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2012 Toyota Tundra ReviewThe Good
The 2012 Tundra offers powerful engines with impressive hauling capabilities, plus all the space you could want for heads, legs and cargo.The Bad
If you’re looking for a luxury-level interior or fuel economy that would impress Al Gore in the 2012 Tundra, you’re simply looking in the wrong place.
The CarGurus View
While there are better options with regard to design and efficiency, it must be understood that these are never considered the strong suits of a full-size pickup. Still, with competitors making a lot of progress in these areas, the shortcomings of the class start becoming the shortcomings of the Tundra. The fact that competitors have newer designs that are scheduled for more frequent upgrades doesn’t help things, but if a good workhorse of a truck is what you’re after, the Tundra should fit the bill nicely.
At a Glance
Still recovering from the March tsunami, Toyota hopes to stimulate new sales in its flagging lines. With the Tundra still working off the same base introduced in 2007, competitive offerings are two years younger and looking at a redesign next year, while the Tundra isn’t scheduled for an update until 2014. Supply lines are fully open at this point, but sales have already been lost.
For this full-size pickup, some features have been added to attempt to mitigate losses in 2012. All 2012 Tundras now benefit from a new heavy-duty battery and starter, daytime running lights, front and rear mudflaps, heated power mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. Trim packages are simplified this year as well, with buyers able to choose from Tundra and Limited packages that come in 3 cab styles, 3 wheelbase lengths and 3 bed lengths.
Towing equipment has been shuffled as well, and the extra cooling, temp gauge, low gears and 7-pin connector that were previously grouped with other options packages are now a standalone option, with the heavy-duty battery now a standard feature as previously mentioned.
The base engine for the Tundra is a capable 4.0-liter V6 that delivers 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. It’s available only in Tundras with rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Regular cab or short-bed Double Cab setups and comes exclusively with a 5-speed automatic transmission that will return an EPA-estimated 16 city mpg/20 highway. It’s a fine engine and smooth, but it lacks the grunt needed for any serious work, so those same trim setups also have the option of a 310-hp, 4.6-liter V8 with 327 lb-ft of torque. Here you get a 6-speed automatic, and as a result fuel efficiency doesn’t drop much – down to 15/20 here.
But this is a pickup and a full-size at that, so one V8 just wouldn’t be enough. To hit the Tundra’s maximum towing capacity of 10,400 pounds, you’ll have to opt for the 5.7-liter, 381-hp V8. All Limited trims get this as the standard offering, and it’s a beast that showed up for tests ready to haul a 10,000-pound load with no inordinate effort. It’ll also return a 14/18 fuel economy rating with its 6-speed automatic, and it’s E85-compatible, although economy drops to a dismal 10/13 when using that fuel. Adding 4WD will get you a 2-speed transfer case, and all Tundras come with a limited-slip differential and traction and stability control.
Ride & Handling
The Tundra is a bruiser, and it rides like one. For general bump absorption this can be a good thing, as the Tundra can offer a relatively nice ride with RWD, the longer 164.6-inch wheelbase and the 18-inch wheels. Choosing 4WD, the shorter wheelbase and the optional 20-inch alloys can hurt things in a hurry, and you’ll find yourself slamming over pennies left in the road. This is only exacerbated by heavy, numb steering that goes from bad to atrocious when the offending factors are tacked on. If you can wrench the steering wheel into actually turning the Tundra with any aggression, you’ll also be greeted by some frustrating noseplowing and roll–worst of both worlds.
With all of this taken into consideration, the Tundra rides only slightly worse than class rivals–depending on setup. All the typical truck caveats apply, and if you’re in the market for a full-size pickup, you’re most likely aware of them all.
Cabin & Comfort
All Tundras come standard with features like a tilt steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate controls, and a CD/MP3 player with digital media connection. If you choose the Extended or Crew cab, you’ll also get telescoping maneuverability for the steering wheel, power mirrors, windows and doors, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, remote-keyless entry and a tachometer. The Limited gets you heated power leather bucket seats, a JBL 6-CD stereo with USB, Bluetooth and satellite radio, a power rear window and a garage door opener.
The overall feel and construction of the Tundra interior tends to disappoint. Too many hard and hollow surfaces coupled with cheap controls and switchgear really hamper the effect. Headroom is tight here thanks to high seats, but the telescoping option on the steering wheel and the height adjustability on the non-base trims help. Noise is muted, but there will be some wind and tire noise coming through, the latter affected negatively by the off-road tires and 20-inch wheel options.
If you’d like to get a bit crazy, the TRD Rock Warrior Package adds Bilstein shock absorbers and off-road tires hugging 17-inch alloys, as well as a newly standard backup camera with rear-view mirror display.
Safety is not ignored here, with standard traction and stability control, a limited-slip differential, trailer-sway control and antilock 4-wheel disc brakes with assist. Dual front, front-side and curtain-side airbags are complemented by front-knee airbags, and a tire-pressure monitor is of course included as well. Limited trims also have a front-and-rear obstacle detection system as well as fog lights. Strangely, daytime running lights are a standalone option.
Test results for the 2012 Toyota Tundra have not been reported from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but 2011 results showed mixed reviews. While side impacts all received a 5-star rating, front impacts received 4 and sometimes 3 stars, with rollover resistance similarly achieving only a 3-star rating.
What Owners Think
With three solid engine choices and a wealth of configurations to choose from, the Tundra offers a lot of flexibility in the full-size truck market, however sales have been slipping. Interior quality and construction have been large gripes amongst owners, and many complain about an aging design that is destined to stay at least one year behind competitors. Still, owners continue to comment on the Tundra’s impressive towing and cavernous interior with regard to storage.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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