Toyota Tundra — An attractive alternative

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Toyota's full-sized Tundra pickup has been spruced up with exterior styling updates and a reworked interior, but the "redesigned-for-2014" designation assigned to the truck doesn't include a new drivetrain or chassis, which remain relatively unchanged, so we'll call it a mild makeover.

Even though Toyota has stopped short of completely reworking the Tundra, a full-fledged interior redesign is pleasing, and the exterior tweaks give the brawny hauler a more in-your-face tough guy character. Also new is the 1794 Edition designed to go head-to-head with such luxury haulers as the Ford F-150 King Ranch, GMC Sierra Denali, Ram Laramie Longhorn and Chevrolet Silverado High-Country.

Named for the year the JLC Ranch was founded, which is now occupied by Tundra's San Antonio assembly plant, the 1794 Edition features a Western-themed interior that includes Lexus-grade saddle brown leather trim, 20-inch chrome wheels, and virtually all the comfort, entertainment and safety options available in the Toyota parts bin.

The more chiseled exterior updates give the American born 2014 Tundra, which has a rugged truck feel from behind the wheel, a rugged truck look to back up its driving demeanor. Big pickup grilles seem to be the in thing these days, and the new Tundra has a bolder, taller looking grille connecting the upper intake to the lower bumper. Surfaces and character lines have been tightened up to punctuate Tundra's pulling power and wide stance. Fenders and wheel wells have been squared for a sturdy appearance.

We like what Toyota has done with the Tundra interior with larger and more legible controls including two large dials for the speedometer and tachometer, increased use of high-quality materials, the inclusion of a touchscreen in all models, and the availability of Toyota's infotainment system, Entune, which is a suite of smartphone-connected services. Perhaps best of all, the long reach to the audio and climate control dials and buttons on the center console has been remedied by redesigning the dashboard 2.6 inches closer to the driver.

The oversize center console sits between 10-way power-adjustable heated leather front seats and includes a console-mounted shifter, cup holders, and a number of open and covered storage cubbies. Cabin noise has been reduced through the use of sound-absorbing materials, and we could tell the difference.

Much of the rest of the Tundra remains the same and that's not a bad thing. For example, the engine lineup features the brawny 5.7-liter V-8 making 381 horsepower and a prodigious 401 pound-feet of torque, a mid-level 4.6-liter V-8 rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and a base 4.0-liter V-6 delivering 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 soldiers on with a five-speed automatic while a six-speed is standard on the V-8 engines. Gas mileage is marginal, rated at 13-city and 17-highway in 5.7-liter four-door 4X4 CrewMax configuration. The best mileage is found in two-wheel drive V-6 configuration at 16-city, 20-highway. Regular gas can be used in all engines.

Tundra is offered in three body styles — two-door regular cab, extended four-door double cab, and four-door crew cab called the CrewMax. There are two wheelbases and three bed lengths — 5.5-foot short bed, 6.5-foot standard bed and 8.1-foot long bed. And there are five trim levels — base SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition.

While the double cab, with traditional rear doors offer solid passenger space, our Limited CrewMax and 1794 test trucks showed us just how much room can be made available in a large, expansive pickup. Back-seat passengers will find a vast amount of leg and headroom. When the rear seats in the double cab and crew cab are not in use they can be folded and used for storage. There’s ample, comfortable room up front as well.

Prices start at $27,195 including destination charge for the two-wheel drive regular cab with V-6 and escalate through the cab figurations and trim levels to the 1794 Edition at $48,595. The base CrewMax with 4.6-liter V-8 begins at $33,100.

Standard equipment across the lineup is fairly generous and includes a rearview camera, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, full power accessories, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, two 12-volt power outlets, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and USB/auxiliary audio inputs. The list of standard equipment grows through the trim levels, but what is not standard — optional on the three top trims at $500 — is blind-spot monitoring, which we think should be standard on all higher-end vehicles.

Our 4X4 CrewMax Limited carried a bottom line without options of $44,890. A handful of options including upgraded audio and navigation brought the bottom line to $49,335.

Base price: $33,100; as driven, $49,335
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 381 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 foot-pounds @ 3,600 rpm
Drive: four-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase:145.7 inches
Length: 228.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,760 pounds
Turning circle: 44 feet
Cargo capacity: 5 foot, 6 inch bed
Towing capacity: 10,400
Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 17 highway, 13 city
0-60: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab, Ford F-150 crew cab, Chevrolet Silverado crew cab

The Good
• Strong V-8 engine
• Scads of space in CrewMax cab
• Excellent tow rating with 5.7-liter V-8
• Restyled, user-friendly controls

The Bad
• Blind spot monitoring only offered on top trims

The Ugly
• Gas mileage trails competition