2023 Toyota Tundra: Modernized, But True To Its Roots
After languishing largely unchanged since 2007, the Toyota Tundra was extensively redesigned last year, heralding the beginning of its third generation. While that overhaul brought the Tundra’s powertrain, interior, tech, and driving manners into the modern era, it also capitalized on the Tundra’s traditional strengths: being a safe, sturdy, and straightforward pickup in an era of ever more ornate and technologically complex luxo-rigs. While the Tundra might not be the top choice in this segment, it’s still a strong competitor, and many of the previous generation’s deficiencies have been addressed.
As a half-ton, full-size pickup, the Tundra competes with the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and GM corporate stablemates Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra (the ancient Nissan Titan brings up the tail). Each of the domestic trucks has more powertrain choices and greater configurability than the Tundra, but the Toyota aims for the sweet spot with a turbocharged hybrid V6 as its pickup’s core powertrain. The familiar trims remain. SR, SR5, Limited and Platinum sit below the blingy 1794 and off-road TRD Pro, but there’s also an ultra-luxury Capstone now to rival GMC’s Sierra Denali.
The Tundra no longer offers a single-cab work truck, but a smaller 4-door “Double Cab” sees limited availability on the lower two trims only. The “Crew Max” crew cab is the only choice on Limited trim and up. Available beds include 5.5, 6.5 and 8.1-foot options but the long bed is only available on the Double Cab, while the shorty can only be combined with the crew. The 6.5-foot bed can be optioned on either cab, except on the TRD Pro and Capstone, where the crew cab and short bed are mandatory.
The 3.5-liter twin-turbo i-Force V6 is the heart of the Tundra’s powertrain lineup. A detuned version making only 348 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque powers the base trim—all others come standard with 389 hp and 479 lb-ft. An optional hybrid powertrain, called the i-Force Max, uses this same twin-turbo V6 in conjunction with an inline motor generator—a potent combination that delivers 437 hp and 583 lb-ft. That’s more torque than the top offering of Silverado or Sierra, and it beats all but the supercharged variants of F-150 and Ram 1500 as well.
This turbo-V6-three-ways strategy is a departure from the complex powertrain offerings of the Big Three, which typically span 4 or more totally different engines, and include diesel power, multiple V8s and, increasingly, varying degrees of electrification. Along with the mandatory V6, all Tundras come equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission and are available in rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (4WD)—except the TRD Pro and Capstone, which come with 4WD standard.
The cabin is another area where the new Tundra is light years ahead of the old one, having finally gotten the obligatory giant touchscreen, digital dash, and heads-up display to catch it up to its flashier rivals. But aside from these options (the standard kit is still an 8-incher in the dash and analog gauges), the Tundra remains the endearingly straightforward and intuitive truck it always has been. It also still boasts more standard safety tech than the typical half-ton, and the redesign has already collected a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The standard twin-turbo V6 offers solid acceleration and is a few tenths quicker to 60 mph than the old Tundra’s V8. However, it lacks the punch of the domestic trucks’ top V8s and certain twin-turbo V6 offerings like the F-150’s EcoBoost. The Tundra’s hybrid version offers a more competitive 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque, and the increase in grunt over the standard engine is perceptible. All Tundras have a burly-sounding engine note, but the active exhaust on the TRD Pro is loud enough to set off car alarms.
When properly equipped, the Tundra will tow a maximum of 12,000 pounds, which falls short of all three domestic rivals despite the Tundra’s considerable torque. The hybrid tops out at 11,330 pounds because it is only available in the heavier crew-cab configuration, but it enjoys a slight edge over the gas-only crew cab despite the added weight of its battery. In our testing last year, the Tundra towed a 26-foot, 7,000-pound trailer up hills and down dales without drama, with the available air shocks adding noticeable stability while hauling.
In normal on-road driving, the Tundra feels responsive and composed—the optional adaptive suspension and adjustable air shocks on Platinum trim and up adds a layer of tranquility to the ride without compromising handling control, and even the increased ride height and Fox off-road shocks on the TRD Pro don’t leave the Tundra feeling discombobulated at speed. Steering isn’t what you’d call heavy, but has a pleasant heft and is direct and responsive.
