After 14 long years, Toyota is finally introducing a complete redesign of its Tundra full-size pickup truck. Time waits for no truck, and although the model has been periodically freshened, some of the current Tundra’s rivals have been totally redesigned twice since it bowed in 2007.
To make it a more competitive machine, the 2022 Toyota Tundra will feature multiple improvements over this year’s version, starting with a massive upgrade in technology and suspension hardware.
Toyota is following the lead of Ram trucks by changing the Tundra’s suspension to coil springs from the more traditional leaf springs. Combined with a much stiffer frame, the new truck is expected to offer a more comfortable ride, better agility and less body roll through curves. The redesign also includes a new double-wishbone front suspension.
The new truck’s styling is likely to raise eyebrows, Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights, told Forbes Wheels.
The rear and front fenders have raised ridgelines, or shoulders, giving the pickup a blocky feel. The front, with a similarly ridged center hood and large grille, is bold and dominating.
Toyota’s designers call the styling cues “technical muscle” as they attempted to create a visual “exemplification of toughness and capability.” Some might call it cluttered. Indeed, while it bears some resemblance to GMC’s similarly busy-looking Sierra, it will stand out from the other full-size pickups in the segment.
“We set out to create a muscular, chiseled and athletic design that also looks like it could handle the toughest towing demands,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research, the automaker’s U.S. design house.
Tundra’s New Hardware and Hybrid
The architecture of the truck also changes significantly. Engineers widened the rear frame member to improve stability and towing capability. They doubled the size of the frame cross members to provide additional reinforcement and rigidity. The redesigned Tundra also has a new front cross member for the steering gearbox. Designers used aluminum in some areas of the frame and body to reduce weight. Altogether it is slightly wider and longer than the current model, though Toyota has not yet provided detailed specifications.
Tundra buyers will get two engine choices, both mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Both are V6s, the Tundra’s first six-cylinder choice since 2014. While the new engine options may be smaller than the outgoing 5.7-liter V8, they yield higher tow ratings than any previous Tundra. The new truck is targeted at the heart of consumer sales, and most half-ton pickup buyers choose V6s.
The base twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 will produce up to 389 horsepower and 479-pound-feet of torque. This configuration will have a maximum towing capacity of 12,000 pounds and a maximum payload of 1,940 pounds, up from 2021’s maximums of 10,200 and 1,730 pounds, respectively.
Like other Toyota models, the Tundra also gets a hybrid option that uses a similar 3.5-liter unit. Toyota calls it the i-FORCE MAX, and it’s the more powerful choice, producing up to 437 horsepower and 583-pound feet of torque. It’ll also be the more fuel efficient option, according to Toyota.
While it has similarities to Toyota’s other hybrid powertrains, this system is built specifically for a truck platform. The motor generator is built in line with the engine and transmission. It has the same payload as the other drivetrain, but the maximum towing capacity falls to 11,500 pounds.
“Aside from the controversial design of the new Tundra, it appears to be quite competitive now,” Abuelsamid said.
Truck buyers are likely to compare the Tundra hybrid with Ford‘s F-150 hybrid. With a maximum tow rating of 12,700 pounds and a payload rating of 2,120 pounds of cargo, the Ford truck noses out the new Tundra. The Ford also has a fuel economy rating of 24 mpg, regardless of city or highway driving.
As the current Tundra is among the most fuel-hungry of all half-ton trucks, the hybrid will likely bring significantly better mileage. Toyota has not yet released fuel economy numbers for the 2022 model, however.
“From a performance perspective, the base twin-turbo V6 and the hybrid are roughly on a par with the F-150 3.5-liter Ecoboost and hybrid and the new coil-spring rear suspension should make the driving dynamics more competitive with the Ram 1500,” Abuelsamid said.
A Tundra for Consumers, not Tradesmen
“It appears that Toyota doesn’t have much interest in going after the base work truck market since there is no lower-end engine or standard cab offering,” said Abuelsamid. “That’s probably just as well since the domestics really have that locked up and Toyota can focus on the consumer segments that are likely more profitable.”
Technology is an area where Toyota has made extensive improvements, he said. The new truck, for example, will have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The dashboard will have a standard 8-inch touchscreen with a 14-inch screen optional. All have better resolutions than what’s in the current model and better touch responsiveness. There are dual microphones in the cabin so that passengers can access the phone and voice controls.
The new truck also has an extensive suite of automated driver assistance systems, all as standard equipment. The features include forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. The truck also has automatic high beams, which switch on and off depending on traffic. Many competing trucks still make these extras optional.
Although Toyota won’t offer as many cabin and engine configurations as its domestic rivals, the new Tundra will come in multiple flavors, including an off-road driving optimized TRD Pro model.
Of course, it will have a four-wheel-drive option. The body configurations are two four-door options: Double Cab and CrewMax. The Double Cab models will be offered with the choice of a 6.5-foot bed or the 8.1-foot bed that comes with the double cab models. The larger CrewMax truck models will have either a 5.5-foot bed or a new 6.5-foot unit.
Toyota will offer five trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794. The TRD Pro only will be offered with the hybrid powertrain. Additionally, the i-FORCE MAX only is for sale with the Limited, Platinum and 1794 trims.
Although Toyota is a Japanese brand, it plans to market the Tundra by pitching the pickup’s U.S. pedigree. The design comes from teams in Newport Beach, Calif. and Ann Arbor, Mich., and Toyota builds the Tundra in San Antonio, Texas.
The Tundra is a steady seller, helped by a twin reputation for solid reliability and resale value, but it doesn’t really compete with the domestic truck nameplates. With sales of 111,673 last year, it commanded less than 5% of the full-size pickup truck market. Ford, by comparison, sold nearly 900,000 F-Series pickups in 2020. Ram sold more than 633,000 trucks and GM more than 800,000 between its Chevrolet and GMC brands in the same time period.
With the new Tundra, Toyota “faces the same challenge it has had for nearly two decades,” Abuelsamid said. Truck owners have among the highest brand loyalty in the industry, so there not likely to switch.
“It’s tough for anyone to make inroads,” Abuelsamid said.
The 2022 Toyota Tundra will go on sale late this year. The automaker will release pricing information closer to the on-sale date.