Pickup trucks are an intrinsic part of American culture. More than just a tool, trucks have become a cultural icon in the United States, which may be one of the biggest disadvantages that plagues Toyota’s half-ton pickup truck, the Tundra.
|1. The Tundra can be had with a 4.0L V6, a 4.6L V8 or a 5.7L V8.
2. The 5.7L V8 is good for 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, and is mated exclusively to a 4:30 rear-end differential.
3. When properly equipped, the Toyota Tundra is rated to tow 10,400 lbs.
4. Tundra is the only half-ton pickup to fully conform to the SAE J2807 towing standard.
Image was working against the truck from day one, and Toyota is doing its best to pick up every little bit of American heritage it can scrounge. About 75 percent of the Tundra’s parts are sourced from American companies. They are then shipped to San Antonio, TX where they are assembled at a plant that makes sure to hire veterans, and is built on land that was originally an old-west ranch that was founded in 1794, which is not coincidentally the namesake for Toyota’s new luxury 1794 Edition trim.
If American heritage could be bought, Toyota would be the first Japanese company to take out its credit card.
Unfortunately, many overlook the Tundra because of its badge, but this truck, especially the 2014 Tundra, is definitely a contender in the half-ton segment.
SAME OLD ENGINES
Powertrains remain untouched for the 2014 model year, with Toyota claiming that customers haven’t been relaying the need for any updates. At the bottom of the range, you can get an antiquated 4.0-liter V6 good for 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, paired with an equally old five-speed automatic transmission. Next is a 4.6-liter V8 that makes 310 hp and 327 lb-ft, hooked up to a six-speed automatic. Topping the lineup, and also the volume seller is a 5.7-liter V8 good for 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of peak torque. It’s also, arguably, the only truly competitive engine.
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Toyota’s mid-range V8 makes just 22 more lb-ft of torque than Chevy’s V6, and Toyota’s V6 falls well short of the mark, leaving the big 5.7-liter alone as the only motor that, on paper, stacks up to its competition.
It stacks up under your right foot as well. Paired exclusively with a 4:30 rear-end differential ratio, the Tundra’s torque feels authoritative and commanding, more so than just about every other V8 out there, but that confidence comes at a price.
FUEL ECONOMY FALTERS
The fuel economy of the 2014 Toyota Tundra is likely to be close to the truck’s current rating of 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. While there was a time when fuel economy wasn’t at the top of the ‘purchasing reasons’ checklist, it is now. And with every other manufacturer stepping up with some sort of new technology to help their pickups save gas, Toyota may have shot itself in the foot by not investing in fuel economy.
In our real world test with the truck, we averaged just 13 mpg combined.
BUILT TO TOW
So is it worth it to buy truck that will suck down so much fuel? Hooked up to about 8,500 lbs, the 2014 Tundra feels comfortable, and even ready for a little more weight. The grunt delivered by the 5.7 feels angry, and quickly gets this rig up to speed. Throttle response is immediate, and the brakes never faltered. So, it might be worth it to spend more time in front of the gas pump, in exchange for the authoritative feel of this 5.7-liter equipped Tundra. That is, if you intend to tow a lot, and often.
It’s ironic that Toyota boasts it has the only half-ton on the market that is J2807 certified, yet it is also the only half-ton without an integrated trailer brake controller.
SEE ALSO: Why your pickup trucks tow rating is BS
Other small upgrades were given to the truck specifically with towing in mind. First, a backup camera is now standard on all Tundra models, regardless of trim. Next, Toyota moved the rear license plate lights further out, so they now illuminate the plate and the four- and seven-pin trailer-light connector, making it easier to hook up at night. Finally, Toyota installed a new three piece bumper, so if you happen to back into your trailer, you don’t need to replace the full bumper, just the section that was damaged.
MUCH IMPROVED RIDE
While the engines weren’t touched, Toyota’s engineers did work on some of the driving dynamics of this new 2014 truck. The shock absorber valving has been re-tuned, and the steering is quite a bit lighter. As far as the ride goes, this Tundra is the smoothest riding Toyota truck yet, and doesn’t suffer from the excessive amounts of box chatter and rigidity that the previous generation truck did.
That smooth riding nature is carried through to the revised steering calibration, but the new steering setup has its downsides. On the plus side, this 2014 Tundra is comfortable on the highway, and doesn’t make you work too hard with the wheel to keep it tracking straight. On the negative side, however, it loses the direct, connected feeling that the previous Tundra had, now offering more of a loose feel with a big dead-zone when the wheel is centered. Highway cruising is easier than ever, but it comes at the cost of a connected to the road feeling.
THE LEXUS OF PICKUPS
On the inside is where this truck has changed the most, especially when you compare the new 1794 Edition trim to the old Toyota truck interiors. The new Tundra cabin has been thoroughly modernized with chrome accents and the brand’s Entune infotainment system. In addition, the buttons and knobs have been made a regular size, unlike the last Tundra’s massive controls.
In the 1794 Edition, the materials used look wonderful, and could easily be mistaken for Lexus interior bits. The seats are wrapped in leather, and incorporate suede inlays in the seat backs that provide a soft supportive seat that is plush and comfy. Wood inlays dot the interior as well, along with custom 1794 Edition badges and stitching which complete this truck’s western theme.
Unlike with the performance of the truck, the Tundra has changed dramatically on the inside, and can now properly compete with the best luxury pickups on the market. The only notable item missing from the interior of this truck is a 120V three-prong plug; an item that has increasingly become the norm in pickup trucks.
This is the smoothest riding, best looking Tundra yet, but that pretty exterior can’t hide the gas-guzzling innards of this pickup. A solid effort, the 2014 Tundra may sell you with its dynamics, but make sure you are ready for the gas bills. If you are, then buying a Tundra will return a confident truck with rock solid reliability ratings.