2014 Toyota Tundra First Drive

Toyota's beleaguered design staff needed to try something, anything, with the 2014 Tundra. Customers, automotive critics, and little old ladies in crosswalks had been demanding better styling for the unhappiest-looking pickup on the market. So, with nearly limitless digital capacity at their disposal at the Calty Design Center in Newport Beach, California, and the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the team dispatched their evolving creation on a virtual journey.

First, evidently in a capricious mood after coffee, they sent it to the virtual petting zoo, where it swallowed a muscovy duck and found, as in some fairy tale, that it began to resemble its meal. Talk about a big honkin' truck! Next, it careened through a virtual rodeo; the fencing and grandstand debris couldn't be removed from the front end. Finally, it was barrier-tested against Glenn Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy." Hence, the glitter.

Then the old devils in design pressed "send." The result was displayed to flagrant disadvantage when the '14 Toyota Tundra was introduced to the press at Falling Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania. This bastion of Frank Lloyd Wright emulation is just down the road from the architect's Fallingwater house. Wright himself could sometimes overdo it, and because he was a tyrant, no one told him, "OK, that's enough!" Yet the emphasis always remained on simple lines and functionality.

Not so with the '14 Tundra. That hornbill-hood syndrome, with the chrome grille surrounds extending over the edge, is overkill. And the vented snout up there on the 1.6-inch-higher hood? It's fake. Sheetmetal seals up the underside. Good thing handguns aren't allowed in the Newport Beach and Ann Arbor facilities, or a whole lot of designers would be rehabbing foot injuries.

Considering this new level of Frankentruckness along with the curious lack of powertrain improvements and the absence of key features, we have to ask: will Toyota ever get the big truck thing right? (Nissan can't get the big truck thing right, either, but the modesty of the Titan's styling is appreciated.) Toyota's twenty-one years in the full-size segment have resulted in the automotive equivalent of direct release to video.

Yes, many good things were done in the attempt to refine the Tundra and improve this year's sales of 107,000 units. Toyota excels at bringing along its products from one generation to the next. To this end, a new top-of-the line model was added: the 1794 Edition, which salutes the ranching pioneers of the San Antonio property where Toyota builds Tundras and Tacomas.

The 1794 Edition has 20-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, LED daytime running lights, a moonroof, a tow package, and premium infotainment. With the CrewMax cab configuration, the cargo bed is 5.5 feet long, but the backseat is vast and the seat cushions tip up for added storage space. The handsome leather-and-suede-trimmed interior with rearranged instrument display and center console really stands out. "I'd put this interior up against any vehicle on the road," said chief engineer Mike Sweers. The steering wheel, of leather and wood, is a wonder. And we actually found ourselves gazing with appreciation at the tufted floormats and thinking, "Wow, people lived well in the eighteenth century!"

The 1794 stands over the SR and SR5, Limited, and Platinum in a four-model lineup. Although they share the same powertrain and basic running gear, stepping down from the 1794 to the Platinum is disappointing because of the latter's dismal interior of urethane and olefin. The model mix includes a choice of a a 4.0-liter V-6 and V-8s of 4.6 and 5.7 liters. There are regular, double and CrewMax cabs; cargo bed lengths of 8.1, 6.5, and 5.5 feet; and of course the choice between rear- and four-wheel-drive. A backup camera is standard on all models, and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic warning alert is included on CrewMax models. Sweers said it was either this feature or an integrated step in the bumper, and they went with safety instead.

Another gripe about the Tundra is that nothing much is happening in the cargo bed. Compared with the Ram's clever cargo management system and bodyside storage compartments or the Ford F-150's bed extender and deployable tailgate step, it's not too advanced. Having a spoiler integrated into the tailgate looks OK, but we're not sure if it reduces drag enough to make a difference. Fuel economy figures are not good.

On the road, the Tundra drives just dandy. The 5.7-liter V-8 is smooth and quiet and has a nice kick. The six-speed automatic is no match for the Ram's eight-speed (and the fuel economy advantage it returns), but isn't a bad transmission. Compared with electrically assisted steering, the Tundra's hydraulic assist feels like having a bass on the line instead of just bait, and rolling on massive P275/55R-20 Bridgestone Dueler all-season tires, the 1794 managed to avoid the brittle sort of ride we experienced most recently in an F-150 on 22-inch wheels. Heading for a secluded hilltop cabin, we ascended a rutted trail nearly to the crest before switching to four-wheel low and blasting over the top. This was accomplished without the specially developed Michelin off-road tires that are available.

While we chide Toyota about the homely face of this poor truck, we find the sharper character line on the side quite appealing. And the Tundra name stamped into the tailgate is a nice touch. When the '14 Tundra goes on sale in mid-August, with nationwide availability by mid-September, Toyota expects to see sales rise by 30,000 units. (Pricing has yet to be announced.) The toughest challenge for them will be to fully utilize the factory's capability in producing that many.

Those of us who live in Southern California see 40-year-old Toyota compact trucks in regular use by gardeners and junk collectors, and although the Tundra is aimed more at suburbanites with toys or mulch to haul, we know it will still be scrapping around in mid-century, favored approximately by the same bunch of users. Maybe by then, as our perspective evolves, we won't be so appalled by how it looks. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2013, we find it regrettable, and we can't think of a significant advantage the Tundra has over the Ram or any other full-size competitor.

