Japanese-brand cars have gone from a non-presence (before the ’70s) to a small presence (in the ’70s) to a major presence (by the ’80s). They now sell more cars than GM and Ford – which only sell a small handful of specialty (and luxury) cars.
But when it comes to trucks, it’s still 1970 for the Big Three. There are only two half-ton trucks that aren’t made by one of the three – and one of those (the Nissan Titan) may not be made for very much longer.
There’s a rumor going around that Nissan will stop making the Titan pickup sometime after 2023. If that turns out to true, it would leave the Toyota Tundra as the only half-ton truck on the market not made by one of the Big Three.
It is also the only half-ton truck that no longer even offers a V8 engine – which until this year was standard in the Tundra.
In its place, a Camry-sized 3.5 liter V6 – turbo-goosed (and interccooled, twice) to develop about the same horsepower and substantially more torque than the V8 – while using a little less gas.
But will it prove to be as Camry-reliable in this half-ton truck, which weighs close to as much as two Camrys – and which is rated to be capable of pulling the weight of three of them down the road?
The Tundra is Toyota’s half-ton (1500 series) truck, similar in general layout to others in the class such as the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500. It differs from them in being the only new half-ton truck that does not even offer V8 power. However, it comes standard with a very powerful twin-turbo V6 that makes much more horsepower than the V6s that are standard in the F150, Silverado and Ram – and about the same power as the V8s that are available in the F-150, Silverado and Ram (and standard in the Titan).
The Tundra is also available with an even-more-powerful version of the twice-turbo’d V6 that makes more horsepower (and much more torque) than the most powerful V8s available in the F-150, Silverado, Ram and Titan.
Prices start at $35,950 for the base SR trim in double cab (two full-size front, two smaller size rear doors) with 2WD and a 6.5 foot bed. With the optional 8.1 foot bed, the price goes up to $36,280. Adding 4WD increases that to $38,950 (with the 6.5 foot bed) and $39,280 with the 8.1 foot bed.
The DoubleCab Tundra is also available in SR5 and Limited trims, with the same two bed options for the SR5 (Limited trims come only with the 6.5 foot bed) and either 2WD or (optionally) 4WD.
CrewMax (crew cab) Tundras have four full-size doors – and are available in Platinum, 1794, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and Capstone trims. The TRD and Capstone trims get the upgraded version of the twin-turbo V6, which is paired with a mild-hybrid set-up to produce 437 horsepower and 583 ft.-lbs. of torque.
A top-of-the-line Capstone with the up-rated V6, 4WD, 22 inch wheels and power-deploying running boards stickers for $74,230.
What’s New for 2022
The Tundra gets its first (and most radical, ever) makeover since 2007. In addition to the new engine, there is also a new all-independent (coil spring rear rather than leaf spring) suspension, which allows for individual wheel articulation and a smoother ride on uneven surfaces.
Standard V6 makes V8 power – and it’s standard.
Available hybrid version of the V6 makes more-than-V8 power.
Immense towing capacity (up to 12,000 lbs.)
What’s Not So Good
Fewer cab/bed configurations offered than Big Three offer.
Strongest version of the V6 restricted to most expensive trims and CrewMax configuration.
Will the twin-turbo V6 be as durable, long-haul, as the V8 proved itself to be?
Unlike all but one of the other trucks in this class – that one being Nissan’s Titan – the Tundra comes with just one engine, a twin-turbocharged version of Toyota’s 3.5 liter V6. It comes in two versions – just the V6, making 389 horsepower and 479 ft.-lbs. of torque – or the V6, enhanced by a mild-hybrid system that bumps that up to 437 horsepower and 583 ft.-lbs. of torque.
This engine replaces the previously standard 5.7 liter V8 that made 381 horsepower and 401 ft.-lbs. of torque and which also used one gallon of gas to propel the previous Tundra 13 miles in the city and 17 on the highway.
