2022 Toyota Tundra i-Force Max Hybrid Tech Dive

Leapfrogging the current toyota tundra’s technology doesn’t require much heavy lifting. The poor old dear started production in November 2006, and although it received a face-lift in 2014, its sole remaining powertrain for 2021—a 5.7-liter DOHC V-8 and six-speed automatic—has remained largely unchanged since day one. In a stunning realignment with the times, the 2022 toyota tundra bristles with turbos, laser-applied valve seats, machined cylinder head cooling channels, a 10-speed automatic, and—pearls-clutch—hybridization.

Yes, the all-new Tundra will once again offer two powertrain options, but both involve a Ford EcoBoost-evoking “3.5-liter” twin-turbo V-6 at their heart. Standing alone, this 3,445 cc six-banger produces 389 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque—that’s eight horses and 78 lb-ft more than the geriatric eight it replaces. By slipping an electric motor into the transmission bell housing between the flywheel and torque converter, those figures jump to 437 hp at 5,200 rpm and a class-walloping 583 lb-ft of torque at only 2,400 rpm. (Save the Googling—that’s 13 more than the Ford-150’s PowerBoost twin-turbo V-6 spools out and just 67 shy of the ridonk Ram 1500 TRX.)

No Prius-Parts-Bin Raid

Truckers need not fret that the new Tundra will suffer those e-CVT rubber-banding sound effects they’ve winced at in Prius taxi rides; nor need they be concerned about the PhD-level complicated setup in that virtual-10-speed hybrid found in the rear-drive Lexus LC500h. The 2022 Tundra’s system shares virtually nothing with any previous Toyota hybrid. You won’t even find any badges acknowledging the “H” word—rather, this is an “i-FORCE MAX.” The electric motor itself produces 48 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, and the clutch that connects it to the engine is sandwiched inside the motor’s rotor. (The need to package a clutch eroded the potential packaging advantage that might have come with a slimmer axial-flux “pancake” motor.) This clutch allows the Tundra’s hybrid motor to start and instantly propel the truck after any auto stop/start event, though a traditional starter is also fitted and used for cold starts. The nickel-metal-hybrid battery pack positioned beneath the rear seat cushion has a capacity of 1.9 kWh. That’s small, but it’s reportedly sufficient enough to provide the assistance Toyota’s going for when it comes to acceleration, climbing grades, etc. Anything larger would only support electric-only range, which was not a priority here.

The Trucker’s Hybrid

Efficiency was of secondary importance in the design of the i-Force Max (we’ll eschew the shout-case from here on). The goal instead was to deliver a diesel-like torque curve. This helps explain retaining a torque converter rather than just letting the electric motor handle launches from a stop. The converter provides the smaller motor some torque multiplication when launching the 2022 Tundra with a trailer attached, heading up a steep grade, or overcoming off-road obstacles. Once underway, the torque converter typically locks up, but slipping it a little during transmission shifts makes for smoother acceleration.

Multiple Driving Modes, but No EV Button

The Tundra i-Force Max will drive around at low speeds and low loads under electric-only power in its default “Normal” drive mode, and the motor will support light pure-electric cruising at highway speeds. But this is not the rig to get you across some future EVs-only city center. The engine is always on in the Tundra’s Tow and Tow+ modes and in its various off-road modes (TRD Pro, sand, mud, etc.) to prevent the potential for a clumsy restart if torque demand suddenly increases. (Note: Mud mode permits the driver to spin the tires fast enough to sling mud from the treads.) Tow mode is aimed at typical small boat or camper loads under 5,000 pounds, while Tow+ dials everything up for the heaviest loads. Speaking of max towing, the heavier Tundra i-Force Max’s rating is slightly lower than the base i-Force—11,300 to 11,500 pounds versus 12,000.

About That 10-Speed ECTi Transmission

Although it’s related to the 10-speed used for the Lexus LS sedan, this significantly upsized and reinforced version features entirely new ratios and will make its debut in the 2022 Tundra before proliferating through the global Sequoia, Land Cruiser/Lexus LX truck portfolio. The transmission was designed in-house at Toyota with a basic planetary-gear arrangement that’s similar in scope to the jointly developed Ford/GM 10-speed. Considering it replaces a six-speed, it’s no surprise that mass and size are increased, but at a much smaller percentage than the increases in performance and efficiency.

More Power, More Efficiency

Final EPA results aren’t available yet, but we’re assured that—unlike with the V-6 or V-8 powertrain choice that faced previous Tundra buyers—opting for i-Force Max will improve power, performance, refinement, and fuel efficiency. We’re also eager to see how the price premium compares with its competition as we get closer to the 2022 Tundra’s launch date in late 2021.

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