Words by Paul Strauss / Images by Paul Strauss + SPEED-PHOTOS
Toyota’s full-size pickup has received the top-to-bottom redesign we’ve been waiting for, and we spent a day putting the new Tundra through its paces in and around its hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Highlights include two powerful new engines, a smooth new suspension, and a bold new interior with a new multimedia interface.
For the 2022 model year, the Tundra comes in six grades: the SR work truck, popular SR5, and Limited, upscale Platinum, country-luxe 1794 Edition, and the rugged, off-road-ready TRD Pro. We checked out all of these models, and while their driving personalities and capabilities are similar, their design and bells and whistles are what makes them stand apart. Each grade has a unique grille which helps identify it with a quick glance. Our favorites are the black hexagons on the TRD Pro and the shiny black or chrome chainlinks found on Platinum and 1794 models.
In addition to the trim levels mentioned, there are four configurations available: 4x2 Double Cab, 4x2 CrewMax, 4x4 Double Cab, and 4x4 CrewMax. The SR, SR5, and Limited Double Cabs are available with a 5.5-foot short, 6.5-foot regular, or 8.1-foot long bed, while the CrewMax trucks come with either a 5.5 foot or 6.5 footbed, a new-for-2022 option for these spacious people and cargo haulers. Payload capacity ranges from 1575 to 1940 pounds depending on model and options.
Perhaps the most significant change for this model year is that the V8 engine of past Tundras is gone, replaced by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6. In the standard i-FORCE model, it produces an impressive 389 horsepower and 437 lb-ft. of torque. It’s also available in a hybrid configuration known as the i-FORCE MAX, making 479 horsepower and 583 lb-ft. of torque. Both engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. In neither case did we miss the V8. The V6 is robust and quick even in the non-hybrid version and offers plenty of passing power without any noticeable turbo lag. Its combined fuel economy of 20 mpg is also good for a half-ton truck and a 6 mpg gain over the old 5.7L V8. The hybrid engine has a bit more muscle and is expected to offer even better fuel economy, but Toyota hasn’t released those figures yet. Our time in the hybrid was limited, but we did find the added torque gave us a slight advantage in traversing some of the off-road obstacles we encountered in the TRD Pro.
The new Tundra does away with the old leaf spring suspension in the back, replacing it with a multi-link coil spring setup. This results in a decidedly more comfortable and stable ride overall. In fact, we found this year’s Tundra drives more like a car than a truck. It’s also impressively quiet inside the cabin, even at highway speeds. Combined, these updates make it less fatiguing to drive on long trips, and the truck feels better controlled overall. There’s also an optional adaptive variable suspension, which can dynamically change damping force based on road conditions and drive mode. If you plan on carrying a lot of cargo, we recommend the load-leveling rear air suspension, which helps keep the truck flat when its bed is loaded up.
Depending on the model of Tundra you select, the Drive Mode control can adjust steering weight, throttle response, and transmission mapping and can also change the damping force of the adaptive suspension. With the hybrid drivetrain, the electric motor provides an added boost of power at low speeds in SPORT or SPORT+ modes.
Towing capacity for the 2022 Tundra ranges from 11,170 to 12,000 pounds depending on drivetrain and trim level. This Tundra SR5 4WD had no problem pulling an Airstream trailer down the road. It handled smoothly and predictably, and the standard V6 engine didn’t flinch at the added weight, and the Tundra's super smooth brakes made stopping a pleasure with or without a trailer.
Backing up a trailer in a straight line can be an anxiety-inducing task. But the Tundra’s Trailer Backup Guide and Straight Path Assist make this common boat ramp task easy. When activated, this innovative system not only shows you the position and angle of your trailer but automatically adjusts the steering angle to ensure you back up in a straight line. The system requires an initial calibration for your specific trailer, but after that, it activates with the push of a button. You just get the trailer positioned straight behind the truck and start reversing. The steering system makes numerous small corrections, keeping the trailer straight and centered as you reverse.
