One area where the Japanese have not been able to eat the proverbial lunch of Detroit’s Big Three has been full-size pick-ups. To date, none of the Japanese 1500s have been more than peripheral players.
Probably at least in part because when it comes to big trucks, American truck buyers are like Harley-Davidson owners – seriously partial to the domestic iron. But that doesn’t explain things completely. Badge loyalty only goes so far. And objectively speaking, full-size Japanese-brand trucks like the Toyota Tundra (subject of this review) and Nissan Titan (the other player in this segment) are pretty good trucks. They have strong V-8s and other important stats – such as max towing capability – stack up well against the domestic kings of the hill: Ford’s F-150, the Dodge Ram 1500 and the GM 1500s (Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra).
But, the Japanese trucks aren’t offered in the seemingly endless variety of cab/bed/bodystyle configurations that is par for the course at Ford, GM and Ram stores. There’s also no heavy-duty 2500 or 3500 series for those who need truly Herculean towing/hauling capability.
That plus a not-yet-established bedrock layer of loyal buyers has kept the Tundra – and Titan – from being more than also-rans.
However, they haven’t given up.
Nissan has what looks on paper to be a very interesting new Titan on deck for 2015 – with a new 5 liter diesel V-8 sourced from Cummins on the options roster.
And Toyota has just done a makeover of the Tundra – including a wholesale revision of the previous truck’s somewhat awkwardly laid-out interior. However, the same fairly limited cab/bed configurations – and carryover engines – may not be enough to jump-start sales to the extent that Toyota no doubt wants.
WHAT IT IS
The Tundra is a full-size, 1500-series truck available in regular cab (two door) work truck format, double cab (four doors, the rear two smaller than the front doors) and crew max – with four full-size doors. Three bed lengths are available, ranging from 5.5 foot short bed to an 8.1 foot long bed.
RWD is standard; a part-time 4WD system with two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing is available optionally. The Tundra can be ordered with either a 4 liter V-6 or (optionally) either of two V-8s.
Base price is $26,200 for a regular cab SR with RWD, V-6 and an 8.1 foot long bed. An SR Double Cab with RWD and 6.6 foot bed and V-6 starts at $27,090 – $28,135 with the step-up 4.6 liter V-8.
A four-door CrewMax starts at $32,105.
This model comes standard with the 4.6 liter V-8, which can be upgraded to a 5.7 liter V-8.
Numerous trim (and functional) packages are available, including TRD off-road, a sport-themed SR-5, luxury-minded Limited and ultra-luxury Platinum packages.
Also available – and probably inspired by Ford’s King Ranch F-150 – is a 1794 edition, named after another country-sized Texas spread. This model is fitted with special saddle-brown leather and suede upholstery, comes with unique exterior trim pieces and pretty much every feature that’s already included in the Platinum package.
Base price for this one is $47,600.
Subtle revisions to the exterior – and significant revisions to the interior – constitute the major changes for 2014.
All trims – including the base regular cab SR – come standard with a back-up camera now. This can be upgraded with rear cross traffic alert and a blind-spot monitor that beeps (and lights) to warn you of another vehicle in – well – your blind spot.
The Entune suite of apps has been upgraded – and if you buy the system, the subscription is free.
Available V-6 (current Titan is V-8 only).
Two optional V-8s (Ford F-150 only offers one V-8).
Much improved interior. It’s no longer necessary to have the reach of an NBA guard to get at the radio controls.
More towing capacity (10,400 lbs., max) than current Titan (9,500 lb., max).
Base (SR) truck is better-equipped than most competitors’ base trims.
Limited cab/bed configurations.
Limited optional axle ratios; each engine is assigned a given ring and pinion.
It feels as big as it looks; less maneuverable than the latest trucks from GM and Ford. Example: Tundra’s turning circle is 44 feet – 4.5 feet more than the Ram 1500’s (39.5 feet), four feet more than Silverado’s (40 feet) and 2.3 feet more than the F-150’s (41.7 feet).
