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Toyota Tundra: Review Notes

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Fresh on the heels of having driven the Toyota Tacoma, which is a so-called midsize truck, I got into the Toyota Tundra, which is its bigger brother. And much bigger it really is!

This was a Platinum version, which is to say fully loaded, and comes in a "Crewmax" size to fit five really large people, plus four-wheel-drive. This unit had no significant options, and it was $50,275 including destination and delivery.

Considering the fact that I didn't like the Tacoma at all, my expectations for the Tundra had been lowered. But at least there are some improvements in the Tundra, compared to the Tacoma.

For starters, there is enough head space, and the seat is better. Particularly, the seat cushion is long enough for long legs, and the seats were also cooled. That said, the seat itself, while decent, is not nearly as good as the one I had in the Ford (NYSE:F) F-150, and I think the one in the Nissan Titan XD was better too.

Unlike the Tacoma, the Tundra didn't have a pushbutton start, and the parking brake was not a hand brake, but rather a foot brake -- just like on the GM midsize trucks. Strange.

Overall, the interior just doesn't have the upscale sophistication and features that the newer trucks from General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford have. There is no Android (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Auto or Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CarPlay, let alone any 4G LTE or WiFi hotspot. Whether for front or rear seat passengers, there are also no 110 volt AC power outlets. The interior, while "fine" in some basic ways, just doesn't feel up-to-date. In other words, it's not competitive.

What about the drive quality? Well, the engine/transmission combination couldn't really be any worse than in the Tacoma, and it wasn't. It's better. A lot better.

Just not good enough.

The power delivery isn't smooth. There are heavy vibrations coming through the pedals and steering wheel. It's just not nearly as smooth as in any other trucks from Ford, GM and Nissan that I've driven in the last year or so.

Sure, the power is ultimately there. This is a big V8 after all. However, it is lacking in refinement and smoothness.

I think the most positive thing I can say about this huge truck is that the rear seat is indeed also huge. If you are very tall, and have long legs, you can be three of you in the rear seat and you'll have plenty of space around you. This is a serious limo.

I can't dock it for being huge. It is what it is, and so are all of its direct competitors. At 80 inches, a mile long and tall as a Giraffe, it's a beast to park in the city. That's the nature of the beast.

The Tundra has the industry's most outstanding reputation for "QDR" -- industry jargon for "Quality, durability and reliability." One truck was driven by a customer one million miles in barely eight years, and exhibited almost zero defects. There is no doubt that Toyota has a most well-deserved reputation in this regard. It's clearly a key reason why they sell -- other than the fact that they look really good. Most of the competition also look good.

In the end, the conclusion is this: Both Toyota pickup trucks need a total redesign. Recent mid-cycle refreshes did not bring them into shooting distance as compared to much of the competition.

Disclosure: I am/we are long FCAU, GOOGL.

Additional disclosure: At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author was long GOOGL. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers. Toyota hosted a factory visit, and provided the vehicle for review.