Developing the ’22 Toyota Tundra

The inside story from the vehicle’s chief engineer

By Gary S. Vasilash

Let’s face it: Trucks have a pull on people in a way that is almost unimaginable. Who—outside of someone who either has a vocational reason (contractor, landscaper, etc.) or who has an avocation that makes a truck a necessity (putting a snowmobile in the box; having the torque and capability for pulling a trailer)—really needs a truck?

If you take a look at the numbers of trucks sold the answer to that question seems to be “Damn near everyone.”

Toyota, while not the leader in the truck sales segment by any means, has long been building things that have remarkable capabilities, like the Land Cruiser that has been going to places in the world that are simply extreme.

Hybrids are generally associated with fuel efficiency. An objective of the hybrid in the Tundra is not to pay tribute to the Prius, but to provide the kind of torque that truck drivers like. (Image: Toyota)

It does build the midsize Tacoma which is a leader in that segment despite the best efforts of GM and Ford. Yet GM and Ford best Toyota in the full-size truck segment (with the Silverado, Sierra and the F-150).

But Toyota continues on with the Tundra. And has just launched an all-new truck which, coincidentally enough, now shares its underpinnings with the Land Cruiser.

One could argue that neither Ford nor GM has anything that is in the Land Cruiser category, so that is something serious to be said about the 2022 Tundra.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Mike Sweers, executive chief engineer in charge, among other things, of the Tundra, talks about how this new truck was developed with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Joe DeMatio of Hagerty, and me.

Sweers is not only an engineer, but he happens to live on a small farm. Consequently, for him a truck isn’t just something he works on from the development point of view, but something that he uses in his off-hours. (Does someone who develops pickups and then uses a pickup at home ever really have off-hours?)

From how the suspension is setup so that it doesn’t “ride like a truck” to why they decided to use a composite box (e.g., it doesn’t break or corrode like aluminum and steel do) are among the topics that Sweers discusses.

And what is interesting to know is how a guy who really, really wanted a diesel (and Toyota has a new 3.3-liter diesel) discovered that a hybrid powertrain setup met his requirements for torque.

You can see it all here.

Toyota Advancing Safety Research

Something that ought to be top of mind, tends not to be. But it still is for Toyota

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the areas in automotive development that doesn’t get the attention it deserves—probably as it is not particularly sexy—is safety.

But find yourself in the process of an accident and you hope that the OEM that built the vehicle you’re traveling in is on the leading edge of safety research.

Toyota, which established the Collaborative Safety Research Center 10 years ago with the objective of performing open research with universities and hospitals (the former have lots of smart people and the latter have lots of smart people who are on the receiving end of things gone wrong) is sticking with it, as it has announced a five-year, $30-million commitment to the CSRC.

The CSRC has three research tracks that it is pursuing:

  • Human-centric, or helping people understand what advanced mobility can do. Also, customer health and wellness are part of it.
  • Safety assurance, or looking into the intersection of human drivers and automated driving systems.  Let’s face it: there is going to be a mixed of the manual and the automated for some time to come.
  • Assessment, or helping individuals and industry participants understand appropriate decision making predicated on quantitative mobility safety measures.

Explained Dr. Danil Prokhorov, director of Toyota’s Future Research Department and CSRC:

“Humans are at the center of Toyota’s technology development strategy, so we are designing our new safety research in pursuit of ‘Safety for All.’ As part of this, our projects will explore the diversity of safety needs and analyze safe mobility options that accommodate different applications, physical characteristics and levels of accessibility for people and society.”

Safety may not be sexy. But neither is a visit to an ER.

Toyota: Continuously Improving Georgetown

The legendary assembly plant (and there is a powertrain plant there, too) is getting a serious refresh

By Gary S. Vasilash

Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant—the company’s original manufacturing operation in the U.S.—is undergoing a transformation. One that is based on a $461-million investment.