A significant uptick, made even more significant given the uptick in power.
That’s the idea behind replacing displacement with boost. A smaller engine uses less gas than a bigger one. At least, when the smaller engine isn’t under boost, in order to get it to make the power of a larger-displacement engine. The turbo also acts as a torque-enhancer, which is why this comparatively small V6 makes much more torque than most V8s. That ought to help the Tundra pull heavy loads with less effort.
However, it will be under pressure.
In addition to its twin turbos, there are also twin intercoolers feeding twin air boxes, each with its own air filter (on the left and right hand side of the engine bay). The boost runs up to about 20 psi, which may have an impact on the longevity of this engine – but we won’t be able to judge that until at least ten years have gone by.
Toyota also offers a stronger version of the V6 in CrewMax Tundras, Limited trims and up. This one has the previously mentioned mild-hybrid assist which – interestingly – does not result in a higher EPA mileage rating. However, it’s not much lower – 19 city, 22 highway – which is about the same, overall. But you get much more power (437 horsepower) and diesel-like 583 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Both versions of the V6 are paired with a ten -speed automatic transmission that features three overdrive ratios (8th, 9th and 10th) with the final OD radio being a really deep 0.61 ratio that reduces engine speed at highway speeds to little more than a fast idle.
Tow ratings range from 8,300-12,000 lbs. depending on configuration.
Even with its standard V8, the current Nissan Titan is only rated to tow about 9,300 lbs.
On the Road
It sounds like it has a V8 . . . at least, it does – if you drive a Tundra equipped with the sound of a V8.
Higher trims – Limited and up – come with sound augmentation technology that pipes the sound of last year’s V8 through the JBL sound system of this year’s Tundra. I was surprised when I first heard it, because I knew about the V6 (and know what a V8 sounds like). But when I floored the accelerator, a low bass moan could be heard – and you could not tell it came from the sound system.
It feels like a V8, at any rate.
In fact, the V6-powered Tundra is quicker than the previous V8 Tundra, doing the 0-60 run in about 6.4 seconds vs. 6.7 previously. This does much to tamp down any sounds – of disappointment – that the V8 has been replaced. If the new Tundra were slower . . . if it had less power . . . then piping the sound of its healthier predecessor through the speakers would have been as pathetic as flexing fake muscles or stuffing a sock in your crotch, so as to show off what you’re not packing.
From a purely driving perspective, it is hard to fault the new V6. If you didn’t know it was a V6 you’d likely never guess it wasn’t a V8. The pull – and the sound – match expectations. It is torquey – and throaty. The only indication there’s not a V8 under there is the turbo boost bar in the main gauge cluster, which lets you know that it’s boost rather than displacement that’s responsible for the response.
Adding the sound was likely deemed essential to replicate the experience, which is as much psychological as it is numerical. You can quote horsepower and torque numbers all day long and while they are certainly important, they are not everything.
Not if that one important thing is missing.
I wasn’t able to test drive a model without the sound of the V8; if those lacking the augmentation sound like there’s a V6 under the hood, Toyota ought to make the sound of something more standard in all Tundras so as to help people forget the V8’s no longer there.
The gas mileage situation is another matter. Though EPA says the V6 Tundra averages about 20 MPG – as opposed to about 15 for the previous V8 Tundra – I averaged . . . just over 15 MPG. This is par for the turbocharged course, in my experience – and I have experienced dozens (scores) of new vehicles of all types with smaller, turbocharged engines in lieu of larger displacement and supposedly “less efficient” engines.
Smaller-displacement turbo’d engines score better on the EPA tests that determine the rated mileage figures. In the real world, they generally score worse (or rather, not appreciably better) because in order to replicate the power (and deliver the performance) of the bigger engine they’ve replaced, they must be boosted to produce it. It’s a Catch 22 situation in that you’ll probably only see the EPA’s mileage numbers if you don’t summon the power (via the boost) in which case you have power you can’t really use much – assuming you want to see those EPA numbers rather than the real world numbers.
