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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Introduction
‘We’re number three’ might have been a memorable advertising slogan for beverage-giant Snapple when it first cracked the U.S. market, but that type of attitude typically doesn’t resonate as well in the auto industry. This is especially true for a company like Toyota, which has consistently won the battle for the title of the best-selling car in America thanks to the excellent Camry mid-size sedan, but hasn’t been able to generate the same momentum in the lucrative world of full-size trucks.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra represents a new vision for the brand’s large pickup, but this year's redesign is an unusually restrained effort that doesn’t match the recent developments from the domestic brands that dominate truck sales year-to-year. In fact, aside from more aggressive styling and a renewed commitment to pursuing the luxury sales that have become such a cash cow for pickup builders, the 2014 Tundra is surprisingly similar to the model that it replaces, especially under the skin. It’s not easy to understand Toyota’s motivations for taking such a hands-off approach to its flagship truck – unless, of course, it doesn’t actually plan to compete with the likes of the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado for the title of top dog.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Toyota Tundra comes in a dazzling number of possible configurations, one of which is new for this year. As always, the Tundra can be ordered in Regular, Double Cab, and CrewMax body styles (with the latter two offering four doors), along with a trio of different bed lengths ranging from five-and-a-half feet to just over eight feet.
The SR trim (MSRP $25,920) creeps in at the bottom of the Tundra’s lineup, a work-oriented model with cloth seats, 18-inch steel rims, and the added bonus of the brand’s Display Audio system which offers a touchscreen interface for interacting with the vehicles stereo system as well as a backup camera (both standard across every version of the truck). Moving up to the Tundra SR5 (MSRP $29,46) installs nicer interior trim, power windows and door locks, upgraded upholstery, and cruise control, while the volume-selling Limited (MSRP $32,405) delivers leather seats with power adjustment for the driver, dual automatic climate control, wood trim, fewer hard plastics throughout the interior, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 20-inch rims, a power-sliding rear window, a larger LCD Display Audio screen, parking sensors, bed rails and tie-downs, and a lot more chrome.
The Tundra Platinum (MSRP $44,270) has been kicked further up-market thanks to the introduction of a new standard of perforated leather seating, heated and ventilated power front buckets, unique 20-inch wheels, a moonroof, leather door panel inserts and dash panel coverings, and a sleeker exterior appearance. Rounding things out is a fresh trim level for the Tundra (or ‘grade’ in Toyota marketing-speak), the 1794 Edition. Named after the ranch that once occupied the parcel of land where the company’s truck plant now sits outside of San Antonio, Texas, the 1794 Edition tops the Platinum in terms of both price (MSRP $47,320) and exclusivity (unique brown leather seats and trim, including suede accents, numerous tweaks to the vehicle’s inside and outside appearance). Both the Platinum and 1794 Edition Tundras are found only as CrewMax models. I had the chance to spend time with Limited, Platinum, and 1794 Edition Tundras, none of which featured any special options packages.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Design
- The 2014 Toyota Tundra been completely re-styled in and out.
I didn’t know this, but apparently the previous-generation Tundra had been the subject of complaints that it looked too ‘bubbly.’ I don’t understand exactly what that means – the term came up several times during Toyota’s presentation of the 2014 model – and I had always thought that the 2007-and-up version of the truck was quite handsome, especially in the higher trim levels. Regardless of my personal opinion concerning the truck’s styling, the 2014 Toyota Tundra has unquestionably been butched-up when contrasted against the version of the pickup it replaces.
The effort is most noticeable up front, for while the Tundra’s characteristic hood vent is still in place it now sits on top of a wider nose that also gives the appearance of taller grille. The 2014 model’s increased frontal area is as in-your-face as the fascia worn by the RAM 1500, and it certainly comes across as more substantial than either the F-150 or the Silverado/Sierra siblings. The blockiness doesn’t end there, for the Tundra’s segmented tailgate is the perfect complement to the vehicle’s visual enormity. Just underneath the cargo-loading area sits a new rear bumper that has been sliced into three distinct pieces – each of which can be replaced individually in the event that they ever become damaged (as with its twin up front).
