2014 Toyota Tundra 4x4 Limited: Driven

January 6, 2014
Is Toyota at odds with itself with its huge Tundra pickups?

We recently revisited the 2014 Toyota Tundra, in CrewMax form with the TRD Off-Road Package, at High Gear Media's Portland, Oregon outpost and found ourselves weighing this Texas-assembled model's strengths on one hand, and its flaws on another--and all the while wondering why the Tundra feels like it tries harder [read: too hard] to be a macho truck than to be a Toyota.

If you do much time in town, one of the hurdles to enjoying and appreciating it is that it's so dang huge. We're not fans of what the full-size truck format has become, and how these trucks have grown larger than city streets, parking spaces, highway lanes, and driveways can easily accommodate. Today's full-size trucks are like the Heavy Duty ones of yesterday—and shockingly large.

“This is insane…this is for people who don't live near other humans,” gasped a friend upon walking up to the Tundra from the front.

It's the sort of response that the Tundra's front end will elicit, whether you're at a big-box store in the suburbs or a crosswalk in the city. The refresh introduced an even more imposing-looking grille design [that we're really not fans of, if you hadn't guessed], and squared off some of the rear corners. And with it, Toyota otherwise gave the Tundra a very thoughtful, detail-oriented refresh for 2014 that's agreeable—even charming—once you're out on the open road, among the forests, farms, and ranches.

Great ride quality, strong and relaxed powertrain

But no matter where we were, ride quality is one of those traits that warmed us up to the Tundra. Even with the TRD Off-Road Package, our test Tundra rode very smoothly with an empty load; quite possibly, it's the best-riding of the current crop of full-sizers when the bed's empty.

Another reason is the powertrain. We really liked the responsive yet relaxed character of the big 5.7-liter V-8 engine, making 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Toyota got rid of the silly-quick accelerator tip-in that the Tundra had last time I drove it. The power and torque numbers are the same, but it all works much better; whether we had an empty load, or three aboard with some weekend project junk in back, the engine and transmission were quick to respond, and with oodles of nice, controllable low-rev torque, there was seldom a need to downshift. Save that for the trailer-towing, right?

As nice as the engine's power and torque characteristics are, though, we couldn't get past its ever-present engine note—especially its coarse, disenchanting sound when you're pushing it a bit harder. Only the Nissan Titan offers a greater level of ever-present engine noise; not even Ram, with its retro-branded Hemi V-8, believes that you want this much ever-present, while the F-150 and Silverado feel positively refined in that respect.

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