2014 Toyota Tundra: Has Toyota Finally Gotten The Big Pickup Thing Right?

2014 Toyota Tundra Limited
The 2014 Toyota Tundra Limited
Okay, I'll admit, the headline is a bit of a trick question.

Regular TireKicker readers who recall our review of the 2013 model just last summer know that we think Toyota got the big pickup thing right with the last-generation Tundra.  But buyers don't agree..the Tundra is still not a threat to the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram.

So is the new 2014 Tundra a game-changer?

Rear view of 2014 Toyota Tundra Limited
2014 Toyota Tundra Limited.
Frankly, it's hard to see how.  The 2014 is substantially re-styled from last year's (in the same way that the new Chevy and GMC pickups are all-new but unmistakable for anything other than what they are), and the formula this time around seems to be more.

More macho "big truck" styling.  More creature comforts in the cabin.

Just more.

Our tester was the mid-range Limited model.  Base price for the CrewMax 4X4 $41,895.  For that, there's 381 horsepower from a 5.7-liter V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  It rolls on standard 20-inch alloy wheels, comes stock with the usual plethora of air bags, a backup camera, a power vertical rear window and some nice insides, too:

Interior view of 2014 Toyota Tundra Limited
2014 Toyota Tundra Limited interior.

For your 41 and change, you get leather-trimmed and heated seats (the driver's is 10-way power adjustable, the passenger's 4-way), 60/40 split fold-up rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a premium audio system with navigation, a 7-inch high-res color touchscreen, Toyota's Entune infotainment app suite, Bluetooth, USB, HD Radio, an auxiliary jack, satellite radio and a free tank of gas.

And ours had options, though there's not a lot left to add with a standard equipment list like that.  The test truck was treated to the Limited Premium Package (auto up/down power windows, illuminated entry, glass breakage sensor and front and rear parking sonar) for $595; The TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Off-Road Package (18-inch TRD off-road alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, rear side privacy glass, an engine skid plate, and a TRD decal on the rear fender) for $100; Running boards for $345 and a bedliner for $365.

Total price with $995 for delivery and handling: $44.295.  For those of you who haven't priced mid-range full-size trucks lately, that's about what they go for.

So why is the Tundra still on the outside looking in when it comes to big truck sales?  Well, part of it is that truck owners are a loyal bunch.  You've got Ford guys, Chevy guys and Ram guys.  One of them would have to make a major mistake in design or execution to lose customers to another brand.  And all of them are arguably building the best trucks they ever have built right now.

The other is fuel economy.  Ironic, since Toyota made its bones in America during a fuel crisis 40 years ago by selling fuel-efficient cars...but the Tundra's EPA fuel economy estimate is 13 city/17 highway...and we found those numbers just a bit optimistic in our week with the truck.  The competition is better...F-150 at 15/21,  Silverado with 16/23 and Ram with 18/25. There may have been a time when truck buyers didn't much sweat fuel economy, but with $3.50 a gallon becoming the new normal, that's changing.

The 2014 Tundra is a fine truck. But I couldn't tell you what it would take for Toyota to make waves in the Good Old Boys Club of American big pickups.  If you've got an idea, click the comment button and let us know.