It is one of the largest product segment in the U.S. auto industry and, by far, the most profitable, so there’s good reason why Toyota is betting big on the all-new Tundra truck coming to market for 2022.
The full-size pickup made its formal debut during a minute-long TV commercial Sunday night, with the first of the 2022 Toyota Tundras to reach U.S. showrooms in the weeks ahead. There’ll be more features, more power and towing capacity, and more versions available than ever before, targeting a broader range of customer needs. That’s something Toyota hopes will finally help it crack the near-stranglehold that Detroit’s Big Three have long had on the full-size truck segment.
The 2022 Tundra is “truly an American story, from start to finish,” marketing chief Joe Moses said during a media backgrounder earlier this month. The new truck, he explained, was both designed and engineered in the States, and it will be assembled at Toyota’s San Antonio, Texas assembly plant. Even its powertrains will be local sourced at the company’s engine plant in Alabama.
Working around a pandemic
The project almost didn’t make it in time, noted Moses, with much of the final development work having to be done remotely due to the pandemic lockdowns last year. Even now, a sizable portion of Toyota’s U.S. workforce operates remotely.
The Japanese giant has been struggling to gain a foothold in the full-size market since launching the old T100 model back in 1992. Really not much bigger than the midsize pickups of that era, it gained little momentum and was replaced by the first-generation Tundra for model-year 2000. Toyota was so confident it even built a new assembly plant in Texas, though demand again fell short of expectations and Tundra has had to share space with the smaller Tacoma pickup. This year, the lower-volume midsize truck is being swapped out for the Sequoia SUV.
Again, Toyota is betting it will keep the plant busy and, if the 2022 Tundra lives up to its latest goal, the San Antonio plant could run out of capacity.
The project was led by CALTY, Toyota’s advance styling center in California, and the automaker’s R&D center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Taking a cue from Iron Man
U.S. design chief Kevin Hunter describes the new truck’s design language as “technical muscle,” suggesting it’s meant to give the appearance of precisely fitting “interlocked shapes, like puzzle pieces coming together.” And “one of our inspirations,” he adds, was the Marvel superhero “Iron Man.”
The overall look is more intimidating — “menacing, in Hunter’s words — than with the outgoing model. And, as has become the norm in the full-size segment, there are notable differences between trim levels, especially when it comes to bumpers, grilles and fascia. The off-road-oriented Tundra TRD Pro, for example, features a skid plate that flows into the grille. And key exterior trim pieces adopt a sort of black-and-gray camouflage pattern. All models share a new blacked-out A-pillar.
The camo pattern repeats itself in the fabric of the Tundra TRD Pro, with various trim levels getting their own mix of fabric and leather. All told, there will be six separate grades — though Toyota again decided against adding a heavy-duty package for the Tundra, unlike its Detroit rivals.
The instrument panel on all models adopts a more horizontal layout than the outgoing Tundra, emphasizing the truck’s width. Depending upon model, there’s up to a 14-inch navigation screen dominating the IP, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is available on mid to upper trim packages.
The Toyota product development team aimed to make maximum use of the cabin’s volume and, among other things, the truck adopts a new, split center armrest design that creates additional storage space in-between.
But for those who haul large payloads, the new Tundra now gets an optional 6.5-foot bed with the Crew Max body. Crew Max and Double Cab normally come with 5.5-foot beds.
More tech features
Tundra introduces an all-new multimedia system developed in-house which, Toyota claims, is more intuitive to operate and which features a voice control system capable of recognizing common speech. It comes standard with wireless versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Toyota Connected Services system.
The new truck also adds the latest version of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 technology, including active cruise, lane-departure assist, forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking and more.
Tech features are certainly going to play well with today’s buyers but pickup owners are still focused on functionality. And here, the 2022 Toyota Tundra clearly ups its game. To start with, the pickup now can handle up to a 1,940-pound payload and, depending upon trim and options, is capable of handling up to a 12,000-pound trailer.
A new hybrid
In keeping with its broader strategy, Toyota introduces a new hybrid version of the 2022 Tundra, and it’s the more powerful of the two powertrain options, the twin-turbo V-6 punching out 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. The numbers fall in line with the max 450 hp the various Ford F-150 powertrains can deliver.
One potential shortfall is the fact that the Tundra Hybrid can generate only up to 400 watts of AC compared to the 7.2 kilowatts that Ford’s 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid can offer. In Toyota’s case, the hybrid drive system is geared for low-speed power and performance, the electric motors doing most of the work up to 18 mph, when the gas engine takes over.
The Tundra’s “base” engine, also a twin-turbo V-6 displacing 3.5 liters, still makes some strong numbers at 389 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque.
Both powertrains are paired with a 10-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
The automaker is clearly counting on the TRD Pro package to take advantage of the growing market for off-road capable trucks. It features, among other things, a unique grille with an integrated light bar, a skid plate, forged BBS while, an electronically locking limited-slip differential, multi-mode select and more.
Toyota has yet to reveal a few important numbers — pricing and fuel economy among them. Look for those key details shortly before the 2022 Tundra reaches U.S. showrooms late this year.