Will the next Toyota Tundra have hybrid power?

Yesterday, the internet was awash with images of a Toyota Tundra development mule prowling around Ann Arbor. In its shadow was a current model F-150, which makes perfect sense since it is America’s best-selling truck and is likely being benchmarked by the Toyota R&D team while working on a new pickup of their own.

Two things caught your author’s eye in the spy photos, both of them pertaining to the rear end.

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Few caught the fact that this Tundra development truck is wearing six-lug wheels. Current-gen Tundras have five-lug hubs, meaning the next pickup from the Big T will likely gain a lugnut on each corner. Ram did this for its new 1500. On its own, this is not overly significant but does portend a possible jump in payload rating. The development mule shown here is missing a lug nut on the driver’s-side rear, for whatever that’s worth.

However, the bigger news is what’s happening under the box. It is clear that Toyota doesn’t want anyone to see what’s there, as the test truck is shod with road-hugging camo foiling a closer look. Some are predicting the company is in the throes of developing an air suspension system, a feature which would allow it to go toe-to-toe with Ram in that department. Rumors of an independent rear suspension are also being floated in some corners but that would probably not fly with traditional pickup truck buyers.

Your author is extremely suspicious, however, of the rear passenger-side wheel. It is a completely different style than the other three wheels, with no obvious lug nuts at all and a very unique design, not to mention bearing a different brand of tire. In fact, it looks not unlike the in-hub electric motors that some companies are touting as the Next Big Thing.

I don’t think Toyota is necessarily going in that direction, but it makes more than a drop of sense that they would be developing some sort of hybrid system to power the next Tundra. After all, the company has scads of experience in that sort of propulsion and are arguably singlehandedly responsible for the rise of the hybrid car with its Prius.

If Toyota beats the Detroit Three to market with a plug-in electric truck making big torque, it would certainly give new life to an aging pickup that current lags behind its competition in just about every measure.

Sources say the next Tundra will enjoy a major styling refresh but retain the current cab since, well, that’s expensive to re-engineer. The interior is said to be all-new, along with an updated bed and tailgate. In terms of powertrain, don’t be surprised to see the 10-speed automatic that is currently in the Lexus LC/LS and slated to show up in all Toyota rear-drive machines, including the Tundra.

Look for the 2020 Toyota Tundra to show up later this year, possibly at the State Fair of Texas in September.

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