These days, pickup trucks can be everything from stripped-out workhorses to ultra-luxurious cruisers. Especially in the full-size segment, trucks now offer the kinds of premium features and onboard technology once reserved for luxury cars. But then there's the Toyota Tundra.
The current Tundra's last major update came in 2014, but it still largely uses the same mechanical components from when the second-generation truck initially debuted in 2006. For the 2020 model year, the Tundra is available in SR, SR5, Limited, TRD Pro and Platinum trims, with the western-luxury-themed 1794 Edition positioned at the top of the line. Both two- and four-wheel drive options are available, and you can choose from Double Cab or CrewMax body styles with 8-, 6.5- or 5.5-foot beds.
Other truckmakers offer myriad powertrain options for their full-size offerings; from turbo-fours to diesel-powered sixes to burly V8s, there are lots of options for buyers. Toyota, meanwhile, only offers two V8s: a 4.6-liter engine with 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and the larger 5.7-liter engine found in my test truck, with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet.
The 5.7-liter V8 is the best thing about the 2020 Tundra. It pulls strongly off the line and there's a burbly exhaust note trailing in your wake. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and always seems to be in exactly the gear I want.
That said, fuel economy suffers. The 2020 Tundra has EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 13 miles per gallon city, 17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined with four-wheel drive, though I actually saw 18 mpg during my time with the truck. Still, the Tundra's fuel economy falls behind the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 with their largest V8 engine options.
It's too bad the powerplant is stymied by rough-and-tumble handling. No, I don't expect a full-size truck to cruise with the same composure as a Rolls-Royce, but I don't expect it to ride quite so ponderously, either. The ride is stiff and harsh over broken pavement, and this thing turns with all the grace of a large ship. If you want a smooth, stable pickup, buy a Ram 1500.
What about truck stuff? The Tundra can haul a maximum of 1,730 pounds of payload, which isn't too bad -- average among the competition, at any rate. But while GMC and Ram are offering trick tailgate options, the Tundra once again kicks it old school.
When it comes time to tow, the Tundra can pull as much as 10,200 pounds in Double Cab, two-wheel-drive configuration with the 5.7-liter V8. That's more than enough for most truck buyers, but again, behind the heavy-hitters from Chevy, Ford, GMC and Ram. Don't expect any towing technology aside from integrated electronic trailer brakes, either. The Tundra doesn't offer any helpful towing aids like Ford's Pro Trailer Back-Up Assist or the fancy see-through camera technology from the GMC Sierra.
Step inside, and the Tundra's age becomes painfully obvious. There's a lot of room in here for passengers, but with a dated design, small storage compartments, a center console that doesn't even open all the way and uncomfortable seats, Toyota's full-size truck is hard to live with.
At least the in-car technology is getting better, with an available, 8-inch touchscreen running Toyota's Entune infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto finally join the party for 2020, but the rest of Entune remains about as serviceable as last year's tomatoes. The native navigation system is clunky, with multiple clicks needed just to enter an address, and the rest of Entune is hard to work through and frustrating to use. The Tundra only offers a single USB port in the entire cabin, though thankfully, there are three 12-volt options, so passengers can charge their phones as long as they bring the correct adaptor.
That said, the Tundra gets a round of applause for offering one pretty cool feature, especially if, like me, you're a terrible record-saver. The Tundra has a place to record the date and mileage for common maintenance procedures like oil changes, tire rotations, etc. It's not the most glamorous tech, but it's something.
I definitely have to give Toyota props for offering its Safety Sense P driver-assistance suite on every single Tundra. That means every truck comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking. Unfortunately, this isn't full-speed adaptive cruise control, meaning it doesn't work in stop-and-go traffic (you know, where you want it most). What's more, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are only available on upper trims.
The 2020 Toyota Tundra starts at $33,425 (excluding destination) for a basic SR and climbs as high as $48,625 for the luxurious 1794 Edition. Me? I'll take the off-road-ready TRD Pro, which starts at $48,505, and gets a 2-inch lift and Fox shocks for better off-the-beaten-path prowess.
Where the Tundra makes a strong case for itself is in value. Consider this: You can't get a 2020 Tundra for more than about $55,000, but a fully loaded Ram 1500 Limited will touch $70,000 if you aren't careful. Of course, the Ram is better at everything, so you could consider it money well spent.
At the end of the day, I can see making the case for a Tundra if you need a no-frills work truck with a strong V8 engine. But as a daily driver, the segment's best players from Chevy, Ford, GMC and Ram will continue to lead the pack.