2015 Toyota Tundra Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
May 8, 2015

The 2015 Toyota Tundra looks interesting enough, but lacks the sophisticated drivetrains that you'll find in its competitors.

The 2015 Toyota Tundra is hardly winning away many buyers from Ford, GM, or Ram trucks. It's more of a loyalty play to Toyota fans, and a secondary entry in the ultra-competitive pickup world, if you go by sales numbers.

Although the Tundra doesn’t stand out in any of the categories that pickup buyers are keen on, a range of updates to last year’s model help it compete on the upscale end of things.

For 2015, the 4.0-liter V-6 has been removed from the lineup. That leaves a 4.6-liter V-8 rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and the top-line 5.7-liter V-8, good for 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. 

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Gas mileage isn't a strong suit of the Tundra. It earns below-average ratings across the engine range. Toyota says real-world gas mileage is on par with GM and Ford trucks, despite the EPA ratings. In our time behind the wheel of the Tundra in both 4.6-liter and 5.7-liter V-8 forms, the vehicle-reported mileage rarely rose above 15 mpg in unloaded, rural driving. Our real-world experience has seen better gas mileage in other full-size trucks with similar capabilities.

Unloaded on city streets, both V-8 models feel about the same—fairly quick with decent low-end acceleration, but they run out of steam as the speed rises. Laden with an 8,000-plus-pound trailer, the 5.7-liter V-8 is the one to choose; even then, it's challenged to reach freeway speeds in the length of a typical on-ramp, despite a max tow rating of up to 10,400 pounds--and close to 10,000 pounds on most models. In our experience, the Tundra, despite its J2807 rating and big spec-sheet figures, doesn't feel as confident or as quick as the GM and Ford alternatives when towing larger loads, particularly when the larger V-8s from each brand are in the picture.

Ride quality is fairly good across all Tundra models, though pavement seams and surface bumps translate into larger-than-normal impacts in the cabin. The plush seats do a good job of keeping things comfortable, and the Tundra does handle well for a pickup driving around town, but it's not the smoothest-riding truck in the segment. This year, a new TRD Pro Series version of the Tundra upgrades the suspension, exhaust, wheels and tires–along with some of the styling bits–to create the most off-roadable Tundra to date.

Much-needed upgrades to the interior and equipment levels arrived on last year's Tundra, including a new luxurious 1794 Edition. Trim levels include SR, SR5, Limited, and Platinum, each step up the ladder bringing with it more creature comforts and technology. Materials have been upgraded across the board, though it's less readily noticeable in the lower-tier SR and SR5 models. Double cab (standard on SR5) and CrewMax models both offer four-door access and seating for five, but the CrewMax is the definite choice if you want to seat six-footers in the second row--and fortunately is standard on all Platinum and 1794 Edition Tundras. A regular cab is also available, but only on SR models.

The Tundra includes a very good set of standard safety equipment, and crash-test scores have improved greatly for the 2015 model year. Active safety features like stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, trailer sway control, and more are all standard, as are passive safety features like eight standard airbags, pre-tensioning seat belts, side-impact door beams, and more.

The entry-level SR model is the work truck spec, and it comes standard with the 4.6-liter V-8; a choice of regular or extended cab (no crew cab option); and a long or standard bet. Standard equipment includes daytime running lights, 18-inch steel wheels, Entune Audio, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, power windows, and all of the standard safety equipment. Step up to the SR5, and you add fog lights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, Entune Audio Plus, and optional 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Limited kicks up the luxury and opens up tech upgrade paths, with standard 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and Apps, leather seating, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and more. The top-tier Platinum trim adds to the Limited's spec with chrome-clad 20-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, perforated and ventilated leather seating, and front/rear parking assist sonar. The 1794 Edition matches the Platinum trim spec, but with its own interior color theme and ultra-suede upholstery inserts as well as 1794 Edition badging.

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2015 Toyota Tundra

Styling

The Tundra looks like it's trying too hard to be brawny; it's not alone in the big pickup class.

The Toyota Tundra looks big and beefy, which we consider a must in the big truck category. That's not necessarily to say that it's attractive, though. For 2015, the new TRD Pro Series Tundra adds several new off-road-ready accessories that give the Tundra an even more aggressive stance, especially if you find one barreling down the highway.

Inside the cabin, there's more overwrought styling clearly intended to shout "This is a truck!" to anyone within its confines. Materials, though improved over last year's Tundra, are still only passable when taken in context of the competition. 

