When it comes to light trucks, Toyota is playing the long game.
That’s the view from the Peanut Gallery anyway.
We’ve tested a number of Toyota trucks and SUVs lately — including representatives of its upscale Lexus brand — and each had grown long in the tooth.
The Toyotas ride on dated platforms. Their cabin tech is a jumble of old and new. Their powertrains, though capable, are notably inefficient.
But still, they sell. The legions of Toyota faithful seem unfazed. For them, Toyota’s record of reliability, durability and strong resale trump the latest touchscreen innovations or lightweight building techniques.
Reputation key to appeal
It’s been a decade since the current Tundra pickup ($31,520) was last made-over, with only sporadic updates to keep it fresh. But something in its DNA continues to win friends.
Reputation is part of Tundra’s appeal, but so also is its inherent toughness and outsized off-pavement performance. One trim, the TRD Pro, is devoted to off-road adventuring, and the stand-alone TRD Off-road package ($2,790) can be applied to every trim but the base SR.
Tundra is available in five trims: SR ($31,520), SR5 ($33,230), Limited ($40,785), Platinum ($47,480), TRD Pro ($49,645) and 1794 Edition ($47,480).
Tundra is available in Double Cab and four-door CrewMax body styles and two bed lengths. Two eight-cylinder powertrain options are available.
Spacious cabin, user-friendly controls
Tundra’s cabin is spacious and its controls are large and easy to understand and use. The infotainment system isn’t modern enough to elicit praise, but neither is it bad enough for brickbats.
Materials quality is so-so, amenities are limited and ergonomics are awkward. Brushed metal-look accents dress up a dark, monochromatic color palette. With its saddle-brown leather upholstery and ultrasuede accents, the 1794 Edition is the fancy-pants Tundra.
Its ladder-frame platform and firm suspension produce a ride best described as “truck-like.” It transmits the impact of potholes and other rough road surfaces into the cabin — and the occupants’ tailbones.
Without a payload, the Tundra can be jittery on uneven roads at highway speeds.
Rated to tow 10,500 pounds
Steering is lightly weighted and doesn’t offer much feel. A vagueness on-center allows the Tundra to wander in its lane, requiring constant minor course corrections.
The advanced shocks fitted to The TRD Pro and the TRD Off-road package produce a smoother ride and help manage body lean and other unwanted motions.
The base engine is a 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque; the optional 5.7-liter V-8 is good for 381 horses and 401 lb-ft.
Equipped with the larger engine, the Tundra is rated to tow up to 10,500 pounds. The smaller engine is good for at least 6800 pounds.
Tundra four-bys run an on-demand, part-time 4WD system with low-range gearing and a set of driver-selectable drive modes.
Enticing the faithful
We recently tested a TRD Pro, the most extreme version of the Tundra. Following a year-long hiatus, the TRD Pro returns for 2019 with updates that include Fox Internal Bypass shocks, Rigid Industries fog lights, a tuned exhaust and forged-aluminum five-spoke BBS wheels.
A stand-alone TRD Off-Road package is available on the SR5, Limited and 1794 Edition. It includes 18-inch TRD wheels, off-road tires, LED headlights, trail-tuned shock absorbers, skid plates and tow hooks.
On the SR5, the package adds the LED headlights and fog lamps that are standard on upper trims. 4x2 models get engine and fuel tank skid plates and tow hooks.
Also available for the SR5 is a TRD Sport package with anti-sway bars borrowed from the TRD Pro and sport-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers. There are LED headlights, daytime running lights and fog lamps and 20-inch silver-painted aluminum alloy wheels.
New for 2019 is an SX trim package that dresses up SR5 Double Cab Tundras with color-keyed accents, front bucket seats and 18-inch black alloy wheels.
In 2022, Toyota is slated to redesign the Tundra and its Sequoia, 4Runner and Land Cruiser platform-mates. In the meantime, expect Toyota to entice the faithful with annual updates. That’s the long view.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Vehicle base price: $31,520
Trim level base price: $49,980
As tested: $51,040 (includes destination and handling)
Options: The TRD Pro is a fully equipped trim; our tester included no options.
Tow rating: 6,800/10,500
EPA rating: 14 combined/13 city/17 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified