2014 Toyota Tundra Takes on Labrador: Part 1

A Tundra Lab road 4 II

By Howard J. Elmer

Toyota has been trying to break into the Detroit-dominated pickup truck segment ever since the T100 was introduced in 1993. Toyota's cars have made huge inroads in North America and along with its dominance in much of the world, Toyota has become the largest automaker on the planet today. However, it still lags behind the Detroit Three when it comes to pickup sales.

Toyota's Tundra was freshened for 2014, but it hasn't really changed in any substantial way beyond the interior and exterior redesign.

During a 2013 press event when U.S. and Canadian automotive journalists got their first chance to drive the 2014 Tundra in San Antonio, Texas, we kept hearing "tried and true" from the engineers in response to most questions from the participants. This was a favorite response to questions about why Toyota didn't offer any new powertrains. And while the answers sounded a lot like white noise aimed at drowning out criticism, I could accept that the current Tundra had a decent engine and transmission combination, and a seven-year history of clean service behind it.

But then the assembled journalists were directed to the "off-road" portion of the test drive. This consisted of a dirt track around Toyota's truck plant that included one "hill climb" up a dead-dry mound of earth left behind from an excavation. Pathetic would be a nice way of describing this test track.

During an event dinner, Eric Descarries — a Montreal colleague — and I sat with some engineers and Stephen Beatty, the vice president of Toyota Canada Inc. One of the engineers asked us how we liked the 4x4 course. We launched into a colorful evaluation of what we called the "Tersel Track" because we figured an antique Tersel could navigate the course, in reverse, with two flat tires. After the merriment died down, Beatty asked us, "So where would you two drive the Tundra?" After a bit of brainstorming, we said Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada — in the spring when the Trans-Labrador Highway turns into 600 miles of slush and mud.

 

A Tundra Labrador route II

 

In December 2013, Beatty called me and asked if Descarries and I were still game to do a spring drive through Labrador. I said yes, so here's what happened.

Toyota offered us two 2014 Tundras, but to more thoroughly test Toyota's position that the carryover powertrain is plenty strong, we asked instead for a 2014 truck and an original 2007 Tundra. The second truck was bought back from an owner; it was a Limited model with 70,000 miles on the odometer. Both pickups sported almost identical 5.7-liter V-8s and the same transmission, so the comparison would be more than fair.

In addition, each vehicle took turns towing a 24-foot United Expressline trailer with twin axles and a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,700 pounds. The trailer carried a 2014 Yamaha Viper snowmobile (to use for off-road filming during our journey), extra tires, tools, gas cans, all the equipment for two videographers, as well as our personal luggage for 10 days on the road and an emergency container of heavy winter gear for each of us, just in case. Weightwise, we probably had 2,500 pounds of gear on top of the weight of the trailer, totaling just less than 5,000 pounds.

We set out from Toronto on April 2, heading northeast through Ontario (basically following the north shore of the St. Lawrence River) for 700 miles until we reached Baie-Comeau in Quebec. The first stretch offered a good four-lane paved highway to Quebec City. North of there it turned into two-lane blacktop, but more interestingly, the mountains began. A constant climb and drop of a thousand feet and more was the order of the day with the big V-8s alternately screaming and hushed while the transmissions held the trailer on the 10 to 13 percent downhill grades.

The first leg of the journey was mostly flat, straight highways, which showed us (quite definitively) that wind noise is substantially reduced in the 2014 Tundra. This type of driving (mostly between 65 and 75 mph) highlighted the improved steering feel of the 2014 Tundra, which is lighter and easier to handle with better on-center tracking than before. We also noted that keeping the 2014 model between the lane lines while fighting strong crosswinds is easier than with the 2007 model, which had a comparatively tighter and more fidgety response.

 

A Tundra Lab wheel 7 II

 

The newer chassis and suspension tuning complemented trailer control as well. Never did that big brick of a trailer push the 2014 truck around. It also carried a hidden bonus: The ride in both Tundras was much smoother with 4,000-plus pounds on the back. Thanks to all that weight pulling down on the leaf springs, the stiffer, choppy ride of the empty pickup felt calmer. Only when riding over large, wavelike bumps did the trailer cause the truck to bob like a hobbyhorse. The one thing that was irritating was the required aftermarket trailer brake controller hanging by the driver's knee. Toyota was the last manufacturer to offer an integrated system, and since it was offered as a late option for the 2014 model, our early test truck was not equipped with one.

