America's Fourth Pickup Truck King?
The three kings of American pickup trucks continue to be the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge Ram 1500. But those with a rebellious streak have another full-size, half-ton truck that’s worth considering. We’re talking about the new Toyota Tundra.
Toyota Tundra's Evolution
The Tundra first appeared in 1999 and was the second full-size pickup truck by Toyota, following the T100. However, the Tundra was the first Japanese truck to be built in the United States, in San Antonio, Texas. It was Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in 2000. Over 40 trim levels were added over the years including the TRD Rock Warrior package and a Platinum package in 2010.
While the truck has been refreshed over its long run, this 2023 model is a total redesign. The TRD Pro Hybrid seen here includes lifted off-road suspension and exclusive dampers, electronically locking differential, skid plates, and bad to the bone 18-inch wheels on all-terrain tires.
Under the Hood of the TRD Pro
The Tundra does not come with a V8 like those popular trucks we mentioned earlier but is available with a twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 and 10-speed transmission. In base trim, it puts out 348-horsepower, but there’s also a 379-horse variant and this hybrid version which produces 437-horsepower with 583 pound-feet of torque. Its electric motor allows all-electric driving at low speeds, and it can take you from zero to 60 in just 5.7 seconds.
According to the EPA, the TRD Pro Hybrid comes in at 20 mpg city and 24 mph highway but is the most fuel-efficient package since it gives you more power and performance at the same mileage estimated rating as the base SR. Available in rear- or four-wheel drive, all versions of the Tundra come in crew-cab or extended cab and bed sizes run the gamut from five and a half to eight-foot beds.
There are a whopping seven trim levels, from modest to fully packed, to answer your needs for a basic work truck, a business wagon, an off-road warrior, or a refined and elegant city slicker. Prices run from the base line MSRP at $37,845 all the way up to over 76 grand for the ultimate expression of Tundraness. While the base range big Toyota truck costs more than the base Ford, Chevy, or Ram, it comes with a lot of standard features that are missing from its competitors.
When it comes to towing capacity, the Ford F-150 will pull 14,000 pounds while the Tundra can tow 12,000. As for payload capacity, the F-150 maxes out at 3,250 pounds while the Tundra has a maximum capacity of 1,940 pounds. Less, apparently, isn’t always more.
Inside the Cabin
The newly redesigned Tundra has a much nicer interior cabin than in years past. The materials are improved as is the overall look and feel. Like all Toyota vehicles, the quality inside increases with the trim levels. For instance, the top tier 1794 Edition includes very nice real wood accents and upgraded upholstery throughout. Even the rear seats are comfortable. There’s plenty of storage space in the center console and higher trim variants include a 12.3-inch digital display as well as a larger 14-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The touchscreen features a large volume control knob for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as the latest infotainment and driver assist features, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 Suite of sophisticated driver assist features including forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control all as standard. Optional features include blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Behind the Wheel
But what’s it like to drive? Let’s find out! The new Tundra is based on Toyota’s Land Cruiser platform and that means a better overall ride than you’ll get with a lot of other pickup trucks. The coil springs in the back are a big help in that regard. The famous TRD Pro Off-Road package is our Tundra of choice as it adds excellent Bilstein shocks. It is a much more stable truck than the older Tundras of yesteryear. It feels like it is positively gripping the road in tight corners. If you choose the TRD version, expect to feel a bit of bounce from the Bilsteins, but other than that, it gives you a very stable ride.
We thought the steering was much improved as well. Cornering is predictable and is well-balanced for everyday driving. We had limited time in the Tundra, so we didn’t get to put the TRD Pro Hybrid to the test off-road through twisty rocky canyons or to traverse any streams. But on the highway, the big truck with the twin-turbo V6 and electric motor lived up to its zero to 60 time and handled a quarter mile in about 15 seconds. Not too shabby for a 5,820-pound behemoth.
The Tundra’s silky smooth ten-speed automatic transmission is a joy on the road. The exhaust makes just the right throaty burble, and you can even break loose the rear wheels when you punch it… and you don’t have to try very hard. We think the new Tundra is a big improvement on the older version in every way possible and feels ready to take on the three kings on American roads.
The Bottom Line
Which brings us to the wrap up on this terrific new Tundra. It is not the cheapest truck, nor the fastest, and others have more towing capacity, but the accommodations both up front and in the rear are spacious and comfortable. Even rear passengers get two USB ports and separate air vents for the AC. It’s also hard to pass up all the standard safety features.
This new Tundra is two inches taller, 4.7-inches longer, and a bit wider than the old Tundra. Upscale interiors include walnut trim and leather seats. With its double wishbone front suspension and multi-link with coil springs at the back, this is a smoother and more sedate full-size truck with a pleasing and capable ride both on and off the road.