- V-8 engines are smooth performers
- CrewMax models have good passenger room
- Crash-test scores have improved
- Smartphone connectivity is standard
- High-end versions match domestics for glitz
- Styling can seem gimmicky
- Only offered with V-8s
- Only six-speed automatics
- Gas mileage is poor
- Lacks configuration options, bed features of domestics
The 2016 Toyota Tundra has authentic truck talent, but ultimately its powertrain choices, fuel economy, and configurations are limited, compared to domestic rivals.
The Toyota Tundra wins over a small slice of the full-size truck market—time and time again—thanks to a strong record for durability.
It's had a hard time breaking into the big leagues alongside the Silverado and Sierra, Ram and F-150. When it comes to sales, spec-sheet stats, and real-world performance, the Tundra is routinely outperformed by those trucks—in towing ability, fuel economy, ride quality, and comfort and utility features.
That hasn't changed for the 2016 model, and neither has the Tundra. It's still offered in multiple body styles, bed lengths, and trim levels—including the base SR, SR5, TRD Off-Road, Limited, Platinum, and 1794 Edition models. For this year, it adds a bigger gas tank on some models, light styling tweaks, and an updated infotainment system.
Although the Tundra doesn’t stand out in any of the categories that pickup buyers are keen on, a range of updates in the 2014 model year have helped it compete on the upscale end of things. Styling is one way in which the Tundra's corrected its course, and now lines up more with the mainstream. It's beefy where it counts, though the body's not quite as crisply styled as the American-brand trucks. Inside, it's cleanly laid out, with chunky controls, and truly swanky trim on the Platinum and 1794 Edition models.
Performance is fine by absolute standards, behind the pack in comparison with the latest Ford, GM and Ram trucks. There's no longer any engine other than a V-8; Toyota dropped the former V-6 option for 2015. 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 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque.
The V-8s have a similar feel in street driving; they're reasonably quick when not laden to their payload and towing limits, and have good low-end acceleration. They both tend to run out of steam as speeds rise. 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. Competitive models from the domestic automakers offer towing ratings of up to 12,200 pounds. In our experience, the Tundra, despite its J2807 and manufacturer ratings, doesn't feel as quick or as confident as the GM and Ford alternatives when towing larger loads, particularly when the larger V-8s from each brand are in the picture—not to mention in comparison with the hefty Nissan Titan XD, nearly a heavy-duty truck but in the Tundra's price class.
On the street, the Tundra acquits itself better. Ride quality is fairly good, though pavement seams and surface bumps translate into larger-than-normal impacts in the cabin, much like the latest F-150. The plush seats do a good job of keeping things comfortable, and the Tundra does handle well for a pickup driving around town. If that's not your mission, you can disrupt its tidy manners with a TRD Pro Series model, which 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 in 2014 on the latest 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. There's a Regular Cab with a long bed, a Double Cab with a 6.5- or 8.1-foot bed, and a CrewMax with a 5.5-foot bed; configurations are much more limited than on the best-selling trucks. The CrewMax is the definite choice if you want to seat 6-footers in the second row—and fortunately is standard on all Platinum and 1794 Edition Tundras. The Tundra also lacks the kind of in-bed storage and utility features of some rivals—features like in-fender bed storage, a damped tailgate, even deployable, in-tailgate steps and handrails.
The Tundra includes a very good set of standard safety equipment, and crash-test scores improved greatly for the 2015 model year, but it's still only average at best, and a good measure behind the F-150 in crash protection and active-safety features. 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.
Gas mileage isn't a strong suit of the Tundra, either. Toyota says real-world gas mileage is on par with GM and Ford trucks, but it earns below-average EPA ratings across the lineup, with combined ratings a few miles per gallon lower than comparably equipped trucks—not to mention the turbodiesel and V-6 models offered by the domestics. Our real-world experience has seen better gas mileage in other full-size trucks with similar capabilities.
The four-wheel drive with the 4.6-liter V-8 model is rated at 14 mpg city, 18 highway, 16 combined; adding it to the 5.7-liter engine yields gas mileage of 13/17/15 mpg.