2014 Toyota Tundra

Powertrain
Engine: DOHC 4.0-liter V-6; DOHC 4.6-liter; DOHC 5.7-liter V-8
Power: 270 hp @ 5600 rpm; 310 hp @ 5600 rpm; 381 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 278 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm; 327 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm; 401 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission: Five- or six-speed automatic
Drive: Rear- or four-wheel
Chassis
Steering:Hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion
Front suspension:Double-wishbones with stabilizer bar and gas shock absorbers
Rear suspension: Live axle with leaf springs and gas shock absorbers
Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc with ABS
Tires: P255/70R-18, P275/60R-20 all-season
Measurements
L x W x H: 228.9-247.8. x 79.9 x 75.8-76.4 in
Wheelbase: 145.7-164.6 in
Track F/R: 67.9/67.9 in
Weight: 4760-5860 lb
Ground clearance: 10.0-10.6 in
Angle of approach: 26.0 degrees
Ramp breakover: N/A
Angle of departure: 21.0-22.0 degrees
Passenger volume: N/A
Cargo volume: N/A
Towing: 9000-10,400 lb
EPA Mileage (est.): 4.0-liter V-6 4x2 16/20 mpg; 4.6-liter V-8 4x2 15/19 mpg, 4x4 14/18 mpg; 5.7-liter V-8 4x2 13/18 mpg, 4x4 13/17 mpg
BMW guy from SMF
Kind of sad effort ... copy the basic design of the Ford F150 dashboard and some elements of the square-ness of the F250 - redo the steering wheel, make the seats more like the Ram and F-series - come up with a ranch theme (King Ranch has been a Ford idea for 10 years or more - even Ram and Silverado are now leaning toward the Texas/Colorado names).But the final part of the lack of creativity - just copy some of the Ford names for a model - the Platinum version?  That's the best you guys could do?No new engines, no better mileage, no really new sheet metal, no new frame, etc. ... what did you guys do last summer?  Plagiarism is evident and lets face it ... the buying public is not stupid!
PBM
Hey Ronald, did Toyota punt your dog off of a bridge?  I think there's a way to get your point across without being over the top negative.  But I guess that's not the "sensational" journalism that you're looking to drive home.  
jgf1031
The fuel economy of the 4.0 is worse than GM's 5.3 V8. That's horrible. Especially for a company that is so gung ho about fuel economy. Why did they not upgrade their existing engines either? The only competitive engine is the 5.7 and it now lags behind the Ram's 5.7 and the 6.2 from GM and Ford (which both return more hp AND better mpg). The front end is hideous and the fake hood scoop is a joke. Congrats Toyota for solidifying that all-too-familiar fourth place trophy in the full-size truck game AND inevitably boosting truck sales for Ford, GM, and RAM. Way to go!
Vinnie82
Everything about this truck is fine, but and this is a big "BUT". The front end tries too hard that it ends up looking like a piece of crap with real thinking put into the design. Start off with the Head lamps. Big humongous grill with tiny head lights that looks more like they belong on the Yaris.  Second, wtf is up with all those openings? You got an opening on the hood. Opening slats in the grill, and a opening in the bumper. What the hell? Is this truck running on cool air, that needs to be thru every friggin slat? The Tundra front end does not even have a Toyota resemblance to its other vehicles including its SUV/CUV's. Stop with  the holes(openings), and use a design that is coherent with Toyota's past and bring it up to date.
Madison(X)
I'm gonna play devil's advocate here..I think this article is a little harsh considering the fact that when the 2nd gen Tundra came out in 2007 it kicked the sh** out of the big three in every measurable category and STILL wasn't able to outsell them. So it's not the Tundra that is the problem, it's the fact the the big 3 has a very loyal customer base. No harm there as since 2010 they too have made great updates to their trucks as well. Automobile Mag however is making the Tundra sound inferior and it is by no means close to being inferior. It is an equally capable truck as the big 3, just not as popular. The 5.7L V8 mated to the 6 Speed does it's job just fine and doesn't need an 8 Speed. In Insideline's hill climb test the Tundra and the Ram tied for the fastest up the hill and both trucks drank virtually the same amount of fuel in ding so. The frustrating part is that the Ram's 8 Speed offers no better REAL WORLD mileage than ANY other truck, it only wins in the EPA cycle but everyone takes that EPA number and runs with it. People please do your own fuel economy test based on how you drive before gloating about this car's transmission and that car's engine and how it's better and more fuel efficient. Toyota will not sell even close to as many trucks Ram, Ford, and Chevy will sell, but for someone looking for literally, an equally capable truck that isn't the star of the flexing contest, the Tundra will do just fine for them.As for the styling, the grille is a little overdone, true. I think the truck shown in red is the best looking. But in continuing my role as devil's advocate, the F-150 has not changed design wise for almost 10 years now. The interior has seen marginal updates, but the exterior is still the same with different lights. The Silverado we all know has had the same stale design for a while and the latest redo pretty much only added halogen projector beams and called it a day. The ram has changed the most, and is my personal favorite so I'm going to cease my criticism here haha!
btc909
Dump the gas engines.  Offer two diesels.  Needs a 8-9 speed transmission.  I'm no fan of the styling.  The 5.7L fuel economy is laughable.
OldSalt
This truck redefines FUGLY!!! Back to the drawing board Toyota!!
408stroker
@Madison(X) Gas mileage, My friend gets 5 mpg towing his horse trailer. That's REAL WORLD mileage for you.

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