New generation Toyota Tundra eschews the V8 for a gutsy turbo six
By Jim Bray
It's big and it's brawny and its downsized power plants mean it's supposed to offer better gas mileage than before. But is the 2022 Toyota Tundra half ton pickup a big enough step forward to snag sales from a Big Three dominated by Ford's F-150?
Time will tell, obviously, but after my initial week in the all-new Tundra I was left feeling as if it's doubtful.
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Now, full disclosure – I've said many times that I'm not a truck guy and this vehicle illustrates why: for a little guy like me, it's hard to get into and out of, and it drives more like a truck than a car or SUV (well, duh!). Not necessarily truck-related are issues such as the trouble I have seeing around its gigantic side-mounted rear-view mirrors, and the Tundra's new LCD screen interface nearly drove me nuts, a testament to today's trend toward eschewing user-friendly simplicity in favour of ever more complex and confusing interfaces that emulate smart phones.
This isn't necessarily a Toyota thing; it's widespread throughout today's carmakers.
But if you have to have a full-sized half ton pickup, this one's worth a look. You can no longer get a V8, like you still can with the North American competition, but its twin-turboed 3.5 litre V6 is a peach. Toyota rates it at "up to" 389 horses, with 479 lb.-ft. of torque and it really does feel like a V8. It even sounds like a V8 (artificially, supposedly, but effectively). There's also a hybrid version available that ups the oomph ante even more.
Both versions come with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It shifts well, but I think a couple fewer gears would make for a better driving experience (though it might cost you some gas mileage).
I didn't actually haul or tow anything during my week with Toyota Canada's sample Tundra CrewMax Platinum L (starting MSRP of $73,350 CAD, and the sample also had the $1,200 Platinum 1794 package), but Toyota claims it'll tow up to 12,000 pounds – a 17.6 per cent increase over the last generation of Tundra – and you can stuff up to 1,940 pounds into it, which Toyota says is up more than 11 per cent compared to the outgoing model.
One thing I liked – though it didn't prevent the Tundra from driving like a pickup truck – is the new multi-link rear suspension. Traditionally, pickups have come with leaf springs "out back", so this more "car-like" method is quite welcome, as is the double wishbone configuration up front.
The combination works to help give the Tundra a more "car-like" driving demeanour. Kind of. You won't forget it's a truck, of course, but you aren't meant to. And though I'd rather be torn apart by wild dogs than drive a pickup truck, this new Tundra is actually quite driveable, with good steering feel, smooth and strong acceleration, and it actually feels smaller than it is – which pleased me quite a bit, until I tried turning the thing in relatively close quarters such as parking lots. That was an ordeal. But it's an ordeal in just about any full sized pickup truck I've driven.
You can tell the new Tundra from the older ones right from its "in your face" face, which is very aggressive, indeed. The rest of the styling is pretty standard truck, though the rear signal lights give an artsy fartsy "directional" display that hearkens to current Audis and the Ford Mustang. It's not necessary, but it's quite cool.
The new cabin works well and is comfortable and functional. There's a big centre console that features a sliding tray in its lid, and innumerable other cubby holes and storage spots. The steering wheel feels good in the hands, the instruments are clear and straightforward, and all works as it should.
Except for the new infotainment interface which, as mentioned above, eschews simplicity in favour of a smart device-like interface that you really won't want to operate much when you're in motion.
Called Toyota Multimedia, the interface includes "pinch" and "zoom" functions, and it'll work wirelessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An eight-inch screen is standard, but Toyota's sample had a whopping a 14-inch one. You can also control it via voice, they say, but I didn't have a lot of success with it. I did notice that it was easier to read with my sunglasses on than some other Toyotas I've driven.
The top-line tester also came with a decent, 12 speaker JBL audio system that was better than I expected.
The Platinum trim level gets you 10-way power adjustable front seats as well as heated and ventilated rear seats, all wearing "Semi Aniline" leather.
Toyota says Tundra's bed is formed from a new high-strength "Sheet-Molded Compound" (SMC) that offers added protection against dents, dings and rust. This should appeal to folks who chuck stuff into the bed regularly. You also get a power-operated vertical rear window. Toyota's sample also had a great panoramic sunroof.
Since it's a Toyota,Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 is also standard, and it includes such stuff as a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), a Lane Departure Alert that can actually fight you for control (if you don't shut the damn thing off), automatic high beams, Road Sign Assist and a rear seat reminder for those who are too preoccupied to bother making sure the kids or the family dog aren't left back there.
You also get an abundance of safety stuff (the Star Safety System), including ABS brakes, stability control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, traction control, etc.
As if all that stuff weren't enough, Tundras also come with a Blind Spot Monitor, and a very handy rear cross traffic alert.
Base Tundras start at $44,990. The sample CrewMax Platinum L starts at $73,350 and it also had the "Platinum 1794" package that adds $1,200 to the price.
Clearly, Toyota thinks it has a winning combination and I must admit that it's one of the best-driving trucks I've experienced. Will the new Tundra make its presence known in a marketplace dominated so far by V8-powered competitors? Time will tell.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray