The full-size pickup truck is an unabashedly and proudly American creation. Baseball, apple pie, pickup trucks, etc. So it is perhaps understandable, then, that the 2016 Toyota Tundra finds itself at a disadvantage compared to the full-size trucks from Ford, GM and Ram. But it’s actually not because the Tundra is from a Japanese company (though it’s built in Texas).
Age has a lot to do with it. The Tundra underwent a thorough update two years ago that brought revised styling, an improved cabin and updated features, but it was largely akin to a kitchen remodel as compared to breaking out the wrecking ball and fully rebuilding up from the foundation. The revisions just weren’t enough to fix flaws or make notable advances. In contrast, the Ford F-150 now has a lightweight aluminum body and turbocharged engines, and the Ram 1500 has a smooth-riding coil spring suspension and efficient turbodiesel V6. The recently redesigned Chevrolet Silverado wasn’t especially innovative, but its incremental improvements in just about every vehicular facet have allowed it to soundly keep up with the Joneses.
Fitted with the TRD Off-Road package, the 2016 Toyota Tundra Limited is one of the more capable light-duty trucks off road.
The Tundra does not. Its V8 engines definitely get the job done, but they trail their competitors, especially in terms of fuel economy. There also isn’t a V6 option, nor a fuel-efficient alternative such as the aforementioned Ford EcoBoost V6 or Ram EcoDiesel. Then there’s the driving experience. The Tundra feels more like a classic, stiff-riding truck of the past while traversing broken pavement, with bumps big and small easily being felt by all in the cabin. This is the result of a stiff rear suspension admittedly up to the task of stout hauling duties, but if it’s just the family making its way across town, the jostling will get old.
In all fairness, the Tundra does indeed offer truck buyers an awful lot to value. Its double cab is one of the more spacious extended cabs on the market, while the CrewMax is legitimately sprawl-out comfortable, with not only copious legroom but also the added comfort of a reclining seatback. Those interested in venturing off road would also be wise to consider the capable TRD Pro trim level.
Yet, for the most part, the Edmunds “B”-rated 2016 Toyota Tundra quite simply falls short of the current crop of top-notch pickups: the “A”-rated Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, as well as the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD, with its diesel-powered engine, also promises a degree of innovation the Tundra lacks and may stand a better chance of countering the argument that only American companies can build such a quintessentially American vehicle.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup. There are three cab styles: regular cab, extended “double” cab and “CrewMax” crew cab. There are two wheelbases and three bed lengths — 5.5-foot short bed, 6.5-foot standard bed and 8.1-foot long bed. Double Cabs and CrewMaxes seat five or six, depending on whether you opt for a front bench. The regular cab seats three.
Depending on which configuration you choose, there are six trim levels for the Tundra: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition and TRD Pro. The availability of some options or packages can vary based on the region in which you live.
The base SR (regular and double cab only) comes standard with 18-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, a damped tailgate, air-conditioning, cruise control, a rearview camera, 40/20/40 bench seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen interface, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and a media player interface. The SR Work Truck package removes the power locks and windows, and replaces the cloth upholstery and carpet with vinyl.
Going with the SR5 (double cab and CrewMax only) gets you foglights, exterior chrome trim, variable intermittent windshield wipers and an upgraded tech interface that includes a 7-inch touchscreen, HD and satellite radios, traffic information and a navigation app. The CrewMax adds a power opening rear window and an overhead console. The SR5 Upgrade package adds front bucket seats that include a power height-adjustable driver seat and lumbar adjustment, a center console (with storage and “floor” shifter), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a larger gas tank when equipped with the 5.7-liter V8. To that package, the Safety & Convenience package adds front and rear parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels can be added as a stand-alone option.
The TRD Pro includes the SR5 Upgrade items plus unique styling elements, black 18-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, an off-road suspension that includes Bilstein shock absorbers, four movable bed tie-down cleats, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery with TRD logo and red stitching, an upgraded 7-inch touchscreen (optional on SR5), a navigation system and additional speakers (seven double cab, nine CrewMax).
The Limited (double and CrewMax only) adds to the base and Upgrade SR5 equipment automatic headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, the tie-down cleats, automatic dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power-sliding horizontal rear window (double cab), an upgraded 7-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and additional speakers (seven double cab, nine CrewMax). The Limited Premium package adds the Safety & Convenience items plus extra interior lighting and anti-theft alarm features. A sunroof is optional on the CrewMax.
