Tripping the white fantastic in the 2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone with its two-tone white-and-black leather cabin
Table of Contents
Tundra Redesign Challenge
2023 Toyota Tundra Pricing
iForce Powertrains and Fuel Economy
Ride and Handling
Why Buy the Toyota Tundra Capstone?
The Toyota Tundra pickup has long been dogging the tailgates of the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500. Though the Tundra has always been capable, its presentation seemed dumbed down to fit an outdated perception of the American pickup. Even its exterior styling was a mashup of “Fordamrolet.”
With a thorough redesign for 2022, Toyota has elevated the Tundra with style and technologies — for better and worse.
A few years ago, at a big four-wheelers desert run, I watched a Tundra throwing rooster tails of synchronized sand art as it swept up a steep dune. It was a dealership truck (by the license plate) and optioned with the TRD package. The truck’s ability was remarkable because this stock Tundra always made it to the top of the big dune, while caged buggies and fat-tired crawlers failed. It seemed insulting to the modified rigs. And a prime selling opportunity.
Toyota learns and evolves quickly. The 2023 Toyota Tundra lineup has seven trim levels, from basic work trucks to high luxury. But more than the basic trucks, luxury models have been added steadily.
Now in its third generation, the new Tundra was introduced for 2022. It was designed in the U.S. and built in Texas at Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMTX) in San Antonio.
At long last, the restyled Tundra breaks loose from most comparisons to the Big 3 pickups and plows through the air with a mug that won’t be confused as a Fordamrolet.
But just as it is challenging to master a foreign language, there is something uniquely American about a pickup. And not all foreign makers can master the lingo. Toyota is catching up.
“Technical muscle” was the Tundra design mantra for the 2022 makeover.
Inside the Tundra Capstone, the design group applied premium materials in high-contact areas, including wrapped armrests and pads across the dash and doors.
Toyota says that high-strength steel throughout the chassis increased rigidity considerably over the previous generation Tundra. Aluminum is used in critical areas to reduce weight. Frame cross members are more than doubled in size for reinforcement and additional rigidity. For the Limited model and above, the cab mounts to the frame with hydraulic mounts for a quieter ride.
Tundra’s bed of sheet-molded compound (SMC) is lightweight and extremely strong, backed by aluminum reinforcing cross members, Toyota says. An SMC bed is resistant to denting, impact dings, and rust corrosion.
There has been a small revolution in pickup tailgates. Some now offer a step-and-grab bar that folds away. Others have drop panels that form steps or accommodate a fifth-wheel trailer hitch. Some have a wider section for a work-site bench or even a connection for a Bluetooth audio system. Some have a tailgate measurement strip and indents for a cup or can.
Toyota’s innovation is the power tailgate release in the left-rear taillight. Just give it an elbow bump when walking up with an armload of gear, or release the tailgate from the key fob. And there is a power bed step at the driver-side left corner; the step lowers with the tailgate.
Toyota says that the Tundra tailgate benefits from light-weighting construction and is 20 percent lighter than the previous generation.
7 Tundra Trim Levels
As before, the new-gen Tundra is sold in two four-door body styles: Double Cab and CrewMax.
Double Cab models have bed-length choices of 6.5 feet or 8.1 feet. CrewMax models can have a 5.5-foot bed or the new 6.5-foot bed.
The 2023 Tundra lineup has seven choices: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 grades, TRD Pro, and Capstone. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with optional four-wheel drive.
At its introduction years ago, the Toyota Tundra Limited might have been the most luxurious choice. But as $70,000 has become the new $50,000 pickup, Toyota added a Platinum model and then the slightly more expensive 1794 with some Old West influences. The Tundra TRD, $9,000 more than the 1794, is the off-road package, but it’s pricey, starting at $70,000. And now the Tundra Capstone wears the luxury boots, and it is priced as such.
The Capstone is the halo choice with standard four-wheel drive, a CrewMax cab, 5.5-foot bed, and exclusive white-and-black leather cabin. Pricing starts at $77,000 or $79,000 with the one big factory option package. A wide range of accessories — including ball-hitch mounts, bed extenders, a dash camera, console safe, tie downs, racks, spray-on bedliner, or a hard tonneau cover — can nudge the price beyond $80,000.
High-luxury pickups don’t make practical sense, but they are impressive at the marina launch and equestrian events. Most Tundra sales are for midrange models, of course, but Toyota has to keep up with the Fordamrolets. And these country coaches are rich with options, including pearlescent paint, hand-tooled semi-aniline leather, and the most advanced technologies. If a passenger car can be so equipped, so can a pickup.
Tundra starting prices range from $38,760 for the entry rear-wheel-drive SR to $77,040 for the top-line Capstone iFORCE MAX with standard 4WD. Pricing includes the $1,795 freight charge from San Antonio.
The SR model is the basic work truck. Moving up to the SR5, $44,265, creates a more functional tow vehicle with a Class IV towing hitch and seven-pin wiring harness. Also included are tow-haul and tow-plus driving modes, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a power vertical or horizontal rear window.
The TRD Pro, $70,315, is factory primed for off-road capability. Its features include:
- Multi-terrain select with crawl control;
- A 1.1-inch lift with Fox shock absorbers;
- Electronically controlled locking differential.
