A girl, a truck and a full day to play.
When Toyota introduced the redesigned 2022 Toyota Tundra it was big news that the tow capacity has been increased to 12,000 lbs., that it has tow assistance, and that crawl control has been added for additional capability off road.
You can say it, but does that mean you can do it? We got the chance to put it to the test. And, the answer is, well, duh. Yeah. Toyota does what they say they can do. And those little things add up to a big win for Toyota’s newest version of the Tundra. Recently we learned all about the new Tundra and got a close up look at all the details but we were not allowed to drive it. So, I was excited to take a test drive in San Antonio, TX, where we took it off road, to the lake, tested out its towing ability and drove int on the highway. Add, I put it to a very specific and necessary test: Parking.
Note: pricing has not yet been announced but when it is, we’ll update this story. This truck just went into production and goes on sale toward the end of 2021.
Related: The 2022 Toyota Tundra Has Been Redesigned (About Time, Right??) and We Can’t Get Enough of It
First Things First: Coffee
It’s my first stop every morning, probably yours, too: Coffee. Yes, I had coffee before I left, but with an hour drive ahead of me, I wanted a Starbies in the cup holder. So I went off course for a Venti Latte and was hit square on with about a thousand other people who had the same idea. The drive through line wound around the block. So I decided to navigate a small and busy parking lot in this full size truck (in Texas it’s normal to show up in tight places in a large vehicle) and squeeze into a tiny parking spot. Backwards.
But the Tundra’s rear camera, guidelines and high visibility game me perfect visibility to snag the only spot by backing it in like a pro.
Back on the highway, I was surprised at how delightfully easy the Tundra drove, more like a very tall, large car than a truck. The V6 389 HP engine performs well; this truck no longer has a V8 option, but I didn’t miss it. And, with the new iForce 6 cylinder engine, it’s rated to get about 20 MPG combined, not bad for a full size pick up.
The new engine and stiffer steel frame meant I didn’t feel all the bumps and twists in the road, but instead, could easily focus on the sounds of Sirius XM Chill with navigation directions softly prompting me over the music. I liked that the music didn’t fully mute when the navigation or voice assist activated. The music even played softly behind my Apple CarPlay commands. Overall the experience was familiar and comfortable, not jarring, which is often the case when multiple systems are at work at the same time.
Next: Off Road Driving
Isn’t this how you start every day? But if you’re camping, or, simply off roading is the objective, you do. When we arrived at the ranch near Canyon Lake that Toyota had reserved for us to test out the Tundra’s off road capability, I had to get in line for time on the off road course. And it was a blast.
The thrill of off roading is part wow, part jiggly fun, part up close view of the woods, and a lot of ‘I did this!’ Even though you know they dug out ruts with a backhoe, lined up logs for you to drive over and stacked rocks for you climb, then test drove the course over and over, it’s still impressive (and giggly fun) when you do it. It’s like a ride at Disneyworld: You want to do it over and over again.
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Now, understand, I’m not an off roader. I’m more of a white knuckled driver when I’m afraid I might get stuck, turn the darn truck over or worse, hit one of the gracious gentlemen who are spotting drivers on the course. I was grateful for a few things in the Tundra that made the experience all fun and no danger:
- The front view camera, which let me see what was on either side and in front of the truck. This came on when I put the truck in 4 low and it was so incredibly comforting, especially when aiming the truck up a hill where I could only see the hands of the spotter motioning me forward
- Crawl control, which propelled the truck forward over hills, rocks and logs with ease; all I had to do was steer, and that is a huge job on its own, so I was glad to not have to worry about acceleration and braking (especially when you can’t see what you’re accelerating over)
- Speed control: Crawl control is very slow, but I could turn the dial on the center console to speed up or slow down. With both speed controlled crawl control, your every action is very deliberate, which keeps you out of trouble
- Skid plates — standard on some models but all Tundras can have skid plates added as an accessory— that keep the underbody of the truck safe from rocks, logs and other dangers on the trail. You know they are working when you hear them scrape and crunch under the truck; it sounds awful, but it’s good because it lets you know you’re being protected
- High ground clearance, a natural for trucks and the Tundra is no exception: All models have something just over 10” of ground clearance (depending on the trim); the TRD Pro adds an inch to that and a dealer installed lift kit can add 3”. It’s so nice to look out across a muddy creek or across a rutted field and know that the truck is tall enough to make the trek without getting stuck.
Tow, Tow, Tow Your Boat!
Driving into Canyon Lake recreation area I felt a pang of jealousy for the campsites set up along the lake. I could just hear the crunch of gravel under foot, the light clanking of dishes from a nearby campsite, the smell of a fire being readied to roast the day’s catch. I stopped and put the windows down so I could feel the breeze off the water. For those of us dreaming of Bassmasters, Airstreams and lake life, a vehicle that can tow that is a must.
What isn’t great is trying to back up a large trailer, especially if you can’t really see behind the truck, or see the boat ramp behind the trailer. Backing a trailer is an art, but now, also a science, one that has been created for you so backing is a cinch.
Toyota added Trailer Backup Guide to the Tundra. All you have to do is aim the trailer, put it in reverse and let the truck do the rest. It’ll steer and correct so that the trailer stays on course. I tried it out and my trailer was straight but the truck wasn’t; the Tundra corrected course. Phew.
Go Off the Grid and Stay There, Without Getting Lost
Probably the biggest news for Tundra (and Toyota) is the new multimedia system. The company has been working on this behind the scenes for a while now, and it’s ready to roll out; Tundra is the first to get it (though Lexus has a version that is available in the 2022 Lexus NX).
While the multimedia system is great— a large screen, “Hey Toyota” voice activated everything, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and lots of options— the nice thing here is that the navigation system is a subscription only feature (pricing coming soon) that you can buy by the week, month or year, however you need it. Once you subscribe you’ll get a smart navigation system that will store all your destinations so if and when your cell connection disappears, your maps are still accessible, up to a 50 mile radius. The system also features a cloud-based intelligent voice assistant that can answer questions, make phone calls and more. And, since it’s a subscription, the system is constantly updated via over the air updates. So you’re not stuck with a map from last year that doesn’t show the road you want to take is washed out.
Lots of Lovely Tundras to Choose From, So Take Your Pick
Understanding that truck owners and drivers are not all cut from the same cloth, Toyota’s 2022 Tundra lineup includes lots of options so you can customize how you’d like.
I was particularly drawn to two models: The Platinum iForce Max, with the larger engine and more power, plus nearly silent driving at under 19 MPH — a true wow for a pickup truck—that spoiled me with leather seating, a panoramic sun roof and every cool detail possible. Driving it was not just fun, but also, confident and relaxing. No extra muscle needed to command this ship.
I also really loved the Tundra TRD Pro trim for its heritage details and the extra attention to what TRD drivers need. This is the most capable and also, the top of the line Tundra. Drivers will love the TOYOTA badging spelled out on the front grille and the dashboard; they’ll love the light bar on the front grille (which illuminates when the high beams are on) and the red leather “camo” interior, plus all the TRD goodies like black wheels and details, an additional inch of ground clearance and standard skid plates.
But probably the best in the lot is the SR5 with some add-ons. I hopped into the SR5 TRD Sport and was quite impressed; Softex leatherette, panoramic sun roof and the 14” media system were added for all you need in a truck: comfort, connectivity and capability. Plus, all the lovely new Tundra details, from towing features to the enhanced surround view camera to the nicely redesigned steering wheel, that make this truck a pleasure to drive. Everything you need for a full day of play on or off the grid.
Disclsosure: I was Toyota’s guest for this test drive; accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.