How does the oldest half-ton pickup perform?

The Toyota Tundra has been around since 2014 with nary a change. Before that, it was 2007 when the Tundra saw any action from Toyota designers – and that was the second-generation Tundra’s debut! Needless to say, Toyota’s full-size pickup is long in the tooth. But how does this decade-old pickup perform? To find out, I spent a week with the truck on familiar streets I’ve traversed plenty of times with the Tundra’s competition.

As mentioned, the current Tundra debuted in 2007 as an all-new, ground-up truck that replaced a much smaller pickup bearing the same name. Toyota had been accosted by consumers and journalist alike for not having a true full-size competitor. To much applause, Toyota delivered. The truck came with a powerful 5.7-liter V-8, three cab options, available 4WD, and payload and towing capacities that ranked well against Detroit’s Big Three.

The Tundra then lay dormant for seven years. A mid-cycle refresh came in 2014 bringing some new sheet metal and a revised interior. However, the powertrain, frame, and suspension remained unchanged. Fast forward, and the first major change is scheduled for 2018. Even that is limited to the TRD Sport trim and consists of new grille mesh, LED headlights, and some active safety systems. We’ll have to wait at least to 2019 or 2020 before Toyota finally brings an all-new model. But despite its age, the Tundra isn’t a bad truck. Here’s why.

  • 2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    Six-Speed Auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    381 @ 5600
  • MPG(Cty):
    13 (Est.)
  • MPG(Hwy):
    18 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    401 @ 3600
  • Energy:
    Gasoline
  • Displacement:
    5.7 L
  • Price:
    50130
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    6.7/10

Video Review


Exterior

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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My tester was a 2017 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Platinum. That means its got four real doors and has the most luxury-minded trim level. About the only option my truck lacked was the part-time 4WD system. Being the Platinum model, the truck sports a unique grille not found on the SR, SR5, TRD Pro, Limited, or 1792 Edition trims. It also has chrome mirror caps, 20-inch alloy wheels, and the appropriate Platinum badge on the front doors. Optionally, the truck wore side running boards and a spray-on bed liner. Everything else is standard fair for the Tundra.

Aesthetically, the truck isn’t ugly. Get past its age, and the Tundra is a fun-looking truck that appeals to youthful buyers, who in my mind, would be towing jet skis to the lake or hauling surf boards to the coast. Regardless of color, the Tundra has a playful attitude about it. Coated in this awesome Blazing Blue Pearl color, and that outgoing nature is heightened. And perhaps my favorite aspect about the Tundra is its roll-down rear window. Rather than a small sliding window that impeed rear visibility, the back window completely drops into the cab’s bulkhead. It makes for an extremely fun open-air experience with all five windows dropped and the moonroof open.

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Being the Platinum model, the truck sports a unique grille not found on the SR, SR5, TRD Pro, Limited, or 1792 Edition trims.

The Tundra is ready for truck duty, too. Its bed can be had with a factory spray-on bed liner and a movable cargo tie-down system. Fully kitted like my tester, the Tundra’s 5.5-foot bed is plenty capable of hauling 1,630 pounds of whatever you want. Towing is just as easy thanks to the standard two-inch receiver hitch and a wiring harness that accepts both four- and seven-pin connectors. As it sits, by tester is rated to tow 8,800 pounds. Spec it correctly, and the a single cab, long bed Tundra can lug 10,500 pounds worth of trailer.

The Tundra’s exterior does have some downsides. First, the front tow hooks are located rather low under the bumper making them hard to reach. Second, the 20-inch wheels look rather small in relation to the Tundra’s large body. The same is true for the sidewalls of the 275/55-series Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza tires. Third, the truck offers no assistance for getting into the cargo bed. Ford has its optional tailgate step and GM has its bumper steps. Granted Ram and Nissan don’t have integrated step options, either. (Though dealer-optional folding steps can be had.) Last but not least, the tailgate does not lock with the key fob or power doors. You’ll need to fetch the physical key for that task.

