First Drive: 2014 Toyota Tundra
By Mark McNabb on Saturday, September 14th, 2013
The US truck market is a cut-throat environment where sales are won and lost by narrow margins. Outdated iron is often passed up for the latest model with the newest equipment and features, leaving truck makers to revamp their lineup fairly often just to stay relevant. And the Toyota Tundra is no exception.
With the current Tundra showing its age, Toyota set out to give customers something new for 2014.
Although it’s advertised as all new, the 2014 Tundra has a few carry over parts, namely the powertrain. The interior and bodywork, however, have been heavily modified.
Gallery2014 Toyota Tundra First Drive
Crisper, more chiseled lines give the truck a tougher look with a massive grille, high-arch, squared-off wheel openings, and a unique tailgate complete with TUNDRA stamped into the sheet metal. New details give the truck a much more distinctive look over last year’s model. LED daytime running lights on the premium trim levels, the standard spoiler on the tailgate lip, and completely revised bed take the truck a large step in the right direction.
Clever three-piece bumpers front and rear not only look cleaner, sharper, and more dramatic, they also reduce repair costs when your brother-in-law jackknifes a U-Haul trailer into the rear bumper corner. Lucky for his wallet.
Perhaps the best parts of the 2014 redesign are found within the truck’s cabin. New materials are Lexus-grade, the controls and knobs are smarter looking, and the overall fit and finish is spot on. The new-for-2014 1794 Edition trim package competes with Ford’s King Ranch, Ram’s Laramie Long Horn, and Chevy’s upcoming High Country editions. Yes, it’s yet another Western-style motif, but it’s pulled off with more class and less gaudiness than the others we’ve seen. Adding to its street cred, the 1794 Edition is named after the founding year of the Walsh Ranch, on which the Tundra is now built outside San Antonio, Texas.
Sitting next to the 1794 Edition in luxury, the Platinum model caters more towards the urban cowboy. Clean titanium and black interior trim pieces are tasteful and rich looking, without being ostentatious. Below the two top trim levels, the Limited, SR5, and SR models round out the Tundra stable.
The new instrument cluster and center stack are also a warm welcome. The driver-oriented center stack features Toyota’s updated Entune infotainment system with either a 6.1- or 7.0-inch touch screen, depending upon trim level. The new system is quite easy to use with a split screen view showing both navigation and music information simultaneously. Touching either section brings it full screen for easier manipulation.
The center console itself is rich in features. The armrest features a great cell-phone holder with plenty of storage down below. Just forward of the gear selector is another storage spot with quick access to the two 12-volt power outlets and single USB/AUX input jack. That single USB/AUX input jack was our biggest complaint with the Tundra’s new cabin. Why have only one, especially when the competition has more USB ports than a DELL desktop from 2004?
Tundra’s optional JBL premium sound system, however, is worth its weight in classic vinyl albums. Plugging in my personal test mix, I was first greeted by the theme song from Apollo 13. James Horner never sounded so good. The clarity and depth of the music was simply outstanding. With the system turned off, any outside noises, rattles, tire hum, and wind noise weren’t intrusive. Only the bellowing 5.7-liter V-8 was perceivable.
That 5.7-liter V-8 returns for 2014 relatively unchanged – as do the 4.6-liter V-8 and 4.0-liter V-6.
Power ratings for all three engines are sadly back of the pack in 2014. The 5.7-liter comes in at 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque; the 4.6-liter V-8 is rated at 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque; and the aging 4.0-liter V-6 only musters up 270 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque.
Keep in mind the competition is only getting stronger with a completely new engine lineup from GM, Ford’s outstanding EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8, and Ram’s impressive Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and HEMI offerings – not to even mention Ram’s upcoming V-6 EcoDiesel.
But with the competition aside, the 5.7-liter equipped Tundras we drove felt very capable of pulling trailers up to its 10,400-pound limit. In fact, the Tundra is the only pickup whose max towing capacities conform to the strict SAE J2807 towing standards. The Tundra doesn’t bluff its numbers.
We got the chance to tow a bass boat and Airstream trailer, both weighing roughly 4,000 pounds. The 5.7-liter didn’t feel overly taxed or underpowered at any point. Pulling onto a road from a standstill didn’t present much problem with acceleration feeling only slightly more sluggish than when unladen. The extra weight didn’t bother the suspension either. The truck stayed level and bumps were soaked up without issue.
We then tortured the suspension of a TRD 4×4 model through a high-speed off road course. Loose sand and medium sized rocks were handled without a care. The Tundra’s stability control systems were somewhat noticeable in high-speed turns as the truck fought for grip, but they never cut power or impeded our fun.
The large Michelin tires did an admirable job propelling the truck up steep hills and through deep sand even in 2WD. Turns became much smoother when 4-wheel high was engaged and the front tires helped pull the Tundra’s nose around corners. The truck never seemed outmatched by the terrain we sent it over. Most impressively, we didn’t notice any squeaks or rattles inside the cabin of our abused pre-production test truck.
Buy-in price of a base model Tundra starts at $25,920 – some $1,850 higher than its closest competitor, but pricing gets more competitive within the more premium trim levels. Both top-line Platinum and 1794 Edition start at $44,270, while the Limited trim starts at $36,940 and mid-grade SR5 starts at $29,465.
Overall, we came away very impressed with the 2014 Tundra. Toyota certainly did their ergonomics and design homework to bring a fresh take on their full-size truck. Time will tell if the changes are enough to take on Ford, Chevy, and Ram. The Tundra has never been Toyota’s bread and butter sales maker, but it has the potential to strike a chord with truck buyers and steal away sales from the other guys.
Gallery2014 Toyota Tundra Pictures