2024 Toyota Tundra real-world customer trial begins, edging closer to Australian showrooms

A trial of 300 right-hand-drive Toyota Tundras with customers across Australia is underway, before – pending the program's success – the pick-up is given the green light for showrooms after 12 months.

A fleet of 300 new right-hand-drive, remanufactured Toyota Tundra pick-ups will hit Australian roads over the next 12 months as part of a world-first viability trial with customers before it is given the green light for showrooms.

Toyota Australia will hand-pick customers to lease and drive 280 of the 300 Toyota Tundra evaluation vehicles on roads around the country before deciding whether to offer the pick-up for general sale across the country.

The Tundra is built in the US before it is shipped to Australia and remanufactured from left- to right-hand drive by former Holden Special Vehicles engineering firm Walkinshaw Automotive Group in Melbourne.

The vehicles will be released to a group of hand-picked Toyota customers on a full-service (but subsidised), $2500-per-month lease plan which requires customers to provide feedback on their ownership experience every one to three months.

As part of the real-world evaluation program, participants pay $2500 per month for the Toyota Tundra Limited, with scheduled servicing, mechanical repairs, replacement tyres, and roadside assistance covered under the deal.

Comprehensive insurance, third-party insurance, and registration is also covered by the monthly lease repayments.

Toyota says the lease is subsidised, considering the feedback customers must provide to Toyota as part of the arrangement.

The cohort selected by head office which will tasked with testing the vehicles has already been chosen from a pool of previous Toyota customers – nominated by dealers – and those experienced in towing heavy loads.

There will be 300 vehicles in the next phase of the program – 280 of which will be sold to customers, and 20 planned for internal use within Toyota Australia.

“[We] went through our dealer network with a criteria of what we wanted. A cross section of different diverse driving conditions, whether it be city, whether it be country, towing,” Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley told media gathered at an initial preview drive of the Tundra.

“It was all done through our dealer network. So dealers took expressions of interest and then we went through the customer list and chose thereafter.”

The Tundra Insider Program kicked off in late November 2023 for initial deliveries and will ramp-up to get all examples out to customers by April 2024.

Walkinshaw’s remanufacturing capability stands at 50 cars per month at present, though will be expanded in the future if the project is approved for a formal showroom debut.

The engineering firm already handles left- to right-hand-drive conversions for Chevrolet and Ram pick-up trucks, also backed by their head offices in the US.

“We know there is a demand for full-size pickups like the Tundra but we wanted to ensure that the local right-hand drive conversion, and the vehicle as a whole, met Toyota’s exacting standards for quality and the needs of our customers,” Mr Hanley said.

“Toyota has never undertaken a project like this before and we look forward to hearing what these first customers think and feel about the new Toyota Tundra,” said Mr Hanley.

Only after this 12-month trial has taken place will Toyota decide on the Tundra's fate in Australia. However Toyota has said it is not undertaking this project expecting it to fail at the last hurdle.

“We’re certainly not doing this not to launch the car. I mean, that’s a fair comment, but we still have a quality criteria that we must reach with our parent company… and this is not a confirmed position for Toyota,” said Mr Hanley.

The process to bring the Tundra to Australia began five years ago, with Toyota selecting the Walkinshaw Automotive Group to remanufacture the vehicle.

Testing has taken place at proving grounds and on Australian roads since, with the trial now opened up to selected Toyota customers.

Thanks to the new-generation Toyota Tundra sharing its TNGA-F underpinnings with the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series and Lexus LX, the conversion process utilises the steering rack, firewall, wiring harness, pedals, heating and ventilation systems (including the blower motor), and carpeting and trims from the LandCruiser or LX.

The sole specification Toyota offers for now is the Tundra Limited, which pairs a twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with hybrid assistance.

Toyota calls the system "i-Force Max" and it pairs a 290kW/650Nm petrol motor with a 36kW/250Nm electric motor-generator – and a 6.5Ah nickel metal hydride battery – for combined system outputs of 326kW and 790Nm.

Power is sent through a 10-speed automatic transmission to a dual-range all-wheel-drive system, while distinct driving modes include Eco, Normal, and Sport.

It also stocks a separate Tow mode which primes the car’s throttle response, shift points, steering, and even aerodynamics for heavy haulage of up to 4500kg.

From the dealership the Tundra comes with a 50mm tow ball and tongue rated to haul 3500kg, but is capable of towing 4500kg with the appropriate tongue and ball accessory.

Toyota is also trialling other specifications – such as the Tundra Capstone luxury version – internally, but at the moment the official trial focuses solely on the Tundra Limited.

Check back on Drive on 18 January 2024 to read and watch a first-drive review of the right-hand-drive 2024 Toyota Tundra Limited.

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Tom Fraser

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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