Review: 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone Hybrid
It swings and, well it doesn't miss, but it ain't a home run.
2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone review by Mitchell Weitzman for The Road Beat
Where were you when the last Toyota Tundra was launched? Mind you, it was 2007. 2007! Me? I was in the eighth grade examining my first pimples. Tom Brady only had three Super Bowl victories then. That's a mighty long time for any vehicle's lifecycle; Literally fifteen years on sale with practically zero changes. When it came out, though, it turned the half-ton truck world upside down and then some, bringing brute force and strength of an almost heavy-duty truck that left the domestic Detroit icons scrambling (albeit momentarily). The Tundra left its mark with owners who have continuously praised their truck's rugged durability and can-do attitude and abilities. It was a truck you could beat the snot out of and just seemed to always keep working and wanting more. Well, the other trucks caught up and surpassed it in many key areas, such as power and refinement, but the Tundra kept on trucking for years. Only now do we finally have a new Tundra. Was it worth the wait?
What is it?
The all-new (finally) Toyota Tundra. Redesigned from the wheels-up, there's a new twin-turbocharged V6 powerplant with a hybrid option, a new 10-speed automatic, modern suspension, and a thoroughly reworked cabin to cement its place in this century. Oh, and it kind of looks like a stormtrooper if you're into that (especially in white). With more vehicles downsizing their engines or even going electric, Toyota has hopped onto the same train by replacing the venerable 5.7L V8 with a 3.4L (Toyota will tell you it's 3.5...) V6 that's bolstered by two turbochargers. A keen eye shows that this happens to to be the exact same sized engine that powers several Lexus models like the LS 500; I would be willing to bet it's the same, just slightly reworked and retuned for truck duty given their horsepower and torque ratings differ slightly. Shoot, they both even use ten-speed transmissions.
Paper ratings are up as well, with a peak payload capacity of 1,940 and a max tow rating to the tune of 12,000 pounds for potent double cab, 2WD SR5s. Good, and improvements over the former Tundra, but not game-changing like the 2007 was. According to Toyota's website, though, the 4WD Capstone CrewMax tested here (the range-capping model, boasting the most luxury ever in a Toyota truck), can tow 10,340 pounds and carry 1,485 pounds in its bed. Yeah, not ground-breaking in the slightest. However, other grades can do better, such as a TRD Pro's 11,175 towing and 1,600 payload ratings. A modest SR5 4WD CrewMax can up that payload to 1,800 pounds even, but it's that cheaper 2WD model that can do the most. So, if you're searching for the most capable Tundra, the ratings can vary greatly by trim. Either way, the numbers are good enough for most, but just not trend-setting.
Also of note is the ditching of leaf springs in favor of coil and/or air springs in conjunction with a multi-link rear suspension arrangement. The benefits? It'll drive less like a truck and more like a car, with improved ride quality given that the new design allows more control over each corner.
What's it like?
The easiest reason to buy the new Tundra is because you already own a Tundra, one that's getting long in the tooth perhaps and you feel it's time for a new one; you want to stick with the brand you value and trust. Or, maybe you love how it looks (a most subjective trait). After all, your Tundra has never let you down. But, apart from that, there are not any particular standout reasons to buy a new Tundra over other competing trucks.
Starting with the most subjective category, the design, it drew an aggressively polarized response from friends and casual passersbys who commented on it, ranging from extremes of, "wow, that looks cool!" to "holy moly it's ugly." So, to each their own, but the looks alone might be enough to make you either want or not.
Of course, neither should matter without knowing how it drives and performs. And, spoiler, it's the best driving Tundra ever - as it should be. On a variety of roads, the new Tundra is comfortable and greatly refined, feeling leaps and bounds more modern than its forebear. Starting with the interior, this Capstone possesses a luxury cabin that easily trumps the 1794 trim of its predecessor (the 1794 is still available, just this Capstone sits one level higher now) with soft leather strewn about everywhere and beautiful wood trims. Materials all over are upgraded, too, being put together with a certain military superiority, as is the new and flashy 14" touchscreen display that dominates occupants' attention. This is a very fine place to be, and the CrewMax has space abound, giving the impression of a cowboy limo for those in the rear seats. Other bits and bobs that differentiate the Capstone are the automatically deploying and retracting side steps and bed step, 22" wheels that somehow don't even look that large, and load-leveling rear air suspension, a heads-up display, lots of external chrome accents here and there, and the hybrid i-FORCE MAX version of the new V6. Yes, there are even badges that display the words i-FORCE MAX on the fake hood vents to brag that you got the better Tundra.
Yes, it drives good, with accurate steering, an improved ride quality over bumps that avoids shudders through the entire chassis, and for a such physically large vehicle, it doesn't feel that big on the road, being easy to place within your lane. As comfortable as it is inside, though, thanks to the lusciously leather seats, it could be quieter, with pronounced wind noise on the highway hitting the side-mirror and a-pillar. But, and there's a big but, the hybrid V6 is a total miss. In no way am I against V6s or hybrids, but this application left me desiring for much more. I think perhaps it was a bizarre, internal quest to make the hybrid feel less like a hybrid as a way to appeal to more trucks buyers? But, that's complete bollocks, because the appeal of a modern hybrid engine (not one you find in a Prius) is that it combines the best of electric and gas power, and I want to feel and notice that. However, it behaves exactly like a gas engine which negates the inherent benefits that should be present.