The 2014 Toyota Tundra also delivers a new dashboard treatment that shifts the most important aspects of the truck’s center stack closer to the driver while also improving the cabin’s symmetry. The leather wrap on the dash of the 1794 Edition of the truck conceals the harder plastic that is visible on lower trim levels.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Toyota Tundra offers improved seat materials and revised interior storage options.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra might not offer anything new in terms of the size of its three cabins, or its bed lengths, but the truck’s designers have changed a couple of important details inside the passenger compartment. Of particular interest are the larger center console, which offers suitably gargantuan storage space, and the new flip-up rear seats in the CrewMax model – a design tweak that frees up more room for hauling larger items.
I found the Tundra’s seat’s to be reasonably comfortable up front, although their flatness was somewhat noticeable after spending several hours in the truck. The CrewMax body style offers living room-style accommodations for backseat riders, as the amount of legroom is truly impressive, while Double Cab models are more in line with the industry average. Either version of the truck is a good choice for those who need their pickup to double as a family hauler, although some might find the additional length of the CrewMax to be a bit of an issue around town.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Toyota Tundra gains Display Audio and a backup camera across the board.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra doesn’t over-complicate its controls, providing a basic but useful layout on the center stack and a gauge cluster that features a small LCD screen between tachometer and speedometer (as has become fashionable in almost every modern automobile). I liked the Display Audio system, and was even more impressed that it was offered free-of-charge with lesser editions of the truck, possible as part of a preventative strike against upcoming backup camera regulations (a backup cam is bundled with the screen). One particularly interesting feature accessible through the Display Audio touchscreen was a Maintenance monitor that allowed you to enter in the dates and mileage of your last service appointment for a wide range of the truck’s features (including the amusingly-named ‘Brake Oil’ replacement schedule). This effectively replaces the logbook in the Tundra’s owner’s manual and more importantly, will automatically move with the truck once it’s been re-sold – something that paper logbook seldom does.
If I had one complaint about the Tundra’s switchgear, it would have to be that the panel to the left of the steering wheel underneath the dash simply felt cheaper than most of the rest of the truck – especially in the Platinum and 1794 Edition models as contrasted against their leather-laden materials. More affordable versions of the pickup display even greater amounts of plastic that aren't exactly soft to the touch.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Toyota Tundra makes a backup camera standard across all trim levels.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra comes with dual forward airbags, seat-mounted side impact airbags up front, knee airbags for both front passengers, and side curtain airbags both front and rear that are designed to protect passengers in the event of a rollover situation. Electronic stability control and traction control are included free of charge, and as with all Toyotas the pickup features the Smart Stop system that cuts the throttle in the event that the accelerator and the brake pedal are depressed at the same time.
2014 Toyota Tundra Crash Test Ratings: The 2014 Toyota Tundra has yet to be crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Toyota Tundra doesn’t offer any improvements to its array of available engines.
There are no changes in store for the 2014 Toyota Tundra in the engine department, which means that the truck continues to offer a 4.0-liter V-6 as its entry-level unit. Capable of generating 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, the six-cylinder motor returns fuel mileage of 16-mpg in city driving and 20-mpg on the highway. Next up is a 4.6-liter V-8 (310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque), followed by a range-topping 5.7-liter, eight-cylinder (381 horses and 401 lb-ft of twist). Fuel mileage for the 4.6 is barely better than that of the 5.7-liter mill (14-mpg city and 18-mpg highway, an improvement of a single mile per gallon for each respective measure), which explains why the latter is the most popular motivator for the Tundra. All versions of the pickup come with the same six-speed automatic transmission, along with the option of four-wheel drive.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Driving Impressions
Full-size trucks are getting better across the board in almost every qualitative and quantitative measurement, a situation that has caught the developmentally-frozen 2014 Toyota Tundra flat-footed. This isn’t to say that the Tundra can’t get the job done, as it has more than enough horsepower and torque at the top end, respectable towing capability of 10,400 lbs (the only max tow rating on the pickup market to conform to SAE standards), and enough ground clearance and off-road muster to make short work of the muddy fields and construction zones where these trucks often earn their keep.
