Toyota’s 2020 Tundra offers a spacious ride
The Toyota Tundra hasn’t been changed much from year to year, but then again, why should it? The Tundra, a full-sized pickup truck with a crew-cab design, has two advantages over its competitors: lower pricing, and Toyota reliability and quality. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like to see a few changes to this generally fine truck.
The truck we tested was a top-of-the-line 1794 Edition CrewMax, decked out in Voodoo Blue paint. (The 1794 designation honors the founding of the Texas ranch where Toyota’s factory now stands.) The truck’s base price was $51,675, nudged up to $55,199 with options and handling fee. Among the options were Toyota Racing Development’s off-road package, running boards, power moonroof and spray-on bedliner.
All Tundra trucks have 5- or 6-passenger cabs — hence the $5,000 price difference between the Chevrolet Silverado work truck and the lowest-priced Tundra ($33,575). Every Tundra also has the 381-horsepower V-8 engine, which is rated at 13 mpg city, 17 highway. We averaged 16.1 mpg in mostly highway driving.
We were pleased with the Tundra’s riding qualities, and its handling certainly was no worse than what we’ve come to expect from all big pickup trucks save Fiat Chrysler’s uncommonly agile Ram. We especially liked the simplicity and clear markings of the audio, climate and drive controls. Toyota’s Entune infotainment system worked well in managing phone and text conversations on the highway.
The cab’s interior looked nice and featured comfortable leather upholstery, but the ambience was diminished by the presence of plastic panels that felt inexpensive. The high-gloss faux wood panels were particularly egregious in this respect. Otherwise, however, there was nothing cheap about the feel and performance of the truck itself.
Standard features included premium audio system, navigation, Toyota Safety Sense package and Star Safety System, towing package, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, WiFi Connect, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Among the handful of changes we would make, if we were in charge of Toyota’s truck division: first, we’d increase the steering system’s weight. It felt too light at all speeds and situations. Second, we’d either shorten the wheelbase (to improve the truck’s handling and manageability in parking lots) or lengthen the bed, at the expense of the limousine-like rear bench seat. Unless you regularly transport NBA centers in the back seat, there’s no need for such spacious knee and foot room. Third, we’d offer high-efficiency engine choices rather than only the thirsty V-8. People who don’t plan to tow horse trailers or cabin cruisers likely would prefer a smooth, gasoline-stingy V-6 like the 278-horsepower engine that powers the smaller Toyota Tacoma truck. It delivers 18 mpg city, 22 highway, even with all-wheel drive.
Competitors include General Motors’ Sierra and Chevy Silverado; the Ford F150; the Nissan Titan; and the Ram 1500. Our favorite in this group is the Ram, thanks to its car-like handling, and available V-6 and diesel engines.
2020 Toyota Tundra TRD 4x4 1794 Edition Crewmax
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8, 381 horsepower, 401 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: 4W Demand, part-time 4x4 system with electronically controlled transfer case
Ground clearance: 10.4 in.
Weight: 5,670 lb.
Suspension: independent coil-spring high-mounted double-wishbone, front and rear
Wheels: 18-in. split 5-spoke alloy wheels
Tires: P275/65R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Maximum payload: 1,530 lb.
Maximum towing capacity: 8,800 lb.
Fuel capacity: 38 gal.
Fuel economy: 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.