In other cars (sports cars for example) that use turbocharged hybrid set-ups, the use of an electric motor increases the response by providing immediate power while the turbochargers make no boost, effectively cancelling turbo-lag; they fill in the missing gaps. It works brilliantly in other cars by having this constant immediacy to your inputs because of its 'always-on' electric motor that makes peak torque at all times. The Tundra does not carry this trait. In fact, despite attention-grabbing figures like 437 combined horsepower and a gargantuan 583 foot-pounds of torque, it just never feels that fast (0-60 MPH took 5.8 seconds), and no more powerful than the outgoing V8 model. The first time driving the Tundra away from a stop sign, I gently applied the throttle and was met with basically...nothing. Nada; The truck simply didn't move. I found I had to give a pretty decent squeeze to get it going which belies the notion of there being any electric power available. It's more than fine once you're rolling and accelerating at a steady rate, but increases in throttle input have delays, as instead of utilizing the powerplant's prodigious torque rating (meaning a huge amount of horsepower down low in the rev range), the truck is more prone to just downshifting instead (and the downshifts are slow) to make juice instead of taking advantage of what should be readily available power at all times. I was hoping for the feel of a large diesel in a small and economical package, but the hybridized i-FORCE MAX is a disappointment.
The best example of its shortcomings are when traveling at, say 50 MPH, just cruising, and you slam your right foot to the floor. Instead of any form of immediacy, there's a solid one to two second delay before anything happens as the computer instead scrambles to downshift from eighth or ninth gear down to third and then you begin moving. Maybe the reason the response isn't there is because the electric motor is frankly not powerful enough, which might be true, but it does bring the base twin-turbo V6 power up from 389 to 437 horsepower, and the torque number from 479 all the way to the whopping 583 amount. Not insignificant gains, then, but maybe those increases still are simply not enough because you just don't feel much of anything until the V6 starts making boost and/or finds the right gear. Even when you do tap into the power in the midrange around 3,500 or 4,000 RPM, it feels healthy at that point, but go from half-throttle to floored and there isn't any noticeable difference at this point.
Okay, you could select sport mode in the Tundra (why does a truck like this have a 'sport' mode?), and this largely cures the issues of lag by making the gas pedal more sensitive to your foot, giving you more sooner. But, you will do so at the expense of your gas mileage as this also remaps the transmission to hold lower gears longer while being reluctant to shift into the tallest gear. I think the fix is very simple and just needs the standard drive mode to be remapped to a sort of 'in-between' mode to take advantage of the technology that we have available to us here. Or, make the electric more aggressive in deployment. If we have it, use it! A hybrid set-up makes sense, with an electric motor there to fill in the gaps of gasoline engine's turbo lag and torque curves, but it frankly doesn't here .
But, perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the hybrid is the gas mileage, which was confounding. On the highway, cruising at 72 MPH, the hybrid Tundra achieved 21 MPG. Great! A big truck getting over 20 MPG is a step in the right direction. However, the average? A paltry 16 MPG, well below the manufacturer's estimated 21 combined. And it's not like I drove it hard and floored it everywhere; that was a real world test and me trying to maximize efficiency. On some grades like the TRD Pro and Capstone, the i-FORCE MAX is mandatory, but for others thinking about upgrading to it, I can say that, at this time, it's not worth the $3,400 upgrade on Limited, Platinum, and 1794 models.
Other concerns I have include the beautiful touchscreen display that frequently showed lag and lacked responsiveness, and temperature controls that are awkward to click up and down and take too long click into your desired temp if you're going from extremes. The center console is also peculiar with it's small center opening, while the switches on the corners to full open it are placed inconveniently to the driver, requiring a weird arm motion to open. The white leather inside already showed discoloration and staining in this 1,500 mile example. I like white leather - it's pretty - but dang does it not belong in a truck. And how could I forget - the auto side steps. I bashed my shin into them twice during my time with the truck. They stick out too far which can make setting and grabbing stuff from the rear seats or floor quite cumbersome. If you're quickly getting into the truck, you can easily be too fast for the side steps which is how I stepped into one at the same time it extended. Now, this might be just be my clumsiness, but I stand by it. If you don't want them, you can easily disable them, but I think if they stuck out one inch less, they'd be more practical and useful. Other passengers loved using them, so it can be up to you. Lastly, despite the lovely leather, things like the window switches don't feel quite as nice as they should on a $74,575 vehicle.
Oh, what's that? Yes, it costs $74,575 for this Capstone. That's more than the amazing Ram 1500 Limited, which has an even better interior and drives nicer, being the Mercedes S-Class of trucks. Instead of being a value player, the Tundra is now just as much, or in this case more than American rivals (minus the Ford F-150 Limited, which can crest 80 large...). SR5 models come in far cheaper at around $50,000 with a couple options, but the Tundra is not exactly an affordable alternative when next to rivals. The unfortunate truth is that this Tundra does nothing better than other trucks. Even the hybrid engine option that should see plentiful fuel economy gains doesn't work that well in the real world and the overall average in practice is no better than what Hemi Ram 1500 or GMC/Chevy Sierra 6.2L V8 would achieve.
The Verdict is in...
The Tundra might be readily refined and improved on paper next to the outgoing model, but instead of boasting that model's stacked Team USA Olympic starting-5 roster when it debuted, the Tundra comes up short against the rivals it needs to at least match. If you're a lifelong Toyota truck buyer, the new Tundra is the obvious next choice if you want to stick with the brand you love, know, and trust. I had friends who are familiar with the old Tundra say that despite not liking the new truck as much as others, they'd still choose it because they trust it. See, that reputation Toyota has built goes a long, long way. On paper, there are exciting bits to make conquests from other brands, but it doesn't deliver on the promises for me in the real world. And by gosh is it expensive at $74,575; That alone is so hard to shake off. Maybe it's best to think of this as firmware V1.00, and hopefully this is a starting point of continual (and welcome) improvements.