2022 Toyota Tundra Hybrid First Drive Review: All About Acceleration

The new Tundra’s updates finally make it modern again, and that’s thanks to its optional hybrid powertrain.

byFeb 1, 2022 7:00 AM
2022 Toyota Tundra Hybrid First Drive Review: All About Acceleration
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By now, you're likely well aware that the 2022 Toyota Tundra is the first all-new, full-size pickup from the world's largest automaker in 15 years. Its changes and updates had to be drastic in order to draw in customers with their eyes and ears otherwise trained elsewhere in the United States' hottest new vehicle segment. While I got to check out the non-hybrid Tundra back in October, nobody outside Toyota has spent much time driving the barnstorming hybrid model—until now. Overall, this third-gen Tundra is a giant leap over the V8-powered truck it replaces, and a big part of that is thanks to its coil-sprung rear suspension and fresh body-on-frame platform. 

With a claimed 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque, the hybrid Tundra makes 48 hp and 104 lb-ft more than the gas-only version, which has no fancy battery or electric motor to assist its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6. This hybrid powertrain is what's going into Toyota's most premium Tundras, which is why it's standard on the four-wheeling TRD Pro model and lux Capstone trim. It's sort of about fuel efficiency but mainly about performance, an area the Tundra once lagged behind in as its American counterparts bet on forced induction and even bigger V8s.

The Drive / Caleb Jacobs

In a time when everybody's chasing huge towing stats—automakers and customers included—Toyota's remaining faithful to its core values of quality, durability, and reliability (QDR). Luckily for us, that can all still be paired with big-time power.

2022 Toyota Tundra Hybrid Specs

  • Base price: $53,995
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid | 10-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 437 @ 5,200 rpm
  • Torque: 583 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
  • Max payload capacity: 1,680 pounds​​​​
  • Max towing capacity: 11,450 pounds
  • Off-road angles (TRD Pro): 21˚ approach | 24˚ departure (26.2˚ approach | 24.2˚ departure)
  • Ground clearance (TRD Pro): 8.5 inches (9.0 inches)
  • Fuel economy estimate: 20 mpg city | 24 highway | 22 combined for 4x2 and 19 mpg city | 22 highway | 21 combined for 4x4 
  • Quick take: Super solid to drive with plenty of zip and refinement, but no party tricks like the Ford F-150 PowerBoost.
  • Score: 8/10

Prior to 2022, every new Tundra came with a V8. It was a departure for Toyota, then, to can that altogether and replace it with a base boosted V6. That engine is well and good on its own if a little lacking compared to the Ford F-150's top-grade EcoBoost, which makes 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. The Tundra hybrid, however, leapfrogs the Blue Oval's own hybrid half-ton that falls just a bit short on paper with 430 hp and 570 lb-ft.

Plainly put, Tundras with the hybrid are the best Toyota has to offer. That's on purpose, and it's something the company as a whole spent roundabout a decade getting just right, as one powertrain engineer explained to me. There's a lot riding on it to deliver and even though Toyota said at the Tundra's press launch that it doesn't expect to become the top truck seller, it still wants to move as many as it can because that's how you make more profit. That's also why the aforementioned Capstone exists—if other OEMs can cash in on fancy trucks with 22-inch wheels, why can't Toyota?

The Drive / Caleb Jacobs

Only those with a sharp eye will be able to spot a Tundra hybrid in passing. There's an "i-Force Max" badge on the hood that delineates the powertrain, and on that big grille up front is a familiar Toyota logo with blue outlining that indicates "hybrid." The rest of the truck's exterior design sticks to the same formula as all the other 2022 Tundras—there are no hybrid-specific headlights, taillights, and so on. People seem to love or hate the new design; as for me, I'm cool with it. You can't be timid in this class, and it's safe to say the automaker hasn't been with this one.

Anyone who thinks new trucks should be the same as they were in the '80s won't like the move away from natural aspiration and simple science; everyone else, though, will love this thing once they floor it. I'm not saying it's Corvette quick, but for a 4x4 pickup that weighs a skosh over 6,000 pounds, it scoots. Thanks to all the ratios provided by its 10-speed automatic transmission, that's true at any speed—highway or around-town—though it's best when the limit bumps from 35 mph to 55 and beyond.

Here's a plain view of the 2022 Toyota Tundra hybrid's powertrain., The Drive / Caleb Jacobs
And there's the 1.87-kilowatt-hour NiMH battery that sits underneath the rear seats., The Drive / Caleb Jacobs

Now, if you're not already in the optimal gear to get up and go, it takes a hot second for the truck to find it. That said, it is still a truck and nobody should expect dual-clutch quickness from equipment that also has to tow as a key part of its job description. The shifts come smooth, whether you're hard on the power or not, and I'd put it right up there with the other 10-speed automatics from Ford and GM.

Knowing that the truck is so darn heavy, I never expected my butt to stay where it was in the seat when cornering aggressively. That said, because of the coil-spring rear suspension, it negotiates turns just fine without excessive body roll. You might not believe it yet, but it's okay for trucks to not have leaf springs—the 2022 Tundra is proof, and Ram's been building them that way for a while now.