Susan Elkington, president of the facility known as TMMK: “As Toyota’s most experienced assembly plant in the U.S.”—it has been in operation for 35 years—“with a workforce of about 9,000, TMMK must transform physically and strategically to meet the changing needs of customers.”

Toyota Georgetown plant (Image: Toyota)

They are going to improve the plant layout to improve operational capability and to allow it to produce new products (it builds the Camry, Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus ES and Lexus ES Hybrid right now; the Lexus models will be moving to Japan).

In 2023 they will start producing fuel cell modules in Georgetown.

They will be adding a 2.4-liter turbo line in the plant.

And while it has some 1,400 variable team members—meaning they work for Kelly Services, not Toyota directly—they will be offered jobs by Toyota, too.

The Georgetown plant, for years, was a place that other OEMs wanted to tour in order to see how Toyota does it.

Presumably how they do it will be even better.

Why Hydrogen Is Better

Who wants to spend time cooling their heels at a charging station?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although there is something to be said for electric vehicles (as in the previous post below), one thing that is a bit of a nuisance with EVs is not the driving but the charging.

Not even the fastest fast-charger is going to stuff electrons into a battery as quickly as gasoline goes through the nozzle at your local gas station.

What’s more, there is a bit of a problem with the whole notion of fast charging in that the faster you stuff those electrons in, the more the battery is affected, and not in a good way.

One of the alternatives to a battery electric vehicle is a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.

Yes, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is an electric vehicle, too, with the battery being replaced by a fuel cell stack and a cylinder (or two or more) of compressed hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into the stack, is turned into electricity, and that powers the motors that drive the wheels.

And refueling a hydrogen vehicle is quite analogous to pumping gasoline.

As for time:

A 2021 Toyota Mirai went to a hydrogen pump at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, California, on August 23, 2021.

The tank was filled. It took five minutes. The tank was sealed with a sticker by the observer from the Guinness World Records.

Toyota evp Bob Carter, a Guinness certificate and the Mirai that earned it. (Image: Toyota)

Over two days of driving the two drivers drove around SoCal under a variety of conditions (yes, including the legendary traffic jams). When they returned to the start point, they had traveled 845 miles on that single tank of hydrogen.

A tank that was filled in 5 minutes.

Admittedly, the drivers are hypermilers (Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger). Their driving techniques are not those that most of us—not even the most diligent of us—are likely to use with any consistency.

But it underscores the fact that hydrogen can get you much further with less time spent at a station than electricity can. Even for those with a lead foot.

2022 Toyota Tundra, Briefly

There hasn’t been an all-new Tundra since 2007. So given that they’ve been working on it for a while. . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

The specs speak for themselves. Especially for the 2022 Toyota Tundra with the i-FORCE MAX powertrain, which takes the standard 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 (389 hp; 479 lb-ft of torque) and hybridizes it so that it produces 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque.

Yes, another full-size pickup truck with a hybrid.

But what is different about this approach being taken by Toyota is, explains Mike Sweers, senior vice president, Product Development Office and F1 Platform (i.e., what the new Tundra is based on) engineer, is that rather than trying to boost the fuel efficiency of the truck, the objective is to provide what he says most serious truck users are looking for, which is more power. (There is a 10-speed automatic for both engines.)

While the Tundra can certainly tow–as in up to 12,000 pounds–the vehicle is meant more for those who do recreational towing than commercial–which is more about the nature of the Toyota brand than anything having to do with the capability of the truck, because it is engineered to be fully capable–and then some. (Image: Toyota)

Framed

The thing about the ’22 Tundra is that there is a focus on overall robustness. They went from C-channel frame cross members to boxed, for example. While that improved stiffness, there was consideration taken for those who ride on a regular basis—loaded or unloaded—so there is a multilink rear suspension with the shocks mounted outside the frame rails to help improve the handling and ride comfort. (Even more comfort is provided by the available air suspension system that provides both manual and automatic leveling.)

