2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Introduction
The restyled 2014 Toyota Tundra is about to start rolling off a Texas assembly line, so that means Toyota dealers will be eager to move the 2013 Tundra models off the lot. Translated: truck buyers can get a great deal on the American-designed, American-engineered, and American-built Tundra. While supplies last, of course.
Here’s the best thing about buying the 2013 Tundra. Not only are great deals to be had, but the new 2014 Tundra is little more than a new skin on an old platform and powertrains. Mechanically, the truck pictured here is just like the new 2014 Tundra, except for the new truck’s revised steering and suspension tuning.
While getting a bargain on a new pickup is appealing, no amount of savings is worth settling for an inferior truck. To determine whether a Toyota Tundra is worthy of consideration, I spent a week with one to find out.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Toyota doesn’t offer quite as much variety as Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Ram when it comes to a full-size pickup truck. At the Toyota store, buyers select between three cab styles: regular, extended (Double Cab), and crew (CrewMax). Short, standard, and long cargo beds are available, depending on cab style, and a Tundra can be fitted with a choice between three different engines paired with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. All Tundras are equipped with an automatic transmission. In addition to a standard level of specification, Toyota offers a luxurious Limited trim level for the Tundra Double Cab and Tundra CrewMax, while the latter can be upgraded to loaded Platinum status.
My test truck is the CrewMax 4WD Limited ($44,790 including a $995 destination charge), painted Radiant Red, a color which is only available with the optional TRD Rock Warrior Package ($3,493 – 17-inch forged aluminum wheels with gunmetal finish, LT285/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, Bilstein shocks, fuel tank skid plates, unique graphics). Additional options for my test truck included a JBL premium sound and navigation system ($1,340 – 7-inch color touchscreen display with reversing camera, voice activation technology, USB port with iPod connection, Bluetooth connectivity with wireless music streaming, satellite radio, 12 JBL loudspeakers), a bedliner ($365), and carpeted floor mats ($195). The grand total for my Tundra was $49,988.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Design
- TRD Rock Warrior Package added for Limited models
- Chrome Appearance Package available with three wheel choices
- Tundra Platinum equipped with standard 20-inch wheels
Among full-size pickups, the 2013 Tundra is rather conservative. Take away its boldly arched grille and jutting front bumper, and the Toyota’s appearance is generic, which explains why every exterior panel on the 2014 model is sharpened, flared, or otherwise better defined. Unfortunately, Toyota has gone way over the top with the 2014 Tundra’s grille, and on some models it looks positively cartoonish in its attempts to emulate a Peterbilt.
That’s why I think this outgoing truck, as innocuous as it can look, is the more appealing vehicle, especially when equipped with the TRD Rock Warrior Package’s wheels, seen in the photos.
Inside, the 2013 Tundra displays more character, with a 2-tone “zoned” approach to instrumentation. I like the gun-barrel gauges, the large climate control knobs, the clean and sophisticated look of the overall interior theme, and the matte-finish plastics, which match throughout. Next year, the Tundra gets new guts, receiving a dashboard and control layout from the Ford F-150 School of Pickup Design. In some ways, this represents change for the better. But the 2014 Tundra’s interior definitely loses some of the 2013 Tundra’s unique character.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Tundra Platinum adds heated and ventilated front seats with perforated leather upholstery, memory for the driver’s seat settings
If you’re looking for a comfortable truck, and like me you’re about six feet in height and carrying 50 extra pounds of weight, lemme tell you something about the Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited: this is one hell of a comfortable truck.
The front seats are wide and supportive, and the power adjustable driver’s seat delivers a perfect combination of bottom cushion and backrest positioning. Thigh support is excellent, the door armrest and center console lid are thickly padded for comfort, and the steering wheel is good to grip. All that’s missing here is a wider upper door panel on which front seat occupants can rest an arm, like the flat shelf found in a Ford F-150. A padded one would be perfect.
As comfortable as the front seats are, you might just want to flip the keys to someone else and ride in the back seat. Seriously, it’s like getting into a limousine. There is no shortage of legroom in the back of a Tundra CrewMax. Better yet, the back seat is extremely comfortable, providing excellent thigh support on a high-riding bench. The 60/40-split seat slides fore and aft, which I found handy for installing child safety seats and latching the top tether strap, and the backrest folds down to provide covered cargo space inside the cab. The rear seatbacks have plastic trays molded into them, and because the CrewMax’s cab is cavernous, there’s plenty of space in front of the bottom seat cushion for loading taller items that may require covered transport.
