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Somewhere on the path to becoming the best-selling automaker in the United States last year, Toyota has finally decided to redesign the oldest full-size pickup on sale here.
The 2022 Toyota Tundra is the first all-new version of the model since 2007. Toyota didn’t have much reason to change it. He’s been selling as many as he can build in Texas for years and has one of the most loyal customer bases in the truck world. The Tundra is renowned for its reliability, inexpensive operation and better value than any pickup in the segment, so there was a lot at stake with the new one.
Toyota was well aware of all this and took six years to develop it, twice as long as some programs. Tundra’s executive chief engineer, Mike Sewers, told me he’s convinced the extra effort means customers shouldn’t worry about buying a first-year model because the bugs have already been resolved.
This might be of particular concern to some, as the Tundra takes a few big steps up from the outgoing truck. Chief among these are the switch from a leaf spring rear suspension to a coil spring rear suspension for improved refinement and the introduction of the first turbocharged V6 engine and hybrid powertrain offered on a Toyota truck. If you were expecting a full-size Prius pickup, this is as close as it gets.
The I-Force V6 replaces the V8 which was the only engine available last year and improves its power and efficiency. Toyota calls it a 3.5-liter, but its displacement is technically 3,445cc, so forgive it for being optimistic in the rounding-off department. It’s rated at 348 hp and 405 lb-ft in entry-level SR trucks, but produces 389 hp and 479 lb-ft in higher trims, topping the V8’s 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of output.
The hybrid you can get on several models is called the I-Force Max, and for good reason. It adds an electric motor between the V6 and 10-speed automatic transmission that kicks things up to 437 hp and 573 lb-ft of torque, making the Tundra one of the most powerful light-duty pickups on sale today. today. Even with the added grunt, the three new powertrains improve the V8’s combined 14-15mpg rating with results of 19-22mpg, but the I-Force Max trucks fall short of the Ford F’s 24mpg mark. -150 PowerBoost hybrid equally powerful.
Prices for the Tundra range from $37,645 for a two-wheel-drive double-cab SR to $75,225 for a Capstone crew-cab 4×4 with the I-Force Max. I tested a TRD Pro crew cab fully equipped with off-road gear, the I-Force Max, and all of the Tundra’s electronic rider aids for $68,500.
The new Tundras are tough trucks that replace the curvaceous styling of the old version with a chunky body that more closely resembles the Tacoma’s and accented by an oversized grille, and the TRD Pro incorporates faux food vents, fender flares textured wheel arches and an aluminum front skid plate to enhance its raw, dry image.
It backs it up with a set of 33-inch all-terrain tires mounted on BBS wheels, high-performance Fox shocks and strong red sway bars. A 4×4 system with a two-speed transfer case, but not a permanent all-wheel-drive setting, is standard, as is an electronic-locking rear differential. A variety of traction control settings optimized for various slippery surfaces can be found in the Drive Mode Selector. Toyota’s off-road Crawl Control low-speed cruise control system is included, and it no longer makes the rat-a-tat noise of previous editions. A factory-installed off-road LED lightbar integrated into the grille is a very bright idea.
The Tundra’s new interior isn’t quite best-in-class in terms of size or luxury, but it’s plenty roomy and functional, with plenty of rocker switches and physical buttons to go with the digital dash. and the 14-inch jumbotron infotainment system screen. Crew cab models retain the Tundra’s signature power rear window, which is still the only one available on a full-size pickup. Red upholstery can be matched with a white, gray or black exterior, but choosing a black interior also unlocks a Solar Octane orange paint option.
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As with all hybrids, the I-Force Max switches off when the vehicle is stationary. The vehicle can technically run on electricity at low speeds for short distances under certain conditions, but it never did during the time I had it. The engine starts and stops without any vibration, and the instant electric response lets you move with authority when the engine and turbos fire up.
The power is just there and ready to go when you need it, but the transmission waits a hair longer to downshift than I’d prefer, even in sport mode. It’s a smooth, quiet engine, but the TRD Pro has a louder exhaust system than other Tundras and a little too much fake engine noise pumped through the speakers. A switch for the latter would be appreciated.
The Tundra’s package of driver aids includes automatic emergency brakes, lane-centric adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot monitor that works with trailers of varying lengths. A back-up assist feature is available on other trims that can self-steer the vehicle in a straight line while backing up with a trailer attached. The TRD Pro can tow up to 11,170 pounds, which is a lot for an off-road-focused truck, while a two-wheel-drive SR5 Double Cab with a short bed and the I-Force V6 is rated at 12,000 pounds and is the best of the bunch.
Off-road is where the TRD Pro wants to be, though, and it shines while getting dirty. It was rock solid as I rode over rough gravel roads at over 50 mph like they were freshly paved highways and I didn’t flinch when I threw a little jump over a bump or rocky outcrop for laughs. It doesn’t offer the same level of extreme capability as a Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX, can be a lot of fun, and has a 360-degree camera view on its large screen to help you avoid to scratch it as much as it does.
The Tundra may lack some of the competitor’s key features, like air suspensions and built-in generators, but what it does deliver the goods and should appeal to Toyota loyalists.
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As to whether it lives up to the Tundra’s long-term reputation for reliability, you’ll have to check with me in 2037.
2022 Toyota Tundra
Base price: $37,645
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger, 4×4 pickup truck
3.5L Turbocharged V6 Engine with Hybrid Assist
Power: 437 hp, 573 lb-ft
Gearbox: 10-speed automatic
MPG: 19 city/21 highway