Let’s try something different. In a parallel world where the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado and RAM 1500 don’t exist, the Toyota Tundra is king of the full-size truck world. It may be threatened by the impending arrival of the 2016 Nissan Titan, but for the moment it can’t be touched.
Unfortunately, this is not reality. The Tundra’s out-gunned but far from down and out in this category.
The Tundra’s got “truck” written all over it (offered with a choice of V8s) and can carry, tow, and haul just about whatever you like. Pricing is very decent. For a little under $28k, you drive away with a 4X2 regular cab long box iForce 5.7L V8 version. That’s actually a sweet deal, for most. And for this money, you get one heck of a workhorse.
The other, other pickup
The Tundra’s an endearing truck. I got to spend a longer-than-average amount of time with it and it delivered the goods without sweating the small stuff. You see, end of June/early July is moving time in my hood and well, my two brothers and I all moved in the same period. The Toyota’s rough around the edges, far more than its American counterparts, but it can easily be forgiven. In the nicest possible way, it’s like that friend in your gang that’s not as smart/tall/athletic as the others, and you occasionally pity him because he can’t really keep up, but you love him nonetheless because he’s good/honest/hardworking and you know he won’t let you down.
The Toyota Tundra’s got almost everything it takes to tackle the big boys in the segment, but because the once largest car company in the world is not about full-size trucks, it lacks the depth of expertise and experience to produce a (let’s be honest) Ford F-150 beating product.
Styling and comfort
Exterior aesthetics aside, the cabin is purely functional and makes due without fancy materials, luxurious craftsmanship or high-end technical wizardry. If you do want these items, you’ll have to spend upwards of $55k but that will do little to change the dashboard’s utilitarian design. The seats are comfortable, as is the rear bench. The latter is not as well designed as in other trucks. However, more room or a large loading floor can be gained by flipping the lower seat cushion. My $44,765 Double Cab SR with the TRD package is perfectly suited to the daily truck grid.
The TRD package adds underbody protection, Bilstein dampers, 18” wheels, and is more for looks than functionality. In my books, because it also includes the Bongiovi audio system, it makes the most sense.
TRD fits with the Tundra’s demeanor. It’s not refined it’s loud and, like I said earlier, not the most polished product in the Toyota lineup. Upon start-up, the 381-horsepower V8 roars to life with the sound of valves, fans and exhaust -- and it is certainly alive.
Its 401 lb-ft of torque are harnessed with surprising dexterity by the 6-speed automatic transmission. Toyota tuned the Tundra for maximum responsiveness, perhaps at the expense of some extra fuel, but doing so avoids complaints about poor throttle response such as it is with the Chevy Silverado. By comparison, the Toyota kicks, punches and claws immediately forward. I like it.
The autobox shifts up or down quickly with assurance. Although not especially smooth, shifts are seamless enough that they did not knock over my precariously set up chair-table-bicycle arrangement in the bed.
The ride is, much like the truck itself, about as graceful as that bull someone allowed into a china shop. It’s not really that bad. It is, once more, part of what makes the Tundra an appealing pickup for those looking for that authentic experience. The Tundra settles down nicely when loaded with couches, a fridge, and a few other items.
Despite the heavy-duty off-road Bilsteins, Big Red, as I came to call him, was fairly stable on a smooth road. On the highway, it stayed its course. Rough surfaces, when unladen, were transmitted into the cabin and to the occupants. Even so, I had as much fun driving the Tundra as I would a large car. Surprisingly, while shod with P275/65R18 all-terrain tires, the pickup handled well.
The highly assisted steering lacked feedback and occasionally felt vague. I suppose this is acceptable for a truck, but the Big 3 do not suffer the same issue. Brakes are more than adequate on the Toyota. They respond quickly to pedal prods. All in all, the Toyota Tundra is actually fun to drive, once in the right mindset.
Capabilities and ranking
Its simpleton nature does not completely impact capabilities. As tested, the Tundra can still tow just under 10,000 lbs (4,450 kg) and carry a payload of close to 1,425 lbs (650 kg). A 2015 Ford F-150 has more or less the same capabilities unless specific options are selected. In that scenario, the Ford severely trumps the Toyota.
The Toyota Tundra is the other choice, nearly the last in line when considering the real players. In fact, I would classify my pickup choices as follows: No. 1 RAM, No. 2 Ford, No. 3 Toyota, No. 4 GM. As I said earlier, the Titan may change things, specifically where the No. 3 and No. 4 are located.