Seven years is a long time in the automotive industry -- and, it now seems, the full-size truck market. We've watched Ford introduce twin-turbocharged engines, Ram roll out rear coil springs and active aerodynamic touches, and GM recently completely overhauled both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Toyota, however, has done virtually nothing to amend its Tundra since it debuted in 2005 -- but that changes with the 2014 Tundra.
A Butch New Look
The 2014 Tundra, which debuts at the 2013 Chicago auto show, isn't an all-new truck, nor is it an extensive mechanical overhaul of today's Tundra. Instead, Toyota focused on amending the truck's appearance.
The original Tundra drew some criticism for looking a bit bloated and bulbous, especially as competitors were crafting designs that were taught and muscular. Designers apparently took that criticism to heart when penning the 2014 model. Although the Tundra's cab design and roofline remains largely unchanged on all three body styles (regular, double, and crew cabs), the front clip is all-new. The hexagonal grille is retained, but it's larger than ever before. Fenders and fender flares are squared off, and a strong, crisp character line runs the entire length of the truck. Taillamps are more geometric and allegedly inspired by machinery, while the tailgate now boasts an integrated spoiler and large "TUNDRA" lettering stamped into its outer panel. Both front and rear bumpers are now three-piece affairs, allowing damaged sections to be replaced at less cost than an entire one-piece design.
Inside, the previous Tundra's bulbous curves are also no more. The slimmed, angular dashboard looks a little more rugged - and a little more Ford-like - than the previousl design. Gauges are now longer deeply recessed into a trim panel; they're now highlighted with metallic surrounds and placed in a cluster that also boasts a color LCD multi-function display. Audio and climate control knobs and switchgear are still oversized for those attempting to use them while wearing gloves, but they're relocated 2.6 inches closer to the driver. Front bench seats are still offered on lower-tier regular- and double cab models; higher grades still boast a large, deep center console with provisions for hanging file folders within. A rear-view camera is standard on all trims, as is Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Toyota says it's labored to give each trim level a distinct personality through the use of different finishes and materials. SR5 models, for instance, have a "professional gear" theme imparted through metallic accents and contrasting fabric. Limited models, on the other hand, allegedly portray an "active premium" aura through woodgrain trim accents, leather seating, and stitched soft-touch accents on the door panels and center console. The Platinum trim level goes above that, adding black leather seating with diamond-pattern stitching, chrome seat and console accents. Toyota's Entune infotainment system is standard equipment on Tundra Limited models, as are heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
Seeing as Ford and Ram found success pushing ultra-luxurious trucks with a western theme, it's not too surprising to see Toyota offer something similar on the new Tundra. The 1794 Edition, named in honor of the Texan ranch where Toyota's San Antonio assembly facility is located, gains saddle-hued seating with embossed leather and ultra suede accents, along with matching soft-touch accents for the door trim, shift console, and instrument panel.
Beneath the surface, the new Tundra is virtually identical to the outgoing 2013 model. Toyota notes no major chassis revisions or upgrades, although it claims to have tweaked the steering rack to improve straight-line stability and revised damper valves in order to settle the truck's ride quality. Tow ratings, which ran between 9000 and 10,400 pounds depending on equipment, remain unchanged.
Likewise, none of the Tundra's three engine choices are revised for the 2014 model year. As such, regular and double cab models will still boast a 4.0-liter DOHC V-6 as standard equipment. That engine remains rated at 270 hp at 5600 rpm, 278 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm, and is again available with only a five-speed automatic transmission.
Buyers seeking eight-cylinder power will again pick from two engines. A 4.6-liter DOHC V-8 continues to offer 310 hp at 5600 rpm and 327 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm, while the top-tier 5.7-liter DOHC V-8 offers 381 hp at 5600 rpm and 401 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. Regardless of displacement, all eight-cylinder 2014 Tundras feature the same six-speed automatic as before.
The new 2014 Tundra certainly looks handsome and the interior improvements are welcome, but in a segment where big players are either introducing new technology, improving fuel economy, or ratcheting up payload/tow/capacities, will a new look and feel be enough to enlarge Toyota's foothold in this segment? We doubt it.