SAN ANTONIO, TX: If it ain’t broke – refine it, could sum up the 2014 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup now on sale across Canada.
The Tundra first debuted as a 2000 model and it has been a learning curve for Toyota all the way, when one considers Ford/GM/Chrysler have been at it for almost a century.
And while Toyota has been building trucks in Japan for 80 years, a North American half-ton is very different, not to mention lucrative, creature compared to anything else in the world.
When the Tundra first came out, it was noticeably smaller than its main rivals and the only engine available was a 3.4-litre V6 borrowed from the Toyota SUV parts bin.
By the time the second generation came out in 2007, Toyota had a 4.6-litre and 5.7-litre V8 in addition to a 4.0-litre V6. While the V8s are retained for 2014, Canada won’t be getting any V6 models.
In terms of platform and engines, the Tundra still rides on a full frame with boxed front end with a choice of rear- or four-wheel-drive.
Both V8s have been enhanced for more power and less fuel consumption.
The base engine is the 4.6-litre, DOHC i-Force V8 with 310 hp and 327 lb/ft of torque. Fuel ratings are: 14.2/10.5/12.5L/100km (city/hwy/combined) for the 4×2 models and 15.2/10.9/13.3L/100km (city/hwy/combined) for the 4×4 models.
The 5.7-litre, DOHC i-Force V8 is the most popular with 381 hp and 401 lb/ft. Fuel numbers here are 15.8/11.0/13.6L/100km (city/hwy/combined) for the 4X2 and 16.3/11.9/14.3L/100km (city/hwy/combined) for the 4X4.
If you opt for the 4X4, the system used is a part-time version that allows you to switch on the fly from 2WD to 4Hi. But to switch to 4Lo, you must first stop, place the Tundra in neutral and then push and turn the drive mode selector. The reverse must be done when switching back to 4Hi or 2WD.
It may not be the most modern system but it gets the job done with a tow rating of 4,760 kg (10,500 lb) with the 4×2 Regular Cab Long Bed. It is 4,625 kg (10,196 lb) on the 4X4 version.
But where the 2014 Tundra really differs over the outgoing model is in style and comfort.
Toyota listened to buyers who said Tundra needed to look more aggressive and the interiors just plain had to go.
So for 2014, the Tundra was sent to Toyota’s Calty design centre in California for a complete makeover.
Right off the bat, you can’t miss the glittering grille which is now 40 per cent larger and grafted into a hood that has been raised and given a wide secondary air intake.
Body panels and fenders have a chiselled look. There’s a rear spoiler integrated into the tailgate and strakes are used liberally for looks and as vortex generators to reduce drag.
A clever touch is a three-piece rear bumper with the outside two parts being detachable. If one is damaged at a work site, it can simply be replaced instead of the entire bumper.
The model lineup has been rationalized with five models, the SR, SR5, Limited and two premium trim levels, the Platinum and 1794, the latter named after the founding year of the ranch near San Antonio, Texas, which was bought by Toyota 10 years ago and turned into the Tundra production plant.
With a backup camera as standard on all models, there are three cabs (Regular, Double Cab and CrewMax). Tundra Regular Cab is offered in Long Bed 2,480 mm (97.7 in), and Double Cab models are offered in standard bed 2,000 mm (78.7 in) or long bed 2,480 mm (97.6 in) configurations, while the CrewMax comes with a 1,695 mm (66.7 in) bed. All beds are 564 mm (22.2 in) deep.
With saddle-like tan coloured leather and rich matching wood trim, the 1794 (CrewMax only) now gives Toyota entry into the luxury pickup market against competitors such as the new Chev Silverado High Country and the Ford F-150 Limited.
Prices range from $26,750 for the base SR up to $54,000 for the 1794.
Toyota hosted the press launch at its giant plant outside San Antonio, which just produced its millionth Tundra a few days before we arrived.
All my driving time was in the 5.7-litre 1794 which proved to be quite quick. My co-driver unofficially did 0-100 km/h in 8.1 seconds and an 80-120 km/h passing time of 6.3 seconds.
Later towing a boat on a trailer (1,820 kg) the Tundra made short work of that. Toyota is very proud of the fact Tundra can haul up a 12 per cent grade with a fully loaded trailer.
On the off-road section of the vast Toyota plant, shifting into 4Lo was simple enough before heading up what looked like a 30 per cent grade. As noted, the part-time system works just fine but you have to remember turning requires a lot of room.
Back on the highway heading to the hotel after a day at the plant, I rode in the 1794 as we let the navigation/infotainment system plot the course and take us home.
Sightlines on a truck this big are good but the optional blind side monitoring included in the 1794 package is something I’ve grown accustomed to having and more and more drivers feel the same.
All Tundra models feature the standard Toyota Star Safety System that includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop (SST) brake override technology.
Here in Canada, Toyota feels there are several reasons why the 2014 Tundra is more than a viable alternative to the Big Three.
First and foremost is Toyota build quality and reliability, which are virtues that are understood by buyers.
But more to the point is the target market in Canada — people who now realize the value in owning a truck but are not those who want to buy Ford/GM/Chrysler.
They are also younger, more affluent and trust the brand, something Toyota Canada feels is a major plus.
Nevertheless, Toyota Canada knows it is still in an uphill fight, but the company believes, with the 2014 Tundra, they have the right truck to drive a change in perceptions.
Toyota Tundra pickups 2014
Body Style: Full-size, light duty pickup
Drive Method: front-engine, rear-/four-wheel drive
Engine: 4.6-litre, DOHC V8 (310 hp and 327 lb/ft); 5.7-litre, DOHC V8 (381 hp and 401 lb/ft)
Tow Rating: 5.7-litre Regular Cab long box 2WD, 4,760 kg (10,500 lb), 4WD, 4,625 kg (10,196 lb)
Payload: 2WD Regular Cab, 855 kg (1,895 lb), Double Cab, 635 kg (1,410 lb); 4WD Regular Cab, 830 kg (1,835 lb), Double Cab, 635 kg (1,410 lb)
Fuel Economy: (Regular), 4.6-litre, 2WD, 14.2/10.5/12.5L/100km (city/hwy/combined), 4WD 15.2/10.9/13.3L/100km (city/hwy/combined); 5.7-litre, 2WD, 15.8/11.0/13.6L/100km (city/hwy/combined), 4WD, 16.3/11.9/14.3L/100km (city/hwy/combined)
Price: Base SR 2WD Regular/Double Cab $26,750/$30,750; SR5, $39,990; Limited, $46,950; Platinum, $53,700; “1794”, $54,000
Web site: www.toyota.ca