In 2022 Toyota introduced an all-new generation of its full-size pickup truck. This new-gen Toyota Tundra looks radically different from the outgoing, right down to the engine. Gone is the famously durable 5.7-liter V8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged V6 with an electric motor. I had a chance to test drive the new 2023 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Hybrid on an off-road course. This opportunity gave me a chance to not only test its electronic safety and performance aids but discover that its V6 engine has the spirit of a V8.
Tonka Truck Styling
Lately, modern pickup truck design has gravitated to a Tonka-like design language. The new Toyota Tundra’s design displays a large, squared silhouette and cube-sided flared fenders. This structured theme continues with large, thick surfaces featured throughout the interior cabin. As a result, everything inside has a firm, bulk feel and look, from the center-console mounted shifter, the massive 14-inch infotainment screen, and even the “oh-snap” handles.
The model shown in this article came equipped with a hard-to-miss TOYOTA emblem over the glovebox that could moonlight as a roadside billboard. In addition, the Tundra’s power rear window that opens vertically is still available on the new truck. Lastly, Toyota offers a red interior for specific Tundra trim levels, like the TRD, with certain exterior colors.
One thing that’s immediately noticed is how often you see the words “Toyota”, “Tundra”, and “TRD” written, stamped, and labeled on these trucks. The only other brands I can think of that reinforce their brand to this level are Jeep and Shelby.
It appears so often that it speaks of insecurity as if Toyota worries people will mistake their Tundra for another pickup truck. However, it could be that Toyota is merely expressing pride in its product. Regardless of the fact, the Tundra’s beauty falls squarely on the eyes of the beholder.
TRD Pro and Sport Packages
Among the seven trim levels of the 2023 Toyota Tundra are the two TRD Performance packages. The TRD Pro and the TRD Sport offer a yin and yang choice for Tundra buyers on whether they want their truck to look and perform well off-road or on the streets.
In addition to 18-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Falken WILDPEAK all-terrain tires. Other upgrades include mudguards and a TRD-branded aluminum skid plate under the radiator.
The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Hybrid includes selectable 4-wheel drive, an electronic locking rear differential, and a 1.1-inch lift kit featuring FOX shocks as a mark of its off-road tuned suspension. In addition to 18-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Falken WILDPEAK all-terrain tires. Other upgrades include mudguards and a TRD-branded aluminum skid plate under the radiator.
TRD Pro models are also christened with a heritage-inspired Toyota front grille with embedded orange marker lights and LED light bar. In addition to a TRD Off-Road decal on the side of the truck’s bed.
Inside, TRD Pro adds a JBL 12-speaker premium audio system and a Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) drive mode with a Crawl Control (CRAWL) feature. This driving aid works like an off-road cruise control allowing the truck to “crawl” over rugged terrain while the driver focuses on steering and braking input.
In contrast, the $2,360 TRD Sport package lowers the Tundra’s suspension featuring Bilstein shocks. It also includes 20-inch TRD Sport exclusive alloy wheels and a unique TRD grille. TRD Sport decal tells the world that it’s been prepared from the factory. Inside, the sport package adds premium details to the interior, like a red ignition button, red TRD branded shift lever and aluminum pedals. The steering wheel is also wrapped in leather.
Tundra Trim Levels
The TRD Pro Hybrid rests near the top of the 2023 Toyota Tundra lineup and starts at $68,520. The seven available trim levels begin with the SR model at $36,965. For 2023, Toyota introduced an SX appearance package to the SR5 model with 18-inch wheels and black/grey trim for the exterior and interior. At the other end of the spectrum is the top-of-the-line Capstone edition with a starting price of $75,245. The Solar Octane painted Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Hybrid model featured in this article is priced at $69,315.
A significant difference in the interior between trim levels is the 14-inch center-mounted infotainment screen. Entry levels come with an 8-inch screen as standard. In addition, premium models include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Walnut wood interior accents are exclusive to the Texas-proud 1794 edition and top-tier Capstone Toyota Tundra.
Among the array of trim levels, the 2023 Toyota Tundra is available in two body styles with three different cargo-bed lengths. The double cab (extended cab) can be optioned with a 6.5- or 8.1-foot-long trunk bed. In addition, the CrewMax (crew cab) models offer a 5.5- or 6.5-foot-long cargo bed.
Twin-Turbos and an Electric Motor
The new 2023 Toyota Tundra is currently the only full-size half-ton pickup truck without a V8 option. Instead, Toyota offers two variants of its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 backed by a ten-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine produces a healthy range of 348 to 379 horsepower, depending on trim levels. Meanwhile, the Hybrid variant, dubbed the i-Force MAX produces a satisfying 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft of torque.
Like a spotter helping a bodybuilder, the electric motor supports the engine’s burden by sending additional power through the transmission.
The secret to its power comes from an electric motor installed in the transmission’s bell housing. Like a spotter helping a bodybuilder, the electric motor supports the engine’s burden by sending additional power through the transmission. Powering the electric motor is a 288-volt sealed Nickel-metal Hydride battery located under the rear passenger seat.
Moreover, the Hybrid drivetrain earned an EPA-estimated combined 22 mpg, with 18 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, I could not properly test this claim as I was confined to off-road trails. However, considering the size and its three-ton curb weight, I predict the Toyota Tundra hybrid won’t be passing gas stations as effortlessly as a Prius under real-world driving conditions.
Compared to its V8-powered competitors, the 2023 Toyota Tundra falls short in payload and towing – but not by much. Nevertheless, the Tundra offers a max towing capacity of 12,000 pounds and a max payload of 1,940 pounds. For comparison, a Ford F-150 can tow up to 14,000 pounds.
A Large Truck with a Medium Engine and Full-Size Character
My 2023 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Hybrid test drive resulted in a change of opinion. At first, I was put off by its large and in-charge styling. However, once I started driving it, my mood quickly changed. I tip my hat to the Toyota engineers who managed to get a V8 rumble exhaust note from the 3.5-liter V6 without cheating using audio speakers. It sounds like a 430+ horsepower truck should.
The vast number of exterior cameras leaves no spot blind. In addition, Toyota’s reputation for safety driver aids made maneuvering the large truck through narrow trails easier than expected. Overall, the new Toyota Tundra delivers on all fronts, offering full-size performance using a mid-size powertrain.