It wasn’t easy to get into or out of my particular test truck. Since it came equipped with the TRD Rock Warrior Package, side rails would have reduced the breakover angle, so they were left at the factory. This displeased my wife, though giant grab handles on the interior pillar trim certainly helps shorter people to hoist themselves into the Tundra. It also wasn’t easy to park this long, wide beast with its long, wide rear doors in tiny, cramped suburban parking spaces, which made loading and unloading the children difficult at best.
Loading cargo, however, is relatively easy, thanks to an assisted tailgate design that keeps it from flopping down and requires little muscle to close. Also, the Tundra is positively littered with cupholders, bins, trays, slots, a 2-tier glove box, and an enormous center console. None of these things, however, is equipped with rubberized linings or surfaces, which would be nice.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Tundra Platinum includes standard navigation system, power sunroof
There’s no denying that several of the Tundra’s dashboard controls are out of reach and require the driver to reach well forward and stretch across the center console to use. That said, most of this truck’s switchgear is plainly labeled and large enough to operate while wearing gloves, with the exception of the touchscreen infotainment systems, which have smaller controls.
My test truck came equipped with the Tundra’s JBL premium sound system and upgraded navigation system with a larger 7-inch display screen. That meant it did not offer Toyota’s new Entune suite of mobile data services and applications, which is included only with the smaller 6.1-inch Display Audio system. By the way, it was hard enough to see the 7-inch screen in my test truck, due to its distance from my eyes, angle of orientation, and propensity to reflect sunlight, which makes me question the wisdom of offering Toyota’s 6.1-inch Display Audio system in this vehicle.
One of my favorite things about the Tundra CrewMax I drove was its power sliding rear window. The entire rear glass powers down into the rear cab wall, allowing longer items to be carried. Alternatively, power all the windows down and open the sunroof, and the Tundra feels like a pickup truck with a convertible top.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes
Every 2013 Tundra is equipped with 8 airbags, a traction and stability control system, a trailer sway control system, and 4-wheel-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Smart Stop Technology is also standard, operating at speeds greater than 5 mph, and making it impossible for the truck to accelerate if the brake pedal is pushed for more than half a second. In addition to these standard safety features, my test truck had front and rear parking assist sensors, which really came in handy, as well as a reversing camera system.
2013 Toyota Tundra Crash-Test Ratings:
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2013 Tundra is named a “Top Safety Pick.” The results of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests aren’t quite as simple, or favorable.
In NHTSA testing, all 2013 Tundra models receive a 4-star overall crash-test rating. Unpredictably, the rollover rating for the Tundra 4WD is actually better than the Tundra 2WD, 4 stars compared to 3 stars. Unsettlingly, the Tundra’s front passenger protection rating in a frontal-impact crash is just 3 stars, despite the presence of a knee airbag. Remember, though, that when colliding with other vehicles this score is relevant only when a Tundra crashes into something the same size and weight as it is.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes for 2013
A 4.0-liter V-6 engine is standard for Tundra regular cab models with rear-wheel drive, and for the least expensive Tundra Double Cab. The V-6 generates 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, includes a 5-speed automatic transmission and is rated to get 17 mpg in combined driving.
Optional on these Tundras and standard for the Tundra CrewMax, a 4.6-liter V-8 engine develops 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 327 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 rpm. It has a 6-speed automatic transmission and, in conjunction with the optional Towing Package, gets a Tow/Haul mode. In combined driving, this engine returns 16 mpg with 4WD and 17 mpg with 2WD.
A 5.7-liter V-8 engine is available for all three Tundra models, cranking 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. at 3,600 rpm. Like the smaller V-8, this larger i-Force motor is bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission and, with the Towing Package, includes a Tow/Haul mode. Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg in combined driving. My test truck averaged 14.4 mpg, with the majority of the miles traveled on the highway, falling short of the EPA’s estimates.
All three of the Tundra’s engines include Toyota Care, free scheduled maintenance for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles of ownership. Maximum towing capacity with the 5.7-liter V-8 ranges from 9,000 lbs. to 10,400 lbs., and maximum payload capacity ranges from 1,450 lbs. to 2,090 lbs., depending on cab style and drivetrain. Also, it bears mentioning that among full-size pickup trucks, the 2013 Toyota Tundra is the only one to adhere to SAE J2807 methodologies to establish towing ratings. Therefore, comparing the Tundra’s numbers to those of other full-size truck makers is akin to comparing apples to oranges.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Truck people will disagree with me, but to the seat of my pants, full-size pickups all drive pretty much the same – when comparably equipped. There are outliers, of course, like the Silverado and Sierra Hybrid models, or the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. But give them similar engines, transmissions, suspensions, steering, and brakes, and there’s little in the way of discernable differences.
