2022 Toyota Tundra First Drive Review: Better in Every Way
Packing a hybrid powertrain, in-your-face design, new rear suspension and tons of tech, the 2022 Tundra is a huge improvement over its predecessor.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
After more than a decade of waiting, a new
pickup is finally here. And after spending a day with
third-generation full sizer in Texas, the heart of American truck country, I can confirm it drives better, offers more utility and looks pretty great to boot.
Big and bold
The 2022 Toyota Tundra will be available in SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 and TRD Pro trims, with TRD Off-Road and Sport packages available on some trims. Double Cab models can be equipped with either a 6.5- or 8.1-foot bed. The Crew Max models have more interior space and come with a 5.5-foot bed, though you can also opt for a 6.5-foot bed for maximum functionality.
Each of the Tundra models has a unique grille, although the differences between trims can be slight. Think unique badging, chrome instead of paint, etc. Regardless, each of the Tundra's grilles are indeed chonky, with proportions more akin to what you'd expect on a heavy-duty truck.
2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro has rugged style and hybrid power
Overall, as you may have noticed in Toyota's Super Bowl LVI ad, the 2022 Tundra is a bit longer and not quite as tall as its predecessor, but front to back, this is a much more modern design, and I think it all makes for a much more attractive truck. I love the high-mounted headlights surrounded on two sides by LED running lights and sequential turn signals. The taillights are similarly interesting with three distinct vertical elements.
Interestingly, Toyota has declined to participate in the industry's budding multifunctional tailgate graze, instead giving us a plain ol' drop-down rear. At least the tailgate is 20% lighter than before and can be opened by tapping a button on the driver's side taillight. This is great for when your hands are full and you can't reach the key fob.
A welcome tech upgrade
Inside, the Tundra's design is definitely function over form, but this is a truck, so I can't find fault with that.
may have gone all-in with luxury in its 1500 pickup, but the Toyota keeps it real. There is plenty of storage inside for smaller items and the center console is giant, with separate armrests for the driver and passenger. I love that the window sill is the perfect height to rest my elbow on while driving.
Although there is an available 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster, what really dominates the dash is the optional 14-inch central touchscreen infotainment system. I haven't had much time to play around with Toyota's new technology, but at first glance, it is much, much better than what was previously available. It can recognize natural speech commands, so all I need to say is, "Hey, Toyota, let's go home," and navigation pulls up my preprogrammed address. Further, the map quickly responds to pinch-to-zoom commands and the touchscreen is really responsive overall. Multiple phones can be connected via Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both here.
Hybrid power joins the lineup
For 2022 Toyota has ditched the Tundra's old rear leaf springs in favor of a coil-spring setup. You can even go one step further and get a self-leveling rear air suspension with adaptive dampers. The difference this makes is clear after driving 10 feet. The ride is smoother, any pavement imperfections are soaked up and, generally speaking, the Tundra is much easier to control. The steering is still pretty vague, but seriously, this is a night-and-day difference in ride quality.
While many of the Tundra's competitors offer four or five engine choices, Toyota is sticking with two. The standard setup is a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, though it comes with two states of tune. The base Tundra SR has 348 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque but all other trims up those numbers to 389 hp and 479 lb-ft. This engine has linear power delivery and plenty of midrange chutzpah. I dig it.
Paired with this engine is a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is a massive improvement over the old truck's six-speed. The gearbox is happy to drop a few gears when I need more power but otherwise stays smooth while cruising. With two-wheel drive, the 2022 Tundra is estimated to return 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. Subtract one from each category for four-wheel drive.
The star of the show is the iForce Max engine -- Toyota-speak for the aforementioned 3.5-liter V6 with electric assist. The standard twin-turbo V6 doesn't lack power, but the hybrid goes big with 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor's added instant torque is really noticeable; this truck absolutely rips when you floor it.
At parking lot speeds the Tundra will run on pure electric power, but when my right foot demands more, the gas engine kicks in right away. Lift off the accelerator and the Tundra will once again default to EV driving, and all these transitions happen seamlessly. It doesn't shudder like some hybrids and reminds you that Toyota really knows what it's doing with gasoline-electric power plants.
