The long history of pickups in America boils down to two important lessons: it has to be tough, and it has to look tough. Maybe the latter is where the Tundra's been led astray?
The disappointing sales of the Tundra can't be from its lack of performance, as we've told you elsewhere. But even though it's as big as ever, and looks particularly imposing parked next to the other full-size pickups on the market, the Tundra doesn't always look "truck" enough.
It's all in the details. The Tundra has just as much visual heft as any other pickup, with lots of big sheetmetal panels and a grille big enough for a cookout. The pieces don't add up, though. Some of the Tundra's curves and sheetmetal bulges look more carlike than they ought to, and even the muscular fenders and pronounced sills that make it look tall and bulky, don't read as simply, or as straightforwardly, as the tractor-like Ram or the Tonka-ish F-150. It's outside the mainstream, and the awkwardness of the details makes it cartoonish, in a segment of vehicles that have all grown into cartoonish proportions, excepting the GM trucks.
It's true inside, too. The Tundra's dash takes a step backward in finish where the Ram and F-150 have made big strides forward. At the same time the Tundra's cabin is split by an arc dividing driver controls from the rest of the cabin--a touch that seems too sporty and not hearty.
Swoop aside, the cabin's so plain, it's as if Toyota decided that "big" was the sole factor truck buyers judged when switching over from lifetime favorites. All the controls are big, too, designed to be operated with a work-gloved hand, and there's a telescoping steering wheel with a long range of adjustment. Still, some of the controls are mounted so high on the wide dash, they can be difficult to reach for shorter drivers.