Nevertheless, the Tundra remains a useful truck despite its age. And subjectively, its appearance is standing well the test of time.

Exterior Dimensions

Height 75.8 in
Width 79.9 in
Length 228.9 in
Wheelbase 145.7 in
Front Track 67.9 in
Rear Track 67.9 in
Bed Length 66.7 in
Bed Depth 22.2 in
Bed Width 66.4 in
Min Bed Width 50.0 in
Ground Clearance 10.4 in
Approach angle 26.0 Deg
Departure angle 16.0 Deg

The Ram 1500’s Exterior

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel High Resolution Exterior
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The Ram’s exterior design is hardly mistakable. Its large grille and crosshair bars have been the truck’s defining characteristic since 1994.

Perhaps the best and most direct competitor to the Tundra is the 2017 Ram 1500. The Ram is now the second oldest truck in the segment, though more recent updates have made it feel much newer. Ram certainly caters to a wide audience with the 1500, marketing its Tradesman trip to fleets and blue-collar professions, while its numerous special edition packages appeal to folks wanting a custom-style pickup right from the factory.

The Ram’s exterior design is hardly mistakable. Its large grille and crosshair bars have been the truck’s defining characteristic since 1994. Through the design evolution, the current Ram 1500 maintains that big-rig style, but injects more fun attitude and a youthful appeal. Just look at the six different limited-edition trims available. There’s the Sublime Green and Copper edition for the Sport trim level. There’s also the Night Edition. Then the Ram Rebel off-road package brings an entirely different look to the truck. The Rebel can even be had with its own special editions, the Rebel Black and Rebel Mojave Sand.

As expected, the Ram 1500 is available in three cab sizes and various bed lengths. Ram also boasts a class-exclusive RamBox storage system in the bed walls, giving owners built-in toolboxes.

Interior

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
- image 714930
The worst offenders are center stack and its Entune system, the analog gauge cluster with its small information screen, and the lack of a keyless enter-and-go system.

The Tundra really starts to show its age within the cabin. The worst offenders are center stack and its Entune system, the analog gauge cluster with its small information screen, and the lack of a keyless enter-and-go system. Of course, this same Entune system is found in every other Toyota product on the market, but I’ve complained about the software feeling old in those models, too.

The truck’s interior does have several redeeming qualities, though. It’s rather spacious, offering an enormous amount of legroom, hip room, and headroom for the four main seats. The middle seat in the back isn’t terribly compromised, either. The dashboard’s controls, while dated, are easy to use and the quilted leather on the passenger side (courtesy of the Platinum trim) is a nice touch. The center console has a huge amount of room for storage, and accommodates standard-size hanging file folders. The driver’s seat even offers memory functions. Sure, every other truck in the segment can boast similar attributes, but these are positives nonetheless.

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
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It’s rather spacious, offering an enormous amount of legroom, hip room, and headroom for the four main seats.

In addition to ample legroom for rear passengers, the bench seat fold up in a 60/40 split, making way for storing larger items. Sadly the Tundra’s floor isn’t flat. There’s a five- to six-inch rise in the floor. Then again, only the Ford F-150 offers a completely flat rear floor. Thankfully, the Tundra does have air vents for rear passengers. That’s more the General Motors’ twins can claim.

Outward visibility from behind the wheel is good. The large side mirrors work in conjunction with blind spot monitoring to make lane changes a breeze. The wide rear window offers an expansive view of things behind, while the windshield feels like an IMAX screen. Only the tall hood and lack of a front camera take away from the driver’s view.

Interior Dimensions

Front Headroom 39.7 in
Rear Headroom 38.9 in
Front Hip Room 62.6 in
Rear Hip Room 60.4 in
Front Leg Room 42.5 in
Rear Leg Room 42.3 in
Front Shoulder Room 65.7 in
Rear Shoulder Room 65.5 in

Inside the Ram 1500

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel
- image 715095
2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Interior
- image 610921
Larger TFT displays, better infotainment systems, new switchgear, a new rotary shifter, and a user-focused center console all give the Ram’s interior a rather modern feel.