Ram 1500 (base price, $24,385) is $1,815 less to start; F-150 (base price, $24,445) is $1,755 less; Chevy Silverado (base price, $25,575) is $625 less.
Ram offers a diesel; Nissan will offer a diesel soon (2015).
Base Tundras come standard with a 4 liter V-6, good for 270 hp. This is a bit under-par, relative to what’s standard in the competition. The ’14 Dodge Ram, for example, comes standard with a 305 hp V-6; the Ford F-150, a 302 hp 3.7 liter V-6. And the current Nissan Titan comes standard with a 317 hp 5.6 liter V-8.
The Tundra’s V-6 is paired with a 5-speed automatic, which is also a bit behind the curve. Several competitors now come standard across the board with six and even eight speed transmissions.
But, the V-6 returns not-bad fuel mileage numbers – 16 city, 20 highway is about 3-5 MPG better than most of the competitor V-8s in this segment.
However, the Tundra’s step-up 4.6 liter V-8 (which makes 310 hp, about the same as some of the competition’s standard V-6s) delivers virtually the same numbers (15 city, 19 highway for the 2WD) as well as better performance.
The Tundra’s top-dog 5.7 liter V-8 makes a much stronger case for itself. You get 381 hp (and 401 ft.-lbs.) of torque – as well as a more up-to-date six-speed automatic. The 5.7 engine comes standard if you order a 4WD regular cab, as well as the Limited, Platinum and 1794 trims.
The 5.7’s rated mileage is 13 city, 18 highway with 2WD – and just slightly worse (13 city, 17 highway) with the part-time 4WD system. It also has mondo oil capacity: 9.8 quarts (same for the 4.6 V-8).
All three engines are designed to run on 87 octane regular – including the 5.7 V-8.
This is a big truck.
Bigger, in fact, than all the others. 228.9 inches long – vs. 205.6 inches for the regular cab Chevy Silverado 1500, 209 inches for the regular cab Ram 1500, and 213.2 inches for the regular cab F-150.
The regular cab SR comes standard with the 6.5 foot bed. The DoubleCab and Crew Max versions come with smaller beds – but they’re just as long. (The bed gets smaller – see point made earlier about Japanese trucks and limited configurations.)
The Tundra also stands 75.8 inches off the deck – an inch taller than the F-150 (74.8 inches) and nearly two inches taller than the Silverado (74 inches).
Even the Kenworth-themed Ram 1500 is “only” 74.6 inches tall.
It seems the Japanese believe size does matter. And not just Toyota. The next biggest 1500 series truck is also Japanese – the Nissan Titan: 224.6 inches and 74.6 inches high.
But size can be a liability, too.
I had the Tundra during the week of Winter Storm Pax – which dumped more than two feet of snow on SW Virginia. The plows could not keep up; most two-lane roads were down to one lane. I tried to plow my driveway – which is a couple hundred yards long – we live in the country – but my overwhelmed tractor couldn’t do more than carve out a compact-truck-sized alley in between towering walls of snow. There was no place left to push the stuff.
Anyhow, I mention the decreased road real estate because it accentuated the Tundra’s hugeness.
Remember above when I mentioned turning radius? The extra several feet it takes the Tundra to get turned around (relative to the regular cab Ram, F-truck and Silverado) matters when you have tight squeeze situations to deal with. I ended up having to back the truck down the driveway because I simply could not get it turned around in the space available.
The Tundra is also roomy through the hips – 79.9 inches wide – which is about half an inch to three quarters of an inch wider than almost all the other 1500 trucks out there except for the Chevy – which is 80 on the nose. The width makes the cabin feel roomy but – again – also makes the Tundra feel really Large Marge. Especially when the road is narrow.
My guess is the Japanese view America – land of the Hummer (RIP) and the ever-growing BMI Index – as the land of people who like things big. Which is true, up to a point. But the Tundra – like the Hummer – may be on the verge of cartoonishly huge (the previous model’s interior layout added emphasis to this).