This stretch of the trip, while long, was relatively easy. Turning north toward the interior of Quebec, we still had to cross 400 miles of primitive wilderness before we reached Labrador. And then the trip got interesting but we'll cover that in Part 2.

To see more photos and videos, go to the Tundra Labrador Facebook page

Cars.com photos by Howard J. Elmer

 

A Tundra Lab 1 II

A Tundra Lab 2 II

A Mud and Ice 2014 Tundra II

 

Comments

Look at that build up in the wheel well. Look at it.

Also, it sounds like the truck is mostly an evolution of the old truck. The problem is this segment has been revolutionized by the 3.0L EcoDiesel in Ram, the 3.5L Ecoboost in the F-150. Toyota needed to do more to win.

'Improved steering feel?' Don't make me laugh! Maybe the 2014 is improved over the 2007 variant, but it is a far cry behind the steering feel of any of the Big Three's trucks. In a Ford, Chevy, or Ram you at least know you're steering on and off center. The Tundra's steering effort and feel do not change whether you're on center or near lock. It's a joke.

How did that rim and tire managed to stay so clean on that first picture? It's not so clean on the last one.

Tersel Track...Tercel Track? ...Did Toyota spell it different when they sold it in Canuckistan?

That looks like my truck in the winter time with all the gunk buildup.

It's funny because on Toyota's facebook site they've been posting a lot of ad propaganda lately regarding the 4Runner and some celeb taking it "offroad". Well, I commented that their idea of "offroad" looked like something a Corolla could handle and they promptly deleted my comment.

If they are going to claim "offroad" then they need to actually go offroad. A dirt and gravel roadway isn't a test.

Shouldn't they have done this 8 years ago. Outdated truck. Fail.

off–road
adjective \ˈȯf-ˈrōd\
: designed to be used on trails or dirt roads
: involving or used by off-road vehicles
Full Definition of OFF-ROAD
: of, relating to, done with, or being a vehicle designed especially to operate away from public roads

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/off-road

Thanks for the typical commentary by the big three fan boys, or marketing departments. The Tundra is the best truck I have owned yet. I never got the reliability out of Chevy or Ford that I have gotten out of the Tundra. As for the 3rd choice, I usually don't buy things with rust holes in the body after 5 years.

I test drove all the trucks before I bought a Ram, I won't knock the Tundra its a solid built machine, I went with the Ram for the better Mileage and looks.

" I usually don't buy things with rust holes in the body after 5 years."

Ha, dissent prefers rust holes in the frame.

Jack - appreciate the honesty, the Ram is a great looking truck and does get better milage than the Tundra. The Big 3 fan boys hatred of the Tundra is a tired schtick. They still can't get over that it was a far better truck than theirs when it came out in 07'. And quire frankly is still a very good, capable truck. They just can't leave it alone, they're so threatened by it apparently.

Of course I would be too if my F-150 stalled over railroad tracks, or my brand new underpowered Chevy was on it's 2nd recall.

@ky
If you can't provide proof (recall or pics of numerous Tundra's with the problem) of a 2nd or 3rd gen Tundra rusting than your just trolling. I refuse to relate the problems of a 2000 F150, GMT or Ram to the current one because it is trolling. It also probably means you have so little knowledge of the current product and it's problems that you resort to that because all you know is you want to brand bash.

I am going to do PUTC a favor and tell you what is an actual concern for a 2nd gen Tundra. Go to a Tundra forum and research AIP or Blown Steering Racks. I believe the AIP happened to someone here unfortunately. I would be really concerned if I lived somewhere cold as they tend to have the AIP problem. Every truck has its problems and those should concern a Tundra owner.

cool test. Very interesting. I'd like to see something like this with the old chevy and new chevy as well as the old and new ford when they come out.

AD, not sure how I'm supposed to provide pictures here as there's no upload button. Also, the Tacoma recall didn't happen until 13 years later, so there may be a few years to wait yet. If you've got a rusted frame on a 3rd gen Tundra, then I don't even know what to say but something was done right to accomplish that.

@ky
Before you said it was happening and now it's a prediction of what will be. The internet is full of pictures of which you can provide links.

It's a pity they didn't put the whole story in.

Judging by the trailer they don't expect any arduous work for the trucks other than the cold and some very good dirt roads.