2016 Toyota Tundra
The Tundra's beefy where it counts, but the body's not as crisply styled as the American-brand trucks.
The Toyota Tundra has the beefy proportions it has to have to thrive in the full-size truck segment, but its bits and pieces don't add up to the same clean, chiseled look owned by GM's trucks or the F-150.
The domestic trucks surely overstate some of their details, but there's a neat balance that ties them together, whether they have the straight-edge ethos of the Silverado or the hints of tractor-trailer that make the Ram so distinctive.
On the Tundra, the old rounded shape's been cleaned up a lot. The Tundra received a slight refresh two years ago, which included a new grille, hood, and front-end treatment, a new stamped "Tundra"-logo tailgate, and a lightly revamped interior.
Still, some of the details are out of balance, almost cartoonish in proportion, especially at the tall, bluff front end. The sides and rear of the Tundra are more familiar, while the new stamped tailgate treatment is understated and rugged. It may be that there's an element of simplicity present in the domestics, and missing in the Tundra's sheet metal and the metallic trim.
Inside the cabin, a sensible arrangement of controls overrides the inflated size and proportion of all the controls, something the Tundra has in common with the domestics. Every knob and button is big. It's all a bit overwrought in its outreach to people wearing work gloves—gloves can be removed, after all—but materials have improved on the upper trim levels. GM's trucks still come off better than any in base trim, but the Tundra's lavish 1794 Edition doesn't look out of step with the King Ranches and Laramie Longhorns of the world. In spite of the excesses of size and some would say, color and trim choices, the Tundra's cabin still comes off as well as any Titan or F-150.
2016 Toyota Tundra
Performance has never been better, but the Tundra still lags behind its American rivals in powertrain choice, and in ultimate tow capacity.
Toyota doesn't sell as many Tundra pickups as Ford sells F-150s—or even as many trucks as Ram sells 1500s. That's a big part of why the Tundra's performance ratings aren't as strong as the domestic pickups. It doesn't have the buyers to offer a wider range of powertrains, so its choice of V-8 engines is limited—and while those V-8s are good performers, the Tundra's repertoire is pretty limited.
That's been aggravated since the 2015 model year, when Toyota dropped the Tundra's formerly available V-6 engine option.
These days, the base engine in the Tundra is a 4.6-liter V-8, rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are perfectly adequate for lightly laden pickups, but they don't compare well with the V-6 engines offered by GM and Ford—all of which approach the same horsepower figures.
The more potent Tundra option is a much stronger 5.7-liter V-8, with 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. Even here, despite its strong V-8 bark and strong acceleration, it's off the pace set by trucks like the Silverado and Sierra V-8, or the Hemi-powered Rams. Ford's twin-turbo V-6 in the F-150 has slightly less horsepower, but it feels much stronger at lower engine speeds than this Tundra engine, which doesn't hit its torque peak until it's nearly midway into its rev range.
Both Tundra V-8s get 6-speed automatics, a couple of cogs down from the most advanced GM and Ram pickups. The transmissions shift smoothly and respond fairly quickly to calls on the throttle, but fewer gears is a chief reason the Tundra's fuel economy lags the domestics by such a wide margin—a few miles per gallon on the combined cycle, in some cases. There's no cylinder deactivation, and no stop/start factored in, either.
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.
Toyota was the first automaker to use 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, where the most capable versions can pull up to 12,200 pounds.
Driving in day-to-day traffic, the Tundra is comfortable and easy-going, with light steering that's not as direct or as quick as that in the Ram or the Ford. Ride quality can be a bit jouncy with no load in the bed, but that's true of all pickups to some degree, and the Tundra's ride is about on par with the latest F-150.
2016 Toyota Tundra
Comfort & Quality
There's lush, King Ranch-style trim in the 1794 Edition, but Toyota doesn't match its domestic rivals on mixing and matching beds and bodies.
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 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.
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 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, though the backrest cushions don't recline at a very comfortable angle, and the bottom seat cushions sit low to the floor. There's a more comfortable arrangement in the Ram and the F-150, but for those who need to transport three or more people on a regular basis, this is the most practical Tundra.
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. On some Tundra models, there's underseat storage, too.