The new Tundra can tow up to 12,000 pounds—which is an increase of 17.6% compared with the previous generation—and the load in the bed, which is based on sheet molding compound, which has been used on the Toyota Tacoma with excellent results, is 1,940 pounds, or an 11% increase.

Tugged

While on the subject of towing, it is worth knowing that there are two Tow/Haul modes. Activate the standard mode and the throttle response in increased. Activate the Tow/Haul+ mode and that response is amped up even more—and speaking of amps, the trucks with the hybrid powertrains have the electric motor constantly in operation during Tow/Haul+ and the engine Stop-Start function is deactivated.

And there is another towing-related aspect to the ’22 Tundra: Its design.

According to Adam Rabinowitz, chief designer at Calty who led the exterior design team for the truck, “We wanted to make it look like a premium towing machine.”

Toughened

Rabinowitz explained that the truck design is meant to deliver on it being more recreational than commercial—as in people with boats and trailers rather than people with tool trailers or earth movers.

And while they worked to show that it is tough enough to take it (e.g., there is a beam shape on the body side that is meant to convey the image of the truck’s frame), they also worked to assure that it looked sufficiently high-tech, such as through the use of the slim, high-mounted headlights.

Locked In

Benjamin Jimenez, studio chief designer at Calty, who led the interior design, echoed that “this is more of a recreational truck, so our approach was different than that of our competitors,” said that unlike the competitors, who generally use a vertical layout to the elements of the interior, they opted to go horizontal with all elements of the interior interlocking (e.g., doors with IP and trim) to provide a strong look: “We didn’t want this to feel weak in any way,” Jimenez sad.

Another way of indicating that the ’22 Tundra is more for adventure than work: upon startup, there is an image of one of five national parks indicated on the gauge cluster.

A Green Car in “Nightshade”

When a car known for environmentally friendliness wants to have a bad-ass look, too

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the things that the people at Dodge are absolute masters of is taking their existing vehicles and then rolling out “special editions” of them. Chargers and Challengers keep gaining variants while fundamentally staying what they’ve long been.

But that isn’t the only brand in the game.

2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade edition. (Image: Toyota)

Toyota is offering “Nightshade” special editions. And the latest to get the treatment is the 2022 Prius.

Although one might imagine that a “Nightshade” vehicle would be black, and while there is Midnight Black Metallic paint available, there are two other colors: Super White and Silver Metallic. So two out of three aren’t black.

But there are black headlight accents, mirror caps, door handles, and the shark-fin antenna is also black.

For the FWD model there are black 17-inch alloys, 15-inch alloys for the AWD model. There are black lug nuts.

This is the fourth generation Prius since the hybrid was launched back in 1997.

While it has the reputation of being the synonym of “green,” evidently Toyota hopes that other colors resonate in the market.

Toyota Corolla Cross Introduced

Yes, another CUV in the lineup for Toyota

By Gary S. Vasilash

Who doesn’t like a crossover? Almost no one it seems.

Toyota has taken its Corolla and turned it into a crossover. It isn’t even trying to disguise that fact in any way. It is calling the vehicle the “Corolla Cross.”

Front wheel drive. All wheel drive (up to 50% of the power can go to the rear wheels when needed; otherwise there is a disconnection to save fuel).  A 169-hp engine and a continuously variable transmission (the “Direct Shift CVT” from the Corolla S—the sportier version of the sedan).

Toyota brings another crossover, the Corolla Cross, based on the TNGA-C architecture (Image: Toyota)

As gas is getting more expensive, know that the combined MPG for the AWD is estimated to be 30 and 32 for the FWD.

Yes, it can tow. Up to 1,500 pounds.

More importantly, perhaps, is that it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

While it has yet to be revealed what the cargo capacity is with the second row folded, behind the second row the FWD can handle 25.5 cubic feet and the AWD 24.3 cubic feet. Good for gear.

The Corolla has been on offer for some 50 years. Its sales numbers, year after year, as a sedan (and hatch), has been impressive.

