2022 Toyota Tundra

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2022 Toyota Tundra First Drive Review: Lexus Luxury, Toyota Tough

2006; George Bush was president, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still two years off, and Toyota just revealed its then-new second-generation Tundra. We hope that lends some perspective on how long it's been since Toyota last gave its full-size pickup truck a complete redesign. The third-generation 2022 Toyota Tundra is a huge deal then, as it arrives sporting a new architecture, turbocharged powertrains (including a hybrid), updated styling, and major technology upgrades inside. In fact, many elements from this truck are already in use (or soon will be) in the Lexus lineup.

To show off the latest Tundra, Toyota flew us out to San Antonio, Texas where the truck is built, and set us loose on a scenic ranch in a variety of trim levels. We found a lot to like during our first drive, including a strong Lexus vibe in many of the higher trim levels. Unlike its smaller Tacoma sibling, the Tundra has struggled to dominate its segment, but this new third-generation model should help swing buyers in Toyota's direction.

2022 Toyota Tundra Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SR
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,950
SR5
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$40,755
Limited
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$46,850
Platinum
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$56,990
1794 Edition
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$57,690

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Exterior Design: Mean Machine

We've had more than a decade with the outgoing Tundra, so anything new is going to seem jarring. Much like the Chevrolet Silverado, the Tundra boasts a macho design with what Toyota calls a "Technical Muscle" mantra. Angular headlights sit either side of a massive grille that differs by trim. Six grades are available, each uniquely ranging from utilitarian to luxurious. The off-road TRD Pro model (pictured in white) is our favorite with its iconic "TOYOTA" grille, wide marker lights, and aggressive 18-inch wheels wrapped in Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires.

Buyers who crave a premium aesthetic will prefer the luxurious Platinum and 1794 Edition grades, which include flashy 20-inch wheels and more chrome exterior elements. The SR and SR5 trims are more pedestrian, but the latter is available with a cool TRD Sport Package, adding adding 20-inch TRD wheels, a TRD grille, and TRD lowered sport suspension. Those who enjoy the TRD Pro look but don't need the maximum capability can opt for the TRD Off-Road Package on the SR5, Limited, and 1794 models with 18-inch TRD wheels (20-inch on Limited and 1794), a TRD grille, TRD off-road suspension, skid plates, and mud guards among other upgrades.

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Performance: Borrowing From Lexus

Toyota's workhorse 5.7-liter V8 engine is finally put to pasture, replaced by a familiar 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 available in two flavors. We describe this engine as "familiar" because it's essentially a reworked version of what you get in the Lexus LS 500. Talk about not-so-humble origins! The V6 produces 389 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque in standard configuration, representing a massive bump in torque, with power routed to either a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain through a buttery smooth 10-speed automatic transmission, also shared with the LS 500.

As you'd expect of Lexus-derived drivetrain, everything is silky, under-stressed, and emits very little vibration. Toyota pumps in some augmented sound through the stereo, but we were impressed by the deep growl emitted by this new V6; so there should be no tears about the V8 going away. As for the transmission, our brief experience has quickly vaulted it up alongside GM's 10-speed box as one of the best we've tested in a truck. The shifts are seamless and nearly imperceptible. Toyota says the standard i-FORCE engine achieves 18/23/20 mpg city/highway/combined in RWD, or 17/22/19 mpg with 4WD, placing it in the ballpark with larger optional engines from American truck manufacturers.

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Buyers looking for improved fuel economy along with improved performance should opt for the hybrid i-FORCE MAX engine. This V6 powertrain is the same size, but adds a 288V sealed Nickel-metal Hydride battery and motor generator located between the engine and transmission. Together, the engine works with the electric motor to shell out 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque, significant gains over the standard engine. With more power and torque on tap, the i-FORCE MAX has a higher 12,000-pound towing capacity, while the base engine ranges from around 8,300 to 11,400 lbs. It's worth noting other trucks in the segment can tow more.

Toyota hasn't quoted fuel economy for the hybrid Tundra yet, but we expect it will outperform the base engine with the ability to shut down while coasting. 24 mpg in all categories from the F-150 PowerBoost is the number to beat. In practice, we found this hybrid system less willing to deactivate the engine compared with other Toyota vehicles. On the plus side, the i-FORCE MAX improves on the already polished feel from the standard drivetrain.

