Remember your first car? Probably wasn’t too fancy, fast, or “Best In Class” at anything. But it was easy to master, resilient, and way more fun than it had any right to be. The 2014 Toyota Tundra brings those feelings right back, and I promise it’s still worth looking at.

We all crap on the Tundra because it’s ancient, a little chinsy, and can’t match the ‘Murican truck brands on bragging rights. But that’s not why I derived sadistic pleasure from wringing it out; there’s something about its the flow of throttle and steering that make this truck genuinely riotous to drive.

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The Limited variant brings just enough luxury to a generally basic vehicle; offering enough car-comforts without the self-consciousness that might come with a $60,000 Ford F-150.

“I don’t understand why they call this a ‘Limited,’” mused an actual woman riding shotgun with me at one point. “Anyone who drives around in this would clearly accept no limits.”

Indeed.

Straight-n-slabby interior panels mean business and the riding position is commanding. If you ordered the TRD dual-exhaust, and by god it’d be criminal not to, a quick kick of the spurs lets out the satisfying crackle of a dragon belching crispy autumn leaves.

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Unfortunately the look is let down by goofy control knobs fresh off that boom box you had in middle school. Stitched leather accents on the dash and door panels are reasonable, but the plastic you put your hands on (door handles, center console) feels like it’s made from melted-down happy meal toys.

But the steering is super-light– even though that’s not something that generally feels correct in a full-sized truck, paired with the 5.7 V8 that’s shockingly eager to rev (no, really) it’s unbelievable how energetic this truck feels. Read carefully though; I’m not calling it fast. But at the risk of revealing my inner douchebro the best way to describe this truck’s attitude is decidedly “down for whatever.”

Exterior

You may recognize the 2015 Toyota Tundra from 2007. Aesthetically it’s essentially the same, with a design refresh last year that bulked up the fenders and broadened the smile a bit.

I still like it, but when wheels look this disproportionately tiny it might be time to start scaling back the steroidal styling every truck-building automaker is obsessed with.

Interior

The materials don’t come close to what I’ve touched in recent Ford, Chevy, or Ram trucks but the layout is decent and the controls are absolutely idiot-proof.

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I’ve criticized the buttons for looking primitive, but the truth is they’re so easy to find and operate that anyone buying a truck for utility’s sake will be fine with them. If you’re okay with the console on the 4Runner, or hell, a Lexus SUV, you’ll feel right at home.

Rear seat room in the full four-door (CrewMax) is ample, and the bench folds up to give you a solidly usable storage area.

Toys And Technology

Toyota trucks have two unique pieces of gadgetry worth mentioning; the infotainment system that can run multiple applications (audio display, map, ect) simultaneously in separate windows, and a rear window that completely rolls down.

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The screen thing’s really nothing special, just Toyota’s method of making the most of a basic double-DIN headunit. But the rollaway window is excellent. Why can’t every pickup truck do this?

You’ll find the function in the Sequoia, 4Runner, and some Tacomas as well. You might not be able to think of a functional purpose when you’ve already got a bed for long pieces of cargo, but it really brings a beautiful breeze into the cab when you’re cruising around town.

Performance

The 5.7 V8 is good for 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque... not tremendous volumetric efficiency, but solid output compared to more expensive rivals. Even Ford’s mighty 3.5 EcoBoost is close at 365 horse, 420 lb-ft.

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Get on the gas and the thing screams. Get on both pedals and turn your tires to ribbons. But once you get the throttle and the steering wheel tangoing together, this truck will dance around the dirt like it’s in an 80’s movie montage.

Transmission and Transfer Case

The gear selector is a purposeful, girthy unit protruding from the center console like the handle of Excalibur. You have to be deliberate about thwacking it down the gates from Park to Drive, giving you a false sense of the machine’s power. But since you’re a law-abiding citizen who wouldn’t break the speed limit anyway, the illusion that you could use that landscaping trailer as a jump is all you really need.

Ride and Handling

We’ve all seen the clip of a pre-facelift third-gen Tundra flexing so hard you could put it to music. And yeah; the new one is so much softer than an F-150, Silverado, or Ram 1500.

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Not so much soft like “wow, I hardly felt that pothole we just tried to flatten.” More; “Wh-oooa I didn’t think it was possible to alternate the weight between corners of a truck that quick!”

Realistically it’s usable, comfortable, and safe for your real-life driving purposes but it’s not particularly confidence-inspiring.

Fuel Economy

The V8 4x4’s EPA rated at 15 MPG in combined driving, the base 4.6 V8 is a negligible improvement at 16. We hit the 15 MPG average right on the mark with a lot of highway cruising and a lot of hard acceleration, so I’ll call Toyota’s claim reasonable even if that performance kind of sucks.

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Toyota has obviously made fuel economy a priority in the other segments it dominates, why not shift their focus to that in trucks too? If they’ve already given up on trying to beat Ford, Ram, and Chevy on maximum payload or towing capacity ratings... shooting for spectacular MPGs would be a real value-add in the segment and line up with their overall corporate message pretty nicely.

Hauling, Towing, Cargo Management

Did you know the Toyota Tundra can tow 10,500 pounds? Like every other truck, that max requires a short-cab 2WD trim but even our four-door 4x4 was rated to 9,8o0 pounds with standard equipment. That’s... excellent.

Toyota’s load-securing system is handy as well; with adjustable cleats on all three immobile sides of the bed and abundant anchors elsewhere. Too bad they’re not very cleanly integrated with the bedliner.

Off-Roading And Boondocks Shenanigans

The Tundra didn’t need immense power to romp around. In fact, I reckon it’s more what the truck doesn’t have; much in the way of stability control or computer throttle-overrides, that made it fun to play with.

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A reasonable 26º approach angle and 10.4” of ground clearance also make it a better candidate for bushwhacking that most modern full-size trucks, but at almost 80” wide you’re not going to make it far into deep woods without heavy denting.

Value

No new full-size truck is truly “cheap,” but there’s a bargain to be had here compared to the Big Three. Only the 2015 Titan sells for less on average, and TrueCar’s residual value data says Tundra crushes every other comparable truck on resale value.

Data and graphs via TrueCar

For $45,000 you get a full four-door TRD packaged 4x4 with leather, navigation, heated seats, and even blind-spot warnings. The options list isn’t nearly as long as, say, the 2015 Ford F-150’s, but the best stuff is all there at a few grand less.

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For another $1,000 you get the TRD dual exhaust, which really does sound wonderful even if it only adds half a horsepower.

Verdict

The Toyota Tundra doesn’t beat other full-size trucks on much except price, but for some that’s enough and the rest of you should know it is a reasonably-performing truck in most conditions besides being a whole lot of fun to toss around.

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Tundra’s a good honest truck, but so many of its competitors are great that it’s a tough sell especially to folks spending big bills on pickups.

Two ways it could remain relevant; stick with the simplistic setup and undercut the hell out of competitors, or reinvent something fierce and offer exceptional economy at the cost of capability.

I hope Toyota resuscitates this truck one way or another because if you’ve never driven one, I bet it’s a lot better than you think.

Images by the author, Toyota


Andrew P. Collins is Jalopnik’s off-road and adventure guy. Shoot him an email at andrew@jalopnik.com or hit him up on Twitter @andr3wcollins to talk trucks.

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