NOTE: yes, faithful readers, it’s another new format! I’m trying a couple of new things. This week I’m trying a Quick Take review. A faster, less rambling read. Let me know what you think, and don’t fret – my rambling, 3000+ word reviews haven’t gone far. I’ll probably switch it up as I see fit.
The 2012 Tundra
Let’s start with the basics. The Tundra is gargantuan. It’s a full-size truck. In the past, the argument against the Tundra was that it was a lesser-scale big truck, and just wasn’t ready to compete with the F-150s, the Sierra/1500s and the Rams that we seem to love so much here in North America. Well, that argument is no more. Capacity and size-wise, it gives nothing up to its competition.
I was going to start with my “nothing much has changed in the truck world, and trucks remain trucks” line from my Tacoma review. It seems obvious, but it’s the truth – they keep evolving, but they’re not really doing much different from how they used to do it many years ago.
So, there you have it. The Tundra IS, in fact, a full-size truck. Tundras start at just over CDN $32,000, but this 4×4 CrewMax SR5 5.7L rang in at CDN $44,585.20, all in – including one option – a $465 bed liner. Not bad at all, and competitive.
Under the hood, you’ve got choices, but this one came with the 5.7-Litre i-FORCE V-8. To call this engine brawny feels like an understatement. It puts out 381 HP @ 5600 RPM and more importantly churns out 401 lb.ft of torque at a low 3600 RPM. Mated with the 6-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual shift mode and a Tow/Haul mode. Towing or not, it’s going to get expensive quickly. Although the Tundra is rated at a not-horrifying-for-its-class 16.7 L/100 km (14 mpg) in the city and 12.1 L/100 km (19 mpg) on the highway, I witnessed this behemoth swilling dino-juice at the average rate of 19.6 L/100 km (12 mpg). And I wasn’t driving aggressively – as a matter of fact, I tried driving economically. Yowzah! Realistically, it’s not much different than the competition.
The Tundra is big. Toyota has used smooth lines to try to hide some of this big box, and for the most part, the styling is decent.
The trademark grille greets you at the front, announcing that it means business. I felt the hood looked almost short, which is fine. It certainly looks short compared to the CrewMax cabin. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a bigger rear passenger door than on the Tundra CrewMax. Visually, it appears you could drive it’s little cousin, the iQ I reviewed, INTO the rear passenger compartment. Behind the monster cabin, you’ll find a short 5-1/2 foot box. The exterior is clean, and functional.
With a cab that big, you’ll find plenty of room to move. Head, leg and knee room were of epic proportions – front and rear. It also makes for a stretch – reaching the far parts of the center stack or console isn’t easy.
The huge theme continues inside – huge dash, huge center console.
The interior is clad in a variety of textures and colors – all hard plastics – the only padding is on the door panels. Styling is simple and particularly pretty, but it works. I found most functions to be easily accessible.
The cloth seats (driver’s side is power adjustable) were not as comfortable as I had hoped for, and would benefit from different cushioning and better bolstering.
The rear seat is spacious and as noted, the legroom is almost ridiculous. A great feature is that the rear seats can slide forward, leaving the occupants with plenty of room and creating further storage space behind the seats. Very cool. Got kids? No problem. The rear seat easily accommodated all three of mine, and you have two sets of LATCH anchors to work with.
Cabin tech is pretty basic, but highly functional. You’ve got a decent-sounding audio system, feeding off AM, FM, satellite, CD, USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth streaming sources – with a nicely done, simple screen on it.
The Tundra offers hands-free controls as well as Bluetooth phone integration. You’ll find plenty of 12V outlets for your gear.
There is a very simple, but effective computer, allowing you to check fuel range, instant or average mileage and outside temperature. The Tundra has front and rear proximity sensors with audible alarms, which aid in parking this land barge.
Overhead, you’ve got a tilt/slide sunroof, and of course there are the usual power amenities – door locks, windows and mirrors. The dual-zone climate control is manually adjustable in this trim level.
Lots. Seriously. I don’t think anyone would ever find themselves wanting for more. Huge door bins, a glove compartment, lots of nooks and crannies everywhere, and a center console bin under the armrest in which you could smuggle a few illegal aliens into the country.
The Tundra has enough cupholders to serve a Tim Horton’s franchise for a day.
The box, as noted, is a short box, but leaves you with plenty of space to work, and has movable tie-down points, as well as 4 fixed tie-down loops and an excellent lighting system for working in the dark.
The Tundra is powerful. Paired with this transmission, to torque comes on almost too strongly in every day driving in terms of off-the-line pull. I know that sounds stupid, considering it’s lugging over 5600 pounds around but the Tundra’s gearing allows it to easily break the tires loose with mild acceleration on dry pavement. That sounds like fun, to be sure, but it gets a bit tiring. With that said, this truck feels as torquey as a diesel around town. I’m sure that would change once you start towing something, but in my opinion, this thing is built to tow and will easily compete with other gas-guzzling trucks.
The truck leans mightily into corners, but none of its road manners were surprising. It handles well, considering its bulk and mass, and competently takes curves. The ride is fine, with the typical truck choppiness over irregular surfaces.
I did get a little blast down the highway, and it is exceptionally stable, smooth and quiet at highway speeds – for a truck. Wind, road and driveline noise were all exemplary, with one pleasant exception – step on it, and the V-8 roars nicely and lets you know it cares about your needs.
Considering the size, the turning circle was decent. I did get to test the 4WD system in fresh snow – very effective, quiet and highly driveable.
My example didn’t come with side rails, and the step-in height is significant – which is not a knock against the truck. I’d highly recommend side rails, as with any truck.
Considering their enormity (I accidentally beheaded a couple of hitch-hikers with them), power folding mirrors should be standard equipment. It can make the difference between fitting and not fitting into certain garages – like ours. No power folding here.
The A-pillars are, roughly-speaking, the size of Mongolia and definitely obstruct vision when you’re looking ahead around corners.
A power rear window. Love it! Every truck should have this!
The Tundra is a great truck. It’s competitive on most fronts, save the cabin tech in this trim level. It’s powerful enough to do some damage in the towing department, and it’s big enough to not be relegated back to the sidelines by North American truck bigots, who need their trucks to be a certain size. That whole “size doesn’t matter” thing is lost on them, it appears.
I did not have the opportunity to tow, but feel the truck’s heft and power would lend to a comfortable towing experience on the road.
In terms of a full-size truck, I give the Tundra a solid 7 out of 10, and would consider it a very viable option. I’d like to see an updated interior, and more comfortable seating. After a week with it, I feel that it’s blandly competent. That’s a compliment, because it does little wrong, but could be updated and more current.
Of note, I did hear from a number of owners of Tundras, who said they would not buy one again for one simple reason – because of the mileage of the 5.7 V-8. That surprised me a bit, because frankly all gas V-8 trucks are brutal in terms of fuel economy, and I didn’t think the Tundra was THAT much worse. But it was an interesting common thread among owners.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was extremely low, due to high step-in height, overall size, and inability to fit in our garage. She did appreciate the family-friendly back seat though.
The Tundra is certainly not the vehicle for me, and in a broader sense, I don’t quite understand the argument for owning a gas-powered full-size truck these days. But that’s of little consequence, because they continue to sell at a hot-cake rate, with little sign of abatement. The Tundra can certainly compete on most levels with what else is out there, but comes across as an older gent, clearly able to get the job done, but slightly unwilling to get with the times. I’m sure an update isn’t far away, and Toyota will continue to make this truck competitive.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Toyota.
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