Special TRD Pro features include a heritage-like “Toyota” grille with LED light bar and marker lights, 18-inch matte-black forged-aluminum BBS wheels, and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
The Capstone iFORCE MAX tester was $79,174 with these options:
- Adaptive variable suspension with load-leveling rear height control air suspension $1,045;
- Wind Chill Pearl paint $425;
- Ball mount $65;
- Non-skid spray-on bedliner $579.
Find current Tundra pricing and offers here.
Toyota’s basic 36-month/36,000-mile new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and corrosion with no mileage limitation.
Hybrid-related components, including the battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter, are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The hybrid battery has coverage of 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.
ToyotaCare covers regular factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Tundra has two 3.5-liter, twin-turbo iFORCE V-6 powertrains, both with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The transmission has a sequential shift mode, uphill-downhill shift logic, and tow/haul driving modes.
The sophisticated engine design uses Toyota’s D-4ST direct injection and port injection.
The entry V-6 for the SR trim has 348 horsepower and 405 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 p.m. The uplevel engine for the rest of the models has 389 hp and 479 lb.-ft. torque at 2,400 rpm.
The i-FORCE MAX hybrid twin-turbo V-6 is available only in the TRD Pro and Capstone trim levels. The hybrid powertrain has 437 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, and 583 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm.
Hybridization combines the V-6 and motor generator with a clutch in the bell housing between the engine and transmission. A 288-volt sealed nickel-metal hydride battery is under the rear passenger seats.
The motor generator adds power through the transmission. But parallel hybrid components function during engine start-up, EV driving, electric assist, and energy regeneration.
The electric motor does most of the work at speeds below 18 mph. Then the gasoline engine engages for power in the mid- and high-speed range. When using tow/haul mode, the engine is in full internal-combustion control.
i-FORCE MAX Performance
The torque is particularly well-suited for transporting livestock, boats, and travel trailers. The roll-on of acceleration is not abrupt and does not launch the truck with tire-spinning force. Instead, the power progressively moves out, preserving whatever is in or on the trailer and, perhaps, a bit of fuel.
Though more powerful, the hybrid iFORCE MAX engine has the best EPA-mileage ratings of the Tundra line: 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 MPG combined.
That mileage compares to the standard iFORCE V-6, with mileage ratings of 18/24/20 mpg for the SR trim and 18/23/20 mpg for the upper trims.
In my week of driving the hybrid iFORCE MAX, I worked up to a combined city-highway mileage rating of 15.6 mpg, with much highway cruising. With careful acceleration, the 32.2-gallon tank could stretch range to almost 500 miles.
Americans like big pickups because there is plenty of room in the cabin. The lowly passenger sedan has been mercilessly downsized to meet fuel economy and emissions standards.
With Capstone’s standard panoramic moonroof, Tundra’s front headroom is almost 10-gallon tall at 39.3 inches. There is room for large adults to spread out and plenty of storage and stash places.
Standard Capstone equipment is in the specs box at the end of this story. Among its luxury features are 10-way power seats, heated and ventilated. Power running boards are a welcome feature for a leg up to the front or rear seats.
A huge help in parking is the panoramic view monitor, which includes an overhead side-panel view panel of the truck. The color graphics are excellent on the 14-inch audio multimedia screen.
Back seat headroom is also tall (36.9 inches), and legroom is adult comfortable at 41.6 inches, even if there is a tall driver ahead.
Tundra had been a hold-out for rear leaf springs, but a new multi-link suspension has replaced the old. The change to a more carlike suspension provides a smoother ride, especially when the bed has no weight.
The multilink suspension has not hurt towing or payload. The maximum towing capacity for Tundra increases 17.6 percent over the previous generation, to 12,000 pounds. Toyota says the maximum payload increases to 1,940 pounds, an improvement of more than 11 percent.
For the first time, a rear air suspension system is available with automatic and manual leveling functions. Another first for Tundra is the available Adaptive Variable Suspension system. Toyota says that AVS improves ride quality and handling by continually adjusting damping force based on road conditions.
You might mistake the semi-aniline leather for Lexus upholstery, but the ride quality is still pickup truck. The multilink suspension, and particularly the adaptive suspension, eliminates the empty-bed chatter on the highway, but without cargo, in the bed, you’ll know this truck has working-class roots.
To put the binders on a six-ton towing capacity (6,095 pounds at the curb) requires hefty brakes. The Tundra has power-assisted and ventilated four-wheel discs. The large, 13.9-inch front discs have opposed dual-piston calipers. The rear 13.6-inch discs use single-piston calipers.
While lesser trim levels have a max towing rating of 12,000 pounds, the Capstone is rated for 10,340 pounds.
The full-size pickup today is designed to be intimidating. These are the broad-shoulder linemen in the scrimmage for recognition. The bigger, the better, which works well in the open plains, mountain terrain, and desert regions. Not so much in the city.
With the intimidation factor, however, comes too much mass in the design solely to impress the competition. Depending on the cab size, whether extended or full and the bed length, a typical full-size pickup turning circle ranges from about 40 to 52 feet and more.
