2022 Toyota Tundra SR5 First Drive: Best & Brightest Spec


In the beginning, someone created the buggy. Now the buggy was primitive and lacked more than a couple of horsepower, and darkness was over the surface of the automotive world because this buggy had leaf springs.

And some engineer said, “Let there be a functional suspension,” and there was a coil spring – and, if you liked Mopars, maybe a torsion bar. And this engineer called the coil spring good and the leaf spring crap. And so, there was day and night, buggy suspensions and a reasonable ride, and the engineer created cars in his own image, and old trucks were the serpent.

And so, trucks from time immemorial have been infested by poor-riding leaf springs because they could handle great loads. But these trucks, they did handle like the Leviathan, so some have moved to the proper coil spring, good and true, to hold up their cargo. The 2022 Toyota Tundra has been so blessed with coil springs, among many other improvements. But is it good?

While generalizing a particular audience is folly, by and large the readership of The Truth About Cars – the Best and the Brightest — is known for frugality. While new cars are always important, many a TTAC writer (including yours truly) made their bones here by showing their appreciation for cars of an older time, or for the entry-level trims rather than the high-zoot cars that need more and more ink on the Monroney to describe each extra-cost option. So I’ve decided to focus my first drive of the 2022 Toyota Tundra on what I’m calling B&B Spec – the near-entry level SR5 trim.

(Full Disclosure: Toyota flew journalists to San Antonio, Texas – housing and feeding us for two days. They did offer (and I accepted – I’m weak when it comes to good meat) a few tins of local BBQ rubs. I did not, however, make a gleeful Instagram story doing an unboxing of the goodie bag – unlike some others.)

In other words, I’m doing a drive that straddles Monsieur Guy’s Ace of Base and The Right Spec series. Because I’m all about value. For me, the sweet spot is the SR5 4×4 Crew Max 5.5-foot bed with the TRD Off-Road package.

Of course, we don’t know pricing yet – Toyota tells us that pricing is coming “soon,” as well as EPA mileage figures for the hybrid engine.

Hybrid, you ask? Yes, indeed – Toyota has brought us a Prius that can tow. Every new Tundra will be powered by an all-new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 driving through a similarly-new 10-speed automatic. The non-hybrid (known as the i-Force in Toyota-speak) produces (in most trims – the super-base SR model produces less) 389 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid puts an electric motor/generator between the engine and transmission – this package (called iForce Max) brings 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque.

In my limited time with the two trucks, I feel the non-hybrid twin-turbo is plenty strong for all but the most demanding of users. Indeed, max towing ratings appear not to be affected by the more powerful engine and are actually likely reduced a bit as the hybrid adds around 300 pounds to the weight of the truck. I’m sure fuel economy will make a difference, but since Toyota isn’t pulling a Ford and adding a useful generator to their hybrid truck (there is a 400 Watt 120-volt outlet in the bed in most trims) I’d forego the hybrid myself.

Toyota’s offering a pair of four-door cabs, as well as a trio of bed sizes. The smaller of the two cabs, the Double Cab, is a bit short for my tastes – I absolutely cannot sit in the rear seat behind any driver with legs. It’s fine if all of the second-row passengers you’ll be hauling frequently are pretty short – mine, however, are not. The Crew Max cab actually has MORE legroom in the rear (41.6 inches versus 41.2) than in the front.

The smaller Double Cab offers a pair of bed sizes – 6.5 feet, or 8.1 feet. The longer Crew Max, in prior generations, was only available with the short 5.5-foot bed, but now a 6.5-foot bed is optional. All of the beds are now manufactured from rust-proof composite materials, just like the midsize Tacoma.

Toyota has done wonders with their touchscreen multimedia system – admittedly, any improvement was welcome. What we see on the new Tundra was first shown on the new Lexus NX recently – a genuinely intuitive, fast-operating interface with natural-language voice prompts that will control the system with a “Hey Toyota” or “OK Toyota” or other options. Two screens are available – the base SR and the SR5 have an 8-inch screen, while upmarket trims get a 14-inch screen. SR5 makes the big screen optional – I’d have to look at the numbers to see if it’s worthwhile, but I’d likely be perfectly happy with the smaller screen.

I don’t love, however, that there is no simple “home” screen option where I can see both navigation and audio info. Perhaps future updates will make this possible – Toyota is excited about the eventual upgradability of these systems. Underneath the new Tundra lies an all-new, fully-boxed ladder frame that is said to be more rigid. The power steering is now electrically boosted. The big feature – to which I alluded with some bastardized scripture – that excites me is the arrival of coil springs for the rear suspension. Yes, I know – RAM got there first – but the old leaf spring needs to be relegated to heavy-duty trucks, not those so commonly used for commuting. The control of the live rear axle afforded by the modern coil spring is an order of magnitude better.

I towed a pair of trailers with the new Tundra. As I and many others have said on these pages and beyond, no manufacturer will put their vehicles in a situation on one of these product launch events where the vehicle will look bad, so take this all with a grain of salt – but even when not fitted with a weight-distributing hitch, these coil-sprung Tundras drove both fully laden and with just me equally beautifully. It’s on par with the RAM 1500, certainly. A load-leveling air suspension is available as well if you need even more control and height adjustability.

Many new trucks offer a trailer steering control that uses a knob to steer while reversing with a trailer. While these are nice, I’ve found that it can still be very difficult to maintain a straight line to back into a tight parking spot. I’d imagine a boat launch could be tough, though I don’t boat so I can’t say for certain. Toyota, instead, offers a Straight Path Assist feature that, once you’ve selected the path to reverse, will work the steering wheel hands-off to maintain that straight trailer. It’s a great feature that comes in quite handy for those of us who don’t tow on a daily basis.

All new Tundras come with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 suite of active safety features –pre-collision warning and pedestrian detection, emergency steering, dynamic radar cruise, lane-keeping assist, and automatic braking are but a few of the safety baubles fitted to the Tundra.

Why I’m adding the TRD Off-Road package? Well, first – it looks cool. Why buy a new vehicle that looks bland? But really, the TRD packages generally make Toyota trucks look good while adding useful features for whatever type of driving you might do. The TRD Off-Road package for the SR5 adds slick 18-inch alloy wheels, a new grille, a lifted suspension with Bilstein shocks, skid plates, and an electronic rear differential lock. A locker is a must for heading off the beaten path, I’m afraid.

So that’s my preferred Tundra. No, I don’t need a full-sized truck, though I’ll admit I’ve spent too much time thinking about one of these – blame awful traffic in Texas for giving me sedentary time behind the wheel. Toyota has been building the previous generation Tundra for 15 years, while other marques have begat a number of new generations over that time. While others might be the Goliath default full-sized truck, finally the 2022 Toyota Tundra is a worthy David to consider.

[Images: © 2021 Chris Tonn and courtesy Toyota]

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