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2022 Toyota Tundra impressive enough to forget V-8? [First Drive]


The light turns green, my foot switches from brake to gas, and the 2022 Toyota Tundra hybrid squeals the back tires before throwing my head back into the seat. Wait, what? Yup, we broke the tires loose on the nearly 6,000-pound Tundra accidentally.

Here’s what else surprised me on the first drive of this new truck.

Ride quality night-and-day better on 2022 Toyota Tundra

Without question the biggest difference between this new truck and the old one — besides the styling, tech and other features — is the ride quality. Toyota ditches the leaf springs for a multi-link coil suspension, and it delivers.

On the highway, around town and off-road, the new Tundra has such a dramatically improved ride quality over the prior generation that it is like comparing a car to a heavy-duty truck. 

Chief Engineer Mike Sweers told us at the unveiling, he “didn’t want anyone saying the Tundra rides like a truck.” 

He nailed it.

2022 Toyota Tundra

Power for days

Last year, I decided to purchase a 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost (aka hybrid) for a long-term review. Why bring this up? The Toyota Tundra now offers a hybrid, and it is useful comparing the two. Yet, it isn’t a comparison Ford fans will likely appreciate.

Both the Tundra i-Force Max and the Ford PowerBoost deliver more than 500 pound-feet of torque (583 and 570 respectively) with both mated to a 10-speed transmission modified for the electric motor and battery. Yet, that is where the comparisons end.

The Tundra reaches max torque at 2,400 RPMs while the Ford makes it at 3,000 RPMS. Why does that matter?

The lower the number, the more torque you have off the line for towing, and, well burning rubber. It also translates into a completely different driving experience with the Tundra feeling like a rocket ready to take off while the Ford offers a smoother off-the-line power experience. Oh, and the piped-in engine noise from Tundra trucks equipped with the JBL audio system really makes the Tundra sound impressive.

Well, inside the cabin at least. The outside exhaust note is lackluster.

What about fuel economy?

While burning rubber is fun once in a while, stopping for gas all the time isn’t fun. The old 5.7-liter V-8 Tundra was simply a gas hog with an EPA fuel economy of just 15 MPG in combined driving, then 13 MPG in the city and 17 MPG on the highway. Toyota surely improved on this number, right?

They did.

Toyota released the EPA estimated fuel economy for the 3.5-liter, V-6 non-hybrid, and you’ll see 18/23/20 (2WD) and 17/22/19 (4WD) city/highway/combined for this truck.

The hybrid? Well, we still don’t know. Toyota hasn’t released official numbers and any numbers I saw on the screen while driving are largely inaccurate since everyone was driving these trucks like race cars. 

If I had to guess, I’d say it will be around 24 or 25 MPG for combined driving, which is in line with what the Ford PowerBoost returns. Considering Ford and Toyota are using a similar setup, I’d venture to say those estimates are probably pretty accurate.

2022 Toyota Tundra

Towing beast!

With the rollout of the 2022 Tundra, Toyota says it is a towing beast, surpassing what the old truck was capable of doing. They are largely right, but for a variety of reasons just not the engine.

Sure, the gas bests the V-8’s horsepower and torque numbers and the hybrid destroys them, it is the other tech and the new 10-speed transmission that really improves the experience.

First, there are two different tow haul modes (regular tow haul, tow haul +) for the truck. These modes change how the truck operates when towing. The difference between the modes? The short answer: Less 5,000 pounds, use the regular tow haul, and more than 5,000 use the tow haul + mode. This will help the transmission from constantly shifting and searching for the right gear.

Beside the new tow haul modes, optional heated, power folding tow mirrors with a bright light to help guide you at night backing up, really help the entire towing process.

Plus, the 14-inch touchscreen allows you to make use of the 360-degree cameras, front camera and trailer hitch camera — all of which help make sure you are towing safely.

Yeah, but how much for the new truck?

Sigh. I just don’t know yet. Toyota says it is finalizing the pricing now and will have it by the end of October 2021. I can, though, make assumptions.

Historically, when a new truck comes out, automakers like to try to stay within a similar price range versus the prior model for the base and slightly upper trims. The high-end trims often see the biggest price increase.

Also, alternative powertrains like the hybrid usually add around $3k to the price. For example, a Toyota RAV4 LE hybrid is about $3k more than a non-hybrid LE.

This means, the base price of an SR5 would be closer to $40k than its starting price of $35,715 for the 2021 model. I’d expect a Limited trim to be a $50-55k truck while the rest of the trims —  Platinum, 1794 and TRD Pro — will reach into the mid-$60k range easily with many coming close to $70k after options and dealer fees. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the TRD PRO will be a mid-$70ks truck since it will only come in a crew cab and a hybrid powertrain. 

The bottom line on the 2022 Toyota Tundra

The 2022 Tundra mechanically is improved in every way over the 2021 model — except for not offering a V-8 engine. While there will be plenty of debate over the loss of the V-8, the base gas V-6 is pretty darn good. 

Plus, the interior is a huge improvement, the fuel economy improvements, that we know, are significant and the ride quality, handling and robust fully boxed frame are all wins. 

In fact, I enjoyed driving it so much, I put in a request to buy one. Look for more in-depth reviews coming soon on the 2022 Toyota Tundra!

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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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