The Toyota Tundra delivers authentic truck talent, but it feels like a weak effort against its rivals.
The 2017 Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup truck that offers a robust powertrain and a refined feel to lure some of the most loyal customers away from well-established rivals.
The Tundra's strong record for durability has helped it carve out a small slice of the truck market, thanks in part to its broad lineup of SR, SR5, TRD Pro, Limited, Platinum, and 1794 Edition trim levels. Once buyers have selected a trim level, there are still plenty of options: bed length, cab size, engines, and rear- or four-wheel drive.
Overall, the Tundra feels a couple of steps behind its rivals, which is why it scores a middling 5.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Despite its wide range of choices, the Tundra has struggled to break into the big leagues alongside the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, and Ford 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 2017, and neither has the Tundra. For the new year, Toyota has made power adjustable front seats standard on the Limited and it has shuffled some paint colors. That's it. No fuel economy upgrades or additional safety features, both of which would help elevate the Tundra.
Toyota Tundra styling and performance
While the Tundra doesn’t stand out in any of the categories that pickup buyers are keen on, a range of updates delivered for the 2014 model year have kept it competitive on the upscale end. The Tundra looks beefy where it counts, though its body is not as crisp as the American-brand trucks. Inside, things are efficiently laid out, with chunky controls, and downright luxurious trim on the range-topping Platinum and 1794 Edition models. Both of those trim levels share flagship honors.
Performance is fine by absolute standards, behind the pack in comparison with the latest Ford, GM and Ram trucks. No V-6 is available, meaning buyers can only choose between 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 deliver a similar feel around town. They're reasonably quick when not laden to their payload and towing limits, and they deliver good low-end acceleration. They both tend to run out of steam as speeds rise and at higher elevations. 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 Detroit automakers deliver towing ratings of up to 12,200 pounds. In our experience, the Tundra isn't as confidence-inspiring with larger loads as the GM and Ford alternatives.
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.
Toyota Tundra quality, safety, and fuel economy
Much-needed upgrades to the interior and equipment levels arrived in 2014 and remain on the current Tundra.
There's a Regular Cab with a long bed, a Double Cab with a 6-foot-6 or 8-foot-1 bed, and a CrewMax with a 5-foot-5 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 comes standard on all Platinum and 1794 Edition Tundras. The Tundra lacks the kind of in-bed storage and utility of some rivals—features like in-fender bed storage, a damped tailgate, and deployable, in-tailgate steps and handrails. There's some appeal in the Tundra's simplicity, we suppose.
The Tundra includes the expected set of standard safety equipment, but its crash test scores aren't anything to brag about. The IIHS knocks this big truck for its performance in its challenging small overlap test, while the federal government assigns it four stars overall. No automatic emergency braking is available.
The entry-level SR model remains the work truck spec, coming standard with the 4.6-liter V-8; a choice of regular or extended cab (no crew cab option); and a long or standard bed. Standard equipment includes daytime running lights, 18-inch steel wheels, a basic touchscreen audio system, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, and power windows. Step up to the mainstream SR5, and you add fog lights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a more advanced infotainment system with smartphone-based apps, 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, navigation, leather seating with newly standard power front seats, 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 badging as big as a belt buckle. And that's intentional, since the 1794 is named after the founding year of the ranch on which Toyota's San Antonio, Texas, assembly plant is located.