Status Quo Is Kept With the Updated Tundra

The Toyota Tundra for model-year 2014 is the best truck for you if you want a revamped pickup that still seems to be searching for its identity.

With revised styling and more features, this is the most extensive update since its model-year 2007 redesign. But suspension, frame and powertrains carry over. That’s in contrast to far more thoroughly updated competitors from General Motors, Ram and Ford.

Tundra was once seen as a rival for those domestic juggernauts. But it never could crack the commercial-user market. And the model-year 2014 changes seem aimed more at holding onto current owners than attracting new ones.

The changes aren’t dramatic, but sharper body creases give the vehicle a more chiseled look. And not to be outgunned in the grille wars, Toyota enlarges the big chrome snout. On the functional side, bumpers are now three pieces, not one, to reduce repair costs.

LED taillamps are new, and a rearview camera is standard. The carmaker is very proud of stamping Tundra here. But unlike some rivals, the remote keyfob does not lock and unlock the tailgate.

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This vehicle is as big as any full-size pickup and offers the requisite regular-, extended- and crew-cab bodies, plus three bed lengths. There’s no regular-cab short-bed, though, and no crew cab long-bed. So the domestics beat it for variety. And every version is a half-ton. Heavy-duty users have to shop Ford, Ram or GM.

Toyota seems okay with that. The four model grades favor the personal-use buyer, and the model-year 2014 lineup adds a dandy, Western-themed crew-cab called the 1794 Edition, named for the founding year of the Texas ranch on which the Tundra factory now sits.

Urban sophisticates are directed to the Platinum model, while the merely upscale can aspire to the Limited grade. All these come with 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation, automatic climate control and other luxury features. For the masses, there’s the SR5 model. And for the working man or woman, the SR, the only trim that isn’t available in a crew cab.

The dashboard won’t win an industrial-design prize, but it gets the job done. And for model-year 2014, the automaker wisely moves the audio, navigation and climate controls two and a half-inches closer to the driver.

It’s a tall step up into the roomy cabin where you’ll find big, comfortable front seats—bench only in regular cabs, bench or buckets in the others. Most buyers choose the CrewMax crew-cab, and they get a spacious rear bench. Unfortunately, its backrest no longer reclines, but the cushion now folds up for more cargo space. And the crew-cab remains the only full-size pickup with a power-down rear window; it’s standard.

The most popular engine is the 5.7-liter V-8 that’s available in every model and is standard for Limited, Platinum and 1794 versions. It has an ample 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque and can tow a credible 10,400 pounds.

There’s also a serviceable 4.6-liter V-8 with 310 horsepower. Toyota mercifully confines the 270-horse V-6 to two-wheel-drive regular cabs.The V-8s rate 15-16 mpg city/highway combined, which on paper is less than direct Ford, GM and Ram competitors. But in the real world you’re lucky to average that with any big pickup.

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On the road, this vehicle is proficient, but the newer F-150, Silverado, Sierra and Ram 1500 top it in various measures of performance, handling, ride and quietness. Tundra is at home on the trails, with the TRD Off-Road package being a popular option. But unlike the domestics, it doesn’t offer the convenience of four-wheel drive that can be left engaged on dry pavement.

Toyota holds the line on some model-year 2014 prices and actually reduces the CrewMax Limited by as much as $2,000. At the top and middle of the line, where 5.7-liter-V-8 DoubleCabs start at $30,450 and crew-cabs at $34,320, pricing is competitive. Platinum and 1794 Editions begin just over $45,000, a little less than the Ford, Ram and GM crown jewels. Significantly, Tundra’s work-grade SR starts at $27,000, about $2,000 more than domestic counterparts.

This offering may not have as many buyers as its domestic rivals, but they are loyal, and Toyota rewards them with class-leading reliability.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]