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Published: 04/24/2014 - by Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor
Quick Summary: Though its powertrain options remain the same, Toyota's Tundra gets a new interior design and exterior styling for 2014. Bluetooth phone connectivity and a rearview camera are standard across the line and the Entune suite of smartphone-connected services is now available for the first time in the Tundra. A new top-shelf premium trim called the 1794 joins the lineup this year.
What Is It?
The Toyota Tundra is a full-size, light-duty truck that is now available in five trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794. Its powertrain options include two V8s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and a V6 paired with a five-speed automatic. Both two-wheel and four-wheel drive are available on V8-powered Tundras. Three cab sizes and three bed lengths are mixed across two wheelbases.
Our tester, the top-of-line 1794 trim, includes the 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8, four-wheel drive and the CrewMax cab. Base Tundras start at $27,195. Our loaded tester cost $48,345.
How Does It Drive?
On the road the Tundra feels like the big truck that it is. Five years ago, this wouldn't have been any different from other half-ton trucks. Now, however, Toyota's decision to let the Tundra's chassis and powertrain remain unchanged yields a truck that lacks the quieter, more comfortable experience of key competitors.
When equipped with the top engine, the 5.7-liter V8, the Tundra comes with both a numerically high (4.3:1) rear axle ratio and stiff springs for heavy towing and hauling. Most competitors offer a towing package that allows buyers to separate these options from the biggest engine. The result is a relatively stiff ride. Fuel economy also suffers relative to competitors, which offer various axle-ratio options.
Engine noise, though not obtrusive, is more noticeable than others in the class. Power, however, is abundant and readily available. The transmission shifts smoothly at partial throttle but slots gears home with authority when driven aggressively.
Like most light-duty trucks fitted with the largest available engine, the Tundra isn't slow. It hit 60 mph in our instrumented testing in 6.8 seconds (6.5 seconds with a foot of rollout as on a drag strip), which is about the same as Ford's EcoBoost V6-powered F-150 and a bit quicker than the GMC Sierra powered by a 5.3-liter V8.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Deliver?
The EPA rates the 5.7-liter 4x4 Tundra at 15 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway). Two-wheel-drive models with this engine offer the same combined and city ratings but improve to 18 mpg on the highway. When comparing the Tundra to domestic competitors, be sure to keep in mind its high axle ratio, which helps it earn an honest and SAE-certified tow rating. No other truck on the market currently does this, but on the flip side, that capability hurts fuel economy.
Our tester produced 14.7 mpg over 730 miles. On our highway-heavy 116-mile test loop it produced 16.6 mpg.
What Kind of Tech Does It Offer?
Available blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert on the three upper trims adds an element of security to driving a truck this big. Our 1794 tester came with front and rear parking sonar, which helps tremendously in close-quarters maneuvers.
Premium audio including 12 JBL speakers and an amplifier is standard on 1794 trims. A 7.0-inch screen displays a suite of smartphone-connected features including Bing, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook.
Of course, antilock brakes, traction and stability control are standard. The Tundra required 130 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is average for half-ton pickups. However, its brake feel is solid and consistent, which isn't always the case with trucks.
Is Its Interior Comfortable?
The most important revisions to the Tundra take place inside, where serious progress was made in modernizing its design and materials. Instruments offer a clear presentation of information, and controls for ventilation and audio systems are within easy reach: a primary criticism of the original design. Large knobs and buttons make use simple. A power tilt and slide sunroof is standard on Platinum and 1794 CrewMax trims.
The 1794 trim is bathed in a combination of stitched leather and suede. Its heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats are 12-way and six-way power adjustable, respectively. The CrewMax cab is massive and offers even large adults room to spread out in the back. Plus, the rear seat bottoms fold vertically to provide ample cargo space inside the cab.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Though most of the Tundra's competition has become more civilized in recent years, those trucks haven't gone soft on capability.
Chevy's 5.3-liter V8-powered Silverado is smoother riding and among the quietest pickups sold today. Its premium High Country trim is available with the 6.2-liter V8. Inside it achieves a luxury feel similar to the Tundra's 1794 package. GMC's Sierra offers a similar experience.
With coil springs in the rear and an available diesel engine, the Ram 1500 pickup is both comfortable and highly efficient.
Ford's 2014 F-150, though due for replacement in 2015, offers a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 in addition to a 5.0-liter V8.
What About Towing?
A tow-haul mode is included with the 5.7-liter V8, as is under-dash wiring for a third-party brake controller, but a built-in unit will be available directly from Toyota soon. Several competitors offer a brake controller as part of their towing packages. Standard trailer sway control is integrated into the Tundra's stability control system.
The Tundra is the only full-size truck to earn its tow rating using the heavily regulated SAE J2807 tow rating procedure, which places standards on cargo, options, occupant weights and other criteria that influence a truck's tow rating.
Toyota deserves acknowledgement for its willingness to adopt the standard and give consumers legitimate numbers. An honest comparison of tow ratings isn't possible because other manufacturers use their own internal tests — which leave these criteria flexible — to determine tow ratings.
The biggest side effect of inflated tow ratings is misleading fuel economy estimates. The EPA doesn't require manufacturers to certify trucks with numerically high axle ratios (for tow-rating heroics) when determining fuel economy. So remember that the claimed fuel economy number on the truck you're cross-shopping wasn't earned using the axle ratio that got that truck its high tow rating. Suddenly, Toyota's decision to include its biggest engine, highest axle ratio and trailering springs into one package seems both smart and simple.
Put simply, if you need to tow more than 5,000 pounds you should get the 5.7-liter Tundra. Otherwise, the 4.6-liter V8 should suffice.
Why Should You Consider This Truck?
If you want amenities in your pickup, the 1794 trim certainly offers those in spades. Standard parking sensors on this model also make its size more manageable, and parking with the standard rearview camera becomes far easier. Plus, the interior improvements for 2014 — larger, more legible gauges and dash controls that are far easier to reach — make a genuine difference.
Also, there's something to be said for Toyota's honesty regarding tow ratings and fuel economy. Its linking of a big engine, short gearing and a tow-ready chassis means less nitpicking the details when shopping for a truck capable of heavy towing.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Truck?
The downside of simplicity in powertrain and axle-ratio options is, of course, that your heavy-towing Tundra is also stiff riding. Though we appreciate Toyota's transparency, the Tundra does lack a more advanced direct-injected engine, which is available on Chevy, Ford and GMC trucks. Though the Tundra's engine is no slouch, there's no denying that this technology adds both power and efficiency that would dramatically benefit the Tundra.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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