Toyota's entry into the extremely completive full-size truck market is the Tundra. While it has been updated over the years since its most recent makeover in 2007. It's still basically the same truck, which makes it the oldest design in the class. Tundra is offered in three body styles: extended cab short bed, extended cab long bed and crew cab. Changes for 2020 include a revised infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play support, the deletion of the base V8 and additional availability of the TRD Pro trim. Competitors include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan and Ram 1500.
Trim levels include SR, SR5, Limited, off-road themed TRD Pro, Platinum and 1794, which commemorates the founding of the Texas ranch that's currently the site of the Tundra assembly plant in Texas. The extended cab is called Double Cab and it is offered with either a 6.5- or 8.1-foot bed. Crew Cabs are called Crew Max and come only with a 5.5-foot bed. SR models come only in Double Cab form with either long or short bed. SR5 models are offered with all three configurations. Limited and TRD Pro come in Double Cab short bed or Crew Max form. Platinum and 1794 come only with the Crew Max configuration.
For 2020 all Tundras get a 5.7-liter V8 that makes 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft or torque. It mates to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Tundra comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Available across the model lineup is a part-time 4WD system with a low range and automatic limited-slip differential. Maximum towing capacity ranges from 9,800 to 10,200 depending on model.
Every Tundra comes standard with the Toyota Star Safety System. It includes vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist. Also available are front and rear parking assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert. New for 2020 is an enhanced infotainment system that features a touchscreen with standard support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Also available is support for Amazon Alexa.
While most competitors offer a mix of engines, Tundra comes with but one, a 5.7-liter V8. Churning out 381 horsepower, the Tundra's V8 can feel a bit underpowered in the 5,500-pound pickup. From a standstill, initial pickup is good, but passing response is only fair. Making matters worse, the slow-shifting 6-speed automatic feels positively archaic compared to the great 10-speed found in the F-150 and Silverado. Downshifts take too long and are slurred as engine power ramps up. Thankfully, the engine cruises quietly and is very smooth overall.
Tundra comes standard with rear-wheel drive and a locking rear differential. Also available is a part-time 4WD system that's not designed to be used on dry pavement. The 4WD system does have a low range for extreme off-road use, however. In addition, the TRD Pro model comes factory equipped with all of the heavy-duty goodies necessary to make Tundra a true off-road champion.
EPA ratings of 13 MPG city and 18 MPG highway are amongst the lowest in the class. Thankfully, the engine runs fine on regular-grade gasoline and there's a 38-gallon fuel tank on Limited and above. In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 17 MPG overall.
The Tundra really shows its age when you get behind the wheel. Most other large pickups, most notably the Ram 1500, offer a ride that's composed and comfortable, yet still surprisingly maneuverable. The Tundra ride feels a bit hard and bouncy in comparison. Though never choppy or off-putting, the ride just isn't as refined as its domestic competitors. As you'd expect, the Tundra needs a lot of room to turn around and can feel a bit like a bull in a china shop tight parking lots.
At the same time, handling limits are surprisingly good and the Tundra doesn't get clumsy on the highway. Plus, its tenacious off road in base trim and simply unstoppable in TRD Pro trim. The steering is a trifle slow at all speeds, but the brakes seem to have ample stopping power and are nicely balanced. One deficit is he lack of a true 4WD Auto mode. That means that the Tundra must be left in 2WD mode most of the time and shifted into 4WD Hi or Low when the road gets slippery. Most competitors offer a 4WD system that has an Auto mode.
When it comes to towing and hauling, the Tuntra is rated just below the class leaders. Maximum towing is still a healthy 10,200 pounds and the payload rating ranges up to 1,730 pounds. The Ford F-150 for example has a max. towing rating of 13,200 pounds and max. payload rating of more than 3,000 pounds.
Tundra is surprisingly quiet at speed. The tires create very little road noise and wind rush is nicely quelled. The engine only growls in hard acceleration. Like most full-size trucks with a true 4WD system there's some first-gear whine when pulling away on cold mornings, but it quickly dissipates.
Tundra's Crew Max (crew cab) offers ample roof for 5 adults. The front seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered for a truck, while the rear seats have good padding as well, but a somewhat upright backrest. Head and leg room are generous anywhere you sit and there's ample room for three abreast seating in back. Entry-exit can be a challenge, especially on TRD Pro models with the additional ride height, but the door openings are large and there are available running boards and grab handles. Outward visibility is great and the outside mirrors are large.
Tundra's cabin, though thoroughly modern, seems a bit dated when you switch over from an F-150 or Ram 1500. Materials range from work-rated to plush depending on trim level. Regardless of trim, the fit and assembly quality are excellent. The driver faces a traditional twin dial setup with the obligatory center information center. The analog gauges are easy to read at a glance, day or night. The center stack gets either a 7- or 8-inch touch screen that incorporates Toyota's infotainment system. Around and below that screen are conventional dials and buttons for audio and climate control.
Toyota's infotainment system gets a big boost for 2020 with the addition of Android Auto and Apple Car Play support. As well, it also incorporates Amazon Alexa for remote commands. It's a welcome upgrade. By itself the infotainment system seems a bit dated when compared to competitors, but it gets the job done with minimal fuss and doesn't distract.
Tundra's cargo boxes aren't as deep as those offered by competitors and that's both good and bad. The lower sidewalls make it easier to load and unload, but also reduce maximum capacity. Also, Toyota eschews any form of gimmicky tailgate to simply provide one that opens as closes as you'd expect. Inside, there's ample storage all over the place and nice bins under the rear seats. Tundra's max. towing and payload deficits, while substantial on paper, don't translate in the real world as the Tundra's V8 and brakes seem up to the challenge when driving with a heavy load or trailer.
Bottom Line -- Tundra's the oldest truck in the class and definitely feels it in back-to-back drives. That's not necessarily such a bad thing as age in truck design usually translates into reliability. And based on its track record for longevity and resale value, the Tundra wins out. That said, the ride could use a bit more refinement, a fully-boxed frame would lead to better towing and payload ratings and a more modern/economical engine option would be welcome. Tundra buyers are fiercely loyal and Toyota has consistently updated its big truck, keeping it competitive and in demand.