When daydreaming of a classic summer road trip vehicle, a pickup truck is not what normally springs to mind — especially a massive 5,800-pound one that gets 17 mpg. However, seeing as the 2014 Toyota Tundra ($26,000) could haul the space shuttle Endeavor across an LA freeway, I figured it could handle my family, a few bags and nearly 700 miles of road tripping. So we boarded our Japanese monster truck with its aggressive-sounding 5.7 liter V8, flashy chrome pipes and rear seats intended for offensive linemen, and we fled New York City for the kind of peace and quiet that only the great state of Maine could offer.
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Just before we left, the NYC hotel’s valet called the truck “mean and angry”. Indeed, the chiseled Tundra — in the form of the SR5 CrewMax with the worthwhile TRD off-road package, which ticked boxes all the way to $43,600 — did look imposing. The front end looked like it was cut out of a solid square block with a samurai sword. And with decals and badges announcing its capabilities, chrome accents, step rails and extra-large 19-inch tires, the truck was an eye magnet for bored passengers and drivers in the unending traffic jams as we left the city.
As aggressive and attractive as the exterior was, though, the interior felt like it’d been ignored. It seemed right for construction workers with its hard edges and chunky ergonomics, but not so much for the consumer who wants a tough truck with an appealing and welcoming interior. (This lackluster comfort was especially disappointing considering the sort of attention other American pickups have received of late.) The navigation screen was a bit slow to respond, and the traffic was inaccurate (though this was probably a SiriusXM issue). There was a backup camera, which was helpful maneuvering out of parking spots; still, no parking sensors, no 110 volt charger and no blind spot sensors seemed a bit wrong considering the $44,000 price tag. It did have impressive storage in the doors, with a bin between driver and passenger large enough for a backpack, camera and jacket; and the rear window lowered fully rather than sliding out, another small feature of note.
Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Torque: 401 lb-ft
Towing: 9,800 lbs
Mileage: 13 City /17 Hwy
Getting out of the city, the Tundra’s impressive turning radius got us out of several parking spot jams without reliving the Austin Powers golf cart scene. When we finally hit the freeway, the Tundra surprised with its smooth and comfortable ride, its touch of road vibration gently caressing my daughter to sleep. The wife and I were particularly thankful for that feature.
We hit Maine hours later. We’d just enough time to note the sweet-smelling air before taking on a tough mountain road. A simple turn of a button on the dash took the truck from 2WD to 4L, and the truck climbed easily up the rocky trail, leading us to a beautiful vista and our home for the night.
Overall the truck did a more than respectable job of chauffeuring us just about anywhere we needed to go, comfortably. Despite its higher center of gravity, the truck felt stable on and off-road. However, the steering felt too light, even numb at some points, a common problem among big trucks that’s disconcerting at freeway speeds. Toyota definitely needs to up the available options list, especially at this price point. If you are looking for style and a smorgasbord of tech in your off-road workhorse, then the Tundra is not for you. If your pickup truck simply needs to be good looking, powerful and comfortable — essentially, if you’re a lover of simple quality — then you’ll be quite content behind the wheel of the 2014 Toyota Tundra.