The Tundra is a mature design that hasn’t yet been fully left behind in the dust.
Although Canadians enjoy their domestic pickup trucks from the likes of Ford, General Motors, and Ram, the rest of the world gravitates toward Japanese automakers as well. Some of the most venerable and indestructible Toyota products come to mind as prime examples, such as the Hilux and 4Runner (reviewed here) Since the turn of the century, Toyota has been in the North American half-ton pickup truck market with the Tundra, with two generations spanning twenty years. We recently got the chance to pilot a 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, the highest-spec off-road model in the Tundra range.
Toyota’s approach seems to be a very measured one – make a solid and reliable truck first, and bring on more bleeding-edge technology later on as long as it can be trusted to last. With a relatively archaic platform and powertrain that’s been around since the 2007 model year, this doesn’t seem to scare off any die-hard Toyota truck enthusiasts, and resale value remains among the strongest in the industry. Heck, all of its American competitors have introduced two generations of new product during this time.
For pricing, the TRD Pro itself starts at $64,860 in Double Cab (quad cab) form, and grows to an as-tested $67,710 for the CrewMax (crew cab). Unlike the domestic offerings, no options are available – trucks are configured only by trim level. Main features on the Tundra TRD Pro include a louder exhaust, hood scoop, heritage style “TOYOTA” front grille, a power sunroof, leather seating, a spray-in bedliner, dual zone automatic climate control, navigation, JBL premium audio, and TRD Pro floor mats.
With the TRD Pro, the main pieces of extra off-road kit comprise of goodies like front and rear fuel tank skid plates (the front being stamped with TRD insignia), and big fat Fox shock absorbers with remote reservoirs. While the former keeps the underbody protected during excursions off the beaten path, the latter works some pretty good magic when the going gets tough. On ordinary urban roadways, hitting big potholes or ruts flex a little more of the Fox shocks’ muscle. That said, the Tundra more or less still rides like a truck, with a good amount of body-on-frame shimmy over bumps. In this regard it’s not as refined as some of its more modern competition, but it’s hardly a source of real complaint.
Powering all Tundras across the board is an old friend: while the base 4.6-litre V8 is gone for 2020, a 5.7-litre dual-overhead cam, 32-valve V8 is now the only choice. As the up-level engine serving since forever, peak output is 381 horsepower at 5,600RPM, with 401 lb-ft. of torque at 3,600RPM. With a curb weight of 2,555 kilograms (5,633 pounds) and a six-speed automatic transmission as the sole gearbox option, straight-line acceleration is merely adequate. When coupled to the TRD Pro’s dual exhaust however, things go a little more awry. It’s a setup that produces more noise than tone, and doesn’t sound as beefy as a big truck’s V8 should sound. In addition, there’s a good amount of booming highway drone, making it feel more like a cheap aftermarket setup rather than a factory one.
With its older powertrain, fuel economy isn’t exactly going to be a strong suit for the Toyota Tundra. Nominal city and highway consumption figures come in at 18.0L/100KM and 14.2L/100KM respectively, which is about fifteen to seventeen percent worse than its domestic rivals. Observed economy after a week of mostly highway driving came in at 16.4L/100KM, and it is likely that winter weather and the 18-inch knobby winter tires did the real-world results no favours. Regular octane fuel is acceptable, and tank capacity is 144 litres.
With standard-issue towing packages across all trim levels (which include a hitch receiver, required wiring harnesses, as well as a transmission fluid cooler and temperature gauge), towing capability for the 2020 Tundra is an as-tested 4,173 kilograms (9,200 pounds). While it does get spanked by the upper end powertrains of the domestics, it does compare much better against something like the lower-end GMC Sierra (reviewed here) or Chevrolet Silverado with the 5.3-litre and six-speed automatic, which can pull 4,354 kilograms (9,600 pounds). For the Crewmax 4X4 TRD Pro, payload capacity is 711 kilograms (1,567 pounds) in a 5.5-foot bed.
Like Toyota’s car offerings, the Tundra features the full complement of today’s autonomous safety features with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) as standard equipment. This includes a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and for the TRD Pro at least, a blind spot monitoring system, and automatic high beams. With the Tundra’s LED headlights, however, while great performers most of the time, they don’t adequately melt snow and ice in inclement weather. In slushy conditions, they get obscured rather quickly and significantly reduce nighttime visibility.
Inside, the Tundra’s interior also shows its age, with large swaths of plastic trim and low-cost looking elements. The Americans are ahead in this regard, but at the very least, fit and finish of what is in there is top notch. The dual zone automatic climate control and infotainment are both relatively intuitive, though the control buttons for the latter look a little more at home on a cheap aftermarket head unit. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard equipment, which make smartphone pairing and voice commands much easier.
Overall, the 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is a pretty badass looking truck that is well-equipped for both work and play. While its domestic peers tend to win in terms of driving dynamics, powertrain choices, and interiors, the Tundra still manages to remain a cult classic after 14 model years, and its price isn’t too far out of the question, either. Those who want them don’t want anything else, as they tend to count on a Toyota truck that never lets them down. With resale values and reliability rankings remaining strong year after year, it behooves Toyota to not mess with the formula too much. While a new generation is expected to debut in the next year or two, this old one holds its own well enough to still be a worthy contender.