The TRD Pro is still our favorite Tundra model. Not only does it come with the more powerful hybrid drivetrain, but it’s also ready for serious off-roading. It has a 1.1-inch front lift and 2.5-inch FOX internal bypass coil-over shocks, a front stabilizer bar, underbody skid plates, and rides on 18” black forged aluminum BBS wheels wrapped in 33” Falken Wildpeak off-road tires. There’s also a bright LED light bar and amber marker lights integrated into the truck’s grille. TRD Pro trucks also get an electronic locking rear-differential and muti-terrain select modes. We were particularly impressed with the advances in the Tundra’s Crawl Control system, which no longer sounds like an MRI machine as it controls throttle input and lets you focus on steering on tricky off-road trails. The Downhill Assist Control and competent transmission shifting help regulate your speed going downhill without unnecessary braking.
For those who like the looks of the TRD Pro trim but don’t need everything it comes with, there’s also a TRD Off-Road package, which gets an off-road-tuned suspension with monotube Bilstein shocks, 18” black alloy wheels, a TRD hexagonal grille, mudguards, skid plates, as well as the electronic locking diff and multi-terrain select modes found on the TRD Pro. The TRD Off-Road package is available on SR5, Limited, and 1794 trucks. Neither the TRD Pro nor the TRD Off-Road struggled in the least with the modest off-road course we drove on, which included a mix of rocky hills, rutted trails, and a telephone pole obstacle course. Of course, the Tundra isn’t the smallest truck out there, so it might struggle with its length on really narrow trails.
Inside, the new Tundra very much achieves Toyota’s design theme of “Technical Muscle,” with a bold, utilitarian look and well-placed controls throughout. There's plenty of storage too, with a huge center bin and cupholders for days. You can’t miss the gigantic 14” touchscreen in the center stack, which provides a home to the Toyota Multimedia system. This brand new system was developed in-house by the Toyota Connected team and is light years ahead of the old infotainment system. It’s fast and intuitive for anyone familiar with a tablet or smartphone and has a “Hey Toyota” assistant, which allows for hands-free programming of GPS navigation, music control, and can even show you the weather forecast. It’s certainly not as sophisticated or robust as Alexa, Siri, or Google, but it’s acceptable for its intended purposes. The system also has support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An array of tactile controls sit beneath the touchscreen, providing easy access to climate and volume settings while keeping your eyes on the road.
The Limited Hybrid, Platinum, 1974, and TRD Pro come with a 12.3” digital gauge cluster in place of the analog gauges and a small 4.2” information screen. The larger screen can be configured to display various information like a digital speedometer, tachometer, towing gauges, and pitch and roll displays for off-roading. One nice touch is the startup animation, which displays the TUNDRA logo against one of five U.S. National Park backgrounds.
Starting with the Limited trim, the cabin gets many more soft-touch surfaces and SofTex seats with heat and ventilation upfront. As you climb to the higher-end Platinum and 1794, you’ll find real leather seats, and the second-row seats get heating and ventilation too. The seats provide good support and comfort, and the back row of the CrewMax is so spacious and comfortable it might as well be your living room.
Tundra TRD Pro trucks get a unique interior with easy-to-clean SofTex seats sporting a technical camouflage pattern that repeats itself on the truck’s rear bumper and over-fenders. The two-tone red and black interior looks especially great with its red stitched accents on the center console and door trim. There’s also a red TRD engine start button, a red center stripe on the steering wheel, and aluminum pedals.
The 2022 Toyota Tundra impresses with its bold and imposing looks, powerful new engines, and smooth, car-like handling. Whether you go with one of the more basic SR or SR5 trims or go all-out with a Platinum, 1794, or TRD Pro, you’re getting a great truck. We’re pleased with the styling and technology upgrades too. If you’re a die-hard Chevy, Ford, or Ram owner, you’ll definitely want to cross-shop the new Tundra to see all of the improvements Toyota has in store for you.