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2014 Toyota Tundra as American as pickups come

The 2014 Toyota as pictured on the manufacturer's

The 2014 Toyota as pictured on the manufacturer's website. Credit: Toyota

A truck that's styled in California, engineered in Michigan and assembled in Texas sounds as North American as any pickup on the road.

The fact that the 2014 Tundra wears a Toyota badge should be of little consequence in the global scheme of things. Ultimately all that really matters is if it can competently and reliably do the job.

Although Toyota is a major player in the mid-size pickup category, it has had a tougher time gaining traction in the full-size arena, where brand loyalty runs deep. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler continue to make major improvements in their respective haulers, in styling appeal, increased brute strength and lower operating costs through improved fuel economy. And don't forget that their heavy-duty truck counterparts have no direct competition.

That level of brand intensity has pretty much relegated Toyota to the rear of the pickup pack (although ahead of Nissan with its aging Titan). Still the Tundra has earned plenty of respect for its overall superior build quality and towing/hauling competency and has been staunchly supported by Toyota loyalists since its 2007 model-year launch.

Those folks in particular should find plenty to like about the 2014 Tundra's facelift and general updating. Visually the grille is more aggressively styled and conveys an obvious sense of power. Other changes include a new hood along with three-piece front and rear bumpers (said to reduce replacement costs in the event of a crash) and squared-off fenders and wheel openings. The 22.2-inch-deep cargo bed is also new as is the lockable tailgate with integrated spoiler.

Toyota has installed a new instrument panel with easier-to-read gauges and an improved multi-information screen. The audio and ventilation work-glove-friendly control knobs are now within closer proximity to the driver's reach.

Toyota's designers reshaped the front and fold-up rear seats (new to four-door CrewMax versions) for greater comfort and improved ventilation. More sound-deadening materials have been added for a quieter cabin. Additionally, either bench or bucket seats can be had in both extended-cab and CrewMax models. A bench seat is standard with regular-cab Tundras.

Toyota has updated the Tundra's suspension for a more compliant ride and also tinkered with the steering for improved straight-line stability.

Virtually unchanged for 2014 are the Tundra's available powertrains. The SR Regular and extended 4x2 Double Cab models come with a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. With a 16-mpg rating in the city and 20 on the highway, the V6 is the most economical choice in the lineup.

Optional for SR 4x2 Double Cabs and standard for SR5 two- and four-wheel-drive Double Cab and CrewMax trucks is a 4.6-liter V8 with 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque.

On all top-tier Limited, Platinum and new 1794 Edition CrewMax versions (and available in other many other Tundra varieties) is a 5.7-liter V8 that's rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque.

A five-speed automatic transmission comes with the V6, while a six-speed automatic comes standard on both V8s.

Base SR regular-cab models, priced at $27,200, have air conditioning, a 6.1-inch touch-screen display with Bluetooth wireless networking and a backup camera. Adding more doors to the cab automatically gets you more, although many of those standard features can be added to regular-cab models by choosing the SR5 or Limited Packages.

The Platinum includes perforated diamond-pleated leather seats (heated and cooled in front) and a 12-speaker touch-screen audio/navigation system.
The 1794 Edition - named for the Texas ranch where the Tundra plant is located, which was founded in that year - adds saddle-brown leather seats with suede inserts and more shine.

Ultimately, it won't be an easy ride for Toyota's full-size pickup in gaining ground on the competition. But the Tundra's reputation for strength and bulletproof reliability should continue tempting buyers looking for something that's literally outside the traditional box.

What you should know: 2014 Toyota Tundra

Type: Two- /four-door rear- /four-wheel-drive full-size pickup
Engines (hp): 4.0-liter DOHC V6 (170); 4.6-liter DOHC V8 (310); 5.7-liter DOHC V8 (38
Transmissions: Five-speed automatic (V6); six-speed automatic (V8 models)
Market position: In a category dominated by the "Detroit Three" automakers, Toyota has had to try that much harder with its Tundra to make the degree of headway that it the pickup truck category.
Points: Bolder-looking redesign not likely to win any styling awards; Restyled, more user-friendly interior should attract buyers; Powerful V6 and V8 engines are on the thirsty side when compared to competition; Four-wheel-drive system considered one of the best in class; Typical Toyota build quality and competitive pricing are big pluses.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG: (city/hwy) 16/20 (V6, RWD); Base price (incl. destination): $27,200

By comparison

Ford F-150
Base price: $26,500 (est.)
New 2015 version will feature all-aluminum body, two turbo-V6 engine picks.

GMC Sierra 1500
Base price: $27,200
2014 edition mixes style plus fuel economy. Denali tops in luxury.

Nissan Titan
Base price: $30,400
Has a standard V8. A new model is on the way for 2015.

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