Toyota highlighted the i-FORCE MAX hybrid powerplant that combined a strong twin-turbocharged V6 with a version of Toyota’s hybrid drive system.
Earlier this year, we had the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra in for review. We also did a video on it, as well. If you recall, it was definitely in the fight with the leaders in the full-size half-ton pickup truck segment.
Although there were plenty of good qualities, I had a few reservations. It was better than the last generation, but it truly needed some finishing.
I figured out why I came to those conclusions some months ago. Toyota talked up the fact that there were two engine choices for the Tundra. Of the two, they highlighted the i-FORCE MAX hybrid powerplant that combined a strong twin-turbocharged V6 with a version of Toyota’s hybrid drive system.
That intrigued me the most.
Granted, Ford already put out a hybrid driveline for its F-150. It was OK, but I knew they would do better. Perhaps, Toyota’s hybrid pickup truck driveline would be better…
Consider my interest piqued.
To truly test out the i-FORCE MAX driveline, it had to be done with the Tundra’s signature trim level. Maybe my favorite of all seven trim levels offered in this new generation pickup truck – the TRD Pro.
Why, of course, I would want to see how the hybrid driveline works in its most off-road-ready model! My love of pickup trucks is rooted in its most capable and fun trim levels. Who doesn’t love a rough and ready pickup truck?
The good news is that Toyota did a great job in elevating the Tundra TRD Pro. Not because of the additional 1.1-inch lift up front, but it is taking what has been established in this new generation Tundra and giving it a TRD Pro treatment that is ready to take on all comers on the trail.
The rough and ready theme starts with specific upgrades to the basic Tundra cab and box. The grille is the most prominent feature – taking its size and giving it a proper once-over. The “Toyota” lettering stands out just below an LED light bar. Three marker lights are placed up top. There’s no mistaking that the TRD Pro is ready to dominate anywhere.
Along the wheel wells and on top of the box is a plastic camo-like cladding that looks tough and make the truck pop a bit more. TRD Pro badging is attached to a set of side gills that cascade from the hood. The name is also stamped on the tailgate. To finish it all off, a set of black 18-inch BBS wheels are shod with Falken Wildpeak off-road tires.
Toyota took their Tundra and created one for the adventurous types. However, it must have the power to match its want for adventure.
That is where the i-FORCE MAX driveline comes in. Toyota took their standard 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and added a hybrid electric system to it. This driveline yields 437 horsepower of combined power and a massive low end rated at 583 pound-feet of torque. The result is absolute joy.
No, seriously, the i-FORCE MAX exudes a lot of performance no matter where you go. It also like to chill when cruising on the highway. That is due to its 10-speed automatic transmission – a real gearbox, not a CVT. The TRD Pro comes with a standard four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case and an electronically-controlled locking rear differential.
This driveline has some serious capabilities to boot. Maximum towing capacity is set at 11,175 pounds, while the maximum payload is 1,600 pounds on the TRD Pro.
If there is another upside to the i-FORCE MAX is its fuel economy. My tester turned in an average of 18.0 MPG – better than the previous Tundra TRD Pro by a smile.
Toyota states that the Tundra TRD Pro has a minimum ground clearance of nine inches. I wished it had about a half-inch more, because it looks like there is no difference between it and some other Tundra models. However, it has a more aggressive angle of approach and departure than the other models, while receiving protection from a set of Xply Armor undercovers at points where you need them.
As I mentioned in my previous review of the 2022 Tundra, Toyota gave it a technological upgrade that was badly needed for this truck. One of those technological upgrades in the Multi-Terrain Monitor, which uses cameras to show you front, side, and rear views when you are doing extreme maneuvers – such as negotiating a narrow pathway or as steep parking apron.
In the TRD Pro, there is a customizable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that is easy to read with all of the gauges and readouts you need. The center dial combines a digital speedometer and the tachometer. There is a tactile shifter on the wide console and plenty of easy-to-reach and easy-to-use controls throughout.
The new 14-inch infotainment screen works very well and integrates smartphone mirroring seamlessly. JBL provides 12 speakers of solid sound throughout the cabin.
The red SofTex upholstery gives the TRD Pro another signature to its overall aesthetic. The front seats were large, yet they felt a bit firm. There was some support to be had on the bolsters. Rear seat room is incredible – more than ample room for at least two adults.
While you are swathed in a sea of red and black inside, the Tundra TRD Pro works hard on the outside to keep you comfortable and protected from all road surfaces. The FOX shocks provide a supple ride that keeps everything on an even keel on the road and off. Handling is more controlled, though it could give you some roll and lean beyond its limits in the corners.
The brakes are really great! There’s no hybrid reaction at all, which is a good thing indeed! Response from the solid pedal returned better than expected stops in normal and panic situation. Modulation was definitely on point.
However, I must address the steering I just wished it yielded a tad more tighter turning radius. Tight maneuvers are not the Tundra’s forte. Also, it took a bit more turns to get the wheel cranked to achieve those maneuvers than I would’ve liked. Although, on-center feel was no bad.
Another issue I had with the 2022 Toyota Tundra had been the pricing. What was once a great value in its class has now equaled to the rest of the segment. For example, our TRD Pro tester came with a sticker price of $68,760. While that is less than a Ford F-150 Raptor, it is at par with the F-150 Tremor, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 and GMC Sierra 1500 AT4.
Can one fairly compare the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro with these and other offering an equally enjoyable off-road experience? Because of the interest in getting a truck that can deliver an experience close to a Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX as possible, why not? Toyota knows a thing or two about four-wheel drive systems and how to enhance the experience both on- and off-road.
Still, the Tundra will get enough ribbing from the pickup truck set. Was it too late for them to level up with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis? I don’t think so. They just became on par in many aspects – which is a good thing for Toyota.
The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is an example of that. Of a pickup truck that can match or exceed its contemporaries on this sub-segment of pickup trucks. Where they have stepped the game up is underneath the hood. The i-FORCE MAX becomes the advantage in terms of efficiency and performance.
We’re all looking for some advantage to sway us towards landing the right vehicle for us. Toyota’s i-FORCE MAX driveline is exactly what the Tundra TRD Pro needed.
DISCLAIMER: vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern