The latest salvo in the full-size pickup truck war was just launched as Toyota introduced the newly redesigned 2014 Tundra at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show today.
We should note right up front that there are no structural changes to the frame or chassis, no additions to the existing wheelbase or cab configurations, and no changes to the existing three powertrains. However, the new Tundra gets significant changes to interior and exterior overall designs, and of special note, there are more trim packages specifically designed to better compete with the growing luxury pickup truck market.
At first glance, the most obvious changes made by lead designer Kevin Hunter (he's president of Toyota's CALTY Design Center in Southern California) are to the larger and more angular front grille and face of the truck. The new grille integrates three separate pieces and is designed to give the front end a bolder, more aggressive look that's partnered with wider fenders and modified headlights. Designers put more character lines and visual depth over each fender well to beef up the truck's profile.
Around the back, there is a new tailgate with an integrated spoiler, and each truck will have the Tundra's name "stamped" into the back of the truck's tailgate. Both the taillights and rear bumper get new, unique designs as well.
With all the changes to the exterior, the news that's likely to get the most attention is what Toyota designers have done to the inside. Always a sore spot among Toyota fans and critics alike, the previous-gen Tundra's look — not the massive interior volume — was always seen as the weak link. Among the most significant changes in this new, more integrated design is that the driver now has easier access to all audio and climate controls, which was not true before. Gone are the hollow tube instrument gauges that have been around since the truck was introduced nearly seven years ago. In their place is an all-new, more modern instrument panel with the requisite center-mounted multidata display screen.
With the cab and wheelbase configurations the same, you can expect the interior size dimensions and seating arrangements to stay similar as well, and we do like that Toyota will keep the front bench seat option available in regular cab, Double Cab and CrewMax Tundras.
Also high on the target list for Toyota designers was to do a better job of separating existing trim packages and adding to them, namely at the higher, more profit-oriented levels. In fact, Toyota will now offer five trim packages, which will include the base SR, SR5, Limited, and two new premium trim packages: one called Platinum, with a more upscale feel, and the other called 1794, with a more Western-style feel and flavor. And, in case you were wondering why the year 1794 is so important (we were), it's because that was the year of the founding of the ranch upon which the San Antonio truck plant (that makes all Tundra pickups) now sits. Although the ranch no longer exists, Toyota wants to continue the ranch's legacy in the form of this new ultra-lux trim package.
Each trim package, we're told, will offer details inside and out in an attempt to keep the visual look and feel of each truck unique. We fully expect that Toyota hopes to take advantage of the growing luxury truck market with these two new packages, giving the new Tundra a better chance of competing with the F-150's Limited, Platinum and King Ranch, as well as Ram's Laramie and Longhorn editions.
Although some may criticize Toyota for not going far enough with its changes, focusing much of its attention on a refreshed design, we should note there have been several smaller mechanical improvements to the truck (under the skin) that will surely help improve its full-size truck appeal. Just a few of the changes we'll note include improved sound and sealing technology across all interior levels, all shock valving has been retuned to provide better handling and ride quality across a wide spectrum of rough-use situations, and the steering system has been modified and strengthened for improved high- and low-speed control.
Also worth noting, the 2014 Tundra includes several segment-first technologies like a standard backup camera and view screen on all models, a blind spot warning system and a new cross-traffic alert feature that should help drivers avoid accidents in parking lots and on neighborhood streets.
Pricing for the 2014 Tundra will not be announced for several months, but we don't expect anything crazy. No doubt the upper limits of the new Platinum and 1794 Edition will play into the $45,000-and-up range.
For Toyota's full press release, click here.