We can expect three things from trucks, if TV commercials for them are any indicator.
First, they will pull up to job sites with pristine paint and bodywork and will be the only truck on site, and thus will be clearly king of the lot.
Second, they will be perfectly fine and have not a scratch on them when someone dumps pallet-loads of heavy items into the bed from a height — usually in slow motion.
And third, they will have powerful-sounding names attached to them or to any new feature that’s been added.
Toyota, for example, has started using i-Force and MAX as their favored suffixes for the Tundra. Ford uses Raptor and King Ranch. Ram uses Rebel and T-Rex (er … TRX). General Motors uses Trail Boss and Denali. Nissan just named its truck Titan and didn’t bother with extras.
The naming thing is important because, as we all know, trucks have to be larger than life. They’re the superheroes of automotive.
Sure, supercars and hypercars are what the kids get posters of at the book fair in school, but when it comes to the real world, it’s all about trucks. Hardly any country songs get written about Lamborghinis, but every third song on the radio will involve a truck.
So, with the new Tundra, Toyota finally jumped on board the tough suffix game. The 2023 Toyota Tundra comes in either an i-Force or an i-Force MAX model. If you can’t tell the difference just from those names, the MAX model has way more power.
Like Ford, and eventually probably everyone else making full-sized trucks, Toyota dropped its V-8 engine in favor of a turbocharged 6. While similar in terms of displacement and output, the 3.5-liter turbo from Toyota isn’t related to the EcoBoost line from Ford, going instead with a slightly lower compression ratio to produce power more akin to the long curve of a natural V-8 or a diesel.
The 3.5-liter outputs 389 horsepower in the i-Force models while the i-Force MAX bumps that to 437 horses thanks to some hybrid additions.
You read that right. Toyota used its expertise in hybrid electric systems to add more power to its pickup. More than 100 pound-feet, to be exact, taking the turbo-6 from 479 pound-feet in the i-Force model to 583 in the i-Force MAX.
Basically, Toyota took some Prius stuff and shoved it into the Tundra and then went all Tim Allen on it. Arr augh aurgh!
There’s a lot of other stuff under the hood to help make all that happen, of course.
The twin turbochargers are fed by water-cooled intercoolers, for example. The i-Force MAX hybrid models have a 36 kW (48 horsepower) electric motor and a 1.87 kWh nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery produces 288 volts.
Interestingly, the rated fuel economy for the i-Force non-hybrid is 24 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg in town. The i-Force MAX hybrid system changes that to 20 mpg in town and 24 mpg on the highway for a total increase of 2 mpg combined. So ,you get more power and better mpg returns.
Of course, most of those returns will be spent on the added stuff buyers are probably going to be putting in their Tundras. The TRD Pro i-Force MAX model I drove, for example, has a bunch of fairly heavy off-road gear added on. Those 33-inch A/T tires aren’t helping fuel economy much. Neither are the added skid plates, the 1.1-inch suspension lift, the upgraded Fox shock absorbers with dampers or the rear locking differential.
But damn if all that extra gear doesn’t make this truck look cool.
As with most pickup trucks, there needs to be some bragging rights to go along with your chosen brand and rig. While the other makes argue over “best-in-class” towing, hauling, power or whatever, Toyota just banks on people thinking it’ll be the most reliable option they can buy. It carries the same standard warranty most others do, though, so it’s hard to say if this new powertrain will do as well as the previous generations have.
Towing in the Tundra maxes out at 12,000 pounds, but most configurations are closer to 11,000. The 2023 Tundra with a towing package comes standard with trailer brake controls and plugs. Payload is maxed at 1,940 pounds with most configurations being in the 1,500-1,600 range.
But the Toyota Tundra now comes with multiple bed lengths, so that’s a bonus. A 5.5-foot short box is standard on most trims, but 6.5- and 8.1-foot beds are available in most setups (the latter generally with the shorter double cab).
And for those wondering, yes, there are some moose antlers available on the Tundra. They aren’t terribly long, but they are there. Seriously, though, if you’re pulling a trailer big enough that you need giant extended mirrors, you shouldn’t be doing it with a half-ton truck. Have some sense.
My TRD Pro test model had electric ones that pull back in from inside the cab, making it easy not to drive around with them extended without a trailer like a jackass. You idiots know who you are.
It’s like a 90-year-old man taking blue pills. It might look like you’re ready to rock, but everyone knows you probably can’t actually git-r-done.
Inside, the 2023 Toyota Tundra is like all the other trucks. Everything is big, over-cushioned and filled with technology. That means about half the population in Wyoming will complain about the “new-fangled this and that” and how they “remember when trucks were just for work and didn’t have all this flim-flam.”
Everyone else will find it way better than the last generation and be secretly happy to have trailer backup aids and a choice of 500 spots to put their candy stash and extra energy drinks.
The 14-inch infotainment screen is impressive to everyone who hasn’t seen a giant screen in a car before. It’s otherwise pretty good, and at least it’s not a hugely distracting tablet that deletes every useful button that used to be there.
Pickups should have large controls inside for easy handling while bouncing down the trail, or easy manipulation when your hands are cold because you spent the last 20 minutes hooking up a trailer during the coldest hours of the morning and then trying to coax some animal to get inside. Most of the pertinent knobs and buttons in the Tundra fit this description and are thus acceptable.
The 2023 Tundra comes in seven flavors.
· The SR is the base model everyone will reference for purchase price, but never actually buy.
· The SR5 is the hard-working Tundra that will actually be used for work most of its existence.
· The Limited and Platinum models are both the mid-level, but very comfortable “everyday” version of the truck that will see some work, but mostly just get driven around as cars.
· The 1794 is for those with a leather fetish.
· The TRD Pro is the off-road model with good exhaust noise and lots of gear for getting around where there is no pavement.
· The Capstone is the architect's model for showing up at job sites and looking like you know what you’re doing, but with all the trappings of a luxury car hidden inside. I would not, however, recommend having people drop heavy things into the bed. That only works on TV.
The new Tundra has a lot of great qualities as a pickup. It’s capable, comes in a lot of formats to fit whatever need or lifestyle you’ve got and it’s efficient. Standard equipment is plentiful and includes wireless connectivity for your phone via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Forward collision mitigation, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive (radar) cruise control are also standard.
Pricing for the steel-wheeled base model SR begins at about $44,500, plus delivery. Most would probably consider the SR5 to be the real, consumer-grade base model and it starts at about $50,000. The Tundra TRD Pro model I drove started at about $71,000.