Men may be ok with it, but many men have wives – and my wife was intimidated by the Tundra. It is possible that at almost two feet longer overall than a regular cab Chevy, it’s not wife-drivable enough – or just too big for suburbia – and that could be part of the reason it hasn’t sold as well as Toyota would like.
Once you’ve got the prow pointed where you’re headed, the Tundra drives like the Titanic sailed: smooth, unperturbed. If, like my test truck, your Tundra is equipped with the top-dog 5.7 V-8, you’ll be soothed by the muscle car burble as the truck trundles along. Steering effort is very light – and though some reviewers have rightly noted that the domestic standard-bearers (in particular, the Chevy Silverado) have achieved ride quality levels almost unimaginably serene – for a pick-up truck with a solid axle rear and (typically) a leaf spring suspension – the Tundra is not far behind par. All current 1500 trucks – no matter who makes ’em – are eons evolved from the trucks of the not-so-distant past, which were as far from the levels of civility achieved by a passenger car of the same time as the table manners of a Klingon are from those of Captain Picard.
Other than its oversized proportions, the Tundra was just the ticket for dealing with winter storm pax (please, someone tell me who came up with this business of naming every weather event – so I can lobby the UN to issue a war crimes indictment). My barely passable on foot driveway served as an informal proving ground. I only needed to engage 4WD Low range once – to get through a particularly tough section where the arctic blowing winds had left a drift pile nearly a foot high. Otherwise, the big lug bullied through the worst of it like a 290 pound NFL lineman. It helps, too, that the Tundra has very generous clearance – up to 10.6 inches, but never less than 10 inches (depending on the trim you buy).
One cautionary note for snow-day dealings: Before you attempt your ascent up a snow-covered driveway, be sure you have manually disengaged the traction control or else the truck’s “safety” electronics will fight you all the way – cutting power when you need every last hp and pumping the brakes when the last thing you need is to slow down.You must do this before you begin moving. The system cannot be turned off once the truck is rolling.
At least there is an “off” button.
Be grateful – as these are rapidly going the way of the catalytic converter test pipe.
The chief change is a mild facelift on the outside – and a heavily revised interior.
Changes to the exterior include more squared-off fenders, a redesigned hood that sits a bit higher than last year (to convey bulging power underneath) and bolder badging – including “Tundra” stamped into the tailgate.
I like the subtly redesigned grille, which is kind of hexagonal now – accentuated (depending on trim) with thick vertical bars done in chrome. It’s more traditional – and less weird – than the previous truck’s Cylon Centurion-looking face.
But the big improvement s inside – where you’ll find an entirely new dash and center console that not only looks better – traditional-truck gauges in a breadbox layout vs, the previous truck’s recessed, car-like pods – it’s also much more in tune with normal human proportions. In the old truck, some of the controls felt like they were closer to the front seat passenger than to the driver. HVAC and audio/GPS controls in particular. Way over to your right – such that even a guy like me, who is 6 ft 3 and has pretty long reach – found it awkward to reach (and use) some of the controls. Same issue with the old truck’s center console – which was unusually wide, with the cupholders again almost out of the driver’s reach.
The redesign returns to a more conventional layout – with a narrower center console and much more accessible everything.
The center stack – where the LCD display is for the GPS and audio, along with the controls for the AC and other vitals – is now 2.6 inches closer to the driver.
Base SR trims are very nicely equipped without adding a single extra-cost option. 18 inch steel wheels are standard (the base F-150, Ram 1500 and Silverado come with 17s; the Nissan Titan is the only other 1500 series truck that comes standard with 18 inch wheels).
The next-up size (standard on Limited and Platinums) is 20s.
Another nice “free upgrade” if you buy a Tundra is a windshield wiper deicer (came in handy for me) and a tailgate that’s damped – it opens softly, rather than clunking down heavily. All trims get both of these. The base SR truck also gets AC and a couple of 12V power points, Bluetooth connectivity and a decent four-speaker stereo with 6.1 inch LCD touchscreen.