The issue is that the 2014 Toyota Tundra doesn’t deliver the refined performance of its contemporaries, nor does it impress when it comes to fuel efficiency. Seven years ago the freshly-introduced Tundra could brag about the variable-valve timing offered by its 5.7-liter V-8, but given that time is the hunter that stalks us all it’s not surprising that the Big 3 have caught up to Toyota and responded to its initial salvo with a slew of sophisticated features such as cylinder-deactivation, turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and in the case of Ram, a turbodiesel drivetrain option that is remarkably frugal in real-world driving. Piloting the big-bore Tundra across the modern landscape reveals power delivery that feels brawny rather than smooth, and a carry-over transmission that is competent but not as responsive as those found yoked to trucks from Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler (some of which even offer two additional forward gears).
A stint towing a camping trailer behind the 2014 Toyota Tundra revealed further idiosyncrasies associated with its almost completely-untouched chassis that were also present in the previous model. The power to get the load up to speed was there, but it was not a comfortable experience. Uneven road surfaces – or even small undulations in the pavement – were translated through the trailer hitch to the pickup where they slowly pulsed through the drivetrain like the feeling of a large hand gently tugging on the underside of the vehicle. Even when unloaded, the Tundra’s suspension system and frame (which received mild front shock absorber tuning to improve steering feel, but no other changes during the refresh) were apt to shudder after encountering a bump or two – behavior that has been largely cancelled out in competitive trucks. Taken together, it adds up to a driving experience that lacks the smoothness and poise that both the drivetrains and platforms of recently-revamped pickups from Ford and Ram, in particular, have to offer.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Final Thoughts
It takes a significant investment in technology, design, and execution to follow-through on a plan to target one specific part of the automotive industry and work up to major player status. It can also require a great deal of patience, and it would seem to be in the latter department that Toyota has come up short with its decision not to make any major changes to the 2014 Toyota Tundra. Sales of the pickup – after initially cresting the 200,000 mark – have been steadily dropping since its introduction, which one would think would be enough to spur Toyota to make its third generation model absolutely spectacular. In fact, that would seem to be the only viable option for a company that had invested billions in a dedicated assembly plant for the Tundra that was still looking to convince American truck buyers to sample its wares.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the 2014 Toyota Tundra has seen its stock fall to ‘good enough’ status, a truck that is competent but decidedly un-spectacular. There would seem to be only one reason behind the decision to address the Tundra’s cosmetics but little else with this latest refresh, and that would be a move away from any intention of competing at the top of the pickup pyramid. The Tundra is now built not to wow potential new owners, like it was when the current platform burst onto the scene in 2007, but rather to keep the candle burning at a dull glow for current Tundra drivers looking to trade-up. This is regrettable, because there’s very little reason Toyota couldn’t have swung for the fence with the 2014 Toyota Tundra and at least had a fighting chance for greatness.
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2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Toyota Tundra Review: Pros and Cons
- Big, attractive styling
- Very large interior in CrewMax models
- Powerful, if unrefined V-8 engines
- Luxurious Platinum and 1794 Edition interiors
- SAE towing standard-compliant
- Display Audio and rearview camera on all models
- Chassis and drivetrains not as sophisticated as the competition
- Technological development has fallen behind rival trucks
- Pricing isn’t structured to lure potential buyers away from domestic pickups
- Almost no significant updates made to the Tundra’s platform
- Lack of smoothness when towing or driving on rough roads
ToyotaCanada supplied the vehicle for this review
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