2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum: The Guts With None Of The Glory

2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum: The Guts With None Of The Glory

(Photos by Dave Nutting) – Before last week I had never driven a Toyota Tundra. I have always viewed the Tundra as something akin to a character from a 1980s spy movie. You know the ones we’re talking about, the secret agent trained in his home country to assimilate into American culture and be part of society. It never worked out in the end. The bad guy would always be tripped up by some odd question or cultural nuance that even the most studied mimic couldn’t get right. I did my best to ditch such preconceived notions before driving the Tundra but I came away with my initial feeling cemented. This is a good truck and there’s no doubt that it is a quality truck, but is just isn’t a truck I can honestly say is better than its American competition for the same money. They’re built in Texas, they’ve got all  kinds of beefy driveline parts, a V8 making the right sounds and 380hp, but there’s that whole assimilation thing I already mentioned. Somewhere between all the good stuff on paper and the tactile feel of operating the truck there’s a disconnect….a disconnect Toyota has become largely famous for in its quest for global domination and appliance motoring.

When Toyota made the investment to get into the half ton truck segment, it scared the Detroit manufacturers to their core. After seeing their market share erode over the decades on fronts like small cars and family sedans, it looked like trucks, the place where all the money was really made, would be next on the block. The feeling among many in the industry was along the line of, “The bastards killed our fathers and now they’re coming for us.”

Toyota was thundering along, gobbling up sales and customers at a rate even they couldn’t have seen coming. The world was their oyster and the eventual conquest of the great American light truck market was (to them) a seeming foregone conclusion. They built a plant in Texas capable of producing 300,000+ trucks a year, that would get them started and when they really put the throttle down and closed in on F-series levels of sales, they’d expand. But a funny thing happened. They’ve barely ever broken 200,000 a year in sales on the Tundra, the F-series continues to move more than 700,000 units year, and the Toyota while still a success by any other measure has never lived up to expectations. Why? Inferior quality? Lack of ability? Neither of those things are valid arguments because the truck does “truck stuff” as well as its competitors. As I said in a truck feature a couple weeks ago, Detroit never really screwed up on trucks. The door was opened for the Japanese on the small car and family car front due to faulty products, shoddy quality and bad designs from Detroit. But trucks? That never happened and buyers never really lost faith in American manufacturers to sell them a capable, rugged, and dependable pickup. I feel as though Toyota failed to understand this and looked at their entry into the half ton segment as they’d seen their entry into other parts of the market. It was part hubris and part lack of understanding in my opinion.

Nevertheless, the 2014 Toyota Tundra is the subject of this BangShifty road test. Like we always do, let’s tell the story through Dave Nutting’s awesome photos and my fair to midland captions!

2014 Toyota Tundra 000

Here’s the 2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum edition. Mechanically it is the same as previous Tundras but the truck has been refreshed in the design department to butch it up some. More angular and muscular looking, the design was to move the truck to the same page of design language Dodge, GM, and Ford are on.

2014 Toyota Tundra 001

Our test truck was equipped with the 380hp, 5.7L DOHC V8, six speed automatic transmission and four wheel drive. The big scoop across the front of the hood would be pretty awesome if it was real. It wasn’t.

2014 Toyota Tundra 003

From the rear you can see the angular “flares” that Toyota added to the bed sides of the Tundra. Look at a GM bed, it is very similar on their 2014 trucks. The Tundra had more soft curves in the body during prior years. It certainly toughens the look of the truck up but we still think it is pretty septic when put next to domestic offerings.

2014 Toyota Tundra 005

Here’s the trusty power plant, a 5.7L dual overhead cam V8 that makes 380hp @ 5600 RPM and 40l lb/ft of torque at 3600 RPM. The engine is hooked to a six speed automatic transmission. We have no qualms with the engine. It makes great power, especially if you wind it up with the “manu-matic” mode in the transmission. The short first gear in the six speed gets things moving quickly off the line and the truck will break the tires loose pretty hard with the traction control off from a standing start if you land on the pedal like a pallet of bricks.

2014 Toyota Tundra 009

With more than a half million of these engines on the road and now showing up in wrecking yards, you may be wondering why we’re not seeing more of them in hot rods and stuff. Reason one is that the engine is absolutely massive. We mean like make a mod motor look small levels of massive. It is pretty tightly hemmed into this truck, passenger car fitment would be really tough. Also there’s not much of a market (that we know of) for speed and hop up parts outside of superchargers.

