Tundra to the Max

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Toyota’s 2014 Tundra premium model crew-cab 4×4 brings Lexus-like appointments to the jobsite

Anyone who spends seat time behind the wheel of Toyota’s top-of-the-rock Platinum-edition Tundra will get a true sense of luxury and power, while at the same time, having no doubt the truck can hold its own if taxed towing an equipment trailer or making a run to the home center or nursery for a load of mulch.

Screen Shot 2014 05 01 At 10 01 13 AmThe 2014 Tundra has some minor body-design changes to the hood and grille and small tuning changes to the suspension. But in totality, it’s much the same as the model it replaces.

What Toyota has done is up the trim levels to compete against the Big Three’s high-end offerings – and they have done that well.

The Crew Max Platinum edition that I spent a week in is right at home taking clients to a classy restaurant and having the valet park it next to any Lexus. The truck is richly appointed with a leather interior and has more rear passenger legroom than any SUV.

Extra legroom is what the Crew Max is all about, with nearly 8 inches more space between the front and rear seat than the standard Double Cab model.

The benefits of the longer cab spill over into payload, too. The Crew Max 4Ă—4 can haul 100 pounds more than the Double Cab (7,100 pounds vs. 7,200 pounds)  

The trade-off: a 5-foot 6-inch bed instead of the 6 1/2-foot bed. Although probably not of much consequence to most landscapers hauling lawn-service equipment trailers, towing capacity also takes a small hit: The Crew Max 4Ă—4 is limited to towing 9,000 pounds, where as the Double Cab can pull 9,800 pounds.

(Note: All Tundras require the use of a weight-distributing hitch on trailered weights exceeding 5,000 pounds.) 

From a power perspective, the 2014 Tundra’s 381-horsepower 5.7L i-FORCE V8 and six-speed automatic will out run all of the competitors’ 5Ls I’ve tested to date in a flat-out drag race – and out stop them on the other end.

Watch a road test with this pickup.

I ran the Tundra at Gulfport Dragway where most of our track numbers are gathered. It’s just a couple of miles from my office on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Tundra Crew Max is impressive for a 5,800-pound 4×4. Our Stalker radar system showed it took 7.2 clicks to hit 60 mph and 15.4 seconds to break the ¼-mile traps at 90.2 mph.

Part of that performance is due to 4.30-axle ratios and the close ratio of the six-speed automatic, which works in tandem to give good launch and smooth power transitions during shifts. That smooth, steady power also shows up when towing. The other part is the engine is just plain stout.

Fuel economy is still so-so; Toyota didn’t make any changes to the engine in the new model, so the EPA numbers are still 13/17/15 (city/highway/combined.) The good news is I saw 18.2 mpg during a 100-mile interstate cruise at 70 mph and 14 mpg in stop-and-go city driving. 

I’d expect towing numbers of the typical landscaper’s trailers to be similar to what Ford, GM and Nissans truck V-8s get: low, double digit if aggressive driving is avoided.

As for overall ride quality, I found the suspension, when the truck is unloaded, to be a little tighter than the competitor’s ½-tons, more so in the rear than the front. With a 4,200-pound trailer in tow, it settles down some, but it still has that jittery feel.

14 Tundra PerformanceSteering is light, the brakes quick and firm. Driver visibility is excellent to the front and sides; not so much so over the right shoulder where the longer cab creates a big blind spot. (Hence the need for the blind-spot mirror with traffic alert option that’s $500.)

The Crew Max Platinum I tested came equipped with an excellent navigation and sound system that had a big, bright screen and decent back-up camera. The camera and big screen made it easy to back up to a trailer in the dark and park the hitch ball right under the trailer’s tongue: a real time saver for those who tow a lot. 

Interior seating is firm, and the power front seats have more adjustments than you’ll ever need. The interior is also quiet, even at freeway speeds. There’s a little wind noise, but nothing that set our sound meter from reading a steady 68 dB. 

The bed is the deepest in the full-size pickup market, and it’s equipped with adjustable tie-downs along both sides. The high bedsides increase payload capacity of materials such as mulch, gravel and sand. But the high sides also make it difficult to reach in a cross-bed toolbox or objects in the bed without dropping the tailgate or using a side step of some sort.

Those are nit-picks. Overall, I have to give the 2014 Tundra Crew Max 4×4 Platinum a strong B+: It has all of the power you’d every need in a ½-ton for work or recreational towing, and the Platinum’s features do make the occupants feel like they are riding in the lap of luxury.

If the next generation has less plastic in the interior and brings more state-of-the-art engine technology to play for better fuel economy, they are on track for an “A” in my book.  

Basic Specifications

  • Make/Model: 2014 Toyota Tundra Crew Max Platinum 4Ă—4
  • MSRP: $47,320
  • Price As Tested: $48,475
  • Engine: 381hp aluminum 5.7L V-8
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Axle Ratio: 4.30
  • Curb weight: 5,860 pounds
  • Max Tow Capacity: 9,000 pounds
  • Fuel Economy:
    • EPA: 13/17/15
    • Observed: 14 city/18.2 hwy
  • Performance:
    • 0-60mph: 7.2 sec
    • ÂĽ-Mile: 15.4 @ 92 mph
    • 60-0 mph: 121 feet
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