Toyota Tundra: Secret details revealed about super-ute’s Aussie debut

We finally know for sure the size, powertrains and features of Toyota's biggest-ever ute in Australia – coming to a road near you.

Australia is becoming a new battleground for American-designed-and-built pick-up trucks and Toyota wants its Tundra in on the action.

The carmaker is currently trialling up to 300 examples of the Tundra on local roads over the next 12 months to gather information and ultimately inform the decision of whether to offer the Toyota Tundra for general sale in Australia.  

It’s the first time anywhere in the world Toyota has taken a vehicle built in one country, shipped it to another, re-engineered it and undertaken final assembly with a local partner, with plans to still sell it as a Toyota model inside its own dealerships.

That local partner is the Walkinshaw Automotive Group (formerly responsible for Holden Special Vehicles), which already remanufactures rival American trucks the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado.

We’ve been given an inside look at how Toyota is remanufacturing the Tundra from left- to right-hand drive, and we’ve even spent time behind the wheel.

Stay tuned for the full Toyota Tundra review in late January 2024, but for the time being here are the details we can share.

It’s coming as a hybrid

Though Toyota’s coy about saying it, the Toyota Tundra coming to Australia is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with hybrid assistance – referred to as the i-Force Max powertrain. This is because the hybrid system doesn’t operate like regular Toyota hybrid systems, which are designed to prioritise fuel efficiency.

Instead, the battery-powered portion of the i-Force Max system is intended to provide ultimate pulling power and outputs a combined 326kW and 790Nm. This comes mated to a dual-range four-wheel-drive system.

It will also mean the Tundra moves away from a standstill using electric power, with the engine kicking in at higher speeds. No official word yet on whether this hybridisation will result in improved fuel economy.

It's MUCH bigger than the Toyota HiLux

Yes, the Toyota Tundra is bigger than the Toyota HiLux – and by a large margin. Comparing the Toyota Tundra with a CrewMax body and a 5.5-foot tub against a Toyota HiLux SR5 dual-cab, the former is larger in length, width, height, wheelbase, track widths, and tub size.

You can read a full rundown on how the two utes compare here.

It’ll be a towing powerhouse

Whether you’re towing horse floats, cars, agriculture equipment or a big boat, the Toyota Tundra has you covered with a 4500kg braked towing capacity. Toyota’s priority for introducing this car to the Australian market is its ability to haul big items, and the carmaker surveyed all kinds of customers who tow in the project development phase.

It also stocks in-built towing technology such as an integrated brake controller and tow system that automatically adjusts shift points, throttle response, and even aerodynamics. The front of the Tundra has a drop-down spoiler that adjusts as soon as you hook up a trailer on the rear end.

The Toyota Tundra’s gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3536kg and the gross combination mass (GCM) is 7825kg. The Toyota Tundra runs a 70mm tow ball.

It's built for long drives and has a huge fuel tank

In its positioning as a heavy-duty tow vehicle, the Toyota Tundra also prioritises long-distance comfort.

As well as a huge cabin in both rows, it features coil springs with a rear multi-link suspension system that balances load capability and ride composure.

It also comes with a huge 122-litre fuel tank and Bridgestone highway-terrain tyres.

Australia will get a mid-spec variant

Toyota Australia is only looking at one mid-specification offering in the Tundra line-up – the Tundra Limited with a CrewMax body and a short tub.

The carmaker says there are some individual studies it’s undertaking with other variants in the Tundra line-up, but at the moment the official trial solely focuses on the Tundra Limited.

It marks a big shift for Toyota

The introduction of the Toyota Tundra to Australia is a big deal for Toyota globally because the manufacturer has never taken a vehicle from one country and re-engineered it in another (inside a non-Toyota factory, no less).

Globally, Toyota holds strict quality control levels for engine performance, quality, and dynamics, which must be upheld in the switch from left- to right-hand drive. Toyota Australia is aiming for an OEM factory level for quality standards.

As such, the eyes of head office are fixed firmly on how this trial process goes. The project to bring the Toyota Tundra began back in 2018 where Toyota Australia selected “second-stage manufacturer" Walkinshaw as its remanufacturing partner.

Many of the parts required for the remanufacturing process have been sourced from elsewhere within the Toyota product line-up. Because the Toyota Tundra is built around the TNGA-F vehicle platform, parts-sharing between the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series and Lexus LX has been made possible.

The level of standard equipment is impressive

Though it’s not the flagship Tundra Capstone variant coming to Australia, the Limited specification on offer still comes equipped with an impressive array of styling, technology, and convenience features.

On the outside the Toyota Tundra is highlighted by 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a tub management system with moveable tie-down points, and power-folding exterior mirrors.

Inside the cabin it features black synthetic leather seats with heating and ventilation, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, a wireless phone charger, a 14-inch infotainment system, 12-speaker JBL stereo, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and AM/FM/DAB+ radio.

Safety is also well covered off thanks to Toyota’s Safety Sense system. This includes a pre-collision system with day and night pedestrian detection, daytime cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-centring assist, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera monitor.

There are eight airbags and two rear ISOFIX points.

An Australian launch is still TBC

An Australian launch is the one thing we cannot confirm for certain. Toyota is undertaking this 12-month viability trial to assess the remanufacturing process and the overall quality of the vehicle before confirming whether the Tundra will make it to dealerships.

Up to 50 vehicles will be converted from left- to right-hand drive by Walkinshaw every month, according to Toyota, and the trial will run until late 2024.

However, Toyota has said that it’s not undertaking this giant project in order for 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 quality criteria that we must reach with our parent company… and this is not a confirmed position for Toyota,” said Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley.

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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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