Preview: 2022 Toyota Tundra Boasts Hybrid Powertrain, Key Safety Features

The third-generation pickup has the potential to close the gap with the domestic-branded sales leaders

2022 Toyota Tundra Photo: Toyota

The all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra is coming out swinging, with bold styling, big power from a hybrid powertrain, large tow capacity, a rich roster of safety features, and a contemporary multimedia system. The long-overdue redesign sees the truck trying to close the gap with the domestic-branded trucks. 

The current Tundra was introduced for the 2007 model year. That’s right, when the second-generation truck hit the market, George W. Bush was president and Steve Jobs was about to announce the Apple iPhone.

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Every competing full-sized truck has been redesigned once, if not multiple times, since then. Consequently, the Tundra has trailed the sales leaders in capability and innovation, with its chief competitive advantage being Toyota-grade reliability. 

This third-generation truck catapults the Texas-built Tundra back into the full-sized truck arena. But this market moves fast, with Ford and Rivian now gearing up to produce electric trucks, and the Tesla Cybertruck is not far behind.

Ultimately, we won’t know how competitive this Tundra is until we buy one and test it. Until then, here is what we know so far.

What it competes with: Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500
What it looks like: A giant grille with a truck behind it.
Powertrains: 389-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine and 437-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged hybrid V6 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Price: $35,000-$55,000 (estimated)
On sale: Late 2021, early 2022 (hybrid) 

CR's Take

Toyota has a lot of ground to make up with the Tundra. Updates have been nominal over the long 15-year second-generation, while competition from Ford, GM, and Ram have been making ongoing improvements. Ford, in particular, spends on innovations with a budget befitting a vehicle that sells about three-quarters of a million units a year. Ram has impressed us lately with its quiet and well-finished interior and comfortable ride. And Chevrolet just announced a midlife freshing for the 2022 Silverado

On paper at least, it appears that Toyota has targeted many existing shortcomings, and the end result is a product that seems to be much more competitive. The powertrains are a big part of the story, with a hybrid billed as powerful and efficient—although we haven’t seen fuel economy figures yet. (The F-150 hybrid likewise sounded exciting, yet it delivered just one more mpg overall in our tests than the non-hybrid turbo V6.)

We applaud Toyota for making so many active safety systems standard and hope other automakers follow suit. On paper, this sounds like a compelling truck that will retain customers and inspire some cross-shopping from other brands, however, it does not appear to outshine its rivals. The true measure of where it ranks will come from the driving experience and test results.

Outside

The Tundra is offered in Double Cab (aka extended cab) and CrewMax (crew cab) configurations, with a total of three bed lengths: 5.5-, 6.5-, and 8.1-foot. There is no two-door version. 

The grille is gigantic. Were it any larger, Toyota stylists would need to wrap it around the fenders. It is accented with the Toyota logo or the word “Toyota” depending on the trim. Aside from that yawning maw, the truck could as readily be an updated Silverado, with rather Chevrolet-like fender contours. The exterior is less distinctive than the current model. And its real intrigue is under the hood, in the cabin, and the rear suspension.  

2022 Toyota Tundra

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

The bed is made of a lightweight composite material, rather than stamped steel, that is dent and rust-resistant. Even the tailgate is lighter by 20 percent over last year’s model, and all tailgates have a remote locking feature.  

Familiar trim names carry over, starting with SR, and moving up through SR5, Limited, Platinum, and 1794. The off-road champ TRD Pro will be offered only with the hybrid engine. A TRD Off-Road package can be added to SR5, Limited, and 1794, bringing TRD wheels, off-road suspension, protective skid plates, mud guards, and leather shift knob. Models with this package and four-wheel drive also gain electronic rear locking differential, driver-selectable terrain modes, and crawl control, for low-speed off-roading.

Inside

The cabin appears very businesslike, with regular buttons, switches, and knobs for common controls. It is rather geometric, with many rectangular shapes and prominent angles on the vent outlets. There is a conventional gear selector, rather than a rotary dial as some trucks have moved to. The TRD trucks feature an extra splash of color and prerequisite branding. 

2022 Toyota Tundra

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

The most prominent feature is the center infotainment screen (shown above). The base system uses an 8-inch screen, with the top version using a large 14-inch touch screen. This houses a next-generation multimedia system with standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. There are many convenience features, like a virtual assistant that can respond to plain language commands, WiFi, and a cloud-based navigation system that accepts over-the-air updates for maps and points of interest. Toyota’s current infotainment system lags behind much of the competition so we are looking forward to getting our hands on this new version.

There are likewise two variations of the instrument panel: the traditional gauges (speedometer, tachometer, oil, and fuel) with a 4.1-inch digital information display, and a more modern 12.3 screen. 

The user profile can be customized for each driver through a Toyota app. 

The second row features a flip-up seat bottom (shown below) to increase cargo space and provide access to a hidden storage compartment.

2022 Toyota Tundra

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

What Drives It

The Tundra can be configured with a choice of twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engines. The standard powerplant generates 389 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft. of torque—notably more than Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, and Ram. (The Nissan Titan comes with a 400-hp V8.)

The top choice combines the standard engine with a hybrid system, generating 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft. of torque. It has a low-speed electric-only mode, available under 18 mph. There are two driver-selectable modes, Sport and Sport+, that use the electric assist to further boost performance. 

Both engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, up from six speeds in the 2021 model. 

Maximum tow capacity increases to 12,000 pounds, with maximum payload bumped to 1,940 pounds. To aid in towing, the Tundra has two new tow/haul modes. The standard mode adjusts throttle response for small trailers, whereas the other adjusts performance for large trailers. The hybrid engine keeps the electric motor ready for instant assist and deactivates the fuel-saving start/stop feature. 

The steel frame and front and rear suspension have all been completely redesigned. Most notably, the rear suspension ditches its old-school leaf springs in favor of a new four-link coil-sprung system. Although still a solid axle, Toyota says ride and handling dynamics have been improved while improving payload and towing capabilities. 

Added cameras on the new Tundra help with trailer connections, with a hitch view, a split view to show down each side of the trailer, and a camera covering the bed. And on TRD Pro or with the TRD Off-Road package, the cameras can provide a surround view while driving to monitor for obstacles. Power extending and folding side mirrors further aid visibility.

The Tundra now offers a backup assistance feature, and an air suspension to aid in load-leveling with a trailer. This is a welcomed convenience, providing a factory-backed feature that is sometimes added by owners who pull heavy travel trailers.

2022 Toyota Tundra

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

The Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 suite is standard on every Tundra trim level. This makes it easy for buyers to feel confident they are getting key safety features—an approach that is uncommon in the truck market. 

TSS 2.5 includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, lane center assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and rear seat reminder to avoid leaving a small child or pet behind. 

The Tundra also includes blind spot warning and rear cross traffic warning. An optional feature adds automatic braking at parking speeds. 

2022 Toyota Tundra

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota


Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).