For off-pavement adventure, the Tundra you’ll want is the TRD Pro, which in addition to the unique suspension, gets an electronically-locking rear differential, some nubby Falken Wildpeaks, and set of terrain modes including crawl control. Toyota also offers some extra off-road tweaks available via your dealer.
While it lacks the hyperbolic off-road performance you’d find in a Ram TRX or an F-150 Raptor, the Tundra TRD Pro offers about as much wilderness capability as the average person would ever need. It competes with the Silverado ZR2, which bests it on off-road hardware but also comes with a much higher price tag. A milder “TRD Off-Road” package (Bilsteins, terrain tires, skid plate, and off-road modes) can be added to lesser trims of Tundra for those who don’t need the capability of the TRD Pro.
Fuel economy: 10/15
Fuel economy from the twin-turbo V6 improves on the previous V8 Tundra’s abysmal numbers, though real-world driving reveals it’s not as big a change as hoped for. Despite the standard configuration’s EPA rating of 18 mpg city, 23 highway, and the hybrid’s 20 city, 24 highway, I struggled to get to 15 mpg in mostly-city driving—from either powertrain.
While it’s reasonable to counter that the Tundra’s hybrid setup is aimed more at power gains than improved fuel economy, there’s no ignoring that hybrid versions of F-150 and Ram 1500 do much better on fuel, as do turbodiesel variants GM and Ram, although the Ram’s EcoDiesel is slated to be dropped early this year. Toyota has also yet to solidly commit to an EV version of the Tundra, placing it once again in the position of catch-up with its domestic rivals.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Tech: 14/15
Late last year, after earning high scores on all crash tests, the redesigned Tundra scored a Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS, that body’s highest accolade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t yet completed its own crash testing on the new Tundra, but we would expect results to be comparable.
The Tundra boasts some of the most comprehensive standard safety tech in the segment, offering standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, auto-emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, and road sign assist on all trims. Two conspicuous omissions from the base truck are blindspot monitoring and the 360 overhead camera, crucial for a giant truck with blind zones this large. However, both features are only available at SR5 trim and up.
Comfort and Room: 12/15
The Tundra’s seats are huge, square, and comfortable. Power adjusts are available from the SR5 trim on up, and Platinum and above get standard 10-way power with lumbar. Heated and ventilated seats are available not only up front but for the second row as well, the latter a perk that’s unavailable even on the $85,000 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate. About the only thing the Tundra’s seats won’t do that the competition will is give you a massage, even at ultra-luxury Capstone trim.
The cabin offers plenty of room, though it falls slightly short of some competitors. The Tundra’s rear legroom is slightly less than the more spacious F-150 and Ram 1500, though what rear-seat passengers will notice is the Tundra’s pronounced drivetrain hump, which crowds feet a bit and prevents a full-sized middle passenger from having a pleasant ride.
The Tundra got a big infotainment upgrade last year. A 14-inch horizontally-oriented screen is standard on the mid-grade Limited and up, with only the lower two trims getting an also-improved 8-inch unit as standard. Both screens feature an easily navigable interface with nice graphics and cellphone-like “pinch and scroll” capability, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard. The only drawback is that the big screen’s sheer size means that right-side inputs can sometimes feel like a long stretch from the driver’s seat.
The standard gauge cluster features analog dials flanking a 4.2-inch driver info screen, while higher trims get a 12.3-inch fully digital screen. This cluster is not particularly flashy or festooned with dancing animations (though there’s some nice National Parks scenery upon startup), but instead is packed with information, all of it as easily navigable as the main screen’s interface. A 10-inch color head-up display is available at the highest trims.
Cargo Space & Storage: 13/15
The Tundra features an aluminum-reinforced composite bed that can be optioned in the familiar full-size pickup sizes: 5.5, 6.5 or 8.1 feet. While it doesn’t quite boast the gargantuan volume of the current GM beds, the Tundra offers more versatility than competitors like Ram that have dropped the long bed option. The Tundra’s bed is adequately equipped with a handful of tie-downs and available LED lighting, 120V outlet, and bedrails for mounting sliding cleats.
