You would think for a segment that doesn’t have a lot of nameplates in it, that the full-size truck segment would be easier to write about and cover. This is not the case at all. First, the segment is incredibly competitive and has high profit margins for auto makers. So, every little new feature that now comes standard requires coverage.
Case in point, my tester this week is the 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. As the Big Three domestic truck makers like to battle it out and talk up their various trucks and their nuances, Toyota has remained engaged and active in this segment with the Tundra. While it’s not Earth-shattering news that the 5.7-liter V8 engine is now standard for the Tundra, it does require discussing. Likewise, the TRD Pro (which I drove) now has more cab options including Double Cab and CrewMax. Big whoop you say? It is a big deal.
One thing I’ve learned from covering trucks is that the die-hard truck consumer loves V8s. Right or wrong, that mindset is pervasive amongst the old-school buyers, that each and every auto maker covets. So adding the reliable and outstanding 5.7-liter V8 as a standard engine option makes the Tundra that much more appealing.
Sure the Tundra is a little long in the tooth, when compared to the other competitors who have all updated platforms with various engine options. But keeping it simple and offering just the V8 has worked well for Toyota. Although rumor has it a V6 and maybe a hybrid is coming to the Tundra’s future. That only stands to reason as the V8 in the Tundra gets poor fuel economy.
Having the 5.7-liter V8 as the only engine option keeps it simple, and let’s be honest, most truck buyers don’t care about fuel economy. That engine is a steady, solid performer with plenty of off-the-line power. It produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It’s that torque number that leaves the Tundra looking somewhat dwarfed when compared to some of the more modern engine options within the segment. But, in a week of driving the Tundra TRD it felt plenty powerful and fun and there was enough of a whirl from the V8 that would make those old-school V8 fans happy.
The big area within the powertrain that is completely outdated is the six-speed automatic transmission. While adequate, it is an all-around uninspiring transmission. The Tundra has a maximum towing capacity of 10,200 pounds with a maximum payload possibility of 1,730 pounds.
The one trend that’s unbelievable for full-size trucks is the cavernous interiors. Tundra is able to keep up with the competition by offering the four-door CrewMax which features an incredible amount of rear seat legroom. The rest of the interior is showing its age for sure. While other truck competitors offer higher-quality touchpoints and more luxurious cabins, the Tundra lacks a wow factor. And today’s trucks, with their high price points need to have that wow factor.
The optional eight-inch touchscreen is nice and there’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (finally!). Toyota’s infotainment system is intuitive and clean with a good combination of touchscreen commands and knobs/buttons. But like the rest of the interior it lacks a wow factor and is a little behind in technology. But for those who like simple and basic, it will appeal to you.
My tester had an MSRP of $52,780 and a final price of $55,020. While that seems high, for a capable, big truck it’s actually on the affordable side of the spectrum as some of the other competitors in this segment can offer trucks that exceed $60,000 and even $70,000 price tags.
With only the V8 engine option, the Tundra ranks near the bottom of the segment in fuel economy. The four-wheel drive Tundra TRD Pro has a fuel economy of 13 mpg/city and 17 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged just barely over 14 mpg.
When it comes to trucks there’s devoted followers. Certainly Toyota has those. And as such, they continue to offer the long-in-the-tooth Tundra while trying to make enough changes to keep it relevant. They accomplish that without going overboard. The Tundra TRD is an enjoyable truck that is kind of a throwback to when trucks were still V8 beasts with ample room. For that, I appreciated it.
2020 Toyota Tundra TRD CrewMax
Price/As tested price………………….. $52,780/$55,020
Mileage…………………………………… 13 mpg/city; 17 mpg/hwy
Engine……………………………………… 5.7-liter V8
Horsepower…………………………… 381 hp/401 lbs./ft.
Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels…………………………. Four-wheel drive
Final Assembly Point…………………. San Antonio, Texas