2022 Toyota Tundra Hands-on Preview: Debuts With Hybrid Power, All New Chassis

Jeffrey N. Ross
by Jeffrey N. Ross

It’s been 14 years since Toyota last gave the Tundra a ground-up redesign.

Just to put that into context, Ram and GM have each sold three generations of their respective full-size trucks in that same time frame, and Ford has had four generations of the F-150 since 2007! The 2022 Toyota Tundra will go on sale by the end of this year, and it made its official debut tonight during NFL’s Sunday Night Football with an incredible 60-second commercial celebrating the history of Toyota’s trucks and SUVs.

Before that happened, though, Toyota brought me out to a top-secret preview of the new Tundra near its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas for a first look at several pre-production prototypes and a deep dive into what changes were made to the third-generation Toyota Tundra. There was no chance to drive the new Tundra and some details are to be determined later, but here’s what we know so far.

What’s New?

Everything. Toyota has completely rewritten its playbook for the full-size truck segment from the styling and cabin technology down to the nitty-gritty truck bits such as the all-new engine, transmission, multi-link rear suspension, and a fully boxed steel frame. Toyota has no delusions of competing against Ford, GM, and Ram with sales because those truck-makers all do considerable business in the fleet segment. Instead, the Tundra will target active lifestyle buyers with six trim levels that include the base SR, luxury-minded Platinum, and 1794 Edition trims, as well as the off-road-capable TRD Pro; 60 percent of all Tundra sales are expected to come from the SR5 and Limited trim levels.

No pricing or fuel economy information has been announced yet, but that will come closer to the truck’s on-sale date later this year. Production is expected to start in Toyota’s San Antonio assembly plant in November with the first trucks rolling into showrooms in December.

No V8, no leaf springs? No problem!

For the first time since it was introduced 21 years ago, the Toyota Tundra will not offer a V8 engine option. Instead, Toyota has developed two different powertrain configurations – both using a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and a 10-speed automatic transmission. The base setup, labeled iForce, features an output of 389 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, while the iForce Max adds a motor-generator between the engine and transmission to allow this hybrid powertrain to produce 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque. This motor uses a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-Mh) battery mounted under the rear seat, and Toyota went with this type of battery because it costs less and is easier to recycle than a lithium-ion battery. The press release mentions that the hybrid Tundra has the capability of EV driving, but no specific range or limitations were given.

It’s no surprise that the new Tundra does away with a V8. For starters, both engine configurations offer more power and torque than the previous 5.7-liter V8 (381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque). Additionally, Ford has already shown that truck buyers are willing to make the switch to a V6 when it delivers more power and torque than a V8, and similarly, in the Toyota family, Lexus itself has proven that its flagship luxury sedan (the LS 500) does just fine with a twin-turbo V6 among customers used to V8-powered machines. To see the true strength of the 2022 Tundra, all you have to do is look at the towing and hauling capabilities: the 12,000-pound maximum towing capacity and maximum payload capacity of 1,940 pounds are considerably more than the 10,200-pound tow rating and 1,730-pound payload capacity offered on the 2021 Tundra.

Perhaps even bigger news than the engine is the stronger chassis on which the new Tundra rides. This fully boxed frame replaces the current Tundra’s “Triple Tech” frame that features C-channel construction for the cab and cargo bed area. The new frame gives the 2022 Tundra added rigidity and strength, and while such a frame can usually equate to a rougher ride quality, Toyota has ditched the leaf spring rear suspension in favor of a multi-link, coil-spring setup, and it can be complemented with an available air suspension system.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Ram 1500 Big Horn Review: Putting the ‘Light’ in Light-Duty

Ram took heavy flack when it made a similar move to get replace leaf springs with coil springs on the 2009 Ram 1500, but that truck has been increasingly popular ever since. The Tundra’s new chassis and powertrain is based on the recently introduced Land Cruiser (J300), which sadly won’t be coming to North America… nor will its diesel engine. In regards to future engines, Toyota wouldn’t discuss anything particular, but representatives did mention that the Tundra’s engine bay has a certain “flexibility” that could accommodate additional powertrain options down the road.

“Technical Muscle” exterior

Once infamous for its bland vehicle designs, Toyota has changed all that in recent years with bold designs on the Corolla, Camry, Sienna, and RAV4. This trend continues on the 2022 Toyota Tundra with a new look that Toyota refers to as a “Technical Muscle” design language defined by muscular fender arches, a wide hood, and a massive grille, which is distinct to each trim level. I admit that I wasn’t a fan of the Tundra from the initial images released by Toyota, but it does look much better in person, particularly that grille.

Love it or hate it, you certainly aren’t going to overlook this truck or mistake it for one of its rivals. Like the current model, the 2022 Tundra will continue to offer Double Cab and CrewMax body configurations. Double Cab models are available with a 6.5-foot or 8.1-foot cargo bed, while the CrewMax trucks now offer two bed lengths: 5.5-foot and the new-for-2022 6.5-ft bed. This cargo bed is resistant to dents and corrosion thanks to a composite inside like the Tacoma, and the outer portion of the bed uses lightweight aluminum. Toyota also added aluminum on the hood and front doors.

