2023 Toyota Tundra Hybrid Long-Term Road Test: Introduction
Despite massive annual sales and ubiquitous status on U.S. streets, full-size pickup trucks remain a precious commodity in Car and Driver’s long-term fleet. Naturally, we wasted little time putting our newly acquired 2023 Toyota Tundra to work. With under 300 miles on the Tundra’s clock, senior technical editor Dave Beard loaded his 550-pound Ski-Doo into the crew cab’s standard five-foot-five-inch composite bed and pointed the Tundra’s enormous schnoz north on I-75 toward Michigan’s wintry Upper Peninsula.
The roughly 800-mile roundtrip journey from C/D’s Ann Arbor headquarters provided a literal cold open to our hybrid Tundra Limited CrewMax’s 40,000-mile test. During the truck’s first snowstorm, the grille-mounted radar got blocked by debris, rendering the adaptive cruise control useless. The truck’s 20-inch all-season tires struggled in the silty lake-effect snow but handled packed powder better. Its spacious cabin also saved Beard money on a motel room one frigid night. “I shacked up in the back row in my sleeping bag and was quite comfortable,” he said. “I’d do it again.” Later on, he figured out the truck’s remote start takes five key-fob presses, which would’ve kept the cabin warmer for longer as he drifted off to dreamland. Like the start of most long-term relationships, learning each other’s quirks takes time.
This isn’t our first date with the redesigned Tundra—we’ve tested a nonhybrid Limited model and an off-road-focused TRD Pro, with the latter finishing behind fellow hybrids in the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 in a comparo showdown—but it’s an extended opportunity to examine the truck that’s long been overshadowed by its domestic rivals. For perspective, Americans bought about 104,000 Tundras in 2022 but gobbled up nearly 654,000 Ford F-series models, about 513,000 Chevy Silverados, and over 468K Ram trucks. Still, Tundra sales rose 27 percent from 2021, suggesting Toyota’s loyal fanbase has renewed interest. Was their patience worth the wait? We aim to find out.
The third-generation Tundra’s debut was a welcome one, as the better part of two decades had passed since the second generation debuted. Sure, a 2014 makeover attempted to keep things fresh, but the truck still felt dated—and that was almost 10 years ago. Toyota unwittingly benefits from the old truck overstaying its welcome as the new one appears extra, well, new. Now built on the TNGA-F body-on-frame platform, it trades rear leaf springs for a more sophisticated coil-spring configuration. “It’s not the best-riding truck, but it’s not terrible,” Beard quipped. “It’s a better Tundra.”
Complementing its more chiseled body, including a face that could pass for a Peterbilt’s, the Tundra’s interior boasts a modern design, nicer materials, and desirable technology. Our midrange Limited trim has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a ginormous 14.0-inch touchscreen. While we wish the infotainment system had a tuning knob, we appreciate how well wireless Apple CarPlay works and how it fills the entire screen. Real leather isn’t part of the deal, but the Limited has standard soft-touch surfaces and power-adjustable front seats with heated and ventilated cushions. Besides the sturdy switchgear and respectable fit and finish, the flimsy center-console cover feels like it could be ripped off by an errant hand, triggering PTSD from the old Tundra’s rickety bits.
The as-tested price of our Limited CrewMax is $64,093. If that sounds expensive, that’s because it is. A more luxurious 2023 Ram 1500 Longhorn costs about the same, as does a ritzy ’23 GMC Sierra Denali. Our Tundra piles up about $12K in options—$8450 alone for the crew cab, four-wheel drive, and i-Force Max hybrid combo. Other extras include a $150 heated leather steering wheel, $179 all-weather floor mats, $565 JBL audio system, $399 retractable bed step, $650 load-leveling rear air springs, and $710 running boards. Toss in the $1345 Premium package (towing upgrades, enhanced LED headlights, 360-degree camera system) and the $385 Power package (LED bed lights, dual 120-volt outlets, wireless charging pad), and our Limited trim costs as much as a luxury truck but doesn’t exactly feel like one.
