Toyota’s 2014 Tundra full-size pickup takes a minimalist approach. In the fiercely competitive pickup territory, populated by brand loyalists, even the leaders do everything to squeeze out a few extra sales.
Examples: Ford’s sales-leading F-150 has a pop-up handle on the tailgate to assist access to the cargo bed. Chevrolet’s Silverado has steps built into the bumper, and Ram offers optional lockable storage bins in the cargo box sides.
The Tundra is having none of that. Asked about similar competitive tweaks, Toyota decided they were not needed. An example: Automatic all-wheel drive, featured on some competitors’ pickups, is not available. The Tundra has part-time four-wheel drive.
So the idea is to sell the 2014 re-engineered Tundra based on its essential goodness.
There’s plenty. The Texas-built Tundra, fifth in sales behind the U.S. brands, has been revamped to include new “chiseled” exterior styling and interior changes that include better-quality materials along with new comfort and convenience features.
Though it eschews some practical tweaks, it does not stint on luxury.
There are new top-of-the-line Platinum and western-themed 1794 editions that include perforated leather upholstery, sonar front- and rear-parking assist, a motorized glass sunroof, premium audio with Toyota’s Entune connectivity, navigation and a suite of applications. Optional blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert also can be ordered.
The base model is the SR, followed by the SR-5 and Limited models, each with additional equipment.
Tundra pickups come in regular cab, double cab and CrewMax four-door models with two- and four-wheel drive and short (5.5 feet), standard (6.5 feet) and long (8.1 feet) beds.
There is no heavy-duty model like those available on the U.S. brands. However, Toyota makes up for that somewhat by also offering the Tacoma midsize pickup. The only other current midsize is the Chevrolet Colorado and its twin, the GMC Canyon.
Basic equipment on all Tundras includes a rear backup camera, tire-pressure monitoring, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control and full safety equipment, including traction control.
Tested was a Limited CrewMax four door with two-wheel drive, navigation and dual-zone climate control. It had the top-line 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 engine, which delivers 13/18/15 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycle with the standard six-speed automatic transmission. It features manual shift control.
The engine, along with a 310-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 and the base 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, is carried over from the previous generation. Toyota claims its V-8 engines deliver real-world fuel economy comparable to that of the turbocharged Ford V-6 models.
On the road, the Tundra is a modern pickup similar to the Ram, Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. The ambience is that of a luxury car. It is quiet and comfortable, especially for long-distance highway driving, and the handling, given its monumental dimensions (more than 19 feet long for the tester), is reasonably competent.
However, you have to swing wide around corners or the rear wheels bang over curbs. Moreover, with its rear leaf springs, the Tundra bounces around on pockmarked roads when empty.
Base price on the tested Limited model is $39,840. Options including a sunroof, parking sonar and rear cross-traffic alert brought the price to $41,105.
Toyota also showed off its 2014 4Runner sport utility vehicle, whose chief claim to fame is that it’s still a truck.
The trend in recent years has been toward converting truck-based SUVs into car-based crossover utility vehicles (CUVs).
SUVs usually have body-on-frame construction with rear- or four-wheel drive, and are suited to towing and off-road duty.
CUVs, on the other hand, have unit bodies, front- or all-wheel drive, and deliver better fuel economy to compensate for their shortcomings off-road and towing.
Toyota, saying its 4Runner is the last midsize true SUV on the market, decided to keep it truck-based for customers who need the extra capability.
The 2014 model has a new system that detects and corrects trailer sway, a phenomenon that can be triggered by crosswinds, bumpy roads or erratic steering.
Exterior and interior styling has been refreshed. The 4Runner comes in three grades: SR5, Trail and Limited. The Trail model features front and rear skid plates for off-road duty.
Power comes from a 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.