Driving Impressions – June 2014

2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4×4 SR5: Putting up a good fight in the tough full-size truck segment!

By Greg Cavanaugh

Tundra 2015 Gallup Journey

The first test drive I ever did from Amigo Toyota was a 2011 Tundra double cab with the 5.7-liter V8 and the “Rock Warrior” package.  A fair amount of time has passed since that initial test drive and the Tundra has received some updates.  Because many of the updates to the Tundra were cosmetic and the same bones are still underneath, I’m going to use my earlier article on the 2011 Tundra and highlight the differences with this 2014 model test drive.

For decades the full-size truck segment was made up of three truck manufacturers: GM, Ford and Dodge.  If you worked in any type of business that required a pickup, one of these three is what you drove.  In more recent years, Toyota and Nissan worked to get into the market.  Toyota’s first foray into the full-size truck segment was the T-100.  The problem was, it wasn’t a full-size truck, it was somewhere between a compact and a full-size. The T-100 moniker was eventually dropped and morphed into today’s Tundra nameplate. Over the years, Toyota has been steadily increasing the Tundra’s size and stature and, in 2007, created the basic Tundra you see here.  The current Tundra is big, burley, powerful and capable.  No doubt that this 2014 Tundra, even with its more refined looks, is every bit a star player in this segment.

Functionally the biggest differences between the first Tundra I tested and this one are the cab layout, engine choice and this model’s standard non-Rock Warrior suspension package.  Cosmetically, the new Tundra benefits from updated styling inside and out.  Most obviously the Tundra now sports a new front end with a larger, more “macho” grill and more refined headlights

In the truck game it’s all about the numbers: power output, payload and towing capacity. For the maximum numbers, opt for the Tundra’s i-Force 5.7-liter V8, as it produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft. of torque and allows the Tundra to hall over 1,500 lbs in the bed and tow just under 10,000 lbs!  This 2014 model tester skipped the upgrade to the 5.7 and was equipped with Toyota’s slightly smaller i-Force 4.6-liter V8 making 310 hp/327 lb-ft of torque and attached to the same 6-speed auto as the larger 5.7.  The reality is the 4.6-liter is all about price.  A fine engine by all accounts, it is smooth and pulls the Tundra around just fine. In fact, I’d bet that if a customer never drove the 5.7-liter V8 they may never think they needed more.  Realistically though, the 4.6 doesn’t gain you much in the way of fuel economy as its marginally better numbers are only 1 mpg higher than the 5.7 V8.   In fact, the Tundra’s fuel economy is a bit behind its domestic competitors with either V8.  At 14 city/18 highway/16 mpg combined, the less powerful 4.6-liter returns EPA fuel economy comparable with Ford’s largest 6.2-liter V8 and actually slightly less than GM’s 6.2 EPA rated at 14 city/20 hwy/17 mpg combined.   Obviously you don’t buy a truck primarily to get good fuel economy, but it is worth noting.

The 2011 Tundra I first tested used Toyota’s double cab, offering four fully opening doors into a pseudo extended cab design.  While a great compromise between cabin space and bed length, the Crew Max tested here is just gigantic in comparison.  In the crew cab wars, the Tundra is on the front lines.  The space in the second row is down right excessive.  With my driving position, I easily had over a foot and a half of knee room behind my driver’s seat. The advantage of the Crew Max over the double cab is its ability to also swallow cargo that is completely enclosed and locked, keeping power tools, PA equipment, bikes or camping gear secure in the cab with the bed completely open for everything else.

The center console is huge and can hold a ton of junk.  It also offers some handy organizing elements under the armrest where more things would simply get lost.  There are little compartments all over the Tundra to hold things and, of course, seven cup holders for front seat occupants alone. The controls for the radio and climate control are Toyota’s typical function over form approach.  They are large, simple, easy to read and in no way flashy.  Upgraded over previous Tundras, the interior is now classier and no longer so utilitarian with sharp metal finishes and an excellent center screen.  Perhaps in Toyota’s efforts to solidify their position in the segment as “full,” my short arms, however, were pretty much unable to reach the right side of the radio.  Compared to the overkill of GMC’s newly revised Sierra, the Tundra offers only the basic connections needed for media management, and the system works well.

The shortcomings of the Tundra reflect that of almost all full-size pickups today.  The rearview mirror is almost useless.  The rear window is narrow, and even if it were bigger, the height of the tailgate blocks a substantial amount of rearward visibility.  Fortunately for backing up, the Tundra comes equipped with a rearview camera to help minimize the number of children’s toys and rear quarter panels that may fall victim to its mass.   My “biggest” impression of the Tundra (pardon the pun) is its size.  More so than its competition from the big three, the Tundra feels BIG in everyday use. Around town, the Tundra has an excellent turning radius, but nonetheless you feel that you need to plan ahead with your maneuvers . . . particularly in parking lots.  The height of the Tundra makes getting into and out of it a chore.  Toyota’s optional step boards or tube steps fitted to this test driver are a smart upgrade. Similarly, the deep bed makes for lots of cargo capacity, but also makes loading it a lot of work, particularly for someone of my stature, as I need to step on the tire to be able to reach the bed floor. (I’m not THAT short, but 5’ 8” is no giant either.)  The last is price.  Trucks today are not cheap and even this modest SR5 Tundra stickers for just under $40K at $39,306 as tested.  With a base price of $34,875, skipping some options can save you enough cash for a good mountain bike, but some options are almost necessities.

So if all of these trucks have become so capable, then what sets them apart? While truck drivers are fiercely loyal to their brands, there are substantive reasons to buy one truck over the other.  The Toyota Tundra’s strength is that it is not a compromised truck compared to its domestic rivals, and is really good in so many areas.  Ultimately, Toyota’s strong, decades-long reputation for quality and dependability, along with excellent resale value make the Tundra’s most compelling argument compared to its competition. The only thing left to do is test drive one.

*A special thanks to Jim at Amigo for this test-drive.
**To see more of the new 2014 Tundra and some of its features in and around Gallup, visit my YouTube channel: “Gallup Journey Test Drives”

SPECIFICATIONS

BASE PRICE: $34,875
PRICE AS TESTED: $39,306
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 281 cu in, 4608cc
Power: 310 bhp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 327 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
Wheelbase: 145.7 in
Length: 228.9 in
Width: 79.9 in  Height: 76.2 in
Curb weight: 5808 lb
FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 14/18/16 combined mpg

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