Domestic offerings long have dominated the pickup truck segment in the automotive world.
Even when imports began taking over the sedan and coupe markets a couple of decades ago, the pickup and its SUV cousin were pretty much the domain of Ford, General Motors, and Dodge (now RAM). And latest sales figures still show Ford’s F-Series, Chevy’s Silverado, Ram, and GMC Sierra pickups occupying the top four spots at the midpoint of this year with imports facing an uphill climb.
Of the imports, Toyota leads the way.
The Japanese manufacturer put its figurative toe in the pickup waters with small models like Stout and Hilux back in the 1960s and the midsize Tacoma and full-size T100 models in the 1990s. It got serious, though, as the century turned with the larger, full-size Tundra.
Though the Tundra’s numbers pale when compared to sales leaders Ford, Chevy, Ram, and GMC, the Toyota model offers a package of power and convenience features that match up very well against its bigger-selling competitors. Depending on the trim level, the Tundra has more horsepower and torque than some while offering more in the way of styling than others.
When introduced as a 2000 model, the Tundra came in two trims, regular cab and extended cab.
For 2014, that has grown to a portfolio that features three body styles (regular cab, four-door double cab, and four-door CrewMax), five trim levels (SR, SR5, Limited, Premium, and a new 1794 Edition), two wheelbases, and three bed lengths, though not all are available in combination.
Three different engines are offered, starting with a 4.0-liter V6 on regular and double cab models. It is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 16 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway.
There are two V8s to choose from, a 4.6-liter and a 5.7-liter that Toyota calls the “Tundra workhorse” — the most popular with Tundra owners, according to the company. The larger engine pumps out 381 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 401 pound-feet of peak torque at 3600 rpm, or 61 more ponies and 74 lb.-ft. more torque than the smaller delivers.
Both V8s are mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. The smaller V8 is only slightly more fuel-efficient that the larger one with rates of 15/19 city in 4x2 configuration and 14/18 in 4x4 models. Numbers for the 5.7 liter are 13/18 (4x2) and 13/17 (4x4).
Those mileage figures may be the Achilles’ Heel for the Tundra as its chief competitors offer better numbers.
If you need a big pickup, you may as well go for the bigger engine, especially if towing capacity (over 10,000 pounds) is a priority. That would depend on your budget, of course. Pricing for the Tundra starts at $26,915, including $995 destination and delivery) for the 4x2 regular cab and runs all the way up to $48,315 for top-of-the-line 4x4 CrewMax versions with a myriad of price stops in between. The least expensive 5.7-liter is the 4x2 Regular Cab model at $29,460.
As a full-size model, the Tundra is a big pickup (up to 247.8 inches long with a long bed) and it drives like it. With the bigger V8 engine, it’s powerful enough to handle most traffic challengers, and there’s a feeling of being in command with your high seating position when behind the wheel. But mall parking lots can get cramped, no doubt about it.
Toyota upgraded the interior for 2014, but hasn’t forgotten that this is a truck, after all, and often will be driven by serious workers doing dirty jobs. It features such niceties as big knobs for operating climate control, making it easier to adjust things while wearing work gloves. Knobs for operating the audio system are only slightly smaller and far from the tiny buttons found on many radios today.
One thing should be said. If you are resisting shopping the Toyota showroom because you want to “buy American” — a noble gesture, no question — be aware of this.
The Tundra was engineered in Toyota’ Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and its new, sharper look created by the Calty Design Research Centers in Newport Beach, Calif., and Ann Arbor.
The engines are built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Huntsville, Ala., the transmissions at a plant in North Carolina.
And it all comes together at Toyota’s plant in San Antonio, Texas. (The plant, by the way, is located on the grounds of a ranch that was founded in 1794, hence the 1794 Edition.)
For a look at the CrewMax version of Tundra and some more specs, chuck out the accompanying slide show.