Driver's seat: Tundra overloads on size, noise


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2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 Crewmax: Final entrant in the battle of the big boys.

Price: $43,445 as tested.

Marketer's pitch: "Work ready. Family tough."

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com liked the "strong V8 powertrains; large double cab with traditional rear doors; colossal CrewMax cab" but not the "below-average fuel economy; stiff ride; feels larger than rivals around turns."

Reality: You can take it all with you, but it can be difficult to maneuver.

Clash of the titans: In previous weeks, we've compared the 2014 Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150. This week, how does the Toyota Tundra compare to the American-brand steeds?

Biggest of the big? While in measurements the three trucks don't vary much, the Tundra felt every inch a giant pickup truck. It is extremely difficult to park and maneuver in tight spaces. Simply seeing past the gigantic engine compartment challenges drivers. And climbing the Tundrahorn is as big a challenge as scaling Mount F-150.

Up to speed: The 381 horses and 401 foot-pounds of torque brewed by the 5.7-liter V8 motivate the Tundra well. Getting up to highway speeds is easy.

On the road: The first time I drove a Tundra I called it "floppy." I didn't get that feeling this time around, but the Tundra is still the hardest to handle of the three tested trucks.

Annoying drone: Once upon a time, Mr. Driver's Seat had a neighbor who lived down the hill from his house. Mr. Downhill Neighbor would help with household projects and let the Sturgis kids play in the creek that ran past his house.

The only drawback -- he left for work every morning at 5 a.m. in his Tundra, and the loud factory exhaust would interrupt Mr. Driver's Seat's beauty sleep. (That's why I look so old and craggy now.) Also, Mrs. Passenger Seat said, "Honey, why don't you stop being so cheap and put in air conditioning? Then the window will be closed and you won't hear him."

Fast forward 10 years, and today's Tundra is just as loud. The drone of the exhaust can overpower the stereo unless you crank up the volume.

But the Tundra I drove came with $1,100 worth of dual exhausts. So, if you value your hearing and your neighbors, that money could be better spent. Like on air conditioning for the house.

Friends and stuff: Forget about the tight back seats of old four-door pickups. The Tundra rear seat has tons of foot room and legroom -- certainly the roomiest of the three. Headroom is good as well. A giant console between seats offers plenty of space; this is part of the $1,015 SR5 upgrade package. A bench seat is standard.

Manly men: The dashboard controls are designed for big paws. The simple three-dial heater control operates easily. The door handles, too.

But for forty grand? Everything had a cheap and plasticky feel, disappointing in this price range.

Cheap seats: The budget buttholders were comfortable enough. Driving position was good -- but the wide vehicle still makes it difficult to see what's going on close by.

Play some tunes: The angle of the screen on the radio captures sun glare. And the tune knob is a long stretch from the driver.

Dismal dashboard: Although the black and silver dash is simple and attractive, the gauges can be difficult to see in the sun. I sometimes had to turn the lights on just to be able to read the speedometer, but then I couldn't tell whether the cruise control was on or off.

Shifty: The big aviator-style shift lever makes you feel cool. It has a shiftable six-speed, but it's best just to leave it in drive.

Keeping warm: Heater vents are complete circles, which are best for directing air flow.

In control: Like the F-150, the steering wheel controls are not as compact and intuitive as I've seen.

Night shift: The interior lighting is good but does not interfere with the driver's view.

Fuel economy: The Tundra recorded a seriously depressing 14.5 mpg average, but this involved a lot of four-wheel-drive activation and slow speeds -- not a lot of highway driving.

Where it's built: San Antonio, Texas.

How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts above-average reliability for the Tundra.

In the end: The overall attractiveness, handling and fuel economy of the Chevy Silverado makes it the best all-around package. Still, I'll be curious to see how the redesigned 2015 F-150 measures up.

Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com.


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