From there you can go heavy-duty (TRD off-road) Sporty (SR5), luxury (Limited), even more luxury (Platinum) to the Japanese truck equivalent of a full-on King Ranch F-truck – the Tundra 1794 Edition.
Lots of diversity as far as trim and equipment – and price range, too.
The Tundra’s big weakness is limited diversity as far as bed/box combos. For instance, the base SR regular cab is available with the standard 6.5 foot and (optionally) 8.1 foot bed only – no short bed – which means 228.9 inches of truck (vs. 205.6 inches for the base/regular cab Chevy – etc.). And if you want – if you need – the people-carrying capacity of the DoubleCab or Crew Max, you get a short bed – unless you go up to the long wheelbase (164.6 inch) layout and now you’re dealing with a truck that stretches 247.8 inches (almost 21 feet) bumper to bumper.
The Tundra’s not a bad truck. Far from it. Toyota’s problem is that being merely not bad – or even merely good – is probably not good enough to seriously eat into the pie currently all-but-owned by the Big Three.
Inside, it’s now as nice as anything else in the segment. And features/equipment-wise, it’s hard to knock the Tundra. But Toyota probably should have upped the ante, drivetrain-wise. The base V-6 is not by any means a bad engine – it’s just that the V-6s in several competitors are much stronger (typically, by 30 hp – no small difference). And the ’14 Tundra’s step-up 4.6 liter V-8, which adds about $1,000 to the tab, is only slightly stronger than several competitor’s base (no extra cost) V-6s.
The 5.7 liter V-8 achieves par with the competition’s optional V-8s. But – again – Toyota needs something more than par to make the Tundra really stand out.
Like Nissan’s forthcoming diesel V-8, for instance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Toyota – and Nissan – still have a ways to go before they do to the full-size truck segment what they’ve done to every other segment.
Throw it in the Woods?
Well for what its worth I once had a Toyota and it was a “nice little truck” but it could not do the job I needed it to and they still cant. I sold it and bought an 82 C10 4×4 reg cab full bed with a 350 V-8. This was in 87 and I actually saw the Chevy about a year ago moving under its own power, and that after the raw abuse I gave it! Anyway that turned into a F150 POS that I was glad to be rid of, never a ford again. So that brings me to the truck(s) I have now in comparison to the imports you mention. I have a 99 Dodge quad cab full bed 4×4 5.9 turbo diesel with over 239K on it that is semi-retired as my zombie wagon (you ever want to do an article on what to do with old good trucks I have a case study!). It will still get over 18 miles a gal. On highway but the overall avg. is 14.5 to 15 MPG on the computer. My other one is the same truck but 2006 which is before they went to the ultra low sulpher fuel requirement and then the piss requirement. It will get close to 19 on highway and same around town avg. I think that is pretty good economy for a LARGE truck that will do anything I ask it. When I have a trailer behind it that is say around 4 tons total the MPG drops by 1-1.5 MPG. My enclosed car trailer with car takes it down 3-4 MPG and that’s while doing 70 MPH+/-. It will be a looong while before any other makers can top the American trucks for compatibility in the ¾ T class and better. And a pick up with less than 8’ bed is not quite a full truck 😉
As long as it meets your needs thats great.
I needed the huge cab in the tundra, for lots of expensive, sensitive envoromental monitoring equipment, (the rear door is 48 inches long,) more than I needed open space in the bed, I still need a bed for shovels, gasoline cans and other dirty smelly stuff I dont want inside.
I dont know if Eric has written an article on “domestic “and” foreign ” car makers, but nowadays there are none.
of either kind.
all of the automakers that have survived this far are global entities that merely have their world headquarters located in the place where they got started,
In fact, I think “foreign” companies make more vehicle in the US than the “american” companies do.
they “foreign” companies probably export more vehicles from the US than the “american” companies do.
anyhoo, which is more “american” ? A Tundra built in Texas, or a Chevy Suburban built in Mexico???
