2014 Toyota Tundra first drive review: Much ado about a redo

 

2014 Toyota Tundra

Toyota’s 2014 Tundra features all-new sheetmetal on a tried-and-true platform.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – If you found yourself in Louisville, Kentucky roughly seven years ago, distractions – during a one-day layover – were  abundant. You could take in the river while sipping some area bourbon, tour the Muhammad Ali museum while thinking of bourbon, or absorb all that was new at Toyota’s new Tundra launch while hung-way-over from bourbon. We did – we think – all three, and despite blacking out during most of the ’07 model year presentation the takeaway was still more substantive in Louisville than that offered by Toyota’s overview of the 2014 Tundra in Jackson Hole, introduced to an all-too-sober (OK, the pinot was good…) media seven years later.  The ’07 was all-new, while this admittedly attractive ’14 was all refresh. Much ado, if you will, about a redo…

Of course, if you have a winning hand there’s relatively little need to draw new cards. And while Toyota’s full-size pickup may not generate winning volumes in the full-size segment, it’s done just fine thank-you-very-much in satisfying Toyota loyalists while winning over a handful of Ford, GM and Dodge/Ram intenders. We’ve always liked the original Tundra footprint, which was roughly the size of today’s Tacoma, but one can’t argue with Toyota’s decision to go – and grow – full-size. The result, released to the public as a 2007, was an absolute benchmark for the industry in refinement, if not in overall capability. And while the Tundra’s new sheetmetal back-in-the-day might have been more visceral, neither did it offend. Without the benefit of any institutional history in the full-size segment – and no Freightliner in the design studio – Toyota’s design team did an adequate job of conveying the Toyota brand onto a full-size pick-em-up platform.

2014 Toyota Tundra

Tundra offers three cabs and three bed lengths.

Seven model years later the platform and powertrains remain relatively unchanged, while the design team and engineering staff have aggressively (in many cases) or passively massaged the rest. Most obvious (but not THAT obvious) is what Toyota describes as a ‘chiseled’ new look, along with more visual differentiation between grades. The new one has lost that slightly over-inflated look of the previous Tundra, and in a conservatively drawn segment we weren’t expecting a revolution (that last took place – if fading memory serves – with the launch of an all-new Dodge Ram in the ’94 model year). The new sheetmetal seems to give the truck a more substantive look, but no one will confuse it with Ford’s Super Duty.

Notably, Toyota continues to offer the Tundra in three cab styles: a two-door Regular cab, four-door Double Cab and what Toyota dubs the ‘super-sized’ four-door CrewMax. Both regular and Double Cab are offered with a choice of 78-inch or 97-inch beds, while the CrewMax comes only with a 66-inch bed (they must not have known I’m still 5’7”…). All beds are 22.2 inches deep. Happily, the Tundra’s tailgate is lockable, and provides an easy-lower-and-lift feature for when you’ve had one too few cups of coffee, or one too many cans of beer.

Much was made in the introductory remarks of Toyota’s decision to maintain the status quo in terms of drivetrain availability. Of course, its competition has made much of their collective decision to revise and/or upgrade their powertrains, with an EcoBoost V6 (Ford), all-new V6 and upcoming diesel (RAM), and aggressively revised powertrain menu (GM). When you’re Toyota, and your engine family is both very capable and reasonably efficient you can afford stability, if not actually complacency.

2014 Toyota Tundra 1794

The ‘1794 Edition’. Bob Perry will love it…

With that, we’ll note that Toyota’s 4.0 liter DOHC V6, standard in regular and the Double Cab, falls roughly 10% short (270 hp/278 lb-ft) of its domestic brethren in horsepower and torque. Toyota’s 4.6 liter V8 ups the ante, with 330 horsepower and 411 lb-ft of torque, while the 5.7 V8 significantly moves the needle, delivering 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Despite repeated (or, depending on your view, incessant) questioning by at least one journo, it doesn’t look as if diesel is on the Toyota radar in anyone’s immediate future.

Of course, if you’re not redoing platforms or powertrains you can spend a little money on the inside, and Toyota has. There is more differentiation between grades, while everything enjoys an integrated and (relatively) upscale look. The Tundra range is topped by the 1794 Edition, which is an upscale shout-out to the San Antonio-area ranch on which Toyota’s truck plant is built. (And if, of course, you build Tundras and Tacomas in Texas you can be relatively loose in your nomenclature…) The 1794 is decidedly western in its execution; this is in stark contrast to the ‘1789’ concept, which was markedly more revolutionary. In sum, Toyota’s done a credible job of improving an interior environment that wasn’t screaming for a wholesale improvement.

On the road, the short drive routes available to us were restricted to 50 miles per hour, and on the recommended park drive the limit was 25 or 35. Thankfully, we were able to go faster during the day, but that was while riding a shuttle bus. The bus, we’re happy to report, was both composed and compliant…as were we. Again, the pinot was very good.