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2022 Toyota Tundra i-Force Max: A hybrid built for power [First Drive]

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The 2022 Toyota Tundra is proving to be a tad controversial from the polarizing styling to the demise of the V-8 engine. But after a day behind the wheel of the 2022 Tundra hybrid, I have to say it’s all starting to grow on me. From the towing experience to general on-road comfort, Toyota did a lot right here.

While there are still going to be a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas being passed around, what’s done is done, so let’s focus on what is.

The hybridness of the Tundra

Toyota did something interesting with the 2022 Tundra hybrid in that it does not have a two-motor system. Every other hybrid in its lineup has a split-power system with one motor generating the electricity and the other motor supplying mechanical power, which certainly helps with efficiency but lacks power. The problem: You can’t get continuous full torque out of a system like that.

So, the solution is what Toyota is calling a 1Motor design with parallel architecture. With two independent choices for power, this means you get 100% of the power 100% of the time, which is great for towing.

And that, according to Mike Sweers, executive chief engineer for Toyota’s truck programs, is the point. The goal with this hybrid system was to improve on the efficiency of the V-8 while providing “mind-blowing torque” –not create hybrid levels of efficiency.

We had previously speculated about the 2022 Tundra getting a diesel, which it didn’t, but Sweers said this 1Motor system is the best of all worlds because it not only gives you a flat diesel-like torque curve for low-end torque but also the V-8 power for fast launches and passing maneuvers.

In terms of other hybridy things on the 2022 Tundra, there isn’t much that will distinguish a hybrid from non-hybrid. Yes, there’s the blue outline on the badging in addition to the i-Force Max engine badge. And, yes, the digital gauge cluster is a bit different as it shows power usage from the engine (i-Force gauge) and the motor (Max gauge). But that’s it.

There are two big things missing, which show up on all of Toyota’s other hybrids: an EV-only button and a real-time power-flow chart.

More powerful, more efficient

The 2022 Tundra hybrid is equipped with the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine mated to the single electric motor. The combined output will be 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. If you’re into the whole math thing, that’s 56 more horsepower and 182 more pound-feet of torque than the outgoing V-8.

Sure, I understand there’s a visceral feel to a V-8 engine you aren’t going to get with turbo V-6. The vibration, the sound. I get it. But more power is more power, and does it really matter where it comes from?

The bonus of the hybrid, here, is going to be more power doesn’t mean less efficiency. In combined driving, the i-Force Max powertrain delivers 5 MPG or more better than the old V-8. The Tundra hybrid 4X4 will get an estimated 21 MPG in combined driving, whereas the old V-8 only got 14 MPG. In my driving loops, which had speeds from 25 MPH to 55 MPH as well as a lot of elevation changes, I averaged between 17.1 MPG (worst) and 20.3 MPG (best).

I’m hearing a collective “yeah, but …” from the readers here who want to compare it to the only other hybrid full-size truck out there: the Ford F-150 hybrid.

So, let’s get this out of the way: The Ford F-150 PowerBoost does have better efficiency numbers (24 MPG combined for the 4X4), but it also has slightly less power (430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque).

For what it’s worth, the only time I drove the F-150 PowerBoost was also during a first-drive event, and I averaged 21.3 MPG. So, only 1 MPG better from the same driver in a mostly flat test route.

Tow worthy

Admittedly, I’m not the tow guru on staff, which actually makes this tow test in the 2022 Tundra hybrid more impressive.

I took two loops towing different loads, one was about 3,500 pounds (a flat bed with ATVs loaded on it) and the other was about 5,800 pounds (an Airstream camper).

The first loop with the lighter load was an eye-opener in that the engine worked so well, I couldn’t feel the load. Unless I looked in my rearview mirror, it was easy to forget I was towing anything. At all. There was no pulsing of the load, and the engine still felt peppy and light under hard acceleration. When stopping, the trailer brake assist kicked in, and again, I didn’t feel like the load was pushing me at the back. All this translated into a more “normal” drive feel for me.

So, I tackled the Airstream towing loop with curiosity. This is where the feel of the load kicked in – but it still wasn’t bad. I felt a slight pulse, but not the steady push-pull of the trailer that I’ve felt on previous tow tests (including on the Ford F-150 PowerBoost), and acceleration as still decent. I could feel the heaviness in steady-speed driving, but it didn’t hinder acceleration or braking, though I did need to leave a little extra room for both.

My takeaway: That extra torque (instead of the extra fuel efficiency) will be worth its weight in gold to people who tow regularly.

2022 Tundra Hybrid

Where’s the beef?

My main beef with the 2022 Tundra hybrid in terms of driving impressions centers around my driving position: I felt downright Lilliputian behind the wheel, and more than once, I had images of those old “Where’s the beef” commercials for Wendy’s and the gray-haired woman behind the wheel.

At about 5-feet-tall, I could see over the dash and hood, but overall visibility out the front was less than I hoped it would be. I get a much better driving position in the F-150, and part of that could be one of the engineers on the Ford team is a female who’s about my height.

A word to Toyota: The height adjustment for the driver’s seat could go up a couple inches, and the situation would be infinitely better.

Oh, and can we have a conversation about adjustable pedals, please?

In terms of actual ride and handling, however, I will say Toyota nailed it. The hybrid powertrain combined with the new rear suspension delivers a smooth ride and peppy acceleration. While I wouldn’t call the Tundra “nimble,” I would say it’s light on its feet for a full-size truck.

The bottom line on the 2022 Tundra hybrid

Outside of my driving position, I really liked the 2022 Toyota Tundra hybrid.

There will always be grumblers and nay-sayers with any new truck, and questions about why an automaker did this or didn’t do that. You’re not going to make everyone happy — especially those who wanted a V-8 engine or 30 MPG fuel economy numbers.

But Toyota has a good handle on its customer base, which tows heavy shit. So, the goal was to give those customers the power they need with better efficiency than previously available. And that’s what this hybrid is.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Toyota Motor Sales covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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1 Comment

  1. Garrett VanderBurg February 27, 2022

    Hi Jill and Tim,

    Thank you for the great reviews and all of the information you put on on the new and upcoming trucks! I’ve got a question for you both as I seem to fall in a lost category of truck buyer, and am looking for some guidance. I run a small manufacturing business up here in Canada and I use to have a 2017 Silverado 2500hd 6.0 gas, but recently sold it due to the terrible fuel mileage. I do haul on occasion (I have a 20′ flat deck bumper pull) so a truck is required, but I only hook up the trailer maybe twice a month and pull up to 10 000lbs of material at those times. The other 99% of my driving doesn’t require the trailer and is a combination of city and highway driving. I’m leaning towards something in the half ton market (the new 3.0 duramax Sierra or the new Tundra hybrid have caught my attention), but was wondering if they could actually “safely” haul that load without issues? The trips I make with the trailer each month are only half an hour away for reference. I did love my 2500hd, but the fuel bill just didn’t make sense for the actual required usage of that truck. I may be asking for that unicorn you’ve mentioned (a truck that’s great on fuel, but can also pull)?

    Thank you for everything!

    Sincerely,
    Garrett V.

    Reply

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