The Ram 1500’s interior design technically dates back to 2009, however Ram has done a great job at keeping it current. Larger TFT displays, better infotainment systems, new switchgear, a new rotary shifter, and a user-focused center console all give the Ram’s interior a rather modern feel. Upper trim levels offer that large TFT display in the gauge cluster and the widely loved 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system in the center stack.

The three conventional cab sizes are available, with the Crew Cab offering tons of space for five people. The 60/40-split rear bench folds upward, revealing under-seat storage compartments. A fold-out load floor offers a solution to the uneven floorboards. Adding to the rear area are two in-floor boxes that act as storage boxes or can be used as coolers.

The Ram 1500 has a whopping 12 trim levels, including the Sport, Night, and Rebel editions. The cabin swings accordingly from bottom basic to lavishly appointed. The range-topping Limited trim brings luxury levels that rival Germany’s finest, while the Rebel’s interior features embossed tire tread patters on the seat cushions. Creativity is certainly not lost on the Ram’s interior designers.

Drivetrain

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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As with my tester, the 5.7-liter comes standard in the upper trim models, along with every regular cab, long bed truck.

The vast majority of Tundra pickups are powered with Toyota’s venerable (but again, aging) 5.7-liter iForce V-8. As with my tester, the 5.7-liter comes standard in the upper trim models, along with every regular cab, long bed truck. The engine features an all-aluminum construction with dual overhead camshafts that operate four valves per cylinder, with variable timing on both intake and exhaust sides. The engine continues to rely on port fuel injection. It generates 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 pound-feet of torque at 3.600 rpm. Those power levels aren’t bad for a mid-size V-8, falling mid-pack in the mix of GM’s 5.3-liter, Ram’s 5.7-liter, and Ford’s 5.0-liter. In fact, only the Ram’s V-8 out-powers it, providing 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
- image 714959

The iForce’s Achilles heel is its fuel economy. The EPA estimates my 2WD tester at 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined. That’s darn near abysmal. By comparison, a similarly equipped Ram 1500 is EPA-estimated to get 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Part of the Tundra’s problem is its aggressive 4.30:1 rear axle ratio and six-speed automatic transmission. A numerically lower gear ratio and an eight-speed automatic would do wonders for the Tundra’s fuel economy. The addition of direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation would also greatly help. Hopefully, Toyota will include these improvements in the Tundra’s next generation.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Displacement 5.7-Liters
Horsepower 381 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
Driveline 2WD with LSD
Curb Weight 5,370 lbs
GVRW 7,000 lbs
Maximum Payload 1,630 lbs
Fuel Capacity 38 gal
Towing Capacity 9,500 lbs

The Ram’s Drivetrain

2017 Ram 1500 Rebel Black Edition High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 703136

The Ram offers three engines in the Ram 1500 pickup. The standard engine is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the halo engine is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, and the volume engine found in most Rams is the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Since the Hemi best competes with the Tundra’s V-8, we’ll dive into its details. The Hemi combines an old-school design with new-school tech. It uses a cast-iron block with aluminum cylinder heads. The single camshaft is located within the block, like the millions of Chrysler and General Motors’ V-8 before it. However, Ram has added cylinder deactivation to keep fuel consumption down, while dual spark plugs per cylinder help burn fuel more completely. It still relies on port fuel injection, though. The result is 395 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 410 pound-feet of torque at only 3,950 rpm.

The Hemi is backed by a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. Optionally, a part-time, electronically controlled 4WD system is bolted to the back of the transmission, providing power to the front wheels when needed. Performance wise, the Ram 1500 hits 60 mph in roughly 7.0 seconds – not far behind the Tundra.

Frame and Suspension

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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Coined the Triple Tech Frame, the ladder-type structure uses three types of construction along the length of the truck.

