The Car Connection Toyota Tundra Overview
The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup that competes against a slew of others, including some of the best-selling vehicles on the planet. It relies on its legacy of reliability more than its powertrains, which resonates with buyers looking outside the Detroit Three.
With the Tundra, Toyota offers a full-size pickup to take on Ford, Chevy, Ram, and GMC, but unseating those truckmakers is no easy task; the Toyota is far behind the others in sales.
MORE: Read our 2021 Toyota Tundra review
Today, the Tundra is at least the equal in size of the F-150, Ram 1500, Silverado and Sierra. It's sold in lots of trim levels, too, from the Tundra SR and SR5, to the Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, and TRD Pro trims.
The new Toyota Tundra
Toyota gave the Tundra a mild refresh for the 2014 model year. The revised trucks debuted at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit sporting new front-end styling, added content, and a slightly nicer interior. Standard items include a rearview camera and Entune audio systems, while blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert are available on upper trim levels. The same three engines were included, keeping the Tundra behind the revised Ram, new GM trucks, and well-fitted Ford models. The new technology inside was a nice touch, but the Tundra's main problem remained its less powerful and less fuel-efficient motivation. In some versions with the 4.6-liter V-8, the Tundra's fuel economy actually dropped slightly, likely due to aerodynamic or tire-choice changes.
Today, the Tundra retains its four-star government rating and received top "Good" scores in the four categories for which it is rated by the IIHS.
For the 2015 model year, Toyota dropped the 270-horsepower V-6 engine option in the Tundra, leaving it only with its choice of V-8s. Only minor trim and feature changes were made for the 2016 and 2017 model years.
For 2018, Toyota made a raft of safety tech—adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beam headlights, and lane departure warning—standard across the lineup. A mildly revised front fascia keeps the Tundra's look somewhat fresh, while the regular cab model was dropped from the lineup. Toyota also added a new trim level to the lineup: TRD Sport, with Bilstein shocks and beefier sway bars, in addition to a few styling upgrades.
New Fox shocks were applied to the 2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, which gave it a more supple ride. For 2020, Toyota finally added Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility as standard, and it dropped the 4.6-liter V-8 engine from the lineup. Few changes arrived for the 2021 model year.
Toyota Tundra history
While critics have often found the Toyota Tundra to be the wrong size or aimed at the wrong audience, it has met praise for its non-standard approach to the pickup scene. First sold in 1999 as a 2000-model truck, the Tundra has evolved, growing larger and more powerful over its three generations.
From initial launch, the Tundra was offered with a choice of two engines: a 3.4-liter V-6 making 190 hp and a 4.7-liter V-8 good for 245 hp; Toyota also offered TRD supercharged versions of both engines for some extra power. The first round of engine upgrades came for 2005, when the V-6 was replaced with a 4.0-liter unit and the V-8 received variable valve timing, which both resulted in power bumps. The first-gen Tundra's styling was certainly conservative. It was offered in Regular, Access (with rear-hinged doors), and Double Cab configurations. Toyota's first attempt at a full-size truck was somewhat hamstrung compared to the domestics as it was only able to tow around 7,000 pounds.
The second-generation Tundra arrived in 2006, adding a new 5.7-liter V-8 engine option and bumping the tow rating up to 10,100 pounds, a much more competitive figure in the half-ton class. A number of high-performance TRD packages were also available, including a street-focused Sport package and a special off-road Rock Warrior package.
The updated Tundra offered a choice of three engines: the 4.0-liter V-6, a 4.6-liter V-8 rated at 310 hp, and a 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 381 hp. The largest V-8 also was available with flex-fuel capability. The Regular Cab model was the work truck of the range, offering a minimalist feature set, though it could be upgraded to include more advanced features. The Double Cab model offered a higher base specification, including more available upgrades. The CrewMax model, with its four-door layout, offered luxury items like an available power moonroof and a standard power vertical sliding rear window, as well as optional unique exterior accents including a chrome grille surround, chrome-trimmed power-folding side mirrors, and more. Bed configurations for this Tundra included standard and long beds, though the long bed was only available on the Regular and Double Cab models. The V-6 model was only available in 4x2 drive layout, while the V-8s were available in either 4x2 or 4x4.
Safety ratings for this Tundra were good, with the truck earning the IIHS' Top Safety Pick at the time, plus four-star overall ratings from the NHTSA.
Interior features followed similar paths to upgrade as the exterior features, with the larger-cab models offering more in the way of available upgrades and base equipment. The base Regular Cab truck included an MP3-capable six-speaker CD stereo, dual-zone climate control, split-folding bench seat (bucket upgrade available), and rubberized flooring, with carpeting available as part of a package upgrade. DVD-based navigation was available across the range. Stepping up to the Double Cab version added standard cruise control, power windows and door locks, and a fold-up rear seat, plus the ability to upgrade to an enhanced JBL audio system with integrated DVD navigation, bucket seats, and an overhead console bin. The CrewMax was available in an upgraded Limited trim, which added the JBL system as standard, upgraded gauges with information display, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, front and rear sonar for parking, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather-trimmed upholstery with power front seats, and more standard interior storage compartments.
For 2013, a new Display Navigation with Entune system was added as an option. Centered around a new 6.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen with split-screen capability, the system included an integrated rearview camera, a USB port with iPod control, hands-free calling, SiriusXM satellite radio capability, HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, voice controls, and Bluetooth music streaming.