First Drive: 2022 Toyota Tundra
A class-leading infotainment system and powerful twin-turbo V6 moves this pickup way up in the segment
The clouds in Texas seem to float just a little higher in the sky than they do anywhere else. Maybe it’s because the vast Texas landscape lacks mountains to encroach on their space. It’s the kind of sky that can make a person feel very small. And maybe that’s why trucks in Texas are so big.
Toyota revealed the next-generation Tundra online earlier this September and chose San Antonio, Texas as the place for us to first experience it. Though the engines are assembled in Alabama, the Tundra is a Texas product. Toyota’s North American HQ is in Plano, Texas, and the new Tundra assembly plant is in San Antonio. Combine this with Toyota’s extensive NASCAR effort and you can see how serious it is about capturing the minds of staunchly loyal pickup truck buyers.
The new third-generation Tundra represents a large step forward over the previous generation, which debuted way back in 2006. Let’s start with the mechanicals. The rear suspension of the Tundra is still a live rear axle, but now it is suspended by coil springs rather than leafs. This makes it and the Ram 1500 the only half-ton trucks you can buy with a coil-spring rear suspension. The improvement in ride quality versus the previous generation can be easily felt on the road.
Also noticeable on the road is the fully-boxed frame standard on all Tundras. The previous model only had boxed sections in high-stress areas. The result is noticeably less shimmy action over expansion joints and railway tracks. The Tundra also moves to an aluminum-reinforced composite (read: plastic) bed for weight savings over the previous steel box. Those of you worried how this will hold up can just take a peek inside any Tacoma box, as they’ve used similar tech for some years now.
But the largest mechanical changes are found under the hood, where there are a number of firsts for the Tundra. Gone is the long-lived V8, replaced by a 3.5L V6 and a pair of turbochargers. There is no V8 option. The new iForce V6 makes 389 hp at 5,200 rpm; and 479 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. That’s eight more horsepower and 78 more lb-ft than the outgoing V8.
If you want more power (and better fuel mileage) you can step up to the iForce Max (great superhero name, by the way) which couples the same V6 twin-turbo to a hybrid system to produce 437 hp and a monolithic 583 lb-ft of torque. (RPMs for peak power and torque are the same on the hybrid version.) It’s also worth noting that on the base SR trim only, Toyota artificially restricts the horsepower and torque to 348 and 405, respectively, via software changes. No matter which powertrain you choose, Toyota has wisely designed all of them to work with regular 87-octane fuel, and all are paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
That new V6 feels very strong out on the road. I drove it unladen and also with a 5,000-pound trailer, and it didn’t seem phased at all by the extra weight hanging off the back. The V6 provides effortless torque down low in the rev range, and pulls very hard to red-line. Hills were hardly an issue when towing, and acceleration was downright quick when unloaded. The difference in power versus the previous V8 is drastic.
Less complimentary is the sound it makes while working. While the previous V8 made Toyota’s NASCAR involvement known with its song, the new V6 merely sounds like a machine at work. it doesn’t sound bad, but it certainly doesn’t offer the aural delight that accompanied the old V8. But time comes for us all, even lovable NA V8s.