Tundra a Likeable Full-Size Pickup

CHATHAM, Mass. – There is a lot to like about the Texas-manufactured 2023 Toyota Tundra, which benefited from the changes introduced last year with the launch of third generation of the company’s full-size pickup truck.

The comprehensively equipped Tundra 4X4 Platinum Crewmax 6.5 now is on equal footing with its popular domestic competitors meaning it rides more like a passenger car than a traditional large pickup with comfort, conveniences and technology in the same vein.

It starts under the hood

Toyota provides two powertrains in the Tundra and the one I had for a week featured the standard unit, which went way beyond most brands’ concepts of “base powertrain.” The i-FORCE 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 featured double-overhead-camshaft design and dual VVT-I (variable-valve timing), producing more power than the previous generation’s V8: 389 horsepower and 489 pounds-feet of torque versus 381 and 401 (for the V8).

Mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission and part-time electronically controlled four-wheel-drive (4WD) system, the new powertrain is both more powerful than the outgoing V8 and more fuel efficient. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rated the 2023 Tundra at 19 miles per gallon overall (17 urban, 22 highway) vs. the V8’s 14 mpg overall (13 urban, 17 highway). In my several hundred miles behind the wheel, the vehicle computer indicated just a hair above 20 mpg – an outstanding figure for a non-hybrid, large pickup, especially the way I drive without any care about stretching out the mileage!  

And the power was there whenever I wanted or needed it!

The powertrain’s capabilities allow for trailering up to 10,890 pounds (in Platinum trim, up to 12,000 in other configurations) which is aided by the power-extendable tow mirrors and TOW HAUL driving mode, which modifies throttle response. TOW HAUL is especially helpful with lighter to moderate trailering needs, such as small box trailers, utility trailers or small boats. In addition, a rear hitch with 4/7-pin connector is standard.

Chassis a strong reason for Tundra performance

The 2023 Tundra benefits from the all-new chassis underpinning this generation of the truck. The most significant design change is the adoption of a multi-link rear suspension which ditches the leaf springs for coils.

Factor in relocated shock absorbers (outside the frame rails) with a lateral control arm providing increased lateral rigidity and the new rear suspension provides major improvements to ride, handling dynamics and straight-line stability.

These improvements were also part of the increased towing capacity of the new truck, some 17.6 percent better than its predecessor, as well as an 11 percent increase in maximum payload to 1,940 pounds.

The test truck included the optional Advanced Package ($1,645) which adds load-leveling rear height control air suspension and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). As described by Toyota, the AVS “is designed to adjust damping force based on ever-changing road conditions, whether it be a large pothole, bump or small rock. The linear-solenoid-type AVS features built-in actuators in the front and rear shock absorbers to continuously change damping force based on the conditions, all to enhance handling, stability and comfort of the new Tundra.”

The new double-wishbone front suspension also plays a significant role in the ride, comfort and handling improvements.

These features, components and engineering advances work – the 2023 Tundra Platinum rides and handles on equal terms with the top of the range full-size pickups from the domestic big three. Period. A huge step forward from the second-generation truck I drove a few years ago, one which disappointed me in comparison to other brands on the market (a good truck, but not in the class with Ford, GM or RAM at the time).

Saying the Tundra equals the domestics’ capabilities means the Toyota is car-like in its ride, handling and comfort characteristics – a trait of a truly modern full-size pickup truck.

Rounding out the chassis pieces are power-assisted ventilated discs at all four corners, the fronts 13.9-inches, the rears 13.6. Opposed dual-piston calipers work up front, while single-piston ones at the rear.

All operated within 20×8-inch painted alloy wheels mounted with P265/60R20 tires.

ADAS a major driving advantage

Standard on all versions of Tundra is Toyota Safety Sense™ 2.5 (TSS 2.5), the company’s basic advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), which are key to navigating a truck of this size in tight areas (like virtually every village and town on Cape Cod). The TSS 2.5 includes: Pre-Collision System w/Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert w/Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Automatic High Beams (AHB) and Road Sign Assist (RSA).

The test truck also had blind-spot monitoring (BSM) with rear cross-traffic alert, trailer detection, and parking support brake (PKSB) with rear cross-traffic alert. The PKSB uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects while reversing the Tundra and will activate the brakes if it detects an upcoming collision.

Inside premium features and technology

Like most full-size four-door crew-max pickups, the Tundra Platinum I drove is huge inside, lots of room for five. The seats, leather trimmed, heated and ventilated front and rear, (power adjustable up front with driver memory) are superbly comfortable and roomy without being a slippery chair.

The automatic climate-control system is a dual-zone setup with rear-door sunshades helping keep excessive sun and heat out. The standard panoramic moonroof has a power shade to allow the driver to regulate the amount of sunlight from above.

Technology abounds throughout the interior beginning with the12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver, behind the steering wheel. This customizable display is supplemented in its information by the head-up display (HUD) which is part of the aforementioned optional Advanced Package.

Moving to the center of the dash you come to the 14-inch LCD touch screen which is the heart of the infotainment system and provides the ability to adjust the various vehicle settings. The infotainment system, which includes navigation, is bolstered in the Platinum model with a 12-speaker JBL® Premium Audio System. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also part of this thorough package.

A truck you can live with

As usual, there are far too many features, options and trim levels available on a full-size pickup to include in a post like this. Toyota does not offer the breadth of models, trims and packages as the domestic brands, striving to hit tighter buyer groups, leaving the potpourri of choices to the others.

What they have created with the third generation Tundra is a very competitive full-size pickup; one which can hold its own against any of its rivals while offering Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability.

They also offer solid value. The 2023 Toyota Tundra 4X4 Platinum Crewmax 6.5 brings a $60,320 base price to the truck party. The major options on the test model (power running boards, $1,350; Advanced Package, $1,645, and PVM+BSM, $290) bring the price to $64,169 – this is a lot of truck for this price in today’s market.

Need a full-size pickup – the 2023 Toyota Tundra deserves consideration.

Next week TBR Drives the 2023 Nissan Ariya electric vehicle.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.