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All-New 2018 Toyota Tundra Will Debut At 2017 Chicago Show – What You Need to Know


Anonymous sources recently told me an all-new 2018 Toyota Tundra will debut on February 9, 2017 at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. While there are no confirmed details on this new truck, here are my best guesses on what it will be like.

All-New 2018 Toyota Tundra Will Debut At 2017 Chicago Show - What You Need to Know

The 2014 Toyota Tundra was unveiled at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. Now, 4 years later, another Tundra is coming. What will it improve on?

Design Updates

While the truck will feature a host of changes, lets start with exterior modifications. I don’t believe Calty designers are planning on making any major changes to the truck, I do think they will make subtle changes.

For example, I would anticipate new designs for the headlights, front bumper and grille to further make the truck look “tougher.” This toughness is a common theme among most truckmakers and I expect Toyota to continue to push the envelope.

Also, I would anticipate changes to the mirror design for improvements in styling and airflow. It might be more curved and/or could be shaped slightly different as a result.

Next, the inside will feature improvements to storage capability and materials. Like most automakers, Toyota will find ways to improve the material usage thanks to new vendor contracts and common material cost changes. Also, I think Calty designers will find a way to improve the storage options in the rear of the cabin. With the rear seat now folding up, instead of reclining, there opportunities there to incorporate hooks to hang items on as well as creating storage cubbies under the seat.

2018 Toyota Tundra Powertrain Improvements

Likely the big changes people will focus on are going to be the powertrain. Toyota engineers, like Chief Engineer Mike Sweers, have taken a lot of flack for basically having zero improvements with the 2014 model came out. I anticipate the team is going to address some of these concerns.

First, the 2018 model will feature the 8-speed transmission found in the Toyota Land Cruiser. Since both “trucks” are about the same size and are utilized for similar duties, this will be an easy thing for engineers to add to the Tundra.

Most truck fans maybe thinking this will help the Tundra in terms of fuel economy (an item the truck does poorly on). However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Toyota engineers could choose two routes in fact.

  1. Improve the towing
  2. Improve the fuel economy

Yes, an 8-speed transmission does not automatically equate to better fuel economy. For example, when the Land Cruiser came out, the fuel economy stayed the same with engineers opting to improve the towing.

Frankly, I think that was a mistake and I hope Toyota engineers focus more on fuel economy. The facts are anywhere from a little over half to less than half of half-ton customers tow. Focusing on just those people isn’t serving the entire customer base well.

Besides the transmission, Toyota will likely utilize their D-4s technology (both direct and port fuel injection – an important market advantage). This technology improves HP and torque while keeping the cylinders cleaner from carbon buildup.

And I can see a variation of the Atkinson system in the Tundra to improve fuel economy. This system accomplishes this leaving the intake valve open longer, thereby creating a shorter compression stroke. This shorter stroke uses less energy (fuel) to keep the engine running.

I do not see Toyota scrapping the engine or really going to town with a host of new improvements. Toyota values reliability over an MPG or two and they will continue to use what works.

Technology/Safety Improvements

With any new truck, there are going to be a host of things that may not headline a press release. For example, the truck is sure to feature a host of technology improvements like a new IP setup (to address sun issues like in the Tacoma), new apps for the infotainment system and, hopefully, a new radio head unit or change in the unit to produce more power. Also, if the head unit power can be addressed, additional USB ports.

Beyond tech, there will be a host of safety features now standard on the 2018 model. These features are part of the Toyota Safety Sense P package and include:

  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection Function: Under certain conditions, when the system determines that the possibility of a frontal collision is high, it prompts the driver to take evasive action and brake, by using audio and visual alerts. The system may provide additional braking force with Brake Assist, or otherwise automatically apply the brakes. The in-vehicle camera may detect a potential pedestrian depending on size, profile, and motion of the pedestrian.
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist Function: When lane markings are detected, if the system determines that the vehicle is starting to unintentionally deviate from its lane, it alerts the driver with an audio and visual prompt. In addition, the Steering Assist function provides small corrective inputs to the steering wheel to help the driver keep the vehicle in its lane.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control: On highways, the system is designed to adjust vehicle speed to help maintain a pre-set distance to a preceding vehicle. If the vehicle ahead is detected traveling at a speed slower than a driver’s pre-set speed, the system automatically decelerates in order maintain an appropriate distance. When there is no longer a preceding vehicle, the system accelerates until the pre-set speed is reached.
  • Automatic High Beams: At night and above certain speeds, the system is designed to detect the headlights of oncoming vehicles and tail lights of preceding vehicles, and then automatically switch between high and low beams as appropriate to provide more light and enhance forward visibility.

This is a sure bet since Toyota announced some time ago it was going to offer these as standard starting in 2018 on most vehicle grades. The all-new 2018 Toyota Tundra will have all of these.

Finally, there are sure to be slight changes to packaging of items on various trim levels. For example, features, tires and wheels options will likely be moved around.

While, there are likely to be some surprise items, I don’t anticipate a radical change to the Tundra. Instead, it will be a refreshed update to keep it more current with its competitors.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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  1. Jeff January 22, 2017

    I’m not seeing the 2018 Tundra on the list of debuts for the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. I’m only seeing the 2018 Camry and the new CH-R. Any chance that it will be a surprise?

    1. Tim Esterdahl January 24, 2017

      The Camry and CH-R were debuts at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. The 2018 Tundra will make its debut at the show and is why it isn’t listed.


  2. Breathing borla February 9, 2017

    So much for that Tim,

    Headlights and grill

    Six pack double or nothing again?

    I think we’re up to like two cases lol


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