Need a big truck? Toyota has one, the Tundra CrewMax.
Need a luxury pickup? Consider the Tundra Platinum version. That’s what I drove this past week and luckily it was the 4-wheel-drive model as we still had a fair amount of snow to navigate on the side streets.
Toyota continues to apply pressure to the top-selling Big 3, Ford, Chevy and Ram (formerly Dodge). One model year back the Toyota designers beefed up the hood and grille on Tundra to prove it was manly enough to challenge the big boys. Production also moved to San Antonio, Texas, an aim to calm buyers’ fears that their truck was being made overseas. Point taken!
So at 5,675 lbs. and riding on a 145.7-inch wheelbase, the crew cab model is hefty and a hauler. It’ll pull 9,800 lbs. and packs a strong 5.7-liter I-Force Flex Fuel direct-injected V8 that creates 381 horsepower. That’s 26 more ponies than Chevy 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. Yet, for the record, the Silverado will pull 11,400 lbs. with trailering options.
Tundra CrewMax is such a behemoth that it needs that horsier engine to tote itself around, whether on the road or over pasture and field. It weighs about 700 lbs. more than a Silverado Crew Cab I tested about a year ago, although the Chevy was only 2-wheel drive. You can be sure the Tundra will weigh more than the new Ford F-150 that reportedly has shed 700 lbs. by converting to an aluminum body.
One other thing is certain, Tundra’s gas mileage is still poor. Toyota is overdue for some new high-efficiency truck engines.
Consider that the EPA rates this at 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway, decidedly old school numbers. Admittedly I had this one during cold weather, one night dipping below zero. But I got a puny 14.6 mpg. Other full-size pickups are now rated in the 16 to 23 mpg range. You still may not feel that’s super green, but it is better than 13/17. Thank goodness gas prices are low at the moment.
As far as size though, Toyota is a leader. Tundra 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.
Still, the Tundra comes in a variety of sizes and configurations, like all pickups. So there’s also a double-cab model and a standard cab and both 2- and 4-wheel-drive models. A base Tundra starts about $30,000 now and features a 4.6-liter V8 that creates 310 horsepower. Toyota has dropped its V6 engine from Tundra.
In any case Tundra is intended as a work truck, when not gussied up in Platinum and other higher trim levels. 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.
That means the Toyota’s ride is well controlled and civilized in town, yet still features some truck bounce on the roughest area roads and parking lot entry ramps.
Handling is good though, in fact among the best of any pickups I’ve driven. Steering effort is moderate, and I found the truck fairly easy to fit into a standard parking spot. Toyota uses hydraulic rack & pinion steering and with the crew cab’s short bed, just 66.7 inches, there was still room for others to scoot by behind me. Toyota wisely includes a backup camera, to help when you’re backing out though, and a 7-inch screen is standard on the dash.
Tundra is easy to drive and keep in its lane. It also comes with large four-wheel discs and its four-wheeling system is simple to engage with a dash dial. Just turn it and within a few seconds the four-wheel-drive system is enabled.
Power, as indicated earlier, is good, but with such heft as the truck has, you’ll never feel like you’re out accelerating anyone. Engine noise does pick up when you floor it too, but the six-speed automatic handles shifts well. Note that RAM’s big pickup now has a snazzy 8-speed automatic.
What surprised me most, compared to the Tundra I’d tested more than a year ago though, was how much quieter this interior seemed. The other had a long bed in back that may have added to the echo effect I felt. But this crew cab was quiet and luxurious inside.
Tundra’s interior is well laid out and comfortable, the top-end Platinum model features black leather seats and dash trim. I felt that trim was a bit funereal, but overall the interior looks fine with matte silver trim on the doors, stack and console. The front seats had three-level heating and cooling, plus power adjustments. The driver’s seat also includes a power lumbar support and leg support that can be extended for taller drivers.
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 too.
I like the dash, it has good sight lines and is simple to figure out. There’s that big touchscreen mid-dash for the premium Entune equipped JBL audio system. It works well and is simple to figure out. The screen allows a 2- or 3-way split, but even the 2-way makes it hard to read the navigation system’s map. I couldn’t get the screen to display the map full-screen.
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.
I like that the test truck added a blind-spot warning system for $500. That’s needed in anything this big, plus the truck has a couple of big blind spots, as do most trucks and some luxury sedans these days. The giant side mirrors combine to create a huge blind spot with the truck’s thick A pillar. Plus the passenger’s seat back is tall and when aligned just behind the B pillar can create another blind spot.
In back there’s a step in the rear bumper and lighting for the pickup bed. This one wisely added a bedliner for $365, plus running boards (an extremely wise move) for $345. Add in the oversized $1,100 delivery charge and $65 for a storage tray in the monster storage box/armrest and the test truck hit $50,250. Base price is $47,875 for the Platinum CrewMax.
Whatever configuration you choose, the Tundra is big and beefy and will pull, or haul, most anything you want.
FAST Stats: 2015 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Platinum 4X4
Hits: Big, brawny pickup with roomy interior, good power and serious towing capacity. Quiet interior that comfortably hauls five adults and features a well laid out dash. Platinum edition adds leather and heated/cooled front seats. Backup camera and big screen standard, this one adds blind-spot warning.
Misses: Gas mileage is poor. Still a couple big blind spots due to giant side mirrors and seatback. Bed is short in CrewMax version and split screen makes map hard to read.
Made in: San Antonio, Texas
Engine: 5.7-liter I-Force Flex Fuel DI V8, 381 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 5,675 lbs.
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Tow: 9,800 lbs.
MPG: 13/17 (EPA)
MPG: 14.6 (tested)
Base Price: $47,875
Dealer’s Price: $45,478
Running boards, $345
Blind-spot monitor w/rear cross traffic alert, $500
Center console storage tray, $65
Test vehicle: $50,250
Sources: Toyota, www.autos.yahoo.com