Pros: Stellar 5.7-liter V8; various body styles to suit different needs; pleasant driving experience by truck standards; interior has aged well
Cons: Some controls require an uncomfortable reach; no diesel option; can't get Entune mobile app system on Platinum model
What's New: Toyota's Entune mobile app system is now available, though only on mid-grade Tundra models. Minor trim changes round out the updates.
Another year has passed for the 2013 Toyota Tundra, yet this truck seems impervious to the ravages of time. Whereas most vehicles that debuted back in 2007 are starting to seem a little long in the tooth these days, Toyota's full-size workhorse just keeps on truckin'.
We're not quite sure how the Tundra does it. Maybe it's the stylish interior, which seemed over-the-top seven years ago but remains the most avant-garde option in this segment. Or it could be the take-no-prisoners 5.7-liter V8, which masterfully combines real-world responsiveness with enormous towing and hauling capability. The styling, too, has aged well; it's hard to imagine a redesigned Tundra improving on the current model's muscular yet refined shape.
Toyota has naturally made a few concessions to Father Time over the years, the latest being the addition of Entune mobile app integration for 2013 (see the Technology section below). And if Toyota could do it over again, they might add an optional diesel engine to compete with the heavy-duty American trucks.
But by and large this is the same truck that debuted to great fanfare during George W. Bush's second term, and we don't really see a problem with that. Unless the new GM full-size trucks (due by mid-2014) turn out to be revolutionary steps forward, the 2013 Tundra will continue to be a top pick for truck lovers of all types.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Toyota Tundra comes with either a regular cab or one of two 4-door crew cabs -- the Double Cab or the extended-length CrewMax.
The trim levels could hardly be simpler, as there's just the base model, the fancy Limited and the exclusive Platinum. However, trying to figure out each Tundra's standard and optional features can be a thankless task.
We'll give you some highlights. On one end of the spectrum, there's a Work Truck package for the base model that includes a tilt-telescopic steering column, manual dual-zone climate control and not much more. On the other end, the Platinum boasts a sunroof, perforated-leather trim, luxury-car-like power seats with driver power thigh support, a navigation system, a rear seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. In between these two extremes, the possibilities are seemingly endless. We recommend pinning down the features you really want and then asking your Toyota dealer to help you find a Tundra that fits your needs.
Inside the 2013 Tundra, not much has changed since this second-generation model debuted nearly five years ago. No matter; it's still the most daring truck interior on the market with its cockpit-like feel, stylish gauges and unusual silver and black two-tone dashboard color scheme. Ergonomics aren't ideal, however, as some dashboard controls require an uncomfortable reach. On the bright side, practically every button and knob can be operated with work gloves on, which we can't say for all of the Tundra's competitors.
The Tundra's standard front seat configuration is a 3-person bench, but fancier Tundras have front bucket seats with escalating levels of luxury and power-adjustability. The top-of-the-line Limited's power leather seats might be the best in the business -- it's not every day you find a truck with perforated-leather upholstery and power thigh support for the driver.
The regular cab doesn't have a backseat, of course, but the 4-door Double Cab provides decent room for adults in its 60/40-split folding rear bench, while the CrewMax would make 7-footers feel at home with its extended legroom. Note that every CrewMax's back seat slides fore and aft, but the Double Cab's is fixed by default with an optional sliding function.
The Tundra comes with one of three bed lengths: 66.7-in (CrewMax only), 78.7-in (standard on Regular Cab and Double Cab) or 97.6-in (optional on Regular Cab and Double Cab). So if you want the CrewMax's extra passenger space, you'll have to live with the shortest bed of the bunch.
The base Tundra has little in the way of high tech features, but that's to be expected in a full-size work truck. If you step up to a more luxurious Tundra, chances are it'll be equipped with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity and premium JBL speakers might be present, too. And it's pretty cool that you can get that rear seat entertainment system with its 9-in screen on certain models, as that's a feature we associate more with minivans and luxury SUVs than tough trucks.
For 2013, Toyota has sweetened the pot with available Entune mobile app integration. Entune leverages your smartphone's data plan to bring handy apps like Pandora (streaming music) and OpenTable (dinner reservations) into the driving experience. As in other Toyota products, it comes bundled here with a 6.1-in touchscreen that includes a navigation system.
We like Entune, but here's our complaint: Toyota wasn't able to make it compatible with the Limited and Platinum models' exclusive touchscreen system. In other words, the fanciest Tundras actually aren't eligible for the latest technology, so folks interested in those models will have a potentially difficult decision to make.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The standard engine in the Regular Cab and Double Cab is a 4.0-liter V6 that generates 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque via a 5-speed automatic transmission. This is a fairly capable engine as standard V6 engines go, but most Tundra buyers will want to step up to one of the two available V8 engines to get the most out of their trucks.
The first, a 4.6-liter V8, cranks out 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque, while the top-dog 5.7-liter V8 boasts 381 hp and 401 lb-ft. Both work with a 6-speed automatic. We respect the smaller V8, as it gives the Tundra solid capabilities while keeping the cost down, but the big 5.7 is a real gem, because it delivers acceleration that would put some sport sedans to shame along with a maximum tow rating of 10,400 pounds.
The Tundra comes standard with rear-wheel drive. The optional part-time 4-wheel drive system -- available on V8-powered models only -- has an electronically controlled transfer case with a low range. Fuel economy is 16 miles per gallon city/20 mpg highway with the V6, 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the 4.6-liter V8 (14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with 4WD) and 14 mpg city/18 mpg hwy with the 5.7-liter V8 (13 mpg city/17 mpg hwy with 4WD).
The Tundra comes standard with stability control and eight airbags, including knee airbags for front occupants.
In government crash tests, the Tundra received an overall score of four stars out of five, but performance varied slightly between the CrewMax, which received three stars in both frontal impact and rollover testing and the other Tundra body styles, which received four stars in those categories. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was more impressed, awarding the Tundra its highest score of Good in all crash test categories.
Like every big truck except the Ram 1500 (with its controversial coil-spring rear suspension), the Tundra's ride is a bit firm and jittery when the bed is empty. It's not objectionable, though, and we like the Tundra's relatively compact steering wheel and car-like cockpit, which help give the truck a maneuverable feel. We also appreciate that the cabin remains fairly quiet at highway speeds. Off-road, the Tundra is a formidable performer, especially with the imposingly named TRD Rock Warrior package.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford F-150: Extensively refreshed with new powertrains a couple years ago, the F-150 has plenty of oomph and if anything it's quieter than the Tundra while cruising.
Ram 1500: With its novel coil-spring rear suspension, the Ram is the first full-size truck that genuinely rides like a car. Some feel that this design compromises the truck's toughness, though.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500: The GM twins debuted around the same time as the Tundra, but their interiors have aged far more quickly. Still, they've got strong V8 power and proven reliability on their side. Be on the lookout for redesigned 2014 models at some point in 2013.
The point of these full-size beasts is to be able to handle just about any job, right? So we'd take a Tundra Double Cab with the long bed and the 5.7-liter V8. It's the closest thing Toyota's got to a heavy-duty truck and it's all the truck we'd ever need.