At the top of the food chain, the Platinum (CrewMax only) comes standard with the Safety & Convenience items and builds on the Limited’s equipment with LED running lights, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, distinctive 20-inch wheels and styling elements, heated and ventilated power front seats (10-way driver, six-way passenger), driver memory functions and a 12-speaker JBL sound system (optional on the Limited CrewMax).
The 1794 Edition really only differs from the Platinum in terms of its distinctive exterior and interior styling elements.
The TRD Off-Road package can be added to the SR5, Limited and 1794 Edition. It includes 18-inch TRD wheels, off-road tires, trail-tuned shock absorbers, skid plates and tow hooks.
Stand-alone options on most trim levels include heated tow mirrors and running boards.
The 2016 Toyota Tundra’s cabin is competitive in terms of its design and quality.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2015 Toyota Tundra is offered with a choice of two V8 engines. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case is optional. A six-speed automatic is always standard.
For SR double cab models and all SR5 models, a 4.6-liter V8 comes standard, producing 310 horsepower and 327 pound feet of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg combined (15 city/19 highway) on 2WD models; 4WD versions also rate 16 mpg combined (14/18). Maximum towing capacity with the 4.6-liter engine is between 6,400 and 6,800 pounds depending on body style.
A 5.7-liter V8 is standard on the regular cab and all variations of the Limited, Platinum, 1794 and TRD Pro. It is optional on SR5 trims. It produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy estimates are 15 mpg (13/18) with 2WD and 15 (13/17) with 4WD. A tow package is standard on all Tundras equipped with the 5.7-liter V8. Depending on body style, maximum towing capacity is between 9,800 and 10,500 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, a Tundra 1794 with four-wheel drive accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, while a Tundra TRD Pro did it in 6.7 seconds. These are both quick, yet average times for the segment.
Standard safety equipment on the 2016 Toyota Tundra includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front knee airbags, front side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that cover both rows. A rearview camera is standard across the board. A blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors are optional on the SR5 and Limited, and standard on the Platinum and 1794 Edition.
In government crash testing, the Tundra received four out of five stars for overall and frontal crash protection, and five stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tundra Double Cab its top rating of “Good” in the moderate front overlap, side and roof strength tests. Its seat and head restraint design also received a “Good” rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
During an Edmunds braking test, a Tundra 1794 with 4WD came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is about average for the segment. A 4WD TRD Pro took 134 feet, which isn’t much farther, even considering its all-terrain tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Tundra’s cabin design is attractive and well built. Stepping up to one of the upper trim levels brings the sort of fancier, elevated ambience that’s come to be expected from high-dollar trucks. Even the most basic Tundra, though, comes with one of Toyota’s user-friendly Entune touchscreen interfaces. The SR5 trim and higher get a larger screen and increased functionality, while there are the usual array of available smartphone connectivity functions. In general, and especially compared to its Ford and GM rivals, the Tundra features user-friendly tech.
The front seats in every trim are broad and comfortable, but it’s in the backseat where the Tundra enjoys advantages over most. There is a considerable amount of legroom even in the double cab, while the CrewMax boasts a vast amount of stretch-out space and the unique ability to recline the seat. The folding rear seats in double cabs and CrewMax models also provide a good amount of protected storage for valuable items you’d rather not leave in the bed.
The 2016 Toyota Tundra CrewMax’s backseat flips up and even reclines.
We’re fond of the 2016 Toyota Tundra’s 5.7-liter V8. It isn’t a class leader when it comes to horsepower, but it remains a champ for towing thanks to its prodigious torque and well-sorted six-speed automatic. The optional TRD exhaust paired with the 5.7-liter engine makes for a nice rumble on acceleration, too. Casual users probably will find the 4.6-liter V8’s performance adequate for most driving situations short of big-time towing, and it provides better fuel economy — although neither V8 is a class standout in this department.
The Tundra’s light steering makes parking lot maneuvers easy, but it’s not especially confidence-inspiring when operating at higher speeds, and contributes to the Tundra feeling bigger and more unwieldy than competing trucks (which are plenty big and unwieldy as it is). The Tundra’s main demerit, however, is its ride quality. In order to haul and tow as much as possible without the need for special packages, axle ratios or separate heavy-duty models, the Tundra’s suspension has been stiffened to the point that occupants feel every single bump and rut. The jostling and borderline harshness only get worse with the optional 20-inch wheels, and in general, the Tundra feels decidedly old-school at a time when its competitors (especially the Ram) have improved dramatically in this area.