Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the auto industry inside-out, manufacturers were sorting out their offerings to meet market demand. The Japanese automakers lag behind the domestics when it comes to pickup sales volumes, and so Toyota has slimmed down the Tundra for 2020 by dropping one of its two available engines. It also sweetened the deal by adding some new option packages to this full-size pickup, and finally equipping all trim levels with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It’s possible you never even realized a 4.6-litre V8 was available, because for whatever odd reason, it only came in one trim level in Double Cab configuration. Now, the sole powerplant is a 5.7L V8, making 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque, and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The 5.7L has been under the Tundra’s hood since 2007, and that tried-and-true longevity should give you rock-solid reliability. But at the same time, it hasn’t been updated with higher-tech fuel-saving technologies as its Detroit competitors have done with theirs, and the Tundra is thirsty. In 4×4 configuration, it’s rated at 16.3 L/100 kilometres in combined city/highway driving. That’s the highest of any V8-powered competitor, almost all of which clock in below 14 L/100 kilometres.
The Tundra starts in Double Cab configuration, with either a short or long bed, at $40,650 in 4×2 and at $46,420 in 4×4 form. My CrewMax tester comes only with the short bed and with four-wheel-drive, starting at $47,420. The DoubleCab comes in SR or SR5 trim, while the CrewMax comes in SR5 or Limited.
The SR5 models can be upgraded with a variety of TRD packages, most of which range from $3,640 to $7,990 on the CrewMax. But if you want to go all the way, you can move up to my tester’s TRD Pro package, which adds an off-road suspension and several luxury features — and for a very stiff $20,290 on top of my truck’s starting price of $46,980.
The TRD Pro pack includes all-terrain tires, skid plates, remote reservoir suspension, and Fox shocks, a step up from the Bilstein dampers you get on the non-Pro TRD Off Road package. All of that gets you a pretty robust combination for tackling the tough stuff, but on pavement, you get a ride that’s bouncy and big-tire wallowy — which isn’t a complaint, but the reality of compromise when a truck’s tuned specifically for off-road. Figure out if your priority is rough or roadway before you plunk down the cash for this package.
Its thirst aside, the Tundra is a good performer. That strong engine provides no-nonsense acceleration, and with a deep, rumbly growl if you get the TRD Pro pack with its performance dual exhaust. The steering has nice weight to it, and unlike its competitors, the Tundra has a remarkably tight turning circle. It’s still an awful lot of truck to spin around and park — also like all of its rivals, it’s unnecessarily oversized — but that tight turnaround makes it easier. Towing depends on the model and trim, but maximum towing on the Double Cab ranges from 9,400 to 10,000 pounds, while the CrewMax spans a high of 8,800 to 9,200 pounds.
The Tundra’s cabin hasn’t been radically updated in a while either, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may look a bit dated, but while some truck companies are putting more of their functions inside the centre screen — with a corresponding degree of distraction as you look to see if you’re tapping the right icon — the Tundra is refreshingly simple. There are large knobs for the climate control, hard buttons to bring up the centre screen menus, and dials for the stereo volume and tuning. Everything’s easy to use, even with gloves, including the oversized air vents.
Every Tundra model includes a version of Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of active safety technology, with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, emergency front braking, and automatic high-beam headlamps.
The SR5, my tester’s pre-TRD-option trim level, includes an eight-inch touch screen, satellite radio, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a bed rail system with tie-down cleats, and a manual headlight levelling system — something I haven’t noticed on other trucks and which should be there, so that when the truck is loaded and sitting low in the rear, you can dial in the headlights and not blind oncoming traffic. In addition to its four full-size doors and more interior space, the CrewMax offers a rear window that lowers completely into the back of the cab, should you want a large dose of fresh air.
My tester had two handles on the front passenger side for simple access, one above the window and one on the A-pillar, but none on the driver’s side to make it easier for those of us built closer to the ground. Once I did get up there, though, the seats are supportive and the Tundra is quite comfortable. That said, no amount of optioning will add my new gotta-have-it feature, a heated steering wheel, and I missed it during the cold snap when I drove the truck.
All in all, while the Tundra can’t match the Detroit automakers for fuel economy or maximum towing capacity, it’s a big, all-day-comfortable truck. It’s simple but it’s solid, and for many buyers, that’s all they need to get the job done
Copyright PostMedia Network, 2020