Toyota has long been trying to lure buyers with macho images of its Tundra: There's the truck climbing a flame-engulfed ramp in the Killer Heat commercial, while in another, it tows the space shuttle Endeavour. Now Toyota is pitching the redesigned 2014 Tundra as a truck for the family guy who needs to build a tree house or a baseball field.
Appearance: The new Tundra has a large in-your-face grille that gives it an industrial look, as does the "Tundra" stamped into the tailgate. The front end is more chiseled, and the amount of chrome varies depending on the truck's trim level. We liked our tester's Silver Sky Metallic paint, but the chrome would pop better with a darker color. The Tundra's hood line is high, even for a truck, perhaps to accommodate the integrated air scoop that spans the width of the grille. The truck has a wide stance, and its character lines are more pronounced. Our tester had a bed liner with an integrated rail with adjustable tie-down hooks. The ground clearance is 10.4 inches, so running boards are a must, especially for shorter drivers.
Performance: Our tester had Toyota's 5.7-liter DOHC i-Force V-8, a carryover from the last model year that packs 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Lyra, who is a pickup owner with occasional towing needs, found even that big engine to be a sluggish performer, citing a lag when she stepped on the gas. Peter, who drove it in the city, found the engine more than adequate. (Other engine choices are a 4.0-liter V-6 and 4.6-liter V-8.) The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Our part-time four-wheel-drive tester came with the TRD Off-Road package, which includes 18-inch off-road alloy wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, and engine and fuel tank skid plates. The Tundra rides like a truck in every way; we felt every bump and rut. (Some of the other trucks we've driven lately have a more carlike ride and handling.) The steering feel is light, which is good for maneuvering the tanklike vehicle into parking spaces, which can be challenging. Our tester is estimated to get 13 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway, which means it lags behind some of the new powerplants from the competition.
Interior: It's modest compared with some of the other truck interiors we've encountered. Still, our Limited tester had leather seats, soft-touch materials and wood-style trim. The surprisingly quiet cabin has lots of storage nooks. Our tester's four-door CrewMax interior was spacious, with good legroom for the rear seats, which also fold up for 2.6 cubic feet of additional cargo space. The controls are more user-friendly and now placed 2.6 inches closer to the driver, according to Toyota. The 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen has Toyota's Entune Premium Audio, which has been upgraded to be a more complete multimedia interface. The optional Limited Premium Package ($595) includes parking sonar (definitely useful), power windows, illuminated entry and glass-breakage sensor.
Our 3 favorites
Backup camera: It's mounted on the tailgate and is standard.
Bold grille: It's now as prominent and macho as the competition's.
At a glance: The driver's gauges are now simple and easy to read.
Bumpers: A three-piece design for more affordable replacements.
No slamming: Gas-charged struts help lower the tailgate slowly.
Fresh air: The Limited trim came with a one-piece power retractable rear window.
The bottom line: The Tundra has a reputation for reliability and efficiency, but can it compete with the updated Big 3? We still give the nod to the best from Ford, GM and Ram, but Toyota is gaining on them.