Interior storage is similarly satisfactory, but not segment-leading. The main center console compartment isn’t massive, but contains enough sliding trays and levels to keep things organized. There’s no double-decker glovebox like you’ll find in the Chevy or Ford, and rear underseat storage is limited to non-hybrid models only, since that space is taken up by the battery in the hybrid.
Style and Design: 6/10
From the outside, the Tundra is a mixed bag. It is aggressive and eye-catching in the mold of Toyota’s other recent redesign; but on a giant truck, the gaping piscine grille and blocky-futuristic styling add up to an aesthetic best characterized as “angry space-fish.” While the elaborate body creases and plentiful LEDs convey a chiseled modernity that its ancient predecessor lacked, the Tundra’s is an of-the-moment look that seems unlikely to age well.
Then again, a few throwback touches offer a nod to the Tundra’s heritage, like the full powered roll-down rear window available on crew-cab versions. There’s also a neat hidden side tailgate release—that plus an available pop-out bed step are the extent of the Tundra’s tailgate party tricks, contrasting the elaborate integrated novelty features—built-in sound, toolboxes, and configurable staircases—found on various domestic offerings.
The Tundra’s interior aesthetic is similarly no-nonsense. While utilitarian plastics predominate except on the highest trims, there are sufficient soft touches, and everything feels sturdily bolted together.
The major drawback of the Tundra’s interior is its outward visibility. With its short windshield, massive hood and towering grille, a medium-sized child could stand in front of the truck without the driver knowing it. Similarly, the optional huge trailering mirrors can block your view of pedestrians and even entire vehicles, which makes certain maneuvers nerve-wracking.
Is the 2023 Toyota Tundra worth it? Which Tundra is the Best Value?
With its $39,660 starting price, (including destination fee), the base Tundra is within a thousand bucks of every other base half-ton except the Ford F-150 (a work truck outlier at $36,340). However, the entry-level Tundra offers more seats (remember, no single-cab) and a lot more standard safety tech than rivals.
Move up the trims and add features, and competitors’ pricing tends to escalate more quickly than the Tundra’s—but so does their content. The midgrade Tundra Platinum, with the big touchscreen, powered leather seats, and pano sunroof, costs $64,470 when you make it a 4×4 hybrid. Ford’s F-150 Lariat rings in at $68,605 when similarly equipped—though Ford includes power-adjustable pedals, mirror-mounted LED spotlights, rear underseat storage and a much higher-wattage onboarad power generator (courtesy of its hybrid system) in that price.
Similarly, Toyota’s off-road-equipped Tundra TRD Pro is $2,130 less than the Chevy Silverado ZR2, and has most of what you need for the trail—except a front locking differential, and the more sophisticated spool-valve dampers that help make the ZR2’s ride so sublime. And at $77,940, Toyota’s convincingly luxurious Capstone trim rings in at $6,500 and $9,500 less than the most over-the-top luxury trucks from GMC and Ford, respectively.
By gambling on offering a smidge less content at lower price, Toyota keeps sticker shock at bay while skipping features that the average consumer may not notice or need. This helps make the Tundra a solid value, bolstered by its considerable safety chops and strong resale potential. While the Tundra may not be the most advanced or the most capable truck on the market right now, its good bones and avoidance of gimmickry make it a great buy for savvy shoppers.
How Much Does it Cost to Insure the Toyota Tundra?
The 2023 Toyota Tundra’s insurance costs are a little lower than its peers. According to our research, a typical 30-year-old female driver with a clean record can expect an average annual premium starting at $2,078 for a Tundra Limited, though this averages all 50 states. For comparison, an equivalent GMC Sierra 1500 would be $2,274, an F-150 King Ranch $2,238, and a diesel Ram 1500 Longhorn $2,299. For a more accurate picture of your potential insurance expenses, visit our car insurance calculator.