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January 3, 2014

2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Ltd. 4X4

by Mark Savage

Hefty Tundra ready to take on the Big 3’s Big Boys

Tundra is a big moose of a truck.

Tundra is a big moose of a truck.

Toyota needn’t worry about folks pooh-poohing their full-size (and then some) Tundra pickup as not manly enough, or strong enough to take on the Big 3’s big boys.

Heck, the tested metallic black Tundra CrewMax Limited 4X4 is nothing if not big. First, it’s U.S.-built in San Antonio, Texas, a state that’s the prototype for big, including attitudes. The new 2014 Tundra appears to be trying to out-RAM the Chrysler Corp,’s massive RAM pickup, and it easily outsizes the popular Chevrolet Silverado I tested a month or so ago.

The CrewMax Limited’s engine is Toyota’s 5.7-liter I-Force Flex Fuel direct-injected V8 that creates 381 horsepower. That’s 26 more ponies than the Silverado’s plenty strong 5.3-liter V8. Torque rating here is 401 and Tundra uses a 6-speed automatic to put that power in action.

But the 5-passenger Tundra CrewMax is a behemoth, a heavyweight in every sense. It needs that horsier engine to tote around its 5,850 lbs. That’s about 900 lbs. more than the Silverado Crew Cab I tested, although it was only 2-wheel drive. Not sure what end-of-the-world scenario Toyota is building this to endure, but that’s a lot of girth that helps explain my gas consumption for the week.tundra

The EPA rates this at 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. Ugh, that’s old school math, albeit the numbers weren’t helped by out below 10-degree nights much of this week. I got just 12.9 mpg while the tested Silverado got 17.9 mpg and was rated a much greener 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. Granted it was zero to 20 degrees the test week. Can you say frozen Tundra?

The Toyota also rides on a 2.2-inch longer 145.7-inch wheelbase than the Chevy and has 10.4 inches of ground clearance, nearly two more than Silverado. Tundra is rated to tow 9,600 lbs., a hefty amount, but Silverado will pull 11,400 lbs. with proper trailering options.

So just how much truck you need will depend on your uses. But the Tundra is intended to work. It touts a heavy-duty battery and alternator and independent coil spring high-mount double wishbone front suspension with low-pressure nitrogen-filled shocks and a stabilizer bar up front. The rear suspension is a live axle trapezoidal multi-leaf configuration with staggered outbound nitro shocks.

The Toyota’s ride is well controlled and civilized in town and both it and the Chevy are good when lumbering around the metroplex.

Handling is good too with a moderate steering effort to the thick leather-clad wheel. Toyota uses hydraulic rack & pinion steering. I can’t say the truck is easy to maneuver in tight quarters because its size is so extreme. You thank heavens for the backup camera so you don’t squish anything behind you. Still, on the road it’s easy to keep in its lane.

This beast will haul a load with the best of 'em.

This beast will haul a load with the best of ’em.

Braking comes from large four-wheel discs and the four-wheeling system is simple to engage with a dash dial. Just turn it and within a few seconds the four-wheel system is enabled.

While not noisy inside, I was surprised at how much echo or empty big box sound there was in the Tundra. Front seat passengers could talk easily, but it was a strain to carry on a conversation with anyone in the rear seat. That has been a pickup problem for years, but Chevy solved it in the 2014 Silverado, which is as quiet inside as an entry-level luxury sedan.

That said, Tundra’s interior is comfortable and the Limited features leather seats, the front two getting three-level heat and power adjustments. The driver’s seat also has a power lumbar support. Seats are flat bottomed and moderately contoured for the backs, plus there’s oodles of legroom front and rear. Headroom is no problem. The rear seats fold up in a split 60/40 to create some interior cargo room.

Tundra's dash is pretty macho looking, like its exterior.

Tundra’s dash is pretty macho looking, like its exterior.

I like the dash, it has good sight lines and is simple to figure out. Toyota uses a brushed metal look on the center stack and pewter-look plastic trim elsewhere on the dash. Naturally the truck has a big 7-inch touchscreen mid-dash for the premium Entune audio system. It works well and is simple to figure out. There was no navigation, although supposedly a system comes on the Limited. I suspect this was an early build or possibly a pre-production model.

The trip computer is adjusted via a button on the steering wheel hub and there are radio controls there too. Cruise control is on a small stalk behind the wheel and to the right.

Gauges are attractive and easy to see.

Gauges are attractive and easy to see.

The test truck added a Limited Premium Package that included auto up/down power front windows, a glass breakage sensor, additional foot/ignition/room/entry lighting, plus front and rear parking sonar for $595.

Limited models also add chrome mirrors and door handles and a chrome grille insert, plus fancy 20-inch split 5-spoke alloy wheels and the Entune system.

One concern I have with these big trucks is the size of their side mirrors and the fact that they create a big blind-spot as you look to the side and toward the front at intersections. A couple times I was glad I looked again before pulling out as a vehicle was hidden in that spot. A blind-spot warning system would help for vehicles running parallel to you, but not those coming from the sides.

In back there’s a step in the rear bumper and lighting for the pickup bed. This one added a bedliner (a wise move) for $365, plus running boards (an extremely wise move) for $345. Some door sill protection ($65) and a shiny exhaust tip for $99, along with a $995 delivery charge put the test truck at $44,359 after starting at $41,895.

A base Tundra SR, which has a standard cab and 4.6-liter, 310-horse V8 starts at $25,920. Moving up to an SR5 model, again with regular cab and 2-wheel drive, bumps that to $29,465. The base SR5 CrewMax with the smaller V8 lists at $34,875 and gets one more mile per gallon. The least expensive CrewMax with the 5.7-liter V8, the SR5, goes for $36,375. Models also are available as a Double Cab.

So like all big pickups, you can get most any configuration you want, and at least try to get the truck into a price range you’re willing to pay. This is a big brawny well-built pickup that is comfortable and will haul well. That makes at least four major competitors in this segment.

Stats: 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited 4X4
Hits: Big, brawny pickup with macho looks, tall stance and ground clearance, serious power and towing capacity and comfortable to haul five adults. Attractive and comfortable interior, big interior storage and backup camera.

Misses: Gas mileage is poor and it’s tough to fit in a parking space because it’s so long. Some echo that makes talking to back seat occupants difficult, plus a big side blind spot due to giant side mirrors.

Made in: San Antonio, Texas
Engine: 5.7-liter I-Force Flex Fuel DI V8, 381 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 5,850 lbs.
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Tow: 9,600 lbs.
MPG: 13/17
Base Price: $41,895
Dealer’s Price: $38,753
Major Options:
Limited Premium Package (power windows w/front auto-up/down, glass breakage sensor, foot/ignition/room illuminated entry, front/rear parking sonar), $595
Running boards, $345
Bedliner, $365
Door sill protector, $65
Exhaust tip, $99
Delivery: $995
Test vehicle: $44,359
Sources: Toyota, http://www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Toyota

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