2014 Toyota Tundra 010

The Platinum Tundra isn’t the highest level truck, which may be a surprise to some. This is a nicely appointed rig and stickers for a shade over $50,000. The next step up is a 1794 edition that commemorates the creation of a ranch in Texas back in the 1970s…who the hell knows. Anyway, THAT truck is the full on luxo model but remains mechanically the same as this truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra 011

The interior in the Tundra was really nice, albeit plain Jane Toyota all the way. The most daring element in the truck was the diamond stitched leather on the seats, doors, and dash.

2014 Toyota Tundra 013

I have pretty much complained in every review about how virtually all cars come to the BS testing ground with interiors that are complete caverns of blackness. The Tundra kept the trend up. The door panel had plenty of storage and the switchgear was well laid out.

2014 Toyota Tundra 014

The wheel had good grips and like most new stuff had plenty of buttons on it to control cruise control, radio functions, and the dash display.

2014 Toyota Tundra 015

The center stack had a nice (but far smaller than we’ve seen in GM trucks) touch screen and the redundant HVAC controls under it. Radio had redundant control knobs as well. Everything was well laid out and it looked truck-like. This wasn’t a bunch of Camry stuff trying to pass itself off as being right for a truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra 016

Here’s that diamond stitching we were talking about. This was a nice touch on the dash, which is normally some sort of textured plastic.

2014 Toyota Tundra 019

Things got fun in the Tundra when we held down that center button for about 10 seconds and shut off the traction control. The auto-locking differential out back worked great and you’ll see how we tested that in a few…

2014 Toyota Tundra 021

More buttons. Controls for the power rear window in the cab, mirror adjustments, etc. I have to give Toyota props for their ergonomics. None of these buttons was buried or hidden and hard to use. Good stuff there.

2014 Toyota Tundra 023

The dash layout was very straight forward with the standard group of gauges. Center area can be tailored to show you fuel economy, trip odometer, etc.

2014 Toyota Tundra 024

Console shifters in trucks always strike us a little odd unless they’re attached to a manual transmission. It is certainly becoming more popular, especially in higher end rigs like this one. We got used to it, but more than once we went reaching for a column shifter that was not there.

2014 Toyota Tundra 026

While there’s not much to really brag on regarding design, I did like this bumper line and how it was tucked close to the body. A small thing for sure, but we bet someone in the styling department had to fight to keep that detail on the truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra 027

Backup camera is mounted on tailgate handle and large TUNDRA dominated the right half of the tailgate.

2014 Toyota Tundra 029

The exhaust note was surprisingly throaty and good. The truck really sounded nice under heavy throttle and was quiet in normal operation. A cat back system would really make this one sing. Running boards made ingress and egress earlier, especially for the kids. While not a very high riding truck, it is higher than the Z71 Chevy we tested.

2014 Toyota Tundra 030

Drop in bed liner was a throw back. We’re used to seeing spray in stuff these days.

2014 Toyota Tundra 031

The rear end in this thing is pretty serious with a 10.5″ ring gear. Toyota did not go soft on the hard parts that actually make a truck survive in tough environments. I just think they wrapped it in the wrong package.

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Leaf springs and shocks make up the rest of the rear suspension. A design as old as time, it is functional and has been since the days of horse drawn buggies.

2014 Toyota Tundra 034

Five spoke wheels were good and they covered the big disk brakes on all four corners. Stopping power in the truck is impressive.

2014 Toyota Tundra 062

The heated seats were very comfy and could certainly be used for hours and hours on end without complaint. The cab itself is enormous. There is amazing levels of room in the front and rear.

2014 Toyota Tundra 063

Back seats get diamond stitching as well. Note that rear window is power retractable. It was fun to cruise with that back window down, even on a chilly New England day. Kind of like the modern version of a Mercury Turnpike Cruiser! Again, cab is humongous and anyone could fit back there with comfort. Even the freakishly large.

2014 Toyota Tundra 038

After crawling all over the truck to get a sense of how it was built, we decided that we needed to test out the locking differential way in the best method we knew how….donuts.

2014 Toyota Tundra 039

All that horsepower and torque combined with an empty bed and virtually frozen ground meant that I was able to get my Tanner Faust on at the flick of my toe.

2014 Toyota Tundra 047

Zipping around over the uneven dirt and rocks, the truck displayed a fair amount of flex between the cab and the bed but the suspension soaked up the ruts and jounces like a good truck should.

2014 Toyota Tundra 056

Here’s proof that the locker works great!

