Which car brand produces the meanest, toughest-looking pickup trucks on earth? That depends on personal taste, of course, but Toyota makes a good argument for being on top of that list with its latest Tundra.
There’s as much chrome on my tester’s grille as a full-size Freightliner, making it pretty obvious this truck isn’t base. My absolute top-of-the-line Sunset Bronze Tundra 4x4 CrewMax Platinum 1794 Edition went further to look bejeweled with LED-infused headlamps and chromed mirror caps, door handles and wheel finishers. The look is strong and anything but subtle, so it’s a good thing Toyota backs up all of this flash with serious muscle under the hood.
I’m talking about the 5.7L i-Force V8, a brute of an engine when it comes to pulling power and accelerative force, albeit refined for a truck. This DOHC, 32-valve mill is standard with the 4-door CrewMax body, and it supplies a considerable 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque to a part-time 4WD system via a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. You get 4,305 kg (9,490 lbs) of trailering capacity and 590 kg (1,305 lbs) of payload. The 4WD system’s 4L and 4H modes can be activated from a dial on the dash, although you’ll mostly want to leave it in 2WD to save fuel.
Normally when contemplating the Toyota brand, hybridized fuel efficiency comes to mind, but greening the environment isn’t the 2016 Tundra’s mission as witnessed by its claimed 5-cycle rating of 18.2L/100km city, 14.1L/100km highway, and 16.3L/100km combined. Filling its 144L tank cost me a stomach-churning $172.80. Some competitors are doing a better job with thriftier fuel economy and even more pulling power.
Sorry Toyota, but that’s the cold, hard truth that I felt very deep in my own wallet, and not as painfully with the Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost 4x4’s 12.4 combined rating, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 4x4’s 14.1 combined estimate (using cheaper diesel fuel), or even my recent weeklong average of 15.2 with the near heavy-duty Cummins diesel-powered Nissan Titan XD. Both 6-cylinder engines are good for 420 lb-ft of torque, while the Titan XD’s V8 produces a phenomenal 555 lb-ft. If you’re OK with only 383 lb-ft of torque, then both 4WD-equipped GM trucks achieve 12.7 combined. Heck, even the General’s top-line 6.2L V8 with 450 lb-ft does better with a city/highway rating of just 13.8.
If you’ve spent most of your time in one of GM’s half-tons or the Ram 1500, you might find the Toyota Tundra’s ride a bit firm. Believe me, you’ll feel each and every road imperfection underneath its big 275/55R20 tires. This said, it’s a deft handler that manages curving roads with poise unless unsettled on a big bump mid-corner, while nobody should question its off-road ability as Toyota’s 4x4 prowess is legendary.
Foraging through wilderness in mind, the Japanese brand is enviably dependable. In J.D. Power’s most recent 2016 Vehicle Dependability Study, Toyota was the highest-ranked mainstream brand after three years of ownership, but surprisingly that same study rated both GM pickups and the new Ram higher than the Tundra.
All full-size pickup trucks offer higher-end models designed to attract well-paid contractors and other well-to-do roughnecks, the crème de la crème amongst Tundras being this Platinum 1794 Edition. The “1794” designation commemorates the year the JLC Ranch was founded, which is the land Toyota purchased to build the Tundra’s San Antonio, Texas assembly plant.
The 1794 Edition’s embossed saddle-brown leather is truly stunning even amongst premium-level pickup trucks, with perforated inserts and heavily textured bolsters that even include a rich strip of suede. The entire cabin is something to behold, especially across the instrument panel and the top of each door where the same saddle brown leather is stitched together with white contrast thread, not to mention padded nicely underneath. A similar treatment is reserved for the big, fat armrest between the seats, complete with a chromed and star-emblazoned “1794 EDITION” plaque at centre, as well as the lower console around the shifter. More of that wonderful suede is used for edging. Yep, folks, it’s one rich rancher’s ride.
The faux woodgrain down each door panel is substantively up to par, but the “planks” across the dash are hollow and feel fake. I figure if an automaker wants to include wood in any vehicle, they ought to either install the real deal or make the imitation stuff feel genuine. Fortunately, the wood on the partially leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob is 100% authentic and nicely matches the disingenuous stuff.
Toyota doesn’t cover the Tundra Platinum’s interior with as many soft-touch materials as most top-line domestic rivals, but the nice leather upholstery I just noted is joined by attractive satin-silver and chrome accents in key areas. The primary gauge cluster is nicely laid out with a 3.5” colour TFT multi-information display in the middle, incidentally showing my weekly fuel economy average at a very honest 17.5L/100km.
Atop the centre stack is a clear and bright full-colour 7” touchscreen with a very good backup camera, accurate navigation featuring excellent mapping, plus loads of useful Toyota apps. Below that, the dual-zone automatic HVAC interface incorporates a helpful digital display including 3-level heated/ventilated seats, while the 12-speaker JBL audio system delivers great sound plus the convenience of Bluetooth streaming.
Along with all the aforementioned features, the 2016 Toyota Tundra 4x4 CrewMax Platinum 1794 Edition includes auto on/off headlamps, 20” chrome alloy wheels, power-folding heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lamps, keyless entry (but no push-button ignition), variable intermittent wipers (but not rain-sensing), a windshield de-icer, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, clearance and backup sensors, a garage door opener, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel with memory, and a 10-way power driver’s seat with a variable-length lower cushion. The standard list continues with a 4-way power front passenger seat, a power-sliding rear window, a rear bench with a centre armrest, a power moonroof, a 5.5’ cargo box featuring a spray-in bedliner and a bed rail system with four tie-down cleats, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a tow package, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more.
The CrewMax cabin proves ultra-large and accommodating, the highly adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable with good lower back support, and the rear seats are also above par, offering legroom beyond reason. The only negative to this massive cab is the rather short bed length I just noted. Fortunately, you can flip up the 60/40-split lower rear cushions if more cargo capacity is needed, but there’s no flip-out, flat-loading floor like others in the class, or built-in storage for that matter. I would’ve also liked some rear corner bumper steps for easier bed access―and if this were my truck I’d order the optional side steps, as well.
Yes, the Toyota Tundra isn’t without fault, but no truck is. Still, if Toyota wants to increase its share of the pickup market, some of the weaknesses I’ve pointed out should be addressed. On the positive, this Platinum 1794 Edition model certainly looks the part of a luxury truck inside and out, while it’s a very strong performer, should be as reliable as most Toyota products, and can be had for a very reasonable MSRP of $57,785 (as tested).
It’s certainly a more exclusive ride than most rivals, and gets long, envious stares and some very positive comments from neighbours and passersby. I’ve rarely experienced that with any pickup truck―something that’s hard to put a price on, but any proud owner enjoys each and every time it happens.
Want a second opinion? Read Matt St-Pierre’s 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Review.