Toyota acts rather proud of the Tundra’s frame. Coined the Triple Tech Frame, the ladder-type structure uses three types of construction along the length of the truck. Up front is a fully boxed section designed for crash protection and extra strength around the engine. The mid section under the cab is a reinforced C-channel frame. Mike Sweers, Toyota’s chief engineer for the Tundra and Tacoma pickups, says the open C-channel section allows for frame flex for improved ride quality. The rear frame section is a purely open C-channel frame. Again, Sweers says it’s for ride quality and reduced mass.

I’ve got to call Toyota’s bluff. GM, Ford, Ram, and even Nissan use a fully boxed frame front to back, with no ill effects to ride quality. The reasoning behind a fully boxed frame is added strength and rigidity. This allows the truck to carry more payload and tow heavier trailers, while leaving the suspension to handle ride quality. Ford uses outboard-mounted shocks for an improved ride, GM offers its magnetic ride control on high-end Silverado and Sierra pickups, and Ram uses an SUV-style multi-link coil spring suspension on its rear axle and an available four-corner air ride system for added comfort.

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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The Tundra uses a conventional MacPherson coil-over spring and shock combo up front, with a double A-arms holding the wheel and hub assembly in place. Out back, the solid axles is held in place with traditional leaf springs (like GM and Ford), with twin outboard-mounted shocks, similar to the F-150. Regardless of the methods, the Tundra provides a smooth ride over most surfaces. Small amounts of shudder can be felt coming from the rear when bouncing over rougher terrain. I did not have the opportunity to test the Tundra under payload or towing conditions.

Behind the Wheel

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
- image 714931
the Toyota Tundra Crew Cab provides a smooth ride over most surfaces, allowing for a comfortable and relaxing driving experience.

As mentioned, the Toyota Tundra Crew Cab provides a smooth ride over most surfaces, allowing for a comfortable and relaxing driving experience. Its good outward visibility breeds confidence in maneuvering the large truck through city traffic. Its turning radius is what you’d expect for a full-size truck. Body roll is present when thrown into a turn, but settles into a controllable lean. During normal driving, the truck remains relatively flat. Even at highway speeds, the truck feels planted, never becoming floaty or unstable. The steering is mostly vague, giving little feel of the road. The upside to this is very little vibration or road harshness makes its way to the driver’s hands.

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Interior High Resolution
- image 714948

Acceleration is impressive, hitting 60 mph in roughly 6.5 seconds. Give thanks for that to the 4.30:1 rear gears, 401 pound-feet of torque, and the six-speed’s propensity to hold gears well into the engine’s upper rpm range. Braking is equally good, stopping from 70 mph in 190 feet, according to Car & Driver. The Tundra uses four-piston calipers up front with 13.9-inch vented rotors that are the largest in class. The rear brakes use 13.6-inch vented rotors with a single-piston caliper. An electronic trailer brake controller comes standard with the 5.7-liter V-8, as well, though I didn’t get to sample the system under load.

Pricing

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The Tundra’s base configuration is the Regular Cab in 2WD with the long bed and 5.7-liter V-8. This SR-trimmed truck starts at $30,500. Moving to the Double Cab in the base SR trim, pricing starts at $30,120. Yep, the Double Cab with the smaller V-8 is actually less expensive than the Regular Cab Tundra. A large portion of Tundras are sold in Crew Cab, or as Toyota calls it, CrewMax form. A base SR5 in 2WD with the 4.6-liter starts at $34,250.

My Platinum trimmed tester with 2WD and the 5.7-liter had a before-options price of $46,980. Three main options were added: the $345 running boards, the $579 spray-on bed liner, and the $85 storage tray in the center console. Add to that the $1,195 destination fee, and the grand total came to $49,184.

**Include price chart of Tundra here, along with trim levels****

The Ram 1500’s Pricing

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Exterior
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The Ram enjoys a slightly less expensive starting price. The base Tradesman trim level with the single cab, short box, and V-6 engine starts at $27,390. As for going toe-to-toe with the Tundra CrewMax Platinum, it’s the Ram Laramie that best fits the bill. It’s not the highest trim level, but it best competes when lining up equipment and features. The base price for a Crew Cab Laramie with 2WD and the Hemi V-8 is $41,190. However, the truck needs a few options to match the Tundra. This includes the $295 trailer brake controller, the $495 spray-on bed liner, the $695 side steps, the $1,095 sunroof, and the $795 navigation upgrade to the 8.4 Uconnect system. All told, the grand total is $45,260 – nearly $4,000 less than the Tundra.