There are plenty of hits and a couple of misses when it comes to the overall design of the 2022 Tundra. The chiseled lines and available power-retractable side steps bring the Tundra into the modern era of pickup trucks, but the best part of this exterior design is the lighting. The LED headlights and taillights both feature sequential turn signals, and the TRD Pro-specific lighting comprised of LED clearance lights in the grille, tailgate, and on the fender flares (mandated on vehicles wider than 80 inches) and the LED off-road light bar in the grille, which is only operable when the high-beam headlights are on.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Hands-On Preview: 5 Things We Love About the EV Pickup

Toyota designers added several Easter eggs on the Tundra including the TRD logo in the front clearance lights and outlines of Michigan (where the truck was developed) and Texas (where it will be built) discretely stamped into the headlight bezels under the hood. I don’t like the fact that you can’t get steel bumpers on the new Tundra, only integrated front and rear bumpers. While these bumpers add a cleaner look similar to what you’ll find on a modern SUV, both look very susceptible to damage while off-roading. And speaking of off-roading, there are no tow hooks to be found on the new Tundra, not even on the TRD Pro.

Premium Interior

Although I wasn’t able to drive the 2022 Toyota Tundra, I did get to spend plenty of time checking out the higher-trim offerings; there was no SR trim level on hand and the SR5 was locked. Even with a handful of pre-production components such as door panels and exterior trim pieces, the Limited, Platinum, and TRD Pro models at this event revealed impressive cabin materials and a cohesive interior design. All of the Tundras on display were CrewMax models, which Toyota says account for 90 percent of Tundra sales, and this body will continue to have a full-width, power rear window that slides down.

Like the different grilles on the exterior, each trim level has a distinct look and feel on the inside. Judging by the pricing structure of the current Tundra, the Platinum and 1794 Edition will sit at the top of the lineup with similar prices, so it’s no surprise that these trucks have the nicest cabins. The Platinum has a darker interior with perforated leather and blue accent stitching, while the 1794 Edition had more of a cowboy vibe with matte-finish wood and two-tone, stitched leather. The TRD Pro has a digital camouflage pattern on the leather seats along with the “TRD Pro” logo embroidered into the seatbacks, and it has a unique perforated-leather steering wheel with the “TRD” logo and a red stripe at 12 o’clock to let the driver know where the wheels are pointing during off-road excursions.

The biggest improvement Toyota made inside the 2022 Tundra is the technology. An eight-inch touchscreen is standard, but all vehicles on display at this event had the larger 14-inch screen that dominates the center stack. Not only is the high-definition screen easy to read, it also has lightning-fast interaction and simple voice commands such as “Hey Toyota.” For added connectivity, the Tundra can be equipped with Toyota’s Wi-Fi Connect adding a 4G hotspot for up to 10 devices. From the driver’s seat, most Tundras feature an analog gauge cluster with a 4.1-inch digital display, but stepping up to the Platinum, 1794 Edition, and TRD Pro trim levels (or any trim with the iForce Max hybrid powertrain) and the driver gets a 12.3-inch full-digital gauge cluster.

Toyota had a demonstration set up to show off the new multimedia system, and in doing so it also showed how roomy and comfortable the cabin is. Even though there was no driving involved, there was enough passenger room for five adults to fit comfortably; it isn’t clear if Toyota will offer a front bench seat for a six-passenger seating configuration. The biggest downside of the iForce Max powertrain is that the hybrid battery takes up all the useable space under the rear seat. That’s going to be a huge disappointment for truck buyers especially for those who use their trucks for towing and off-roading and need extra space for gear such as tow hitches and as pull straps.

Advanced safety and convenience

All 2022 Toyota Tundra trim levels come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 suite of advanced safety features. This safety bundle includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, and automatic high beams. In addition to these features, the Tundra also comes with a rear-seat reminder, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. For added convenience, the 2022 Tundra can be equipped with the new Straight Path Assist feature, which lets drivers back up a trailer hands-free.

The Competition

The 2022 Toyota Tundra competes against the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Nissan Titan, but Toyota doesn’t plan on going toe-to-toe with its higher-volume, fleet-selling rivals.

In Conclusion: 2022 Toyota Tundra

While the 2022 Toyota Tundra looked good in a static setting under the bright lights, AutoGuide will have to wait a few more weeks to get seat time with this all-new truck. All of the trucks on display at this event were prototypes and none of them were 100 percent production-ready, but that being said, Toyota seems to have hit all of the high notes when it comes to a modern-era pickup truck.

Discuss this story at our Toyota Tundra Forum.

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Jeffrey N. Ross
Jeffrey N. Ross

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