Toyota’s New Tundra Meets the Bar But Falls Far Short of Setting It

2014 Toyota Tundra

In the domestic auto market, light-duty pickup trucks have become a core focus for manufacturers as pent-up demand and a resurgence of the housing and construction industries have fueled strong sales for Detroit’s Big Three in the truck segment. However, it appears that Toyota (NYSE:TM) — and its Tundra light-duty truck — might be phasing out of the increasingly competitive pickup war.

The guys over at Autoblog got their hands on the 2014 Tundra, and aside from some minor exterior tweaks, the new truck is more or less unchanged — something that the blog picked right up on.

Ford (NYSE:F), Chevrolet (NYSE:GM), and Ram (FIATY.PK) have been going to great lengths to set their trucks apart from the rest. New, aggressive styling and squeezing every inch from fuel economy are two favorite strategies to use, but the new Tundra leaves those factors noticeably lacking.

“Changes include single-bulb headlamps, new quarter panels with integrated fender flares and a new soft-drop tailgate with ‘TUNDRA’ embossed in the sheetmetal,” Autoblog writes. “There are also four new wheel designs ranging in diameter from 18 to 20 inches.” Overall, though, the publication calls the changes “lukewarm,” especially next to more drastic shifts seen in the competition.

The Tundra is still a very capable truck despite its lack of any real discerning features. A 5.7-liter V8 is good for 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, while towing is rated at 9,800 pounds; properly equipped, the Tundra can tow upwards of 10,400 pounds with a gross combined weight rating of 16,000 pounds.

However, “the 5.7-liter is damn strong, but it achieves its muscularity through displacement, not refinement,” Autoblog says. Moreover, Autoblog doesn’t expect the truck’s fuel consumption figures to remain competitive with its domestic competition. The 4-liter V6 is also an option, rated at 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.

Off-road, the truck is reportedly a much stronger performer, though it wasn’t enough to salvage the vehicle from the defeatist position that it has taken on. “Even after selling a record 196,555 units in 2007,” the blog writes, “Toyota’s slice of the half-ton pickup market was but a fraction of the volume of the Ford F-150 (690,589 units), Chevrolet Silverado (618,259 units) and Dodge Ram (364,177) that year, despite offering an arguably better product at the time.”

It seems, then, that Toyota’s mediocre entry for the pickup market indicates that Japanese automaker is phasing out of the light-duty pickup game, and admitting that it has fallen behind. Check out Autoblog’s full, in-depth review, with more pictures of Toyota’s latest.

Here’s how shares of Toyota, Ford and General Motors have traded in the past week:

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