Tundra fundra: MPG is breathtakingly different between Toyota Tundra and Lexus CT200h

Sections: Fuel Economy

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2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 Photo Shoot 031

That reading says 14.2 MPG in the 2014 Toyota Tundra SR5. Though I managed to get that to tick up to 14.3, that’s as good as it got. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

So far this year, I’ve received an eclectic stream of test vehicles. I’ve gone from an ultra-luxe Hyundai Equus to a sporty Subaru BRZ, then into a Ram 1500 ProMaster delivery van. You get the idea. But so far, I haven’t jumped from one car to the next to experience such a massive difference in fuel economy. When you go from a Lexus CT200h into a huge Toyota Tundra SR5, however, the difference in fuel economy nearly takes your breath away.

I’m not gonna rag on the Toyota Tundra SR5 for getting worse mileage than a hybrid — any hybrid. It is what it is, and what it is, is a truck. As far as most parking spaces are concerned, it’s a truck-and-a-half.

Still, it’s kind of a shock when you trade the press car delivery guy the keys to a Lexus CT200h, which had achieved 43.5 MPG after a week of not-always-easy driving, and climb into the tall cab of a Toyota Tundra SR5 and turn the key only to be greeted by a dashboard display that says your distance to empty is 280 miles. That’s even more shocking when you grab your phone and go online to find that the long bed Tundra SR5 has a 26-gallon fuel tank.

Granted, the truck had sat idling for a few minutes in the parking lot before I got in it, and it was still very early in the tank. I figured it would improve into the high teens, maybe. But I should have remembered my experience with the 1794 Edition Tundra last year. It never broke above 15 MPG. Neither, ultimately, would the Tundra SR5. In fact, it would do worse.

At the end of the test week, I was staring at 14.3 MPG on the trip computer. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make any road trips in the Tundra that would have made a mid-week fill-up necessary. Feeding a truck this large is not cheap.

Am I surprised? No. The EPA rates the Tundra at 15 MPG combined in V8 form, and being that my mileage skewed slightly more toward city driving than normal, there’s no shock here. What is a little bit shocking to me is Toyota’s seeming lack of concern for fuel economy-minded powertrain development. This is a malady Nissan shares with them — I barely managed to get a Nissan Titan PRO-4X into the 16 MPG range. But for the biggest purveyor of hybrid automobiles in America not to have a high-MPG trim of its full-size truck strikes me as strange. Sure, there’s a V6 option — something Nissan doesn’t even bother with anymore in its Titan — but even it is only rated at 17 MPG combined.

Forgetting how ashamed I was of my lack of large truck parking prowess, I have to say if Toyota could bring a heavy-duty Hybrid Synergy Drive system into the Tundra, I’d probably shop one. I’d also probably buy a few orange cones and go to an abandoned lot to practice parking.

Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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