Full 2012 Toyota Tundra Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Toyota Tundra has just a few minor changes including simplified option packages, a new Chrome Appearance package and a standard rearview camera on Limited models.
It used to be that full-size pickup trucks were primarily judged on no-nonsense qualities like reliability, durability and competence for the job at hand. By these traditional measures, the 2012 Toyota Tundra can go toe to toe with anything Detroit's Big Three automakers have to offer. These days, though, most people evaluate these trucks beyond their core competencies, and it's here where you'll decide whether the Tundra is for you.
There's no question that the half-ton Tundra rivals its Ford, GM and Ram competitors in everything from towing capacity to the dizzying array of possible configurations. Under the hood you have a choice of three engines, including a 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 that allows the Tundra to tow trailers that weigh up to 10,400 pounds.
There are also three body styles, three bed lengths and two trim levels available, culminating in the top-of-the-line CrewMax Limited model with its limolike rear seat and upscale car-style amenities including dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats and a 12-speaker JBL audio system. Double Cab models also offer an adult-friendly backseat and front-hinged rear doors that make for easier access than the rear-hinged designs found in extended-cab pickups from Ford and GM.
While all this compares favorably with the competition, the Tundra hasn't received significant upgrades since the truck's launch in 2007. This means the big Texas-built Toyota is a few steps behind its more recently remade rivals in key areas. In particular, the Ram 1500 has a coil-spring rear suspension that gives it a comparatively more comfortable ride, while the Ford F-150 has a more advanced engine lineup, while numerous innovative features make it the cutting-edge choice among pickup trucks. The Tundra enjoys a few advantages over the even older Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, such as a more spacious cabin, but GM's trucks nevertheless remain solid choices.
Most of these advantages and disadvantages are pretty minor. Ultimately, the 2012 Toyota Tundra definitely stands tall as a full-size pickup.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup offered in three body styles (two-door Regular Cab, extended four-door Double Cab and four-door crew-cab called the CrewMax), plus three different wheelbases and three bed lengths. There are just two trim levels: the Tundra and the top-of-the-line Tundra Limited. Not all these variations are available together, and the availability of some options often depends on the region in which you live.
Standard equipment on entry-level Regular Cab models includes 18-inch steel wheels, chrome bumpers, heated mirrors, full power accessories, a windshield wiper de-icer, a damped tailgate, power windows, dual-zone air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split bench seat, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The entry-level Double Cab adds intermittent windshield wipers, keyless entry, an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split fold-up rear seats, carpeting, cruise control and two extra speakers. The CrewMax adds a power vertical-sliding rear window and a sliding, reclining and fold-flat rear seat.
Moving up to the Limited trim level, which is only offered on Double Cab and CrewMax body styles, gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, a color-keyed front bumper, foglights, a bed rail system with adjustable tie-down cleats, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated power front bucket seats (10-way driver, four-way passenger), a power-operated sliding rear window (Double Cab), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with built-in back-up camera display, upgraded gauges and trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a JBL premium audio system with a six-CD changer, 10 speakers in the Double Cab and 12 speakers in the CrewMax.
A long list of packages and stand-alone options makes it possible to add many of the Limited's standard features to the base Tundra, though more of them are available on the Double Cab. Limited models can also be had with 20-inch alloy wheels, running boards and a navigation system with a touchscreen interface, voice controls and real-time traffic. The CrewMax Limited can also be loaded up with a rear-seat entertainment system and a Platinum package that includes 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions and the navigation system.
There are also a dizzying array of available option packages, including a Tow package that bundles a heftier axle ratio, a hitch receiver, a transmission Tow/Haul mode, oil and transmission fluid coolers, a heavy-duty battery, upgraded alternator and a seven-pin connector. A Work Truck package strips base Regular and Double Cab models of convenience features like power mirrors, keyless entry and cruise control and substitutes black bumpers, vinyl upholstery and heavy-duty rubber flooring.
Styling-oriented packages include a Chrome Appearance package (base Double Cab models only) and a Sport Appearance package. There are also several off-road-oriented equipment groups. The TRD Off-Road package adds special 18-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, an off-road-tuned suspension, skid plates and tow hooks (the Regular Cab version also adds many of the convenience niceties found on the other body styles). The TRD Rock Warrior package (base Double Cab and CrewMax only) is similar, but includes 17-inch forged alloy wheels and all-terrain tires, along with a matte black rear bumper and many of the convenience options.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Toyota Tundra is offered with a choice of three different engines and rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Rear-wheel-drive Regular and Double Cabs are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that puts out 270 hp and 278 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy for this powertrain is 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 18 mpg highway.
A 4.6-liter V8 that produces 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque is standard on CrewMax, four-wheel-drive and long-bed models, and available as an option on rear-wheel-drive Regular and Double Cab body styles. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive Tundra with the 4.6-liter V8 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for this engine is 15 mpg city/20 mph highway and 17 mpg combined with two-wheel drive and 14/19/16 with four-wheel drive.
Topping the Tundra's engine lineup is a 5.7-liter V8 standard on Limited trim levels and optional on the other models. It produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, while a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined for two-wheel-drive models and 13/17/14 for four-wheel-drive versions. A four-wheel-drive Tundra CrewMax with this engine went from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds in Edmunds testing. Tundras equipped with the 5.7-liter V8 and the optional Tow package can pull trailers up to 10,400 pounds.
The 2012 Toyota Tundra comes standard with antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags that cover both rows and front knee airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a Tundra Double Cab with the 4.6-liter V8 came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet -- a good distance for a full-size truck.
In government crash tests the Tundra earned an overall score of four stars (out of a possible five), as well as four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tundra its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the interior of the 2012 Toyota Tundra is passable by pickup truck standards and even has a few strong points, the fact that it hasn't been updated in five years makes it seem dated when compared to the more recently redone passenger cabins of its Ford and Ram competitors. The Limited trim level equipped with the Platinum option package does add upscale touches like perforated leather upholstery and heated/ventilated front seats, but the fact remains that designers have done nothing to address more fundamental issues like distantly placed audio controls, low-quality materials and the base model's difficult-to-read gauges.
From a practical standpoint, however, the Tundra scores. Topping the list of thumbs-up inside is the ridiculously roomy rear seat in CrewMax models, which combines gobs of legroom with the comfort of reclining seatbacks. Only the heavy-duty Ram trucks can match its limolike sprawl space. Another plus are the front-hinged rear doors on Double Cab models that make getting in and out of the adult-friendly backseat much easier than the clamshell-style rear doors on some competitors. The folding backseats on Double Cab and CrewMax models also provide a good amount of protected storage for valuable items you'd rather not leave in the bed.
When the Tundra was first introduced, any model that carried an engine other than the 5.7-liter V8 was a letdown. However, the midgrade 310-hp 4.6-liter V8 means playing second fiddle isn't necessarily a bad thing. This engine provides all the muscle most truck buyers need, with better fuel economy to boot. The base V6 is one of the brawnier base engines in the segment, but V8 grunt seems like a must in this class. Now, if getting the most V8 grunt is important, the 5.7 isn't the class leader it once was in terms of horsepower, but it remains a champ for towing thanks to its axle ratio and a well-sorted six-speed automatic.
For daily use, the 2012 Toyota Tundra's light steering makes the truck very easy to drive, though it feels bigger than competing trucks. We were satisfied with the Tundra's ride quality a few years ago, but the Ram's coil-spring rear suspension and the Ford F-150's revised, sturdier frame make the Tundra's ride seem stiff-legged by comparison.