One option worth adding to any Tundra with the hybrid is Toyota's air-assisted Adaptive Variable Suspension. People will try to tell you it exists for comfort's sake but truly, it's to keep the truck's posture in check when it's got a load on. The difference is noticeable between models that do and don't have it, and if you're already springing for the hybrid, it only makes sense to add AVS. It's available in the $1,045 Advanced Package, which also includes a 10-inch color head-up display. This is how the Capstone test truck was outfitted and I thought it was well worth it.

The Drive / Caleb Jacobs

Speaking of towing, the Tundra hybrid handles the task without complaint, even though it doesn't boast the seven-ton listed max of the most capable F-150. Since this was a manufacturer-arranged test drive, I could only test what was provided, and the heaviest trailer setup was a 4,500-pound Airstream camper; hardly a challenge for this big unit. That said, I pulled one about the same size with a non-hybrid 2022 Tundra last year, and the difference in acceleration is noticeable—when I get my hands on one with 10,000 pounds or so behind it, I'll be sure to update you.

The hybrid system adds a little over 600 pounds given all the extra components, so its towing ceiling is slightly lower because those capabilities, in general, are limited more by frame and suspension ratings than power. Still, with the springs out back and especially with AVS equipped, the hybrid Tundra is confidence-inspiring in uphill, downhill, and flat-land driving environments. Plus, 11,175 pounds of towing capacity is nothing to scoff at.

In my admittedly limited amount of seat time, I found that the brakes were always adequate, whether the truck was loaded or unloaded. They're not grabby like you'll find in some other hybridized trucks—the Ford Maverick hybrid's brakes are noticeably more abrupt than the gas-only model's—making the transition essentially seamless for drivers who've only ever experienced pure gas or diesel.

You won't be distracted or annoyed by wind noise, which you can thank Toyota's QDR policy for. The Tundra Capstone even has acoustic glass, meaning you hear more of what's going on inside and less of the turbulence that's going on outside. It's especially neat when you're taking off from a long stop because, unless you're flooring it, the hybrid powertrain starts in electric-only mode and kicks on the gas engine when needed, usually around 18 mph. It's not selectable, though—the truck decides when to engage the internal combustion engine. And thanks to the truck's smart one-motor hybrid setup, it can run on electric power, internal combustion power, or both; the mechanical and electrical power paths aren't reliant on each other. 

Seat comfortability is expectedly better in the Capstone than lower models, though every one fit my 6'5" frame just fine. That's a plus of any full-size truck, and the visibility is solid as well. Heck, the entire rear window rolls down, and an optional camera system provides views of the bed and rear-mounted hitch. 

The new 14-inch Toyota infotainment system shines here, too, just like it does in the normal Tundra. As a refresher, it's optional on the Tundra SR5 and standard on Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, TRD Pro, and Capstone models. With speedy voice command responses and an intuitive user interface, it's lightyears ahead of what the truck had before.

The Drive / Jerry Perez

Speaking strictly in terms of full hybrid half-ton pickups, the electrified Tundra's only direct rival is the Ford F-150 PowerBoost. It's no coincidence that the two are super similar from a powertrain perspective; both have twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V6s and the power numbers are admittedly close. That's because Ford and Toyota worked together on hybrids as part of a joint venture that dissolved in 2013. The two went their separate ways and you can see the different conclusions each automaker reached, with Ford offering its hybrid powertrain on every trim and Toyota only selling it on Limited and above Tundras. 

The pricing comparison is a little more nuanced, then, because you can get a barebones F-150 XL crew cab hybrid for just $42,840; meanwhile, a Tundra Limited with the hybrid powertrain will set you back $53,995 including destination. On the other end of the spectrum, an ultra-comfy F-150 Limited PowerBoost costs $78,575 while the hybrid-only Tundra Capstone begins at $73,530. There are two key differences between the two models, and I'll start with the big one. 

The 2022 Toyota Tundra hybrid has nothing to compete with Ford's Pro Power Onboard mobile inverter system. There's accessible power in the bed, though it's nothing like Ford's available 7.2 kilowatts that can run an entire job site or a house by itself. The Tundra is fine without it, but knowing that another truck has the additional equipment for about the same money makes things feel... shortchanged.

The Drive / Caleb Jacobs

Additionally, the Tundra doesn't have a true hands-free driving assist that's comparable to Ford's BlueCruise or GM's Super Cruise. While the Capstone, 1794 Edition, Platinum, and some Limited trim Tundras come with radar cruise control, lane keep assist, and lane centering assist, they are simply not the same as a system that can navigate hundreds of thousands of miles mostly on its own. The 2022 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra can even do it while pulling a trailer.

Those two low points make the Tundra hybrid less attractive to what I'd consider a healthy chunk of customers. Toyota may say it's not trying to beat Ford or GM at their own game when it comes to volume, and without those features, it won't. I wouldn't be surprised to see an SAE Level 2 driving assist system down the line, though, and I think most of us are hoping for a comparable onboard electric power source from Toyota in its trucks eventually.

In all, I like the 2022 Tundra for its new platform, its improved and modern infotainment, and yes, its hybrid power plant. It's the right choice for someone who prefers comfort to outright work capabilities, and if you don't see yourself needing portable power in bulk, then it's bound to impress. I'd wager to say that'd even be true months into ownership. Just know what you need before you buy because if you're easily sold on gadgets and gizmos, you might be swayed into something else.

Still, if you drive home a Tundra hybrid, though, you're not likely to be let down.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: caleb@thedrive.com.