Yet despite the excess of styling, the Tundra's cabin somehow comes off plain, as well, with chunky controls sitting like islands in a sea of plastic dashboard.

The Tundra received a slight refresh last year, which included a new grille, hood, and front-end treatment, a new stamped TUNDRA-logo tailgate, and a lightly revamped interior.

The extra focus on the front end of the Tundra might put some buyers off; it's a tall, bluff visage with quite a lot going on. The sides and rear of the Tundra are more familiar, while the new stamped tailgate treatment is understated and rugged.

On the whole, however, the Tundra's full visual package comes off slightly wrong. The proportions are almost cartoonish, the details awkward and overworked. Compared to the (relative) simplicity of the Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado, or Ford F-150, the Tundra comes off as a pretender.

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2015 Toyota Tundra

Performance

Performance has never been better, but the Tundra still lags V-8 domestics; the V-6 is history.

The Tundra struggles with its drivetrains, regardless of which engine you choose. This year, the V-6 has been discontinued, leaving only the 4.6-liter or 5.7-liter V-8 models.

Toyota is the only pickup truck manufacturer to adhere to the J2807 standard for tow ratings, but despite the technical qualification, the Tundra feels anemic with a load of even 8,000 pounds. Accelerating to freeway speeds within the length of a typical on-ramp while towing is a serious challenge--something that's not true of the top-tier towing configurations from Ford, Chevy, and Ram.

Driving in day-to-day traffic, the Tundra is comfortable and easy-going, with light, quick steering. Ride quality can be a bit jouncy with no load in the bed, but that's true of all pickups to some degree. Despite its positive traits, the Tundra clearly lags behind its American rivals.

The 4.6-liter V-8 rates 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and the 5.7-liter V-8 sits at a potent 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The V-8s get six-speed automatics. All of the transmissions shift smoothly and reliably.

While the numbers are generally good across the Tundra's engine range, that's only half of the story. On city streets, in an unloaded truck, both V-8s feel about the same--plenty powerful for getting around in traffic. Strap a hefty load behind the Tundra (it can tow up to 10,400 pounds, depending on equipment and configuration), and the story changes.

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2015 Toyota Tundra

Comfort & Quality

Basic Tundras have truly spartan interiors; the 1794 Edition has Ram-worthy trim.

The Toyota Tundra is as wide as a truck is legally allowed to be to qualify as light-duty, and it's offered in CrewMax, Double Cab and Regular cab lengths.

The CrewMax is where the Tundra really comes into its own, with a large second row and four full-sized doors. Seating for five is realistic, with ample leg room for everyone. The rear seats even slide and recline. For those who need to transport three or more people on a regular basis, this is the most practical Tundra. 

The Double Cab model adds rear-hinged doors and a set of flip-up rear seats. There's not a lot of space in the second row, but kids will fit just fine. The extra space doubles as a convenient weather/theft resistant cargo area when not being used for passengers.

The Regular Cab version is best-suited to work truck use, with seating for three at most, with the bench seat, otherwise limited to two bucket seats. There's not much in-cabin storage space, but there's always the pickup bed behind you.

A center console storage area is large enough to hold file folders or even a laptop, the seats are all comfortable and roomy, and general quietness and refinement in passenger experience are great. Where the Tundra falls a bit short is the quality of materials. Though improved as of last year, they're still a full step behind the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevy Silverado.

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2015 Toyota Tundra

Safety

Crash-test data has improved greatly with the 2015 Tundra.

The Tundra has made marked improvements this year in its crash protection.

Last year, Toyota added blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts--a first for any full-size pickup in the U.S., and included with the Limited CrewMax, Platinum, and 1794 Edition models. 

Other standard Tundra safety features include: eight airbags; vehicle stability control and traction control; anti-lock brakes; electronic brake-force distribution; brake assist; and Smart Stop brake-override technology. Platinum and 1794 Editions also get LED daytime running lights.

Last year, some models of the Tundra had truly terrible crash-test scores from the NHTSA. Crew cabs fared best, with four stars overall, while regular cab models in both 2WD and 4WD, as well as the extended cab 4WD, scored three stars overall in NHTSA testing.

This year, Toyota has improved the truck's scores to four stars overall, across the board, though some versions still are rated at three stars for rollover resistance. That's balanced somewhat by five-star scores for side-impact protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) sees things somewhat differently, rating the Tundra range as a whole with across-the-board scores of “good,” though it doesn’t secure a Top Safety Pick award because it lacks a forward-collision-warning system.

