and Vail’s over-stacked parking garages required extra vigilance. The new multiview camera setup, which also accentuates trailer utility, provides a zillion different views on a massive, 14-inch multimedia touchscreen in the cabin, plus lots of noisy parking sensors.
In terms of aesthetics, Tundra is about two years late to the game in incorporating the Cubist Public Malice theme that we’ve seen on domestic full-sized trucks or even the new Tacoma and 4Runner. But Tundra’s version of that theme is pretty cool, in its own big and scary way.
On the customized TRD model, that grille is particularly wide and onerous, with built-in LED fog lamps at its base, and ice-cube-styled LED headlamps and huge LED running lights wrapped around the edges.
It’s even more dramatic when viewed from the rear, where tall, vertical brake lamps with animated turn signals, a slight aero lip on the tailgate and all kinds of complex angles come together. Same goes for the body, where the once plain Tundra torso is now a mix of character lines including a large indent in the lower doors you might only notice when the truck is covered in magnesium chloride.
Wheel wells are also magnificently huge with plastic edges, and the blacked-out, custom 20-inch TRD wheels with all-terrain tires certainly filled up that space.
While the ’22 Tundra TRD does not share the height of one of those ladder-necessary F-250 Tremors, it’s still an awkward truck to actually climb aboard. Mine had $625 pre-installed rock rails (in addition to skid plates and other TRD armor) but they’re not running boards, so me and my passengers (especially when they were wearing ski boots) had a hell of a time pulling ourselves aboard. Big truck families I guess expect this already.
Speaking of families, the most gigantic rear doors I’ve seen open to a marvelously capacious rear cabin, with 60/40 lift-up seats revealing significant storage as well as that cool one-piece power sliding rear window.
The transformation in the front cabin is very impressive, with a very blocky, multilevel approach that includes Texas-sized air vents, that TV set-sized touchscreen and two sets of plastic toggle switches for temperature/air flow, and utilities including camera activation, trailer mode and rear differential lock.
That all perches over a gigantic console featuring a chunky shifter — it’s a 10-speed automatic, so you can do a lot of custom downshifting on long trips downhill — plus a huge open bin with an upright phone charger as well as dual-level cupholders. The console box is a complicated affair with padded edges and cargo trays in the middle, opening to reveal massive storage space.
Being a TRD, the additional switchgear not only includes driving modes but multiterrain select, a crawl mode and downhill assist controls.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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