Seems like it will be racking up some additional numbers, given the popularity of the vehicle in and of itself and the crossover architecture.

Not As Big 3 for SUVs

Toyota leads in SUV sales in the U.S.–by a non-trivial amount

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although it might seem that when it comes to trucks and SUVs, “trucky” things, that Ford, General Motors and the company formerly known as FCA which was formerly known as Chrysler, would be dominant.

When it comes to pickups, yes. The numbers of F-150s, Silverados and Rams is truly extraordinary. Who knew that so many people were in need of boxes on the back of their vehicles? (Yes, people who actually do work with their trucks, do, but somehow that guy down the street who uses the bed to carry mulch once a year. . . .)

According to analysis firm Inovev, SUVs represented 53.5% of the U.S. market during the first quarter.

Toyota RAV4: best selling SUV in the U.S. (Image: Toyota)

And of them, most carried the Toyota “T.”

Inovev notes that Toyota has outsold both Chevy and Ford by about 50,000 units, with Toyota sales being just shy of 250,000 units and the other two slightly below 200,000 for Q1.

Inovev points out that Toyota also leads the Big Three in the sedan category (Camry, Corolla).

So if there are three big categories–trucks, SUVs and cars–the Big Three is now only dominant in one.

Toyota Supporting MaaS in Dallas

Mobility as a Service from AARP to help seniors—although younger people can ride

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although Boomers don’t like to admit it, many of them are, well, old.

And a high percentage of them probably ought not drive.

And given that there are still ads that play on terrestrial TV in off hours for phones with GIANT NUMBERS, presumably some of those people are not particularly technically sophisticated.

Which is to say that credit should go to Toyota for its support of the AARP Ride@50+ program that is available in the Dallas area, a ride-hailing service that can be accessed on line or by phone (“Talk to a rear person to schedule your ride.”)

Think of it as Lyft or Uber for the AARP set (although, according to the FAQs, you don’t have to be an AARP member to use, and riders don’t have to be AARP aged, although it is meant for them, not for those who are looking for a ride after too many craft cocktails).

One of the purposes is to help get people to COVID-19 vaccination sites. Those people who book a ride to get a jab will get it for free, with Toyota picking up the tab.

Although it is easy to be smug about this (“Seriously, they can’t use Uber?”), as Sean Suggs, group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation, put it, “This program makes it easier to access critical services and help people get to where they want to go, and that is what mobility is all about.”

Toyota, Subaru and “Ever-better Cars”

A new 86/BRZ is being launched. But this is about a different approach

By Gary S. Vasilash

Toyota and Subaru developed a car that is tailored for each brand’s character, the 86 for Toyota and the BRZ for Subaru. The collaborative vehicle, which was launched in 2012, is built by neither, but by Magna in a plant in Austria.

The companies have introduced the new version of the vehicle, the GR 86 for Toyota and still BRZ for Subaru.

Toyota GR 86 (Image: Toyota)

What is interesting to note about this is that the companies have developed the rear-drive vehicle with a bigger engine—no surprise there—but they’ve gone from a 2.0-liter to a 2.4-liter that produces 232 hp.

Yes, bigger, but not in the least bit like the mill that would be likely installed in an American performance vehicle.

(Performance? According to Toyota, 0 to 100 km/h (this is a global intro, so km) in 6.3 seconds. This is an improvement from the previous car, which was 7.4 seconds.)

This is a lithe vehicle: it weighs just 2,800 lb.

If it is like the previous generation—and it probably is—then when you’re behind the wheel you feel like you’re wearing it, not just driving it.

This is a sentence from the press release that is worth pondering: “Going forward, Toyota and Subaru intend to further ally their respective strengths, deepen their relationship, and so pursue the possibilities of making ever-better cars.”

It isn’t often you hear car companies about creating “ever-better cars.”

Strange that they don’t.

Laudable that Toyota and Subaru do.