Where the Tundra falls a bit short inside 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. Even in 1794 trim, the color matching and high gloss of some pieces are shy of the finery you'd find in a King Ranch or Laramie Longhorn—though some things are, as always, a matter of taste.
And in bed utility, it's also behind the domestics, simply because you can't mix and match bed lengths and body styles as much. All Crewmax Tundras have 5.5-foot-long beds; there's no long-bed option. Double Cabs can be fitted with a choice of 6-foot-5 or 8-foot-1 beds, while Regular Cabs come only with the 8-foot-1 bed.
The Tundra's bed also lacks some of the great touches applied to the latest F-150 and Ram 1500—from lockable in-fender storage, to steps and handrails embedded in the tailgate, even stowable loading ramps. The race for features is the new battle front in the full-size pickup wars—and at present, the Tundra is falling behind.
2016 Toyota Tundra
Crash-test scores have improved with the latest Tundra, but they're not the best among full-size trucks.
The Tundra made marked improvements in its crash protection last year, but it still runs behind the truck-safety leaders.
Before 2015, some Tundra trucks earned truly bad crash-test scores from the NHTSA. Crew cabs fared best, with four stars overall, while regular cab models in both rear- and four-wheel drive, as well as the extended cab four-wheel drive, scored three stars overall in NHTSA testing.
For 2015, Toyota 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 IIHS sees things somewhat differently, rating the Tundra range as a whole with across-the-board scores of “Good" with an "Acceptable" rating in the small-overlap crash test. 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.
Toyota also fits the Tundra with blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts; it's standard on Limited CrewMax, Platinum, and 1794 Edition models. However, the Tundra lacks the latest safety technology, including adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking.
2016 Toyota Tundra
Toyota sells the Tundra in a wide range of trims, from work truck to ritzy 1794 Edition models; its infotainment system feels dated.
The Toyota Tundra is sold in a wide variety of configurations, if not as many as its sliced-and-diced domestic competitors. Still, there are enough features, options, and packages to make most Tundra owners feel as if they've been catered to.
The base Tundra SR offers the minimum spec, with standard features like an AM/FM/CD stereo with smartphone connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, USB and iPod connectivity; Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming; and some voice recognition functions. It also comes with air conditioning. It can be trimmed down to Work Truck package standards, which means swapping out nicer fittings for more durable vinyl-trimmed seats, heavy-duty all-weather flooring, and no-frills utility.
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 7.0-inch touchscreen display; HD Radio with iTunes tagging; HD Traffic and Weather; and a 90-day trial of SiriusXM radio.
New in 2015, the TRD Pro Series added a variety of off-roading performance upgrades to the Tundra, including Bilstein monotube dampers; 18-inch TRD alloy wheels; rear side privacy glass; an engine skid plate; front tow hooks on rear-drive models; and TRD badges.
Stand-alone 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.
Tundra SR5 models can also be outfitted with an Upgrade Package, which fits front power bucket seats with power lumbar support; floor-mounted shift lever; tilt-telescope steering wheel; a front console box; and a rear under-seat storage tray, in Double Cab models.
The Tundra Limited 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 has front and rear parking sensors, power windows, ambient lighting, and a glass breakage sensor.
Tundra Platinum trucks come 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 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—befitting its niche as the King Ranch or Laramie Longhorn of the Toyota lineup.
2016 Toyota Tundra
Fuel economy lags in the Tundra, since it only offers V-8 engines.
Fuel economy isn't a strength for most full-size pickups, so it's no surprise that the Tundra struggles here.
The 4.6-liter V-8 with rear-drive model scores 15 mpg city, 19 highway, 16 combined. The top-line 5.7-liter V-8 model with rear-drive rates 13/18/15 mpg.
Choosing 4WD with the 4.6-liter V-8 model reduces mileage to 14/18/16 mpg; adding it to the 5.7-liter engine yields gas mileage of 13/17/15 mpg.
Toyota has stuck with V-8 engines in its Tundra, unlike other manufacturers. By comparison, Ford's turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 is rated higher, at 17/24/20 mpg, but whether that translates into real-world efficiency is entirely dependent on how it's driven.