By Cars.com EditorsOctober 12, 2021
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Fully redesigned for the first time in 16 model years, the 2022 Tundra comes in two cabs, three bed lengths, two powertrains and rear- or four-wheel drive. Trim levels and suspensions number a half-dozen each.
It's a bit of an understatement to say the Toyota Tundra was due for a redesign. The current generation hit dealers all the way back in early 2007.
That means a kid getting their license right now to drive a new one, was still in diapers when this first came out, and yet, here it is, and we're near San Antonio ready to drive this redesigned third generation half-ton and give it a Texas-sized test drive. Now, half-ton pickup trucks are nothing if not a smorgasbord of variations, and so it goes here. The 2022 Tundra comes in no fewer than six trim levels, six suspension layouts, two cab styles, three bed lengths, two drivelines, and two engines. That's a lot of different Tundras you could buy. Now curiously, none of them is the lowly single cab, which Toyota hasn't offered in a Tundra since the 2017 model year. All indications seem to be that this redesign ain't bringing it back. Now, about those powertrains. None of them anymore is a V-8. That's right, you can't get a V-8 in your Tundra. Instead, Toyota offers a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine. An optional electric motor generator which is sandwiched between that engine and the transmission turns the Tundra into a hybrid, which Toyota is marketing as i-Force MAX. That's its i-Force MAX powertrain, which adds 12% in terms of horsepower, and importantly, 22% in terms of torque. The i-Force MAX draws power for its electric motor from a nickel-metal hydride battery which sits underneath the back seat, and like the gas-only V-6, it uses a 10-speed automatic transmission. We've driven both powertrains and it's safe to say, no Tundra is slow. The gas-only Tundra leaps to attention with quickly building power as you climb the tachometer. The hybrid add some fierceness to it on the low end, especially, as the engine and electric motor are working in tandem. They're doing that a lot. This isn't one of those hybrids where you can feel the electric motor kick in and do its thing for a while before the engine joins forces. That's been our experience too in the Ford F-150 hybrid. You have a hard time telling what's going on, just that there's a lot of power. Same kind of goes on here. The 10-speed automatic is the first in a Toyota-branded vehicle here in the United States, and for a first effort, it's maybe the weak link in this powertrain. I detected a couple of banging upshifts in an hour long drive for the non-hybrid, and if you accelerate while already in motion, the transmission kicks down a single gear readily enough, but multi-gear kick down at highway speeds, you know, if you're trying to shoot a gap in the passing lane next to you, can take a full two seconds or longer, even in the driver selectable sport mode. Given that General Motors excellent 10-speed automatic can execute the same maneuver in as little as half the time for its pickups, Toyota has some work to do here. The hybrid Tundra's 10-speed feels a little bit faster to kick down, but it's still a bit on the slow side. Now about those suspensions, the front uses double wishbones. That's the same as before, but the rear has a new multi-link setup, which is still rare among full-sized pickups. So there's no leaf springs back here, just coils mounted outside the frame rails. Beyond that, Toyota officials confirmed six separate layouts, up from four in the previous generation Tundra. You can get passive twin-tube shocks in normal or sport tuning, or adaptive shocks and rear air springs. Heck, you can get the air springs without the adaptive shocks. Finally, you can get one of three TRD offerings that either sportify or off-roadify your truck. We drove four of those, including the TRD Off-Road on Toyota's off-road course northeast of San Antonio. And the big takeaways are this, the Tundra rides notably better on-road with those adaptive shocks. Without them, there's plenty of jittery reverb after broken pavement and anything else real tricky. The adaptive suspension doesn't exactly turn the Tundra into a crossover SUV, but it's in the same ballpark of very good ride quality you get from things like the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500s. On the other hand, the TRD Sport is slightly sportier with a firmer feeling ride that stops short of being too hardcore. I wouldn't exactly call it a fun-to-drive truck as the steering is still pretty slow ratio and there's plenty of body roll in corners, but it seems to fit the Tundra's billing as a more comfort tuned machine. And in this case, one that looks a little sportier too. On the off-road course, the TRD Off-Road takes care of business with a terrain selection system that optimize various drive settings to the conditions outside, as well as, Toyota's Crawl Control. Now, that's a sort of off-road cruise control that can maintain one of five selectable speeds while you just focus on steering. The TRD Off-Road still bogged down from time to time as Crawl Control figured out how to manage throttle, but I didn't detect much wheel slippage even over some pretty hairy stuff. Now if you want something even more hardcore, the TRD Pro swaps out the TRD Off-Road's Bilstein shocks for FOX internal Bypass dampers. It also gets a 1.1-inch front lift, a thicker front stabilizer bar that's 20% stiffer, and a unique grille that spells out Toyota, complete with a light bar underneath. Back to the on-road stuff, maximum towing capacity and payload are up about 18% and 11% respectively over the prior generation, Toyota says. That puts the new Tundra in decent company on the towing side, but it's well short of the maximum payloads offered by Toyota's Detroit Three rivals. Now, you might have an easier time cleaning up after that payload, at least with the base bed, as it's covered in a standard scratch and corrosion resistant aluminum-reinforced composite material. It honestly feels like a spray-in bed liner, which you can still get after this if you want, but many Tundra owners may just call it a day with the standard setup, which in any case seems a big step forward from the straight-up steel or aluminum beds elsewhere. Speaking of beds, one more cool feature is a tailgate release located on the driver's side, which pops down the tailgate and releases a sidestep accessory if you got the latter. You can basically hit it with your elbow while you're carrying stuff to get in. Inside, this Tundra is the first Toyota-branded vehicle to get the automaker's all new multimedia system, essentially, a version of what we first saw in the redesigned NX SUV from Toyota's Lexus division. Processing power is five times faster than the outgoing system, we're told, and it all goes down on a standard eight-inch or optional 14-inch touchscreen. Wireless integration of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard with 12.3-inch virtual gauges optional. Now, we sampled both displays and they work as advertised. Menu response is very good, and there's nothing too complicated to figure out. The cabin is otherwise roomy, though you don't quite get as much horizontal knee clearance as in the previous generation Tundra. Adults can fit in a pinch in back of the double cab, while the CrewMax has room to stretch out. Overall, cabin quality is decent upfront with soft-touch surfaces even in the base grade. It cheaps out as you get to the rear doors for most trim levels, which is to be expected in this class, but higher editions gussy things up like they are in front. As expected, Toyota threw all but the kitchen sink into the new Tundra. A pretty good redesign that hits at the heart of the half-ton market. Now, it doesn't have the eye-popping payload or towing specs that some of Toyota's Detroit competitors achieve, nor does it go for broke on technology, like the hands-free lane-centering available on the F-150 or forthcoming GMC Sierra 1500, but the Tundra boasts solid overall powertrains, plenty of standard features, and no shortage of available configurations. If you want one, it should be available soon. The gas-only Tundra goes on sale in December of 2021, with the hybrid following in the spring of 2022. (upbeat music)