The wheelbase of the Tundra Capstone CrewMax is 145.7 inches (a tick over 12 feet), and this rig is 80.2 inches wide, not including the large side mirrors. Its width is comparable to the competition, and so is its length of 233.6 inches or 19.5 feet with its 5.5-foot bed. The Capstone’s turning circle isn’t terrible at 48.6 feet. But these packers are not nimble when navigating city streets. Parking is a consideration when heading out on errands.
The Capstone was like steering a stormtrooper in its Wind Chill Pearl (white) paint ($425) and two-tone white and black interior. The height of the hood opening is 4 feet from the ground and another half foot taller with the (unnecessary) hood bulge.
Sightlines across the wide hood and blunt front end are challenged. It takes time to become comfortable navigating city streets. The iForce Max hood scoops are like epaulets on a commander’s uniform — ornamental, but they show who has the big swinging sword. The pair of scoops flanking the hood are nonfunctional except to complicate sightlines at the fenders.
Light Duty vs. Heavy Duty
The Big 3 competing pickups, however, also offer heavy-duty versions. These have higher tow ratings, spring rates, and payload capacity. The H-D models are typically a half-inch to an inch wider, a few inches taller, and about 10 to 18 inches longer. Toyota appears to split the difference by offering a one size Tundra with dimensions landing between half-ton and three-quarter-ton ratings, or light vs. heavy duty.
And that’s why the Tundra feels bigger than it needs to be. Driving the Capstone in town was like steering a stormtrooper in its Wind Chill Pearl (white) paint ($425) and two-tone white and black interior. The height of the hood opening is 4 feet from the ground and another half foot taller with the (unnecessary) hood bulge.
The iForce Max adds to the sightline complexity with a pair of non-functional “scoops” flanking the rear of the hood. They are ornamental — like epaulets on a commander’s uniform — but they show the troops who has the big swinging sword.
Sightlines across the wide hood, side mirrors and blunt front end are challenged, made more complex with the faux iForce Max scoops. It takes time to become comfortable navigating city streets.
All new full-size pickups on sale today offer pretty much the same thing. It just depends upon the church in which you believe. The brands copy each other and then make a modification to offer something unique. And then boast that their way is the truth and the light.
The Tundra will appeal to those disciples of Toyota. And in my experience, Toyota puts a little more effort into more precise engineering to do it right the first time.
The Tundra Capstone, with its white leather interior, isn’t a work truck or for the construction, boss pulling into muddy work sites. It’s not for the off-road adventurer. It’s not especially suited for the homeowner loading up at the building supply center. It can fill all those roles, but the Tundra Capstone will be most at home when hitched to a horse trailer for prestigious shows or riding events. You’ll also find the Capstone at the marina, steering a big boat down the ramp. In those venues, the Tundra Capstone will make a stunning statement — and vigorous use won’t cause undue harm to the pristine interior.
Body style: full-size, 5-seat pickup with 5.5-foot bed
Engine: 437-hp, 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged iForce Max V-6 Hybrid with water intercoolers and electric motor-generator; 583 lb.-ft. torque at 2,400 rpm
Hybrid components: Parallel hybrid system with permanent magnet electric motor-generator located between engine and transmission;
Electric motor output: 48 hp and 184 lb.-ft. torque
Hybrid battery: 288-volt nickel-metal hydride with 240 cells; 1.87 kWh capacity
Transmission: 10-speed sequential shift mode automatic, with uphill-downhill shift logic and tow-haul driving modes; 4WDemand part-time 4WD with electronically controlled two-speed transfer case (high/low range)
Fuel economy: 19/22/20 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane or higher
Towing capacity: 10,340 pounds
Max payload: 1,485 pounds
Max tongue weight: 1,117 pounds
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 32.2 gallons
Front head/leg room: 39.3*/41.2 inches *w/moonroof
Rear head/leg room: 36.9/41.6 inches
Shoulder room, front and rear: 65/ 62.4 inches
Length/wheelbase: 233.6/145.7 inches
Width/height: 80.2/78 inches
Curb weight: 6,095 pounds
Turning circle: 48.6 feet
Standard Capstone equipment includes: power tilt-slide sunroof, semi-aniline upholstery, 12-inch digital gauge display; 10-inch head-up windshield display, 10-way power adjustable (heated and ventilated) front seats with 4-way lumbar, heated and ventilated rear seats, 14-inch audio multimedia screen with 12-speaker JBL audio system with subwoofer, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, 22-inch dark chrome alloy wheels, aluminum reinforced composite bed with 120-volt AC power outlet and LED lighting, auto-leveling LED headlights, power running boards and bed step;
Safety features and technologies include: 8 air bags, precollision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic cruise control, lane-departure with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, blind-spot monitor, trailer backup guide with straight path.
Base 2023 Capstone price: $77,040, including $1,795 freight charge; price as tested $79,174
Options on test vehicle: Adaptive variable suspension with load-leveling rear height control air suspension $1,045; Wind Chill Pearl paint $425; ball mount $65; non-skid spray-on bedliner $579
Where assembled: San Antonio, Texas