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Driving Impressions: More Composed

Aside from what's under the hood, the biggest change with the Tundra is underneath, where the old leaf spring setup is ditched in favor of multi-link rear suspension with coil springs. While this suspension setup has some adverse effect on towing, the new Tundra still tows 17.6% more than the previous generation with an 11% payload capacity increase. Crucially, the independent rear suspension provides a more car-like ride, though we still noted the rear end feels jumpy over rough pavement. The Ram 1500 outmatches the competition in this respect, but the Tundra is at least on par with the leaf-sprung F-150. Higher grade Tundras are available with adaptive variable suspension with air suspension at the rear. This system feels less bouncy in its Sport setting, rather than the Comfort or Normal modes, but we'd need more time for a thorough evaluation to be made.

The steering feels noticeably more connected than the previous-generation Tundra, with varying weights and ratios affected by the drive modes; Sport mode feels the best, though. During a brief off-road session, we found the Tundra plenty capable, but still far outmatched by the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX.

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Interior Design: Welcome To 2022

Of all the areas where the outgoing Tundra needed improvement, the interior was the most glaring. Consider that taken care of with this new model. An eight-inch touchscreen comes standard but even the affordable SR5 grade is available with Toyota's lovely new 14-inch unit. Powered by a brand-spanking-new multimedia system with a Human Machine Interface, the new touchscreen features Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, though the system is so user friendly we don't think either is required. This is the same interface found in the new Lexus NX, packing high-tech elements such as a voice-controlled virtual Intelligent Assistant with a "Hey, Toyota" wakeup phrase, cloud-based native navigation, and user profiles to remember your preferences.

As for the rest of the cabin, even the lower grades don't feel cheap to the touch. But the upper-spe Platinum and 1794 models feel like they could have a Lexus badge on the steering wheel. The Tundra is filled with available premium goodies, including heated and ventilated seats (front and rear), a panoramic glass roof, wireless charging pad, digital gauge cluster, and sliding glass rear window. Interior storage areas are numerous, and all controls are Toyota-easy to understand.

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Cargo Space: Flexible Options

Toyota will offer the 2022 with two cab styles, each getting two bed configurations. The shorter double cab sacrifices interior volume in exchange for more carrying space, with either a 6.5-foot or 8.1-foot bed. Front legroom is an identical 41.2 inches in both cab styles, but it's worth noting the double cab offers a cramped 33.3 inches of rear legroom. In contrast, the Crew Max offers a massive back seat with 41.6 inches of legroom. This is the option we'd choose if you frequently plan to have passengers back there, though the bed sizes are limited to 6.5-feet or 5.5-feet. There's no fancy multi-configuration tailgate like some American rivals, though the Tundra does get a cool bed step that deploys and retracts automatically with the tailgate.

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Verdict: A Strong Shot, But...

Calling the 2022 Toyota Tundra an improvement over the outgoing model is an understatement. This new truck offers a more modern cabin, more fuel efficient engines that deliver smoother power, and an overhauled driving experience. But the full-size truck market is cutthroat, and we still can't pinpoint one selling point that will draw buyers away from Ford, GM, and Ram. The 14-inch touchscreen is nice and possible class-leading, but is infotainment the number one draw for truck buyers, or do they value towing, payload, and engine options more? If so, the American rivals still have the Tundra outclassed.

If you own the previous-generation Tundra and have been waiting patiently for the new model, this truck will not disappoint. Far from it. But if you are a diehard loyalist for one of the American brands, the new Tundra feels like it catches up, but doesn't break new ground. We can't wait to see the Tundra's improvements trickle down to the Tacoma, which continually outsells its mid-size rivals year after year.

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Price & Trims

No pricing is currently available for the 2022 Tundra, but based on the outgoing model, we'd expect it to start higher than the lesser-equipped American rivals and cap out at a less obscene level. The previous Tundra SR started at $34,125, well above a base Ford F-150, though the loaded Platinum and 1794 grades topped out at $49,345, far below the most well-equipped F-150 Limited. Toyota's hybrid powertrain addition and other upgrades should raise the price a bit, so we will have to wait for concrete numbers.

Six grades are available at launch, including SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794, and TRD Pro. The SR trim is pretty spartan, but we came away shocked with how much equipment is available on the SR5. We'd recommend stepping up at least one trim level. The Limited trim seems like the best all-around package, but the Platinum and 1794 are ideal for buyers who want to ride in the lap of luxury. As before, the TRD Pro offers the most off-road capable package, with the same equipment offered on the mid-level Limited grade.

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