We recently had the chance to test-drive a good selection of the coming 2014 Toyota Tundras. Considering what the update focused on, we thought Toyota did some nice things. However, at a time when the big players in the pickup truck segment are redesigning platforms, powertrains and offering all sorts of segment-first technology, this is not the time to pull back and take a pause.
Our guess is that by the time Toyota saw what the 2013 Ram 1500 and 2014 Chevy Silverado were going to be, its truck team was too far along its strategy (and financial) path to add new features. That's too bad, because even a few small changes could have helped a lot. As it stands, we look to the next model for the big changes. And to help that process along - are you listening Toyota? - we thought we'd toss out our top five suggestions for the next iteration, as well as give our readers a chance to chime in. Here's our wish list. What's yours?
We understand the carry-over high-tech overhead cam engines are good, but that's the base price of admission nowadays. Your powertrains need to be stronger, produce more power, weigh less and offer better fuel economy. Whether that get's done with what you have or you get on the direct-injection bandwagon, so be it. Also, unless you're coming into the game with a heavy-duty Prius powertrain, you better offer one of your Hino-sourced diesel-electric hybrids on the next midcycle-refreshed Tundra. No excuses.
The 1794 Edition leather is wonderful and takes the Toyota brand to a place it's never been before. But you need to understand luxury pickup buyers are not looking for Lexus (or Mercedes or BMW) luxury here. They want something more stylish and "over the top" (without being excessive) than either the Ram 1500 Longhorn or the Ford F-150 King Ranch. We're not talking stupid here, but we are talking pricey boots, belt buckles and Stetsons.
You've taken the first steps and delivered a much better way to communicate information to your driver with the new gauge screen. That's a good start; now you have to place good information in that resource center that continually makes that new Tundra owner believe you understand how he uses his truck. Put some towing info in there, some altitude readouts, some smarter tire pressures or bumper weight numbers, or maybe just make important towing advice more accessible than it is in the owner's manual. Show that you understand us.
You've told us the frame of the Tundra is strong enough to handle anything a half-ton buyer could ever want to do. But you can't convince me that in the last 10 years there isn't smarter technology that would allow you to keep the strength you need in that frame but shave a good amount of weight here and there. Ford, Ram and GM are light-years ahead of you on this one. Computer modeling can do amazing things, and you're still using C-channel. If we can have lighter motors that give us more power and better fuel economy (everyone has done that), we can get lighter truck frames that offer better towing and payload numbers (GM just did that, and Ford will too).
Probably our biggest disappointment was how little was done with the electronic programming of the transmission. Again, we get it - your transmission is strong enough and your customers like it. Fine. You can still offer better readouts or give us some other way to track how well or how often the engine needs a shift. Maybe even provide one or two other push-button settings beyond the Tow/Haul on-off switch. Perhaps a four-wheel-drive or high-mileage setting. Those are the kinds of little things that could have been done with the existing technology by just programming them into the computer. That lets us know you've got our back.