2014 Toyota Tundra 057

Being that this is a tall, heavy pickup truck flat cornering was not its forte but outside of extreme high speed off road maneuvers I don’t have anything to say about its on road manners. It is a truck and it drove like a truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra 060

My final take on the 2014 Toyota Tundra? It has all the right stuff and meets all the right criteria to be a solid and dependable truck for the end user but it is not nearly the vehicle that would draw huge share from the domestic producers any time soon. I am not sure what Toyota does next with the Tundra. Option A is to continue beefing the thing to keep up with the domestic Joneses who now have trucks that are more efficient, more well appointed, quieter, and have bolder styling. Option B is to go the other way and try to concentrate on bringing their own massive customer base out of cars and into a truck. Either way, they have a steep hill to climb. If I was in the market to buy a new truck today I wouldn’t throw the Tundra out of the mix completely, but it would be running about fourth on my list of “wants”. Sometimes the whole isn’t greater than the sum of the parts.

2014 Toyota Tundra 050 2014 Toyota Tundra 051  2014 Toyota Tundra 053 2014 Toyota Tundra 054

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11 thoughts on “2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum: The Guts With None Of The Glory

  1. john

    Better put on your old football shoulder pads and helmet if you have them, the haters will be waking up soon.
    Have a good day Brian, remember to DUCK!!!

  2. John

    Truck byers are fiercely loyal, that much has been proven again and again.
    Toyota has had their problems, admittedly growing too big too fast and taking their eye of the basics they worked so hard to perfect while they were growing initially. But as Brian stated – how hard was it to beat the original fiesta, chevette, and omni-horizon?

    What astonishes me is the blatant copying of design elements throughout this truck – F150 air vents, super duty dash layout, GM-esque wheel well arches, wheels that are almost exact duplicates of F150 design, even the shifter looks like a Ford part.

    As a Detroit auto worker – I continue to be thankful Toyota is getting these wrong, and I share the same thankfulness that Nissan has followed them into a similar level of wrongness.

  3. weasel 1

    i have driven the Tundra and liked it, but Brian was right. there is something just “off” about it. it has all the basic stuff, it drives well, has plenty of power, but i would not buy one. if i was going to spend that much money on a truck it would be a King Ranch.

  4. Big Dave

    I own a 2010 Tundra Crewmax and it’s the third Toyota truck I’ve owned. For me it’s about the ride, none of the other brands come anywhere close to it. I travel a lot, almost 30,000 miles a year, so comfort is really important. I’ll stay with Tundra for work but my hot rods……..well that’s another story.

    1. Dave Nutting

      That’s what the donuts were for! Not as obvious from the photos, but there were some serious popping noises as the bed hit the cab going over that frozen and uneven dirt.

  5. brent

    I have to admit, I was a hater at first. My wife works for the plant where these trucks originally were made in Princeton Indiana. I have owned Chevrolet trucks my entire life. She asked that I test drive one due to the great employee purchase program. I did and was surprised at the time (2008) of how much better the truck performed and handled over the Chevy. I ended up purchasing a crew max in 2008 and another new one in 2012. I did look at the Chevrolet’s again in 2012 but the lack of interior space in the rear sealed the deal.
    Toyota will never have a huge market share in the truck market in my opinion. This is Detroit’s bread and butter for huge profit margins. Toyota saw the potential to get a little of this gravy to increase their portfolio.

  6. Mike

    I feel you didn’t give any weight to the TRD supercharger availible to those who don’t buy the flex-fuel optioned truck (engine code 3UR-FBE on the catalyst sticker.) The $5000 price of admission gets you 504 hp with a warranty. You can also turn up the soundtrack to a tastefull level with a TRD stainless dual exhaust.

    I honestly like these trucks for an everyday driver, I work on them all the time.

  7. chip

    I rode in a brand new one of these on a bass tournament last year, and they’re nice, but, meh. AWESOME back seat. Like a limo. But, just too Toyota-appliancey feeling. I dunno.

    I think it’s sad Toyota has chosen not to compete where it really shines- small stuff. Everyone on this board remembers the mid-to-late 80’s Toys- they were ubiquitous, and beloved until they rusted into chunks. How many you think they’d sell now? Think about it- those same basic s-10, toy, hardbody dimensions, actually DE-contented a bit to start, 30+mpg 220 hp 4, 300 hp 6, easily moddable, std, ec, and crew, starting around 12-14k. You couldn’t build the damn things fast enough.

    I’m a hardcore GM guy, and I wouldn’t have a Colorado/Canyon coated in honey and shoved up my ass. Why? They’re bog slow, barely serviceable, nigh to unmoddable, shitty on mileage, and BIG. I’ve got my ’09 Sierra crew for that, and frankly, I miss my pre-kids s-10. A lot.

    Since the OE’s seem to be paying attention here, someone please get on the stick. You’ll be REVOLUTIONARY, I promise.

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