Good story, so far.

This is the kind of test that should be included with every PUTC shootout. Full sized 4x4 trucks aren't that good for real offroad work but are perfect for this sort of thing.

I always wondered why shootouts use 4x4 pickups when no one ever puts them in a situation where they are towing and/or hauling with 4x4 engaged.

@Lou_BC
I've been on many dirt roads that are as slippery as an eel.

Towing would require 4x4, even without towing in 2WD it seemed your assend was pointing in the wrong direction most of the time.

Greasy roads with a high crown are the worse in the wet!

@dissent

I would guess that 99% of us Tundra owners have owned multiple "detriot" pickups and 99% of the Tundra bashers have not owned a Tundra.

This is an interesting article--but starts out biased. I went to the original Raptor Roundup--complete with helicopters and everything. And it was a big joke in terms of off-roading--but boy was the coverage gushingly positive.

Speaking of towing in 4x4--that is one of the great things about shift-on-the-fly vs hubs.

Not a bad truck. Much better than the previous one. I wasn't too fond of that previous generation's interior although exterior looked good. Can't wait for part 2 of this article or for the 5.0L Cummins.

One can comment that it is better to go with an older 9 speed as opposed to a new 4 or 6 speed when buying a truck to save money BUT the obvious point that hasn't been mentioned is that it is highly unlikely that Ford or GM will offer the old 9 speed beside the new 4-6 speed. One can argue extra cost if the 2 are offered side by side like the 1911 Elmore had done with the first 2 speed when it hit the market. I was looking at used 12-13 year old trucks in 2010 but the heavy drinking made buying new a truck difficult.

@WXman
You probably deserved having that comment deleted. Do you know anything about 4Runners or just posting some idiotic comment before doing any research? 4Runners have a long history of being capable offroad and it's still the most offroad capable SUV on the market today besides a Jeep Wrangler. Where the Grand Cherokee, Explorer, and Pathfinder have all gone Unibody, the 4Runner remains body on frame. If that means anything to you. There's also a large selection of aftermarket parts for the 4Runner unlike the other SUVs mentioned which can upgrade to some bling bling rims and that's about it. The 4Runner is as comfortable on road as it is off, that's what they are trying to advertise.

The local Toyota Dealers can't back up the Tundra or Tacoma, they just don't want to sell trucks, they don't want to service or repair them, their service bays are too small to even fit a full size pickup.
Toyota never was and never will be serious and committed about pickups that's why they are produced in low numbers and sell for a premium price.

TV, I own a 4Runner and it is no longer the capable vehicle off-road you might think it is. Get it in mud and you're stuck. It doesn't even have front recovery hooks.

As for the Tundra, it still has no mechanical limited slip, and the ITBC is not yet an option on the 2014 U.S. spec Tundra, despite what the article says.

I have owned, driven, towed with more Ford’s and GM’s than anyone posting on this site. Over 100,000 miles heavy towing with Ford’s and 75,000 with GM. My last Ford was an EcoBoost just under two years ownership. The F150 EcoBoost was the worst vehicle I have ever owned with constant break downs, the last one being major hydrolock. The EcoBoost is less reliable than the 6.0 diesel ever was, total junk. Worse yet the EcoBoost is dangerous, you never know when it is going to fail on the highway.

My 2014 Tundra is now over 9 months old. It has never failed. I will never own another Ford or GM product again.

The 2014 Tundra is a better pickup in every regard to anything Ford or GM has made in the last 25 years, period.

@Charlie
Get better tires? Again, I'm not calling it in the same class as a Jeep Wrangler nor do I expect it to be. In stock form it is not going to do any rock crawling or get you out of a mud pit. There is, however, a large selection of aftermarket parts for the 5th gen 4R that make it pretty damn capable. Most aren't going to take it offroad but the option and capability is there. Head on over to T4R.org and check out some rigs. As compared to the new gen of Grand Cherokees or Explorers, they have a very limited selection of offroad aftermarket parts available. Again, most JGC or Explorers you see will be "modded" with 20" wheels and some low profile tires. Not exactly going to get you out of the mud either.



Post a Comment

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
  • Your email will not be shown.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Home | Buy or Sell a Truck | News | Special Reports

Powered by Cars.com. By using this site, you agree to our terms of service | © 2011 Cars.com | Privacy Statement | Contact Us

Visit our partner: MovingTruck.com