Commentary: The Teasing Is Over!

After years of teasing us, Toyota finally delivered on a new generation full-sized pickup truck. 

The 2022 Toyota Tundra will be what you expected from them. They put all of their know-how on a contender against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Something that has to be bolder in design, audacious in technology, and different in terms of performance and capability benchmarks. 

The automotive media opened up flood gates with the discussion around the new Tundra since its Sunday evening unveiling. It is major news to us, not because of years of leading us on about as replacement for the second-generation Tundra. The additional year of teasing would have been deemed unnecessary, but a global health crisis added it on due to practical reasons. 

Now, this new pickup truck has been unleashed upon us. I have been expecting this one for a long time. 

There is only question that remains: Does it meet my expectations? 

Let me start with some context. For the past eight years, I enjoyed working with the outgoing generation of the Tundra. It drove like an old school pickup with a hopped-up engine that wanted to jump out underneath the hood and lead the charge. Yet, the overall interior felt short compared to a Ram 1500. Some have said that it lagged the “refinement” of the Chevrolet, GMC, and Ford trucks. Still, the outgoing Tundra did the job, even though it never matched the lofty capacity numbers of its Detroit-based rivals. 

Still, Toyota proved it can make a good full-sized pickup truck compared to the Detroit-based rivals. Can they convince loyal-to-the-core pickup truck owners that they have elevated the game with a better product. Perhaps to conquest them from their vehicles?

On the surface, it seemed that Toyota looked at their competition and asked what they can do better. One of the things I pointed out on every Tundra I drove was their relative lack of efficiency. They have addressed it with two new twin-turbocharged V6s – one with a hybrid driveline attached. 

We knew a hybrid was coming, since Toyota had perfected parallel vehicular electrification over 20 years. Experiencing Ford’s attempt at doing so, I expect a better experience with the iFORCE MAX driveline with its 583 pound-feet of torque. This time around, the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 Hybrid will be mated to a 10-speed automatic – not a continuously variable transmission! 

The starting engine for the Tundra will be the same twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic without the hybrid-electric driveline. The numbers on this non-hybrid driveline are equally impressive with 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. 

Toyota also created new benchmarks for capability on the new Tundra. They stated that at its maximum configuration, the new Tundra could tow up to 12,000 pounds and can pack a payload of up to 1,940 pounds. Without having to make a comparison with its main rivals, these numbers where they should be in this class. I’m sure my colleagues will get a chance to prove these numbers for themselves in the months to come.

It is worth noting that Toyota made the switch from rear leaf springs to a multi-link, coil-based independent rear suspension set-up. Ram has proven that you can have a pickup truck run on four-wheel independent suspension and meet the capability targets in its class. In turn, Toyota was given permission to enhance their off-road capabilities using this new suspension set-up to improve off-highway performance on the TRD Off-Road package and on the TRD Pro trim. I’m ready to test out those FOX shocks on the Pro someday.

One of my concerns have been interior execution. The issue was not quality, but the lack of refinement on grades below the 1794 Edition. From what I’ve seen in photos and on video, Toyota ensured us that they have addressed our complaints. They upped the ante with an all-new infotainment architecture that will go along with an available 14-inch touchscreen. That screen will also add connectivity options, such as wireless smartphone integration. 

Toyota also went to a fully digital instrumentation cluster for the upper trims. That includes a 12.3-inch customizable screen that will also include a robust trailering status and information screen. It is nothing new to the full-sized pickup truck class, but I expect Toyota to come up with a clean set of screens that are easy-to-road, but full of vital information for then driver to ascertain on the road. 

There is one thing that is missing that would be the tipping point for the new Tundra – a head-up display. Maybe I missed something on the online presentations, but that would be the one feature that would make the Tundra a leader in its class. 

There is also the promise of increased driver assistance and safety. Toyota will equip the Tundra with their Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 system, that will add all of their best driver assist features standard across all – if not, most – of their trim levels. 

Initially, you can get the Tundra in their work-spec SR, value-oriented SR5, upgraded Limited, nicely appointed Platinum, luxurious 1794 Edition, and the off-road ready TRD Pro. The choices do not stop there, as Toyota will have a choice of Double Cab and CrewMax, as well as three bed lengths depending on which cab customers choose. In all, you get as bold, in-your-face pickup truck designed to take on the status quo that we have waited too damn long for. 

Now comes the challenge for Toyota. When it comes to sales and service, their dealership network might not match those of Ford, GM, and Stellantis. Toyota is not as present at small town markets, such as Marshall, Minnesota and Escalon, California. 

It is in the rural communities where you have to do battle in. Volumes be damned, you have to win with a better product towards conquesting those loyal-to-the-core customers. 

You can shout from the rooftop of the San Antonio, Texas plant that your Tundra can do the job. However, you have to prove it. Not just in Detroit, San Antonio, Richmond, Des Moines, Stockton, Ogden, Spokane, or any place where the truck rules at the local home improvement center, urban jobsite, or boat launch. You have to get it front of the farmers, the plants, and small communities across this continent where the pickup truck is a staple of transportation. 

The 2022 Tundra is one of the vehicles I have been “patiently” waiting for. It is a truck that is now full of promises that I cannot wait to see fulfilled. Believe me, I will be scrutinizing it with a fine brush. 

Not everyone is a truck person. If you love them, then the teasing is over for you. 

All photos courtesy of Toyota Motor North America

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