The Tundra’s obnoxious fake engine noise won’t convince anyone there’s a V-8 under the bulky hood. Toyota boldly chose to offer only a twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6, either with or without hybrid assist. Although the Detroit Three will all soon sell an electric pickup, Toyota’s most electrified Tundra is the hybrid that adds an electric motor between the twin-turbo V-6 and the 10-speed automatic transmission. Along with a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack with roughly 1.0 kWh of usable energy that hogs space under the rear seats, the iForce Max provides peak output of 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque.
The hybrid Tundra is mightier than the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid, but our example is nearly 280 pounds heavier (6072 pounds total) than the Ford. That mass kneecaps the Toyota’s acceleration, requiring 5.6 seconds to reach 60 mph and passing the quarter-mile mark in 14.3 seconds at 94 mph. While we didn’t detect brake fade during its 192-foot stop from 70 mph, our tester noted a sensitivity to heat, which sent the truck into limp mode after multiple full-throttle takeoffs. The transmission temperature got dangerously high while backing a trailer up a short hill as well.
The truck’s thirst for fuel is also worrisome. The hybrid Tundra gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg combined, but our long-termer is only averaging an alarming 13 mpg at the moment. About one-third of its current 3023 miles were accumulated while towing a 3500-ish-pound enclosed trailer, but even ignoring those miles only increases that average to 16 mpg. Poor fuel economy plagued other models we’ve tested too, and it’s something we’ll monitor as the road ahead includes lots of towing and other truck stuff. By the end of its 40,000-mile stay, we hope to be able to say definitively whether Toyota shrunk the gap between the reinvented Tundra and America’s favorite pickups.
Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 3023 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 13 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 32.2 gal Observed Fuel Range: 410 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair:$0 Damage and Destruction: $0
2023 Toyota Tundra Limited Hybrid CrewMax 5.5-foot bed
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-motor, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Base/As Tested: $59,710/$64,093
Options: panoramic view monitor, $950; black dual-step running boards, $710; load-leveling rear air suspension, $650; premium JBL audio system, $565; bed step, $399; Limited Premium package (LED headlights, Towing Technology package), $395; Limited Power package (Qi-compatible wireless charger, LED bed lighting, 400W/120V AC cabin and bed power outlets), $385; all-weather floor liners, $179; heated steering wheel, $150
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.4-liter V-6, 389 hp, 479 lb-ft + AC motor, 48 hp, 184 lb-ft (combined output: 437 hp, 583 lb-ft; 1.0-kWh (C/D est) nickel-metal hydride battery pack)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Suspension, F/R: control arms/live axle
Brakes, F/R: 13.9-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc
Tires: Yokohama Geolander X-CV G057
265/60R-20 112H M+S
Wheelbase: 145.7 in
Length: 233.6 in
Width: 80.2 in
Height: 78.0 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 64/58 ft3
Curb Weight: 6072 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS: NEW
60 mph: 5.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 14.3 sec @ 94 mph
100 mph: 16.6 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.1 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 107 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 192 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.72 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 13 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 20/19/22 mpg
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
8 years/100,000 miles hybrid-related components
10 years/150,000 miles hybrid battery
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection
2 years/25,000 miles roadside assistance
2 years/25,000 miles scheduled maintenance
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Eric Stafford’s automobile addiction began before he could walk, and it has fueled his passion to write news, reviews, and more for Car and Driver since 2016. His aspiration growing up was to become a millionaire with a Jay Leno–like car collection. Apparently, getting rich is harder than social-media influencers make it seem, so he avoided financial success entirely to become an automotive journalist and drive new cars for a living. After earning a degree at Central Michigan University and working at a daily newspaper, the years of basically burning money on failed project cars and lemon-flavored jalopies finally paid off when Car and Driver hired him. His garage currently includes a 2010 Acura RDX, a manual ’97 Chevy Camaro Z/28, and a ’90 Honda CRX Si.