“but all the profit goes back to japan”!
not so, anyone who can understand 7th grade economics knows that the profit goes to the shareholders who can and do live all over the world.
plus when the “american” companies get thru paying their CEO there isnt much profit left anyway.
Ford closed their plant in Atlanta and built one in Brazil or Argentina or somewhere like that.
one far, far more modern and efficient than they have or will ever built in the US,
if the new Tundra said Chevrolet on it, youd probably be raving about how great it is.
what sold me on Japanese cars was this:
my little brother was as a teenager one of those who could break a anvil with a rubber hammer.
he blew the engine or transmission in every car he owned.
blew the engine in a 77 chevy pickup,
blew the trans in a 79 Cutlass
blew the trans in a 77 Dodge pickup
blew the trans in a 63 Chevy pickup
blew the trans in a 83 Regal
then in 86 he bought a 76 Celica with 140K on it for $1200
and procedded to put 350K more miles on it, with ZERO breakdowns.
you absolutly can not kill a Toyota 20R engine and 5 speed trans as long as you keep oil in em and dont overheat the engine.
That said, we are back to driving “american” cars, I have a 10 yr old Expedition, a 40 yr old Bronco, and a employere provided ’12 Tundra,, except for the wife who drives a mexican car, a VW Beetle.
a couple years ago I told my then 14 yr old son Id spend up to $4000 to buy him a car if he learned a foreign language,
he is doing so, and his dream car was a 68 Chevelle, but we couldnt even find a rusty 6 cylinder powerglide one that ran for less than $6k, so his second choice was a 4WD, 4 speed, late 70s Chevy stepside pickup.
se we found a rust free one in AZ (we’re on the east coast ) replaced the wheel bearings, tie rods, swapped in a shift tower from a 90 model, (much shorter throw), etc, and are adding TBI from a 1990 model , and an interior and AC from a 82 model.
I really miss the old Tundra. I test drove a 2012 Tundra a couple years ago and it felt cheap. I also think the size has grown a bit large.
Now if they could just offer them with manual transmission…
I have a 2008 tundra, 4WD sr5 with 5.7L and have no complaints other than i wish i could magically decree that it used less gas (how the Clown in Chief Obongo thinks things work). I got it for a great price at the time, gas prices had spiked, it doesn’t have the anemities many others did and it was the end of winter. I looked up the kbb value for it as it is today and it isn’t even $1500 less than what I paid for it 3 years ago.
I also find the bucket seats to be one of the most comfortable of any SUV/Truck I have sit in in recent memory.
The center console controls are ridiculously far away (I too am over 6′ tall). I wouldn’t mind having a backup camera but i am pretty good at handling the space it takes up (wife was impressed when I parallel parked it in Boston).
I haven’t owned many pickups but the ranger i had was utter shit and almost every domestic truck my friends had more issues than i wanted to deal with. I rarely haul anything more than 1/4 of what the truck can handle. it is paid off so i hope it goes 200k. i like tacomas but they don’t fit my frame as well so they aren’t as comfortable and they are just ridiculously priced IMO.
personally i have been driving it too often lately but it is the best vehicle i have in snow that we seem to get every 3-4 days here in PA. the camry (typical commuter/beater) needs a few some work before it can go back out there and i have been avoiding the garage with temps routinely in single digits.
They seem like very solid trucks. My experience owning Japanese trucks has made me a firm partisan; I’d be very reluctant to buy an American truck simply because I’ve literally had no problems whatsoever with either of my two Nissans and so would be very much inclined to buy another rather than risk the proverbial pig in a poke.
Good to see you back, by the way!
I bought a 2005 Titan new and still have it and love it. Zero problems and still drives almost like new. What little maintenance I have done, I’ve done myself easily. I like having a big, full size truck because I can see over all of the texting, facebooking, slow-driving clovers and have enough power to pass them with ease. I’ll gladly pay for the extra gas. And if one of the clovers hits me with their Prius, well then that’s going to be their little problem. A couple of them have actually rear-ended me, and all I have to show for it is a crack in a piece of plastic on the bumper and a dented hitch cover.