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8

2015 Toyota Tundra

Features

From country-roads cruiser to bare-bones work truck, the Tundra spans the same gamut as the domestics.

You can have your Tundra in a variety of configurations–and there are so many options and packages, that it almost feels tailor-made to your needs. New for 2015, the TRD Pro Series adds a variety of off-roading performance upgrades to the Tundra, including an upgraded suspension, tires meant for off-pavement driving, and a long list of styling bits that make it look considerably more menacing.

Standalone options available on most models include: heated power outside tow mirrors, a deck rail system with adjustable tie-down points, a tow hitch, and a range of 18- and 20-inch wheels.

The off-road-styled SR5 package gets metallic interior accents and fabric upholstery; 18-inch wheels; air conditioning; Entune Audio Plus with Entune Multimedia Bundle and high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen display; HD Radio with iTunes tagging; HD Traffic and Weather; and a 90-day trial of SiriusXM radio. 

The base SR package includes the work-truck basics like air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo system, but also comes standard with Entune Audio Multimedia Bundle with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, USB and iPod connectivity; Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming; and some voice recognition functions. 

A range of option packages are also available to enhance each trim level, with SR5 models eligible for the SR5 Upgrade Package, which fits front power bucket seats with power lumbar support; floor-mounted urethane shift lever; tilt-telescope urethane steering wheel; three front cup holders; a front console box; an alarm system; and a rear under-seat storage tray in Double Cab models. The TRD Off-Road Package adds Bilstein monotube dampers; 18-inch TRD alloy wheels; rear side privacy glass; an engine skid plate; front tow hooks on 2WD models; and TRD badges. 

Last year, Toyota simplified the Tundra's option packages while adding some new ones as well. The new 1794 Edition, named in tribute to the Texas ranch where the Tundra plant is located, gets special brown premium leather-trimmed seating with embossed and ultra-suede accents, matching soft-touch materials around the cabin, and all of the features of the Platinum Tundra.

The Platinum comes with perforated diamond-pleated leather seats, door, and instrument panel inserts; a standard 10-way power driver's seat with memory function; a four-way power passenger seat; heated and ventilated front seats; parking sensors; and 12-speaker Entune Premium JBL Audio with navigation. CrewMax Platinum (and 1794) models also get a power moonroof. Dual-zone air conditioning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink garage door opener, and more are also included.

The Limited grade Tundra gets leather seating surfaces, soft touch interior materials, and "wood-style" trim. Dual-zone climate control and a choice of Black, Sand Beige, and Graphite leather-trimmed interiors are also included.

The Limited Premium package is available for Limited models, with front and rear parking sensors, power windows, ambient lighting, and a glass breakage sensor. The Tundra Work Truck Package, available only on SR-trim models, includes vinyl-trimmed seats, heavy-duty all-weather flooring, and no-frills utility.

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4

2015 Toyota Tundra

Fuel Economy

With only a V-8 engine this year, the Tundra's fuel economy is in the lower tier of trucks.

Fuel economy isn't a strength for most full-size pickups, so it's no surprise that the Tundra struggles here.

Choosing 4WD with the 4.6-liter V-8 model reduces mileage to 14 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined; adding it to the 5.7-liter engine yields gas mileage of 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined.

The 4.6-liter V-8 with 2WD scores 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, and 16 mpg combined. The top-line 5.7-liter V-8 model with 2WD rates 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined.

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September 5, 2015
2015 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 5.7L FFV V8 6-Speed AT 1794 (Natl)

Huge improvement from my 2013 Tundra I had

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The interior is awesome, I got mine with every option came in at 57k. Worth every penny. The sound system is Great. Much better then the Denali system I had in 2009. The leather seats look amazing and the... + More »
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June 16, 2015
For 2015 Toyota Tundra

Worst vehicle I have ever owned.

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Purchased my 2008 Tundra new. Later that year it accelerated out of control. Curiously as part of the acceleration problem the stereo system blew out when it accelerated. I believe it's an ale trivial problem... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2015 Toyota Tundra

Everything is just great about the truck. Gas id terrible. I really ger about 8 mpg with AC off.

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Tundra is a great vehicle. This is my third one, that is 2013, 14 and 15. All of then are just great, looks, performance, reliability, etc. The only problem is gas millage. It's the lowest among any US made... + More »
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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