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2022 Toyota Tundra first drive review: Electrified with different personalities

Let’s face it, the Detroit Three have the full-size truck market cornered. In the age of electrification, they intend to keep it that way with hybrid and battery-electric pickups. Toyota isn’t going down without a fight though. With its loyal fan base and off-road heritage, the 2022 Toyota Tundra is marching to a different beat. It too has been electrified with the new i-Force MAX hybrid system, which is a departure from your typical electrified Toyota. We spent some time in San Antonio, Texas to get to know the new truck and found that this rig has a different personality depending on how you configure it.

Before we get to the trims, let’s take a quick rundown on what’s under the skin of the 2022 Toyota Tundra. It’s now on the TNGA-F platform that first appeared in the global Land Cruiser and has been optimized for body-on-frame applications. The architecture was also developed with electrification in mind. Under the hood, the hybrid powertrain couples the base 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission, an electric motor, and a 1.87-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery. The result is a combined output of 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Tundra hybrid and pricing haven’t been released as of this writing. The available 4WD system is a mechanical unit with a drive shaft connecting the front and rear axles, a two-speed transfer case, and a limited-slip differential. Toyota has also switched to a fully boxed frame, an aluminum-reinforced composite bed, and leaf spring suspension.

2022 Toyota Tundra Platinum headlight 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

So, how does the new Tundra drive? Quite pleasant actually! The hybrid powertrain was built for power and that becomes obvious when you put your foot down. Quick, smooth shifts from the transmission and gobs of torque result in strong acceleration. Turbo lag is virtually nonexistent thanks to the electric motor ironing out the power delivery. Even with a curb weight ranging between 5,710 to 6,185 pounds, the hybrid system is up to the task of hauling the Tundra. You get pretty awesome noises, too, thanks to the V6’s satisfying rumble when you accelerate. The i-Force Max hybrid system is available on all but the SR and SR5 grades and it’s the powertrain offered on the TRD Pro.

The new suspension setup results in a truck that rides well even when it’s empty. Harsh impacts are filtered out nicely and the rear end doesn’t bounce around excessively when you go over big bumps. Trucks equipped with the available adaptive variable suspension with a self-leveling rear offer two extra modes that stiffen or soften it. In Comfort mode, the Tundra wafts over the road without getting floaty. Sport S+ tightens up the suspension and gives you a more confident drive, giving the Tundra a sport truck vibe, especially when you take into account the sharper throttle and quicker powertrain response. Surprisingly, the Tundra’s steering isn’t overly slow; it’s light, fairly quick, and responsive by truck standards, making it easier to drive and feel less like the hulking behemoth that it is. Platinum and 1794 Edition models also get a Custom mode to go with the adaptive variable suspension, allowing you to mix and match suspension, powertrain, and steering characteristics.

During the drive event, we had the opportunity to drive a Tundra TRD Pro on an off-road course. With its increased ground clearance, an off-road-tuned suspension, Fox shocks, underbody protection, and all-terrain tires, this variant is essentially unstoppable on the dirt. Features like downhill assist, multi-terrain monitor, multi-terrain select, and CRAWL Control, make quick work of tough obstacles with the truck easily going through massive logs, steep inclines and declines, rocks of all sizes, and sections that send one wheel up in the air. Other trims are available with the same off-road tweaks via the TRD Off-Road package.

If you’re towing and hauling, the Tundra gets features that make that a cinch. In addition to Tow/Haul and Tow+ modes, Toyota added the trailer backup guide with Straight Path Assist. The hybrid powertrain is rated to haul between 10,960 to 11,450 pounds while the maximum payload is rated at 1,600 to 1,885 pounds.

2022 Toyota Tundra Limited TRD Off Road dash 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

One look at the 2022 Tundra and you’ll immediately note how imposing it is. Between the massive grille and angular headlight clusters with T-shaped daytime running lights, the truck stands out on the road. You’ll have a choice between an access or crew cab. The former comes with a 6.5- or 8.1-foot bed while the latter gets a 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed. Each trim also gets a unique look. The Limited trim features a grille with silver bars while TRD Pro, TRD Sport, and TRD Off-Road models get a black grille with either the Toyota logo or Toyota spelled out across it. For a more premium vibe, the Platinum and 1794 Editions get lots of chrome accents with the former getting darker hues for a more restrained look.

The interior takes a more utilitarian approach but you’ll immediately be able to tell each version’s character based on the cabin. Best of all, the material quality is fantastic, everything feels solid and well put together even in lower trims. The harder plastics bits that were production-spec on the prototype trucks we drove were nice to the touch and didn’t feel cheap. Regardless of the trim you get, the Tundra is quiet; there’s generous sound insulation to keep wind noise out.

Toyota’s approach to giving the Tundra different personalities is evident in each trim. Lower trims are more mainstream but still a nice place. TRD models have a sporty flair with red accents and available red upholstery to denote their capabilities. Two distinct takes on the luxury truck appeal to different types of consumers. Platinum is more restrained with its black interior, blue contrast stitching, and dark chrome exterior accents. The 1794 Edition, on the other hand, doubles down on the flair with bright chrome exterior accents, brown leather upholstery, and real wood trim. Both The Platinum and 1794 Edition get healthy doses of padding on the doors, dash, and other touchpoints. Those should also be the most expensive versions of the truck alongside the TRD Pro.

For maximum practicality, get the crew cab, which easily seats five people comfortably. The access cab also has seating for five but the rear seats are tighter due to it being smaller. Generous amounts of small cubbies and USB ports ensure that you have plenty of space for your small items. The center console has two trays integrated into the bin’s lid. However, the steering wheel could have a broader range of motion because it doesn’t go up high enough.

Toyota’s new user interface is a huge improvement over the older setup found in the vehicles like the Camry and RAV4. The available 14.0-inch touch screen is snappy, responsive, and vivid. Its virtual assistant feature understands natural language while the navigation maps are backed by Google, giving you better directions in real-time. Submenus are kept to a minimum, minimizing the menu structure’s complexity. Audiophiles will appreciate the available 12-speaker JBL audio system’s clarity, especially with the well-insulated interior. The optional digital gauge cluster adds a touch of modernity to the rest of the cabin.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, the latest version of the brand’s safety suite, is its best yet and its standard equipment on every 2022 Tundra. It does a fantastic job guiding you through turns via its lane tracing, lane centering, and steering assist functions. The system is also subtle with its corrections when it notices you drifting around or into another lane. Toyota tuned the distancing component of adaptive cruise control on the conservative side for the Tundra, which is a good thing considering the truck’s size and weight. It slows down early and gives a little more room when following traffic ahead or accelerating from a stop to provide enough room in case of an emergency.

2022 Toyota Tundra Platinum front three quarters 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Offering a truck with multiple flavors is a smart move on Toyota’s part to get as many customers as they can into their entry in a highly competitive segment. The 2022 Toyota Tundra is exactly what the brand’s loyal truck buyers want, taking the old truck and bringing it to the modern age with the latest tech features and electrification. Instead of chasing volume, Toyota is playing to its strengths, resulting in a compelling full-size truck that appeals to a broad range of consumers. From your average buyer to the off-road enthusiast and the individual wanting a luxurious but utilitarian truck, there’s an electrified Tundra for everyone.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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