With this in mind, I settled into the Tundra’s comfortable cabin and set off on a drive that included city and suburban driving, flat farmland with arrow-straight two-lane roads, winding coastal highway, kinky mountain blacktop, dirt and ruts, and L.A.’s frequently nightmarish freeway system.
The Tundra’s 5.7-liter V-8 and 6-speed automatic transmission are calibrated to deliver a punch of thrust right off the line. Go light on the gas, which the average MPG display in the trip computer will encourage, and the transmission upshifts quickly. Stomp the throttle, and the i-Force V-8 roars with authority. Need manual control of the gears? Toyota supplies a manual shift gate to the left of the main gate, where it is easy to use for engine grade braking.
Based on a short off-roading excursion, the stiffly-sprung Tundra TRD Rock Warrior proved itself capable. However, keep in mind that these were trails across mountainous scrubland with wide places to turn around. On a forested trail, or one with sharp turns, the Tundra’s length, height, and width would likely prove to be a liability. Also, note that my test truck’s rugged all-terrain tires gathered rocks and proceeded to spit those rocks out once I returned to the pavement.
If mountain trails don’t phase the Tundra, neither do cracked and broken city streets. The Tundra TRD Rock Warrior is impervious to potholes, though sharper impacts taken at higher speeds can cause some suspension jitterbug. Outward visibility is quite good, and though the Tundra lacks blind-spot mirrors, I decided it doesn't really need them. The steering is remarkably responsive and accurate for a truck, and the brakes stop the Tundra fast.
There was a slight powertrain glitch. On a couple of occasions when accelerating away from an intersection, the transmission upshifted unexpectedly, dropping revs to such a degree that the truck almost felt like it had completely lost power. I tried to replicate the situation each time it occurred, but could not. I also found that when flooring the accelerator at mid-range speeds, such as when accelerating down a freeway ramp to merge with traffic, or to pass slower traffic, the transmission did not always downshift as expected. It seems that perhaps Toyota needs to take a closer look at how its 6-speed automatic is programmed.
My Tundra exhibited a couple of additional issues. While off-roading and coming down a hillside while riding the brakes, they felt like they lost some pressure. A quick pump restored pedal feel and response to normal. On a tight, angled freeway ramp, I drove the truck’s left wheels over the outside lane marking reflectors while turning and accelerating on canted pavement. This combination of vibration, acceleration, steering angle, and vehicle tilt set the stability control system to DefCon 10, for no reason at all.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review
People buy trucks because they need to tow and they need to haul. Long-time truck owners are also fiercely brand-loyal, in part because many of them live in small-town America, where there might only be a Chevy dealer, a Ford dealer, and a Ram dealer. Sometimes, family members also threaten excommunication for switching allegiance. This is what Toyota is up against with the Tundra.
Aside from these challenges, the Tundra can’t match the F-150, Sierra, Silverado, or Ram when it comes to fuel economy. In a cruel twist of fate – given that Toyota has built its reputation, in part, on fuel-efficient powertrains – the Toyota’s engines simply cannot compete. For the 2014 Tundra, instead of focusing on styling changes and a new cabin cloned from the F-150, perhaps the automaker should have spent some time installing a turbocharger on that 4.0-liter V-6, and developing a cylinder de-activation system for the i-Force 5.7-liter V-8.
But then again, if they’d done that, you’d have a really good reason to wait. Since that’s not the case, and if you’re so inclined to give the Tundra a try anyway, you might as well get a discounted 2013 model now, and feed the fuel tank with the money you’ve saved.
2013 Toyota Tundra Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Massive CrewMax cabin
- Excellent seat comfort
- TRD Rock Warrior Package
- Front and rear park assist sensors
- “Top Safety Pick”
- Free scheduled maintenance
- Honorably adheres to SAE J2807 towing standard
- Towed the freaking Space Shuttle
- Fuel economy can’t match Chevy, GMC, Ford, or Ram
- Radio and navigation display screens are too small, too far away, and suffer too much glare
- Hard to open rear doors in tight parking lots
- 3-star NHTSA frontal impact front passenger crash-test rating
- Fewer Toyota dealers in rural America
- Ghosts in our test truck’s machine
Toyota supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Toyota Tundra CrewMax TRD Rock Warrior photos by Christian Wardlaw