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2014 Toyota Tundra and 2014 Toyota 4Runner First Look and Drive +VIDEO

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2014 Toyota Tundra

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2014 Toyota 4Runner


2014 Toyota Tundra and 4Runner Preview

Sometimes you feel like a truck, and sometimes you don't. Toyota can satisfy both desires, and if car-based crossovers are the current popular items in the automotive marketplace, there are still plenty of people who want a real body-on-frame truck. Despite newer crossovers like the Highlander and RAV4, Toyota still builds and sells body-on-frame SUVs including the 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, and Sequoia. There is the Tacoma for the small pickup marketplace, and the Tundra to compete in the full-size pickup segment.

New to the Toyota lineup for 2014 are the latest iterations of Tundra and the 4Runner, recently shown to the automotive press in Cle Elum, WA and available for sale now. I'll cover each in turn

2014 Toyota Tundra First Look Preview and Road Test

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2014 Toyota Tundra

Toyota has long been the class benchmark for small pickups, starting with the Hilux in 1969. Which was mostly referred to as "the Toyota pickup" until it was named Tacoma for the North American market in 1995. Realizing that compact pickups were but a small part of the huge American pickup category, the larger T-100 was introduced for the 1993 model year. If it was larger than any previous Toyota pickup, it was smaller than the full-size domestic pickups that ruled the marketplace. It had a useful eight-foot cargo bed, but the largest engine offered was a V6, and originally it came only in standard-cab form.

The T-100 never made much of a dent in the marketplace. It might have been the truck many people needed, but without a V8 it was not the truck they wanted. It disappeared after 1998.

To be followed for model year 2000 by the really full-size Tundra. As the lineup expanded, it was offered with regular, extended, and full crew cabs, with V6 and two varieties of V8 power, two- and four-wheel drive. The name of the pickup game is choiceā€¦

A second generation of Tundra was released for 2007. Following the lead of the class leaders, it was even bigger and more capable. A Tundra, right off the assembly line, even towed the 300,000-pound Space Shuttle for a short distance. If the Toyota name is Japanese, the newest Tundra is about as American as a car or truck can be today. Made exclusively for the North American market, engineering was done at Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor MI. Styling is courtesy Calty in Newport Beach, CA, and Ann Arbor. Engines come from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, in Huntsville, with transmissions sourced in North Carolina. Final assembly is at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, San Antonio, TX (TMMTX).

And it's a Texas-sized truck. With, in top working trim, a 10,000-pound towing capacity and 2,000-pound payload. Pickups are the biggest-selling vehicles in this country because of choice, and even though Toyota has no illusions of toppling the domestics in the class, the 2014 Tundra can be had in multiple grades and configurations. Engines are a 4.0-liter, 270-hp V6, a 4.6-liter, 310-hp V8, and a 5.7-liter, 381-hp V8. Pushrods not found here; all are DOHC multi-valve designs. The V6 is matched to a five-speed automatic; the V8s get a six-speed.

Pickups get used for everything from work to play, so there are appropriate grades. The work-oriented SR comes in regular and extended "Double Cab" form, two or dual-range four-wheel drive, V6 (4x2 only) or V8. The SR5 is expected to be the core model, so either V8, 2WD or 4WD, Double or crew "CrewMax" cabs. "Limited" means upscale, CrewMax and 5.7 V8 4x2 or 4x4. Above that are the Platinum and 1794 luxury trucks. 5.7, CrewMax, 4x2 or 4x4.

The V6 is not expected to be a major seller. A comparably-equipped 4.6 V8 truck is expected to lose only 1mpg in comparison -- not surprising to me at all as often a vehicle with a small engine gets poor mileage in the real world because it works much harder. Wouldn't you really rather have a V8? and Toyota has learned that lesson the hard way.

The Tundra's development process was a bit unusual. Chief Engineer Mike Sweers may be a mechanical engineer by training, but he runs the family hay farm in northern Michigan. And so is quite familiar with what a pickup needs for hard use. And easier maintenance -- the new Tundra's bumpers are three-piece designs. Ding one part, no need for a complete new bumper!

And what might "1794" mean? According to Toyota, that was the year that the ranch on which the San Antonio plant now sits was founded.

Not that you have to go to the premium levels for civilized amenities. All versions, even the SR, have a standard backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power windows, door locks, and outside mirrors, and at least basic air conditioning. And, of course, the Toyota Star Safety System suite of safety equipment.

After the morning briefing on design and development, assembled journalists were turned loose in the trucks. Typical of press fleet-spec, most available were Limited, Platinum, and 1794 models. There were also a few SR5s. mostly CrewMax. So my driving and passengering was limited to the CrewMax versions, and when sitting in the rear seat no complaints about that at all. Think of a crew-cab pickup as a full-size SUV with either a huge trunk or a better solution for towing. There's plenty of interior space for people or cargo and room to store more in the bed. Or the best setup for towing a fifth-wheel trailer.

Today's pickups feel like luxury cars compared to those of even 15 or 20 years ago. Especially in the premium levels, the ride quality is very good and interior noise levels are low -- even on gravel and dirt roads, which are plentiful in the mountains. We also tried towing, with a 6,000-pound trailer. No problem. Yes, acceleration was diminished and adjustments needed to be made to driving -- but that goes for any vehicle towing anything.

After a rocky start, Toyota is in the full-size pickup market to stay. Prices range from $25,920 for a V6 4x2 regular-cab SR to $47,320 for a (more than) fully-equipped 4x4 CrewMax Platinum or 1794 Edition. Plus destination, tax, and license.

2014 Toyota 4Runner First Look Preview and Road Test

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2014 Toyota 4Runner

Back in model year 1985, long before the Great SUV Boom of the 1990s, the original Toyota 4Runner was one of the, if not the, first to put "sport" with utility. It was little more than a regular Toyota pickup with a factory camper shell but it hit a note with active outdoor people. Especially since in 4x4 trim it was eminently capable off road, and I still see a few around today. Which is not surprising, as Toyota has sold around two million 4Runners since then, and 75% are still on the road.

Between then and now the 4Runner has moved upscale in appointment. It split off from the pickup line in 2003, when it was built on a platform used, in other markets, by the Land Cruiser Prado. That gave it a stiffer fully-boxed frame with independent double-A arm front and well-located solid-axle rear suspension for serious off-road abilities. And a 235-horsepower V8 engine.

The V8 eventually went away, but since the 4.0-liter V6 in the 2014 4Runner makes 270hp, it won't be missed. This year sees a styling refresh, which follows an update in 2009. If it isn't a mainstream vehicle, the 4Runner has an enthusiastic following and is as capable as ever. This particular event was more about the Tundra than the 4Runner, and we, alas, didn't get to do any serious four-wheeling of our own. Toyota did, however, have their driver doing exhibition runs through a technical off-road course. Which was serious enough that you probably wouldn't want to run through it in your own 4Runner. You could, as it had no problems during a long day of work.

There was no towing demonstration for the 4Runner, but with a 4700-pound capacity it should have little problem with smaller camping trailers, boats and personal watercraft, motorcycle trailers, even race car trailers. Note that Toyota's stated towing capacities are per new SAE J2807 methodology, which is very conservative. If you are looking for a mid-size SUV with serious towing and off-road capability, this is it. It was the first of its kind almost 30 years ago, and now the Toyota 4Runner is one of the last mid-size, body-on-frame true SUVs sold here, and by far the most luxurious.