Buying Used: 2014-2020 Toyota Tundra
Typical Used Prices: 2014 - $27,500; 2018 - $44,000
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Muscular workhorse, no sissy V6, definition of dependable
- What’s Bad: Old bones date back to 2007, stiff ride quality, dismal fuel economy
It may be hard to fathom, but automatic-folding rearview mirrors, puddle lamps and pushbutton ignition don’t appear anywhere in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The celebrated psychologist likely didn’t recognize the cravings of truck owners in his theory of psychological health, which was predicated on fulfilling essential human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.
Pickup truck buyers would beg to differ. It’s the little things that help differentiate the competitors in the colossal North American truck market, and if they’re spending $50,000-$70,000 on a truck, it had better cater to their every whim.
There are dissenting views, of course. One shopper shrugged off the new technology Ford had introduced in its bestselling pickup. He opted for a Tundra, Toyota’s full-size pickup that was crafted to strike fear in the Detroit Three.
Toyota had flubbed its initial assault on the full-size pickup segment with its half-baked T100 truck in the 1990s, followed by the first-generation Tundra in 2000, which retained the mid-size dimensions of its predecessor. The second-gen Tundra, released for 2007, finally matched or exceeded every domestic pickup in wheelbase, overall length and cheeky impudence.
It didn’t take long for Detroit to muster a response. Recognizing that Toyota was capable of eating their lunch and dinner, General Motors, Ford and Dodge (now Ram) upped their game by re-engineering their half-ton trucks regularly to bring their latest advancements to market quicker. Oddly, Toyota did not respond in kind.
Rather than redesign the Tundra every five years to contest the competition, Toyota was happy to leave its powertrain and underpinnings largely unchanged. The refreshed Tundra for 2014 featured a larger grille, bigger fenders all around and a redesigned tailgate. Engineers retuned the suspension with new damping rates to enhance the ride, while the steering rack was revised to improve steering feel – though still relying on hydraulic power.
The Tundra is offered in three body styles: a two-door regular cab, four-door Double Cab and the four-door extended CrewMax. The body styles share two wheelbases and three bed lengths: 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet and a long bed that measures 8.1 feet. The cabin benefited from a more thorough rethink with new seating, better gauges and controls, and a redesigned dashboard that addresses the formerly annoying long reach to the audio and climate controls by reorienting the centre dash several centimetres closer to the driver.
New tech features included a standard infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and rearview camera. Most models are available with Entune, Toyota’s suite of smartphone-connected services. The seats, while relatively flat, benefited from better materials.
Powertrains and updates
With no sissy V6s in the lineup, Tundra buyers have a choice between two tried-and-true V8 engines: a 4.6-litre DOHC unit that produces 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque (later retired for 2020), and the aluminum 5.7-litre boss engine that generates 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. Both engines work through a six-speed automatic transmission in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive drivetrains. A tow package is standard on all Tundras with the 5.7-litre V8; towing capacity tops out at 10,400 pounds (4,717 kg) when properly equipped.
For 2015 Toyota added the off-road-themed TRD Pro trim level to the lineup, complete with skid plates and Bilstein shock absorbers, and offered an integrated trailer brake controller for those who regularly pull big trailers. Every 2016 Tundra got an upgraded electronics interface, while the upper trims earned a larger gas tank and the trailer brake controller standard.
The four-door Double Cab became the entry-level model in 2018 after the two-door standard cab was discontinued. The entire lineup received some minor cosmetic updates, including LED headlamps and a new mesh grille design, while Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of driver-assistance features became standard, complete with pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
Driving the Tundra
Although the Tundra’s V8 engines and six-speed slushbox date back to biblical times, they still provide good acceleration in what is a weighty sled. Zero to 97 km/h comes up in 6.4 seconds with the big 5.7-litre, and 7.4 seconds with the 4.6-litre unit. While it was considered quick in 2014, Detroit’s trucks can do the deed in less than six seconds with the optional engines available today.
The Tundra feels more off the pace in other ways. Thanks to the 2007-era suspension design, every bump is transmitted into the cabin when driving over lumpy surfaces and the truck feels unwieldy on city streets thanks to its generous dimensions and hidden corners. Its numb hydraulic steering isolates the driver from the road and requires constant corrections on the highway.
Owners talk Reliability
In the lucrative world of trucks the Tundra is viewed as a relic and seems slow to incorporate new tech and comfort features, yet it sells enough of its Texas-built trucks to keep it a going concern. One of the reasons for its enduring popularity has been its ability to, well, endure.
“I have owned Ford, Dodge, Chevy – I run all three in my fleet. Not one has run over 160,000 km without a transmission problem or a spark plug blown out of the head, or new ball joints. Several of my friends drive Tundras over 250,000 km without these issues,” posted an owner of a 2017 model.
The list of the Tundra’s mechanical complaints is mercifully short. Early builds in 2014 used door-lock actuators that regularly failed, owners noted online. More concerning were the reports of camshaft tower oil leaks in the 5.7-litre V8, which threatened to reach hot exhaust pipes. Those with towing responsibilities claim the truck’s integrated brake controller does not always work reliably with their trailer’s electric braking system, an unsettling safety issue.
Malfunctioning turn signals have triggered a recall of 2018-2020 Tundra trucks. The wiring harnesses reportedly weren’t assembled correctly, causing illumination issues. Toyota says the bulbs may not be bright enough to satisfy federal safety standards. Dealers will modify the wire harnesses and owners should be notified in September 2020.
Overall, the Tundra skews more workhorse than Texas Cadillac, but there’s just enough beauty to go with the brawn to make it a contender for those buyers seeking a dependable used truck. Buyers haven’t failed to notice it holds its value better than the Detroit bunch, and that’s always a good sign.