The big Toyota Tundra pickup got a full-on redesign last year, and now there's something new under the hood. While the name i-Force MAX sounds bold and tough, what it actually means is hybrid.
Yes, the company that created the Prius has now added hybrid power as an option on its biggest truck. Gas and electricity combine to offer improved fuel efficiency and a significant increase in both power and torque.
With this newest offering, Toyota has now brought a hybrid option to essentially its entire lineup. Of course the Prius leads in hybrid volume, with millions sold around the world over the past 20+ years. And today essentially every Toyota model is now offered as a hybrid, from the Corolla compact to the Sienna minivan.
The very capable big-gun Tundra pickup isn't going to sip fuel like a Prius. But it does out-perform the regular Tundra's twin-turbo V6 by adding the electric component. Fuel economy is up by 2 mpg in city driving for all trim levels. But more importantly to many truck buyers, horsepower and torque have increased quite a bit. The i-Force MAX Tundra delivers 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque, up from the regular iForce engine's figures of 389 and 479. Need to tow something? It can pull over 11,000 pounds. Prices for the Tundra with the hybrid powertrain start at $53,000.
Despite Toyota being somewhat synonymous with hybrid power, they aren't the first to bring the technology to the pickup world. Chevrolet came out with one in the mid-2000s, and Ford launched its hybrid F-150 Powerboost last year. The Ford hybrid's mpg numbers beat the Toyota's by a few mpg, notably on the highway driving cycle.
When crunching the numbers for the new hybrid-powered Tundra, a 2-mpg increase might not sound like a lot, though it's actually around a 10% improvement over the non-hybrid truck. Though it should be noted that pickups like this tend to stay on the road for a very long time, sometimes up to 30 years or more. So over that span of time, and covering perhaps 200,000 or even 300,000 miles. In the long run, that small increase could really add up.
And there could be a day when every Tundra is a hybrid. Its mechanical sibling, the upcoming Sequoia SUV, will have hybrid power standard, using the same i-Force MAX system.
What about a full-electric truck, as competitors like Ford and GM are introducing? No promises of something like that, and a great number of pickup buyers have no interest in a truck without a conventional engine. Someday? Maybe, or maybe not. Toyota has only said they'll be adding lots of electrification to its vehicle lineup, but not dropping conventional engines completely.
In the meantime, you can think of the new Tundra as the "Prius of pickup trucks," though with a name and an engine name with a much tougher ring to them.