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2014 Toyota Tundra Thom Cannell First Look

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By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Toyota’s 2014 Tundra is more a reboot than an all-new app. The best of existing Tundra genetic code: engines, chassis and suspension are retained or revised with the lightest of touches while the internal and external appearance is recombined and recoded. Mostly for the better.

Tundra is a recent invention, the first 3/4 sized T150 / Tundra emerging in 2000 and the full-sized version launched in 2007, followed by a CrewMax crew cab, also in 2007. In 2009 E85 capability was added to the 5.7-liter engine, so Toyota has been enhancing their gene pool. The biggest change since then have been additional electronics like Trailer Sway Control plus a change in the navigation system in 2011. In 2013 the Platinum Package, introduced in 2010, became a model grade and for 2014 there is a new super-premium 1794 model that tackles high zoot trucks like Ford’s King Ranch. Well known models like SR/ Work Truck, volume leader SR5, Limited, and TRD Off-Road complete the lineup.

While it’s hard to imagine, Toyota is positioning Tundra as a value leader: comparing 2013 to 2014, there’s an average $263 reduction in price even though every Ten Best rates Tundra as tough, available in 4x2 and 4x4, and equipped with every bed size or number of passenger seats you could wish for.

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Toyota says there is no change in engines for 2014. Instead Tundra relies on a 270 horsepower 4.0-L V6 for SR regular and double cab models, the 310 horsepower 4.6-L V8 with 327 “torques” as the second standard motor, and a 5.7-L that belts out 381 hp and 401 pound feet of torque from the double overhead cam engine is standard for Limited, Platinum, and 1794. Toyota showed us figures that suggest their big engine, compared to any other premium motor, delivers similar real world fuel economy that hovers well below 20 miles per gallon. That’s something to think about. Also, Toyota says that direct injection is not yet considered necessary for their engines, regardless displacement. Rather, their Dual VVT-i dual independent camshafts are said to have plenty of headroom for power and emissions requirements due to independently variable valve timing. Dual-length runners in the intake manifold also help fuel-air mixtures. Elsewhere along the powertrain Toyota continues to rely on a 6-speed automatic transmission for V8 models, a 5-speed automatic for V6 engines. The transmissions are both able to set manual gears and shift them, 4th, 5th, and 6th offer torque converter lockup. Note that transmission coolers are standard with trailer tow packages and that tow ratings are over 10,000 pounds. Payloads vary between 1,500 up to 2000 pounds for 4x2 long bed 5.7-L regular cabs. Interestingly, Toyota, in response to Ram and Nissan is not, this year, ruling diesel engines out of the future picture.

What has been changed is suspensions, the front double wishbone springs are stiffer and the dampers retuned. At the rear, dampers are retuned and friction reduced. No other changes were deemed necessary. Oh, cabs? Still the whole suite of regular cab, double cab, and CrewMax remains untouched.

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The most recognizable changes for 2014 are to the exteriors, introduced at the Chicago Auto Show this year. A more distinct crossbar grill fits below a taller, more chiseled hood with a faux air inlet. The front, and rear bumpers now are made in three pieces. It’s less expensive for Toyota and a whole lot cheaper for anyone with a corner crunch as the parts are individually replaceable. Other changes include mirrors that generate a fuel-saving vortex, the tail gate has a stamped-in TUNDRA, backup camera with cross traffic and cross view are available. Last, Platinum and 1794 models get LED running lights.

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Inside we think interiors are far better pulled together. Center stacks are closer by 2.6” to the driver, surfaces are softer, there’s a new instrument panel with combination information display that’s doggone useful, and the Entune Audio system (four various Wattages and features) gets upgraded Apps, data services, BlueTooth, and all the connections you could want or expect. Entune Apps like Facebook Places, predictive traffic, iHeart Radio, Pandora, Yelp, and more are just part of the package. Best, it is now subscription-free! Touch screens vary between 6.1” to 8” and one feature of the high-end units is screen views that can be user-split into various panels, single, double, or triple. We tried Navigation on the big screen, Audio on the second, album art on the third and you could choose differently.

A trick that they’ve added, or we’ve missed, is ability to level headlights, which is great when the bed is loaded or if towing. That joins the backup camera, blind spot monitoring, and parking assists as options.

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Our short drive was in an SR Double Cab 4.7-Liter V8 with six-speed transmission proved adequately powerful, the stalk-mounted shifter slickly shifted while we negotiated several miles of the Tail of the Dragon and Foothills Parkway in Tennessee.

As the base model (all were preproduction models), it had solid rubber floor mats with carpet beneath, though that wouldn't matter a scrap to most potential buyers, and charcoal black cloth interior. Lets start with the seats, done in an attractive and surely durable dimensional woven cloth. Back seats were sufficiently large for any passengers with carpet underfoot. But, as we dragged mud and debris into the cabin, the mats were all we cared about.

Another feature that has some echoes elsewhere in the industry is a fold-down center console that, when snapped upright, makes a third front seat. Perhaps Toyota is run by romantics who remember having their sweetheart sitting beside, but this time there are seat belts the better to hold them closer. When in divided mode the seat back becomes a storage container with dual cup holder and a driver's side flashlight-sized bin. A larger lunch-box sized box is inset East-West that can be used by any passenger. Oh, the center seat cushion hinges forward to reveal a laptop-plus-binder sized bin. Slick.

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Our truck had its Navigation-equipped En Tune audio system poised above glove-and-mitten sized HVAC controls (don't ever change them!) and the select-a-screen feature should be universally adopted. Why? Wouldn't you like to easily select a one-two-or three area screen to display audio, navigation, or app information wherever you wanted it? It is cool to have album art displayed, cooler to have that on the screen while your iPad or iPhone's playlists are available at a touch. A bit higher is another display–not every En Tune has Navigation–with trip, direction, and time in a slender band that is barely a glance away from the highway. Instruments, tachometer and speedometer are balanced by a center information display that we never really grasped completely. It seems to deliver ever bit of information you’e ever want, however we never fell for the oddly shaped in-wheel controllers. Toyota user-interface engineers might want to brush those with pixie dust as cowboys don't always wear gloves.

There was no time in our day to whomp and stomp the Tundra through fields of mud and stone, only some dirt roads where it rode with confidence. Near as we can figure, there is no significant change to the chassis since 2010 other than dampers re-valved for better control. Tundra rear springs are still trapezoidally attached, where others are more linear. Toyota thinks this offers better lateral control. We can't say, though Toyota also has some convincing data that its half-ton plays with even bigger kids on nearly equal footing.

Regardless your choice in options and adornments, Tundra offers standard 6.5’, short 5.5’, and a double cab with 8.1’ long bed. So let's talk about the one thing I'd swap right now, the steering gear. Toyota says its electronic power steering (EPAS) has been tightened through revised computer instructions. We think it should be tighter, you know, squeezing a brick of aged Vermont cheddar instead of Velveeta. Right now there’s too much just-off-center rubberiness.

Toyota has sold over one million Tundras, designed in California and engineered in Michigan, and since 2008 all have been built in Texas. While no one expects Tundra to overtake Ram, F-150, or Silverado, it now presents a better face to compete against those stalwarts.