Somewhere on its way to becoming the best-selling automaker in the US last year, Toyota finally managed to redesign the oldest full-size pickup on sale here.
Toyota Tundra 2022 is the first all-new version of the model since 2007. Toyota didn’t have much reason to change it. It’s been selling as many as it can build in Texas for years and has one of the most loyal customer bases in the trucking world. The Tundra is known for reliability, cheap to run, and keeps its value better than any pickup in the segment, so there was plenty on the line with the new car.
Toyota was well aware of all this and took six years to develop it, twice as long as some software. Mike Sewers, Tundra’s chief engineer, tells me he’s confident the extra effort means customers shouldn’t have to worry about buying the first-year model, because the bugs have already been fixed.
This may be of particular concern to some, as the Tundra is taking a few major steps forward from the outbound truck. Chief among them is the switch from a leaf-spring rear suspension to a coil-spring rear suspension to improve refinement and the introduction of the first turbocharged V6 engine and first hybrid powertrain available on a Toyota truck. If you’ve been waiting for a full-size Prius pickup, this is as close as you can get.
The I-Force V6 replaces the only V8 available last year and improves its power and efficiency. Toyota calls it a 3.5L, but its displacement is technically 3,445cc, so forgive it for being optimistic in the rounding department. It’s rated at 348 hp and 405 lb.-ft. in the entry-level SR trucks, but it puts 389 hp and 479 lb-ft in the higher trims, beating the 381 hp and 401 lb.-ft. V8.
The hybrid that you can get in several models is called the I-Force Max, and for good reason. An electric motor between a V6 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission powers things up to 437 horsepower and 573 pound-feet of torque, making the Tundra one of the most powerful light pickups on sale today. Even with the added grunt, the three new engines improve the V8’s 14-15 mpg rating with 19-22 mpg results, but the I-Force Max trucks don’t quite live up to the 24 mpg of the Ford F-150 PowerBoost.
Pricing for the Tundra ranges from $37,645 for a double cab two-wheeler SAR to $75,225 for a Capstone luxury 4×4 cab with I-Force Max. I tested the TRD Pro crew cab that comes fully loaded with off-road equipment, the I-Force Max and all of the Tundra’s electronic driving aids for $68,500.
The new Tundra are tough-looking trucks that replace the old version’s slender style with a chunky Tacoma-like body sealed with an oversized grille, and the TRD Pro casts fake food vents, textured wheel arch lights and an aluminum front skid plate to enhance its rugged, choppy profile.
He backs it up with a set of 33-inch all-terrain tires mounted on BBS wheels, high-performance Fox shock absorbers and strong red stabilizer bars. All-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, but not a full-time all-wheel drive setup, is standard, as is an electronic locking rear differential. A variety of traction control settings optimized for various slippery surfaces can be found in the drive mode selector. Toyota’s Off-Road Crawl Control Low Speed Control is included, and no longer makes any noise from previous versions. A factory-installed, grid-integrated LED strip light is a very cool idea.
The Tundra’s new interior isn’t best-in-class in terms of size or luxury, but it’s extremely spacious and functional, with plenty of physical switches and knobs to go along with the digital instrument cluster and a 14-inch jumbotron infotainment screen. Crew cab models carry the Tundra electric roll-down rear window, which is still the only one available on the full-size pickup. The red upholstery can be matched with the white, gray or black exterior, but choosing the black interior also opens up the option of the Solar Octane orange paint.
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As with all hybrids, the I-Force Max shuts itself off when the vehicle is stationary. The vehicle can technically drive electric power at low speeds for short distances under certain conditions, but it has never done so during the time I owned it. The engine starts and stops without any vibration, and the instant electrical response gets you moving with the engine and turbine spinning.
The power is ready and ready to go whenever you need it, but the transmission waits a hair longer to downshift than I’d prefer, even in Sport mode. It’s a smooth, quiet engine, but the TRD Pro has a louder exhaust than other Tundras and fake engine noise pumped through the speakers. An off switch for the latter would be appreciated.
Tundra’s package of driver aids includes automatic emergency braking, lane-centered adaptive cruise control, and a blind-spot monitor that works with trailers of varying lengths. Backup Assist is available on other trims that can self-steer the vehicle in a straight line while reversing with a trailer attached. The TRD Pro engine can tow up to 11,170 pounds, which is plenty for a focused off-road truck, while the SR5 twin cab two-wheel drive with a short bed, and the I-Force V6 is rated at 12,000 pounds is the best of the bunch .
Off-road is where the TRD Pro wants to be, however, and it shines while it gets dirty. It felt rocky hard when cruising down bumpy gravel roads at 50+mph as if they were freshly paved highways and didn’t budge when I threw a short jump over a bump or rocky bump for laughs. It doesn’t offer the same level of extreme power as the Ford F-150 Raptor or the Ram 1500 TRX, it can have a lot of fun and it has a 360-degree camera viewfinder on its big screen to help you avoid getting scratched too as much as it does.
The Tundra may not have some of the main features of the competitor, such as air suspension systems and built-in alternators, but what it does offer is the one that delivers the goods and should satisfy Toyota faithful.
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As for whether it lives up to the Tundra’s long-term reputation for reliability, you’ll have to check back with me in 2037.
2022 Toyota Tundra
Base Price: $37645
As tested: $68,500
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger, 4×4 pickup
3.5L V6 Turbo Engine With Hybrid Assist
Power: 437 horsepower, 573 lb-ft
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
MPG: 19 city / 21 highway