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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Weitzman

2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone review: overpriced and thirsty

One of the thirstiest hybrid vehicles ever, where is the the point in this overpriced Toyota pickup

Toyota Tundra Capstone review | The Road Beat

Toyota Tundra Capstone review with The Road Beat

Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman


Toyota's all-new Tundra has already been out for nearly two years, marking a huge direction change for the Japanese brand's made-in-Texas pickup truck. This Capstone is the peak of the current range, coming in at an eye-watering $78,460, and after two weeks with one (and over a year after my initial acquaintance), this Tundra is already out of date and behind the competition when it comes to its role as a luxury pickup. And my gosh is this hybrid V6 twin-turbo inefficient in daily use.


Starting with the major talking point that rests under the hood, the yes-they-actually-named-it-that i-Force MAX powertrain, a V6 engine bolstered by two turbochargers and a hybrid system. Total outputs are an encouraging 437 horsepower and 583 lbs-ft, numbers that do convince thanks to its meaty midrange punch. When you do get the blood boiling, this is one seriously quick full-size pickup truck. Only trouble is the power delivery is so flat that there is no increase in acceleration as the revs climb, therefor it feels fast at first, but then you soon realize it doesn't pick up anymore after that big initial wallop. It is effective, just not exciting in the same way a 6.2L V8 revs up and goes in the GMC Sierra or Chevy Silverado.


2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone

Despite the presence of a hybrid system, it's so weak that the Tundra can hardly ever shut off its gasoline engine during daily driving. Whereas a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or Camry Hybrid can accelerate leisurely up to 20 MPH or so solely under electric power, the Tundra's combustion engine ignites almost immediately as your foot breathes on the gas pedal. As a result of needing to rely so heavily on the gas engine and forced induction at all times in order to motivate its 3 tons of mass, gas mileage is a dismal 16 MPG overall, or, not any better than V8-powered trucks I've also driven. It's even more strange considering that the last non-hybrid Tundra I drove actually averaged better economy. If you're wanting the hybrid Tundra for saving gas, you have been warned: you will not be saving on gas. At least if you stick specifically to flat highway driving, only then will the hybrid return anything decent to the tune of just over 20 MPG on steady, level freeway.


There's also the fact that slow speeds are often met with clunks and shudders from the powertrain as the gas engine goes in and out. An example is when slowing for a red light, where the truck coasts and brakes in electric mode. However, upon slowing to a walking pace, the light then turns green, and as I gently ease onto the gas pedal, the gas engine fires back up and causes a shudder and clunk throughout the truck. Other Toyota hybrids do not display this trait in the same scenario, only this hybrid V6 found in both the Tundra and Sequoia SUV. It could and should be smoother and more pleasant, especially from the company famous for pioneering mainstream hybrids.


I also cannot forget or forgive the fact that is Toyota is so aware that truck people want V8 engines that they shamefully pump fake V8 noises into the cabin under acceleration. If you mistake the sound for a V8, then Toyota's sound police have done their job correctly. Just know that the sound is fake.


I doubt the real-world towing ability of this powerplant, too. As I noticed on every possible freeway hill, in order to maintain 70 MPH, the Tundra's turbo's lay down a constant 10 PSI of boost. Factor in six or seven thousand pounds worth of trailer weight, and this little V6 is going to be working hard even on level ground, and will drink gasoline by the tankful rather quickly. The hybrid powertrain won't be able to help here as the tiny little amount of onboard battery capacity it can hold will be depleted quite quickly. This is an interesting idea for a truck powertrain, but one that just can't and won't translate to everyday usability like a big-capacity V8 can, and the naturally-aspirated V8 will likely use less fuel doing so, too, when under load. If you have towing experience in your i-Force MAX Tundra or Sequoia, please let me know about your experience, but from the couple I've talked to, they were not enthused about the performance when laden-up.


2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone interior

A positive note is a chassis that steers and handles quite well. The steering is direct, accurate, and very easy to place on the road. On a cloverleaf freeway onramp, I was able to confidently toss the Tundra in towards an apex and, despite the tire squeal, the Tundra held its line and behaved prodigiously for a large pickup truck. However, handling chops aside, the tradeoff is a stiff and jiggly ride at all speeds. Even at slow residential speeds, the Tundra translates every nook and cranny right into your backside and it bounces around. In comparison, I took a ride in a friend's new GMC Sierra 1500 Denali during the same week of testing the Tundra, and I was astounded how smooth it all worked, gliding over speed bumps, easy on/off throttle transitions from its V8 and own 10-speed transmission, and I noticed just how comfortable the entire package was. The Tundra felt like a bucking bronco in contrast, and I can't believe this is supposed to the fancy and comfy luxury option.


Speaking of luxury, does it deliver there at least? No. Yes, the seats are covered in soft and lush two-tone leather, and there's a big Tundra-sized center display screen, power running boards, and a gigantic panoramic sunroof, but that's it. Once you get over that honeymoon, there are so many cheap plastic pieces and buttons all about that would be out of place even in a Corolla. The push buttons to open the center console? Horrible. There's also a rattly tray that slides in and out of the center console. The glovebox sags a full centimeter, something I've seen on other Tundras and Sequoias, there's even frayed and loose stitching at the 9 o'clock position on the steering wheel, the wood looks cheap like it's from a bargain Amazon furniture piece, and the rotating headlight switch on the turn signal stalk isn't close to flush with the rest of the arm. This would be nice for a $65,000 truck, maybe even close to $70,000, but damn near $80,000? You've got to be joking. GMC recently just overhauled their interiors and, for the same exact money as a Sierra 1500 Denali, the Tundra loses badly. The thought process must've been similar to, "Let's take a nasty cheap interior and throw a big screen and leather on. That should do it, right?" I'm sorry, but for this price, you'd be mad to think this is acceptable. I also thought the air conditioning was poor, even after running for an hour on literally full blast on an average Northern Californian summer's day.


2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone rear seats

This is a nicer truck than the Tundra it replaces, but what is a huge mark forward for Toyota means they're still and already behind its rivals by some margin. Even the current Ram 1500, which has been out now for over five years, continues to impress in Laramie and Limited trims, having a higher degree of luxury and initial quality when it comes to their cabins. They also drive very well, being smoother everyday operators than the Tundra. Nearly forgot, but the rear doors also have no proximity sensors for unlocking, which can be extremely annoying once you realize a $40,000 RAV4 has this feature on all four doors, but not a twice-as-expensive Tundra.


Take for instance the floor mats bearing the Capstone badge. Does that look straight to you? Nope, the Tundra and Capstone labels are anything but parallel. Details matter in a luxury product; this might as well be homemade.

Who is this truck for? Maybe only the Toyota-faithful, but even they might be hesitant to give up their V8-powered older models that are known to last for hundreds of thousands of miles. Also, remember that the most expensive version of the new Tundra is over $20,000 more than the most high-end V8 Tundra ever was. I doubt owners of Fords, Chevy, GMC, and Ram trucks will want to cross over to a Tundra, and anyone looking to jump ship might as well go all the way into the Rivian EV ecosystem anyways. This is not a bad truck, but rather a sorely overpriced one that does very little in the way of earning a recommendation. Perhaps a $15,000-cheaper Limited model with the base engine earns merits where its value is far more competitive, but the Capstone is anything but a new high for Toyota other than its ridiculous, unjustified price tag. While it's nice for a Toyota pickup, it fails to match the luxury and refinement of rivals.


2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone

Price as-tested: $78,460

Pros: Powerful; Modern dynamics

Cons: Overpriced; Dynamically lags behind competitors



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