2020 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4x4 1794 Edition

Texan pride on a really old ride


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Powerful V8 has ample gusto, built like bank vault, serious towing capacity, 1794 trim adds some personality inside.
Negatives: Thirsty at the pump, Jurassic era interior ergonomics, tiny audio knobs contrast with massive climate controls, fancy interior trim looks weird against cheaper bits.
Bottom Line: The Tundra 1794 is the most interesting version of Toyota's pickup, but it can't mask the truck's age. It's a truly utilitarian truck fancied up with leather and wood, but there are far better options when it comes to half-ton trucks, except when it comes to towing and reliability.
It's hard to believe how truly dated the Tundra is. Although it's received some mild updates, there's no mistaking the fact that the Tundra has been on the market in its current form since the 2007 model year. This year, it's ditched the smaller displacement 4.6-liter V8 and made the once optional 5.7-liter the standard and only mill. Good thing because its power and towing are really its selling points, along with its bulletproof reliability. We drove the upscale 1794 trim that's a tribute to the JLC Ranch, a 209-year-old plot of land Toyota acquired in 2003 where their San Antonio, TX factory sits and where the Tundra is built. We drove the top trim 1784 Edition for a week to see if slick interior duds could make the old dinosaur good for one last stomp across America. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.1

 

There's no mistaking the Tundra for a big truck when it comes to the driving experience. Unrefined and truck-like, it feels big and drives big. It lacks the refinement and ease of the Ram 1500 when it comes to steering and handling. Buyers who prefer their pickups to drive like trucks should look no further.

Ride Quality: The Tundra's ride is firm, and you feel road imperfections through this stiff body-on-frame. Although it's not unpleasant, most in the half-ton segment have a cushier ride than the Tundra.

Acceleration: The 5.7-liter V8 in the Tundra is the only engine available now that the 4.6-liter V8 is gone. 0 to 60 mph happens in the mid 6-second range.

Braking: The Tundra’s brakes have good bite and progression, but the stopping distances are only about average.

Steering: The Tundra's steering is overly light and not quite on-center. It's also devoid of feel, making the big rig a bit tough to negotiate well.

Handling: The Tundra's body roll is evident in the turns, but it's manageable. The combination of poor steering feel and the lean factor make it particularly hard to enter a turn with any significant speed.

Technology

6.3

 

Perhaps folks would find the Tundra odd with updated tech, but it's hard not to complain about the dated infotainment system that's as overdue for an overhaul as the rest of the truck. But it also wouldn't make sense for Toyota to spend the money to put their newer Entune 3.0 system in a truck that hopefully will get redesigned next year.

Infotainment System: The screen size is 8" in the 1794 Edition, and while that's not tiny, it's also nowhere near competitors like the Ram 1500 that offers a massive 12" vertical screen. At least the system in the Tundra finally has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

Controls: The infotainment buttons are well-sized, as are the physical audio knobs. The climate control knobs are huge and nicely knurled.

Styling

6.4

 

It seems that no matter what Toyota does to dress up its Methuselah-like Tundra, it still shows its age. 1794 trim helps a little bit, but don't think that puts it in the league with more modern half-tons in top trim. Not even close, actually.

Front: There's just too much chrome for our liking. Okay, so that's de rigueur for big rigs these days, but the Tundra overdoes it.

Rear: The conventional tailgate isn't very noticeable here. Only the contoured inlay of the taillights helps. The body-color matching trim pieces on the outboard positions of the bumper look like an afterthought, which they actually are.

Profile: The profile is rather boring, despite the fact that it's decently proportioned. It lacks the body contours of its competitors, and it doesn't look like you spent over $50K for the thing.

Cabin: It's hard not to think the plush leather and wood-like trim with the 1794 badging inside contrasts poorly with the cheap plastic trim pieces. Rather than raising the bar on style, the 1794 Edition upgrade really highlights the less savory parts of the interior.

Comfort

7.5

 

The Tundra offers good space and comfort, and the soft leather of the 1794 Edition is nice, but it still doesn't compete with even mid-grade trims of competitors like the RAM 1500, Ford F-150, or even the Nissan Titan.

Front Seats: The big brown leather seats in the Tundra 1794 offer good support, and there's ample room. The cushions and seatbacks could use more bolstering.

Rear Seats: The CrewMax's 2nd row has plenty of legroom and headroom. The seats are a bit flat, as well, but at least there's enough acreage to spread out.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Tundra is solid when it comes to NVH with nothing errant inside the cabin. There is some wind noise at higher speeds, but tire noise isn't bad.

Visibility: Visibility is good, but the height of the hood and the squared off front end make it challenging to navigate in parking lots. The shorter 5.5-foot bed makes it a little bit easier to back up.

Climate: Heat fired up quickly, and the cabin got warm without any problems. Airflow from the large vents is ample.

Safety

4.5

 

The Tundra crash safety might just be its Achilles heel since it's actually poor or marginal in very important areas. For this reason alone, we'd suggest you look elsewhere in the half-ton segment. It does have a good set of standard safety features, as do all modern Toyotas.

IIHS Rating: The Tundra got a “marginal” rating for the driver and "poor" for the passenger. The crash avoidance and mitigation “superior”, and the headlights and child seat anchors received a “marginal” rating.

NHTSA Rating: In NHTSA testing, the Tundra got an overall rating of four stars, which kind of surprises us given the lackluster rating from the IIHS. It got four stars in both the front and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

Standard Tech: The 1784 gets a Tire Pressure Monitor, the Star Safety System, Toyota Safety Sense P with Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert w/ Sway Warning System, and Automatic High Beams.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with Front and Rear Parking Assist Sonar, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert as part of the Limited Premium Package.

Storage/Cargo

7.5

 

The Tundra's cabin is pretty good with numerous and large storage options, but the truck bed is about as bare bones as it gets for pickups. Competitors have done far more, and the Tundra needs work.

Storage Space: The front middle seat flips down for storage, and the armrest is deep and wide for larger gear storage. We like the armrest's top tray for phones.

Cargo Room: The standard 6-foot 5-inch bed is well-sized, but it lacks bed boxes for more versatility, room for tools, etc.

Fuel Economy

5.4

 

The big (and now standard) 5.7-liter V8 gulps gas with abandon. The Tundra shows its age because it has no other smaller displacement options, no turbo, and no diesel. It's a dinosaur in so many ways.

Observed: 12.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 63 miles

Audio

8

 

Our tester came with the upgraded 12-speaker JBL system, which is far better than the basic Entune system that comes stock in other trims. While it's not the best system we've come across, it does deliver rich sound that fills the cabin with ample bass. We like the fact that it comes standard on the 1794 Edition.



Final Thoughts

1794 trim is an upgrade for the Tundra, but it almost betrays the truck because it's poorly executed against some of the interior's plasticky-ness. It also fails to mask the datedness of the truck in a segment that continues to be hot, as well as more competitive every year with redesigns. Toyota really needs to get on its game with its big truck the way it has with the Camry, Avalon, and Corolla.
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