5 Fixes for the Next-Generation Toyota Tundra

2016 Toyota Tundra Exterior

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears and Angela Conners

By Aaron Bragman

We hear a big redo of the Toyota Tundra is coming soon, but there's no word on where or when it might be arriving. So perhaps there's still time to get word to Toyota on what we think should be improved for the next-generation truck. 'Cuz Lord knows, it needs some help. We did a roundup of the latest 2018 full-size trucks last year with the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford-150, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500 and Nissan Titan but didn't include the Tundra because it hadn't been significantly updated in years and didn't do so hot in our last big comparison test.

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The Tundra is receiving a slight refresh for 2020, but it's still a far cry from anything meaningful. An 8-inch touchscreen is optional (not even standard equipment), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have finally arrived, and the top TRD Pro off-road model can now be had in the big CrewMax cab style. Thus endeth the list of improvements for 2020.

For the next Tundra, here's where it needs to improve:

1. Engine, Transmission ... and Electrification?

You can currently get one of two V-8 engines in the Tundra, but they're nothing special — a 4.6-liter making 310 horsepower and 327 pounds-feet of torque or an optional 5.7-liter pumping out 381 hp and 401 pounds-feet of torque. No V-6 engine (turbocharged or otherwise), no turbo four banger, no light-duty diesel. Nothing electrified either, which may become increasingly important as Ram now offers a mild hybrid system and Ford is working on hybrid and electric full-size versions of its F-150.

2016 Toyota Tundra Engine

The Tundra's only transmission option is an ancient six-speed automatic that has been uncompetitive for years — nearly everyone else in the industry has gone to eight- and 10-speed automatics as at least optional, often standard equipment. We'd like to see some improved power and torque numbers for sure, seeing as how everyone else has outgunned Toyota's engines in that department. Eight gears seem to be the minimum for transmissions if Toyota is concerned at all about fuel economy, so that's also on our wish list.

Electrified powertrains are still questionable for full-size trucks, and we'll wait to see if the delivered performance and fuel economy offset the additional cost before saying that Toyota must have one as well. But just getting new engines, a variety of them, and an improved modern transmission will be a big, big help in the Tundra's case for relevance.

2. Lighten It Up

2016 Toyota Tundra Underbody

The current Tundra is not only outgunned in the power department, it's porky. The truck weighs anywhere from 5,100 pounds to 5,680 pounds, significantly more than any of the Detroit Three trucks by several hundred pounds (the Nissan Titan remains just as hefty as the Toyota). Undertaking a light-weighting program for the next Tundra is a must and is likely to pay dividends from fuel economy to handling to boosted payload.

3. Class It Up

2016 Toyota Tundra Interior

The full-size Tundra's interior is a decidedly weak point. While switch and button layout still shows thoughtfulness on Toyota's part, material quality was surpassed by competitors years ago. And the latest Ram 1500 has put everyone else in the industry on notice — cheap plastics and chintzy switches will no longer be acceptable. Can't complain about the room in the Tundra, it still features one of the biggest cabins available, but if Toyota is going to take on the latest Rams, the dash, doors, buttons, trim — all of it — need a big upgrade for the next generation.

4. Upgrade the Onboard Technology

2016 Toyota Tundra Center Console

This is an issue for most Toyota products and has been for years — the multimedia systems feel a generation or two behind the best in the industry. Only recently have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become available in the first Toyota products, and they finally join the Tundra for 2020, in either the 7- or 8-inch display screens. Bigger display screens are always welcome in a bigger vehicle, which is partly why Ram has gone to a massive, vertically oriented available 12-inch display. While this is partly a gimmicky gee-whiz feature, bigger and clearer displays throughout the Tundra would be welcome.

5. Touch Up the Tailgate Tech

2016 Toyota Tundra Tailgate

This seems to be the new battleground for the big pickups, along with trailer towing apps and more cameras. Ram has its interesting split tailgate, GMC has its MultiPro tailgate and Ford has its useful tailgate step. Seems that in order to be competitive, once you've got the basics of capability, utility, comfort and technology down, the extras are where it's at. Ram has made a splash with some left-field interior technology, and it's paid dividends. There has to be something other than unquestionable reliability to make the Tundra compelling in a field loaded with compelling product. If the next Tundra is going to do any better than the current one, it needs to find standout features to get it there.

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