On the upside, you do get a stronger engine – and Toyota is able to sell it to you.
The government has made it extremely hard for Toyota or anyone else to sell V8s at all – which is why all of the other half-tons except the Titan come standard with sixes (the F-150’s strongest engine is a six, too; the V8 is a kind of consolation prize for those who still prize its presence).
The downside, of course, is that this V6 – with two turbos, two intercoolers and lots of other parts – is a much more complicated engine than the V8 it replaced as well as an engine that is under more pressure to deliver the power and capability of a V8 with two fewer cylinders and about 60 percent the displacement.
Toyota is known for solid engineering, though. The V6 may be overhead cam, but it has a steel timing chain rather than a belt. The block and heads are designed to keep their cool (important with aluminum blocks and heads) with two layers water jackets and cross-channels to maximize heat transfer to the coolant.
So, fingers crossed . . .
Tundras with the hybrid set up can roll along on electricity up to about 18 MPH, when the system automatically re-ignites the V6. These transmissions are seamless. Once again, you’d never know unless you looked under the hood.
The other thing about the Tundra is something it has in common with all of the other half-tons it competes with. That being it is huge – and specifically, wide – but so easy to drive a ten-year-old could do it.
Assuming he could reach the pedals and see over the dashboard at the same time. Driving the Tundra is like piloting a battleship that can maneuver like a PT boat that also rides like the Queen Mary. It takes up almost every inch of a narrow backcountry road – but it takes to the road almost like a sports car.
Just be on the alert if there’s another behemoth coming at you from the opposite direction – as the two of you might smack mirrors if you’re not careful.
Behemoth is just the right word.
The shortest version of the Tundra – DoubleCab with the 6.5 foot bed – is 233.6 inches long, bumper-to-bumper. The longest version – Double Cab with the 8.1 foot bed – is 252.5 inches long. That’s about two feet longer than one of the the longest American cars ever made – the Buick Electra 225 of the ’70s.
But it’s the width of this thing – of all these things – that is most behemothian. A bit more than 80 inches – not counting the mirrors. How wide is that? It is three inches wider than a Mercedes S-Class, which is just about the widest car still available.
And wide is good – insofar as room. There is so much of it you may feel you’re not making enough use of it – like the extra 1,500 square feet in a huge house you almost never use. But if you need the room, it’s nice to have it. The CrewMax has enough room to seat four in a row – even if there are only seatbelts for three. There is actually more legroom in the back (41.6 inches) than there is up front (41.2 inches).
As big as it is, the Tundra’s looks are less forbidding than some of the others in the class, which seem to have been designed to look as forbidding as possible. It has an almost car-like windshield rake, which gives the appearance of a lower roofline. The bedwalls aren’t as over-the-top high, either. You don’t need to stand on a milk crate to be able to reach whatever you put in the bed.
It’s a more accessible and usable truck for that reason.
Inside, the big continues – with an available 14 inch LCD touchscreen that features sensitivity adjustment to make it easier to operate while wearing gloves. This will appeal to those who want the latest tech – while the continued presence of knobs and toggle buttons for most essential functions will appeal to those not enamored as much of “tech.”
The Tundra has a unique take on the automatic stop-start (ASS) system that afflicts practically all new vehicles. You can turn it on – or off – by depressing the brake pedal harder (or less) when the vehicle is not moving. It is a much more fluid – and far less annoying – way to keep ASS under control.
The doors also have keyed locks – in addition to keyless entry. Meaning you can use a physical key to unlock your Tundra if you lose your fob (or get it wet and it no longer works). You can also lower the tailgate using your remote key fob.
The truck’s main detraction – if it is one – is that you cannot get a regular cab and you cannot get the 8.1 foot long bed with the CrewMax cab. The Big Three trucks are more configurable.
The Bottom Line
The absence of a V8 is what may keep the Tundra in this game.
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