Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Toyota Tundra

Toyota Tundra Platinum – a big truck aimed at big truck people

By Jim Bray
May 18, 2023

While the "Big Three" North American carmakers have owned the full-sized pickup truck market since there really was such a market, Toyota has been working hard at getting a major slice. And they seem to be making progress, though it's still an uphill battle for the Japanese automotive giant.

First came the T100, which was kind of like a big Tacoma and not really a serious challenger to the likes of the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram. Then came the original Tundra, which did a better job of going head-to-head with the Americans but still didn't quite take off.

Now we have the current generation of Tundra, the third, which not only has to compete against the brawny competition, it has to do it in an increasingly green way (not that the competitors don't…) in order to suck up to an establishment that seems more interested in preventing us from getting ourselves and our stuff around than it is in facilitating it.

Click on the image to open a slideshow.

So, we have a full-sized pickup truck that eschews the niche's traditional V8 power in favour of a turbo V6 that claims to be as robust as the old V8's – not that V6's were unheard of across the market, but I daresay the V8 was the mainstay.

I've said many times that I'm not the best one to be reviewing full-sized trucks because I don't really like driving them. On the other hand, I'm not one of those who thinks that because I don't like 'em then you shouldn't be allowed to have 'em; I understand their purpose and their function and while I'll never buy one, I can understand their appeal.

It's just that I'm more of a car guy, especially ones that are low and fast. And that's the polar opposite of what the full-sized pickups offer. If I ever had to buy a pickup, it would be one of the car/suv-based ones such as Honda's classic Ridgeline (watch this space for an upcoming review of their Black model), which now competes against Ford's Maverick and Hyundai's Santa Cruz.

One of the reasons I try to eschew trucks whenever possible is that I'm a short guy who's about as wide as tall and I find getting into and out of full-sized truck very difficult. You can get around some of this with running boards, and they help a lot, but the subject of this review didn't have any, despite its higher end Crewmax Platinum trim level. So, my wife and I (she's sized similarly, but is far more lovely) had to kind of leap up into it, grabbing onto the interior handles for dear life and hauling ourselves aboard that way. Graceful? Hardly, but it worked, while giving our neighbours some comedy relief.

Getting out is a lot easier, thanks to something called gravity, but we still had to be careful lest we face plant onto the asphalt next to the Tundra, giving our neighbours even more comedy relief.

Once you're inside, you perch up high and have a great view of the surroundings. Well, mostly. Between my size and the way the huge, multiple-pane side mirrors are mounted, I had trouble seeing around them. This meant that when I was making a turn (left was worse than right), I had to physically move my body so I could see whether or not I was about to off a pedestrian. I guess I could've raised the seat, but then my tiny legs (which are barely long enough to reach the ground when I stand) would have had trouble reaching the pedals comfortably.

I also had difficulty adjusting those mirrors to help prevent blind spots. Fortunately, Toyota's sample had blind spot monitors and they helped a lot.

I guess that's why God made ear plugs…

Despite the lack of a V8, the twin turbo V6 does a great job – though I must admit I didn't haul anything (other than ass…) or tow anything during my time in the Tundra. But for regular driving around town and in the countryside (we did do a bit of off-pavement driving to see how it was – and it's fine) it does a good job, for a pickup truck. It even has a fairly decent sport mode.

Power gets to the road via a 10-speed automatic transmission.

That "for a pickup truck" to me means that it handles awfully, chittering over road imperfections as if it had the leaf springs of earlier generations, even though it now uses a coil spring suspension. I think it rides better than earlier Tundras, but you won't forget that it's a truck. Not that you'd want to…

I loved the sound the Tundra makes, though it's apparently at least partially fake. And I wonder whether or not that faux exhaust note contributed to a very strange issue we noticed while driving: a weird bass noise would fill the interior sometimes, and it was very annoying to our ears. I thought initially it was something in the audio system (which otherwise is quite good), but it would continue even if the audio system were shut off!

All Tundras come with Toyota's Multimedia system, which offers wireless connection to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also features Toyota's newest interface, which the company claims "improves interaction between people and vehicle through sight, touch, and voice. Many functions may be controlled via the touch screen via the same gestures used on mobile phone screens."

Perhaps, but I'd like one that's simple and straightforward and can be operated while driving if necessary. I think this new Toyota interface – like other brands' current interfaces – are a step backwards in usability.

I wish carmakers would remember they're carmakers and not multimedia manufacturers. Ford had the right idea when they partnered with Microsoft for their Sync interfaces; I haven't experienced one for the past year or so, but back then, it was a marvel of straightforward simplicity. Need any more connectivity via your phone? Then use CarPlay or AA. Or is that too simple a concept? On the other hand, CarPlay and its Android competitor are hardly panaceas for connectivity, either.

You can use voice recognition to a certain extent – for example tuning and saving a radio station into presets, but it placed them in the exact opposite order I wanted it to, so I ended up redoing it by hand once I'd parked the mighty Tundra.

Also, the HVAC controls below that screen vary between rocker switches and buttons/knobs, which is fine, but the labelling is very small and I needed my reading glasses to use them – and I don't wear them when I drive.

The seats are very comfortable and the interior is roomy and laid out logically for the most part, other than the caveats mentioned above.

Tundras also feature Toyota's Safety Sense 2.5, a gaggle of gewgaws meant to "enhance driver awareness, decision-making, and control". This is the stuff like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot sensors, etc., things that can be used to keep you from needing to hone your driving skills.

You also get Toyota's Star Safety System, eight air bags, and a backup camera that's especially handy on a pickup truck.

The base Double Cab SR 4X2 Regular Bed starts at $52,101.18, but the mighty Platinum kicks off at a much headier $80,101.18. Naturally, you get a lot more stuff on that version, and I must admit it's tricked out quite nicely overall.

And you can spend even more: according to Toyota Canada's "Build and price" section for the '23 Tundra, the top line Hybrid CrewMax Capstone starts at $91,261.18. That's a big pile of cash, but it's hardly out there, since you can spend even more depending upon the make, model and trim level you choose. Heck, I've driven pickups that passed the $100,000 threshold.

Will Toyota's turbo six be enough to compete with the "big three's" V8-based truck offerings? We'll see. In the meantime, folks looking for a turbo six that at least pretends to reach V8 specs, you should check out the Tundra. It may not be my particular cup of tea, but it's certainly a well built and robust pickup truck.

Copyright 2023 Jim Bray

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