You just can’t beat the reliability of a Toyota.My friends Tundra has NEVER had a problem,He just did brakes at 120k.My other friend has a Silverado and has had nothing but problems,it also needed a complete brake job at under 30k.I purchased a Corolla years ago and it has been the most reliable car I have ever owned.Toyota has won me over,as a matter of fact I just got a RAV4.So as long as their reliability continues ,I will buy nothing else.Unless of course It’s a performance car,then I think a new Corvette or GT500 is the only way to go.
I have to “amen” you on this, getcha36.
My two Nissan Frontiers have been – without question – the best vehicles I have ever owned in terms of being almost metronomically reliable, durable and superb values overall.
Are these not American made? The Toyota in TX and the Nissan in MS? As for the new diesels, do people realize how exotic and complicated they are, with the 2010 and newer emission systems?
While, I, on the other hand do not. I like the domestic trucks, Ram & Ford primarily. I won’t even look at a Japanese truck for any reason. But I will not look at any oriental vehicles for any reason. If it ain’t American, it had better be German.
Just curious – why?
I’m not going asking because I intend to judge. I’m just curious, is all.
If you’re concerned about Pearl Harbor, you should know that while Toyota & Mitsubishi supplied the Imperial Japanese military (trucks, planes, respectively), Honda was founded *after* the war.
I have a 2012 Tundra crewmax with the 5.7
the engine has loads of power and sounds sooooo good when you mash the gas.
A very nice throaty rumble, then at full throttle right about the time it changes gears it sounds like a jet taking off.
my Expedition just makes a whooshing sound like air out of a ballon.
the 2WD Tundra 5.7 gets 14.5 city and 18 hwy, my 4 WD Expedition 5.4 which makes about half the HP gets 11.5 city and 16.5 hwy.
the Tundra uses less gas and has, by my estimate double the power.
I like it, we chose it over the Ford, Dodge and Chevy, because the back door and rear legroom on the Tundra is 10 inches longer.
we removed 2.3 of the back seat and keep alot of tool and test instruments inside,
the roll down back glass is very handy for hauling lang lumber or pipe.
sometimes we have to fetch 20 foot sticks of pipe, and half of it will go inside the cab
the steering wheel is perfect, the proper diameter, texture and dish,
the steering wheel in my Expedition is slippery, and doesnt have enough dish to use the palm of your hand to turn the wheel. they probably designed it that way on purpose.
the tundra has the feature where you tap the wiper control up and it wipes once.
I hope its as reliable as the 2005 Tundra that we still have, it has 230 K on it, with ZERO repairs.
we recently rented a ’13 Ford F-150 crew, I gotta say I was impressed with the base V-6
it had more power than the 5,4 V-8 in my Expedition, but have you tried to use the turn signals??
I dont know what they were smoking, but you tap it once to turn them on, and tap it again to turn them off,
there is no detent, and it took us almost the whole week to figure out how to get it to stop blinking when you changed lanes.
the Tundra has a few quirks I dont like, such as the compass in the rearview mirror, its very distracting, it has a switch to shut it off, but it restarts every time you crank the truck, so you have to manually shut it off every time.
I do like the back up camera in the rear view mirror though.
we have 13 trailers, and the new Tundra pulls em all, even the ones that weigh 8-10K, with no issues.
Thanks for posting all that; always good to get feedback from owners.
I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. I also like the Tundra, personally.
Agreed. On first impression, the Tundra, while “competitive,” does not seem superior to the domestic 1500s. It lags slightly in some ways.
But I’d pick the Tundra in a heartbeat.
Why? Because I believe that like the Tacoma, it is built to last a lot longer. Fewer repair hassles and expenses. More miles of trouble free motoring.