The 10-speed transmission works just as well with the hybrid setup. Light regenerative braking changes the pedal feel, and in a full-size truck like this, it takes some getting used to. Unfortunately, Toyota has yet to announce hybrid fuel economy numbers.
Hybrid trucks are nothing new;
with a gasoline-electric powertrain. The big difference is that Ford also packs the F-150 with an available onboard charger that can supply 2.4 or 7.2 kilowatts of power for work tools or other electric toys. You won't find anything like that on the Tundra.
Available only with the i-Force Max hybrid powertrain, the Tundra TRD Pro has 33-inch Falken Wildpeak tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels. A set of 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks with rear piggyback reservoirs live at each corner, and the front of the truck gets a 1.1-inch lift over lesser Tundra trims. Other TRD tidbits include an upgraded front stabilizer bar, aluminum skid plates, a rear locking differential and Toyota's MultiTerrain Select and Crawl Control.
One glaring omission? Tow hooks. That's right, on the off-road specific trim there are no tow hooks. Regardless of how good a driver you are, you're either going to get stuck or you'll be pulling your buddy out. So where would you attach your rope? You'll pull off the bumper if you hook it there and it's really not safe to use the tow hitch. Toyota's reasoning basically comes down to aerodynamics and efficiency, but as a seasoned off-roader, this decision baffles me.
As for the TRD Pro's capability, I'll need to get it onto my home trails to tell you more. The course Toyota set up for testing was really easy and in no way challenged the truck. I can, however, tell you that the once-noisy Crawl Control, which acts like a low-speed cruise control, is now super quiet.
Truck stuff and driver-assistance safety tech
The Tundra puts up adequate towing numbers, but you'll get more utility with a Chevrolet Silverado or Ford F-150. A Tundra SR5 Double Cab with the 6.5-foot bed, rear-wheel drive and standard V6 engine can tow 12,000 pounds. If you want max towing with the hybrid, you'll need the Limited Crew Max trim with two-wheel drive and the short bed, where you'll be able to pull 11,450 pounds. You'd think that the hybrid with its extra torque would tow more, but the 1.9-kilowatt-hour battery adds weight to the truck, which in turn ups the Tundra's gross vehicle weight rating, which lowers the towing capacity. Across the board, tops out at 1,940 pounds.
Toyota doesn't spec as many tow-assist cameras as the Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra, but the Tundra still has a few tricks up its sleeve. The towing system can automatically detect the length of the trailer and takes that into account when recalibrating the blind-spot monitoring system. Drivers can also choose from a generic list of trailers -- boat, car, dump, etc. -- or create a profile with their own specific trailer. You can also adjust the tow/haul driving mode by specifying the trailer's weight.
A new straight path assist feature makes sure the trailer will go exactly where the truck is pointed while backing up, without any steering input from the driver. When I tried the tech the trailer was pretty much in line with the truck, but I cocked the steering wheel to full lock just to see what would happen. When I engaged the system it spun the steering wheel back to straight-ahead before I could even think about putting my foot on the accelerator. This tech isn't quite as robust as Ford's backup assist, which uses a dial on the dash to take away some of the confusion of where to steer, thus allowing drivers to easily steer the trailer around a turn and into a storage area. Still, this will surely be helpful for those who just need to back down a boat ramp.
As for advanced driving aids, Toyota offers a whole bunch of them standard on every trim. Pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-tracing assist and lane-departure warning are all here, and the latter now comes with steering assist should you wander out of the lane. Also on tap are automatic high beams and road sign assist. Blind-spot monitoring, however, is only standard on top trims.
Much, much better
Though it still lags behind its aforementioned competitors in capability and onboard tech, the new Toyota Tundra is nevertheless a whole lot better. Hopefully the Tundra's lower positioning will be reflected in its price, which has yet to be announced. The standard V6-powered Tundra should be in dealerships as you read this, with the hybrid arriving in spring.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.