An upscale urban-cowboy ride
Play, not work, is focus of Tundra's redesign
CHICAGO -- During the recession, so-called urban cowboys -- buyers who chose pickups as a lifestyle statement, not because they needed them for work -- dropped out of the market in droves. As a result, the full-sized pickup market crashed from 2.5 million in 2005 to 1.1 million in 2009.
But Toyota says the personal-use buyer is coming back and wants his truck loaded with goodies.
Toyota's answer is the redesigned 2014 Tundra, unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show last week. The Tundra's design has been transformed inside and out but keeps the same three powertrains as the existing model.
"We're optimistic about the future of the full-sized pickup segment," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager. "Recession hit the segment hard. In 2012 with the economy growing, the segment exceeded 1.6 million and we see it hitting 1.8 million by 2015."
Toyota will start building the 2014 Tundra at its San Antonio plant at the end of August for sale in late September or early October. Prices will be set closer to the launch date, but the Tundra is going upscale: Two new top-line trim packages -- the Platinum and the 1794 -- are geared to buyers who want Lexus-like luxury and style in a pickup.
The Platinum is the "city truck," with black leather interior and brushed metal surfaces, while the 1794 is a western-themed truck named to honor the ranch, founded in 1794, where the Tundra plant is located. Both will feature a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
"We weren't playing in the above-$40,000 market," said Bob Carter, head of automotive operations at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Carter says Toyota has seen buyers who delayed their purchase but are now coming back into the market and are ordering more options on their trucks.
"Our bells and whistles are in higher demand," Carter said.
"We're seeing installation rates of navigation and audio systems going up."
The 2014 Tundra will come in five trim levels, including the entry level SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and 1794. Each will have a distinctive front end. Toyota expects the SR5 will continue to be its volume model.
Designers made the hood 1.5 inches higher and gave the front end a more chiseled look. The name Tundra is now stamped into the tailgate. Toyota replaced the single-piece front and rear bumpers with three-piece bumpers to lower the cost of replacement parts.
Tundra will continue to have "the largest cab in the industry," said Carter. "We get to do that because we also have the Tacoma, which dominates the mid-sized market."
The seven-pin plug for the trailer hitch, currently below the rear bumper, will move up by the license plate.
But for gearheads, the 2014 Tundra may not represent enough of a change. All three engine choices -- a 4.0-liter V-6, 4.6-liter V-8 and 5.7-liter V-8 -- are carryovers, even down to the horsepower and torque numbers.
The V-6 continues with a five-speed automatic, and both V-8s still have a six-speed automatic. Toyota says mpg numbers should stay unchanged.
As for the chassis, the steering system was modified for improved straight-line stability. But Toyota said little beyond that at the vehicle's introduction.
Designers also made changes to the interior, moving the center stack 2 1/2 inches closer to the driver so buttons and knobs would be easier to reach.
Toyota also sought to make the rear seat more comfortable. "We wanted to get rid of that church-pew feeling you get in the back seat of a pickup," Carter said.
Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are offered, which Toyota claims as segment firsts.
The Tundra was engineered at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and designed by Toyota's Calty Design Research centers in Newport Beach, Calif., and Ann Arbor.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.