The Other Half-Ton Competitors

2017 Ford F-150

2017 Ford F-150
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The venerable F-150 is certainly the elephant in an article dedicated to half-ton trucks. The current F-150 debuted for the 2015 model year, making headlines with its new aluminum body and all-new steel frame. A new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 entered the scene, too, making the 5.0-liter V-8 a somewhat obscure option. Of course, the F-150 comes in three cab sizes with three bed lengths. It offers six trim levels, excluding the Raptor variant. Two of these trims, the Platinum and Limited, have Lincoln levels of luxury, surpassing every other truck by many accounts. So for a fair fight, perhaps it’s more prudent to pick the Lariat to compete against the Tundra Platinum.

Without question, the 5.0-liter V-8 is the most comparable engine to the Tundra’s. The Coyote kicks out 385 horsepower and 387 pound-feet of torque. For 2017, the six-speed automatic remains the only transmission, though 2018 will bring the 10-speed automatic. In this configuration, the F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 2WD V-8 costs $45,320 without options.

But like the Ram, the F-150 needs optional equipment in order to compete. Here, the $495 spray-on bed liner and $780 running boards are needed to equally stack up. The total price: $46,595.

Learn more about the 2017 Ford F-150 here.

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

2016 Chevrolet Silverado High Resolution Exterior
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The current Silverado has been around since 2014. A mild exterior refresh in 2016 brought a more aggressive grille and headlight assembly, but otherwise, the truck hasn’t changed since its introduction. Several trim levels can be had with the Silverado Crew Cab and short box, including the high-end LTZ and range-topping High Country trims. For this comparison, the LTZ fits the best.

Three powerplants can be had with the Silverado, but it’s the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 that best fits. This small-block Chevy generates 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It boasts cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and variable valve timing, despite it having an old-school, cam-in-block design. The engine is mated to an six-speed automatic transmission.

Pricing starts around $27,000 for a base model Silverado in WT trim and a regular cab. Jumping to the Crew Cab LTZ with the 5.3-liter pushes the price to $44,195. Like the others, the Chevy needs some extra equipment to fight fairly. This includes a $1,495 set of 20-inch wheels, a $275 trailer brake controller, a $995 sunroof, $495 spray-on bed liner, a $700 pair of side steps, $495 for the navigation upgrade, and $510 for front bucket seats. All told, the comparable Silverado costs $49,160.

Find out more about the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 here.

Conclusion

2017 Toyota Tundra Platinum – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The Tundra might not be the newest truck on the block, but it still holds its own against some fierce competition. Toyota sells a respectable amount, too, moving 118,880 in 2015 and 115,489 in 2016 within the U.S. alone. The six-digit sales figures date back to 2003, save for the economic recessive years of 2009 through 2011 when the entire auto industry took a massive nosedive. The Tundra’s numbers pale in comparison to the Ford F-Series, of course, which sold 820,799 trucks in 2016, but blow the Nissan Titan out of the water. Despite the redesign, Nissan only sold 21,880 Titan and Titan XDs in 2016.

Sales aside, the Tundra is a fun-loving, honest truck that doesn’t try competing toe-to-toe with the Detroit Three. It plays happily by itself, riding its wave of Toyota reliability and no-nonsense function. I can’t wait to see what Toyota has up its sleeve for the next-generation Tundra. Hopefully, drivetrain advancements will improve fuel economy and a new interior will bring added technology and a modern appearance, while a new exterior brings attention to the entire Tundra package.

  • Leave it
    • * Oldest truck in the segment
    • * Thirsty fuel economy
    • * Despiratly needs a generational update
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