2018 Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 1794 Edition Review - Bloodbath in Ranch Country
2018 Toyota Tundra Platinum 4x4 1794 Edition
Taking stock of my leather- and suede-trimmed surroundings, the first thought to cross my mind after settling into the top-spec 2018 Toyota Tundra tester was, “I can think of an easy way to save $500.”
That’s the extra coin you’ll pony up for the 1794 Edition package Toyota Canada tacked on to this range-topping, root beer-colored pickup. (“Smoked Mesquite” for all you color swatch fans.) To my left and right, and even straight ahead, pale, butterscotch-colored leather sprung up on the dash and doors, complemented — if you can use that word — by faux woodgrain so shiny, you’d swear a shoulder check might reveal the presence of an opera window.
It’s 180 degrees from subtle, and perhaps the same distance from tasteful. Below my feet, embossed 1794 Edition floor mats called attention to the founding of JLC Ranch, home to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas. Round brass studs glistened on either side of my shoes, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the base of a centerfire rifle cartridge.
My second thought, once America’s oldest full-size pickup got underway, was: “Haven’t these buyers ever visited a Ford dealer?”
Apparently not. In the U.S. pickup segment, no one stands by their brand quite like Toyota owners. A 2016 Edmunds customer loyalty study found a combined 70 percent of new Toyota Tundra and Tacoma buyers are repeat customers. One badge is enough in their lives, it seems.
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Which would explain how the current-generation Tundra, introduced in George W. Bush’s final term and refreshed in 2014, not only keeps its sales base, but has even seen its annual volume grow. I guess the more Tacomas the automaker churns out, the greater likelihood of a midsize owner feeling a hankering for a full-size model. And that would-be Tundra buyer, more likely than not, will hoof it right past the Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Ram, and Nissan lot to get his or her mitts on one.
Whatever makes you happy. Still, were a Tundra buyer to stop by a Ford dealer, they’d come face to face-to-face with this particular truck’s main rival: the F-150 King Ranch. Like the King Ranch, Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn, and Chevrolet Silverado High Country, the Tundra 1794 Edition — a standalone trim in the U.S. and a Platinum-trim option package in Canada — is a pickup sold with J.R. Ewing in mind.
All the luxury, all the panache, but in this case, not all the refinement, nor all the content.
Unfortunately for Toyota, all the visual glitz in the world can’t cover up the model’s advanced age. Beneath the relatively unadorned body (going the 1794 route adds badging and a silver front bumper section instead of stock matte black) lies a truck that traces its roots to 2007. Its 5.7-liter V8, free of the turbocharging and direct injection that’s steadily creeping into once-utilitarian vehicles, idles noisily. A steady thrum permeates the suede-swaddled cabin under tepid acceleration.
In day-to-day use, unburdened by a payload, the truck rolls like the Costa Concordia in mid-turn. Existing damping can’t stop it from tap-dancing over ruts (20-inch wheels lend no assistance), with frost-heaved country roads adding quite a bit of bounce to the pickup’s step. Sure, it’s a truck, but its rivals hide the fact better.
Not helping the situation is numb, vague steering that’s an extra half-turn lock to lock compared to a King Ranch. The tradeoff is a turning circle that’s 7.1 feet shorter than the Ford. Still, sharper steering and a heavier on-center feel would rein in the truck’s tendency to wander and do wonders for roadability.
At least the body didn’t add any squeaks or rattles to the existing engine roar and the added din from this tester’s snow tires — a welcome discovery, as an untraceable plastic chirping drove me nuts in an otherwise hushed King Ranch. Regardless, NVH isn’t hard to find. The six-speed transmission makes its shifts felt. Stopped with the tranny in drive, the brake pedal pulsates vigorously, as if goading the driver into easing off and letting those 381 ponies gallop. I soon made a habit of bumping the shifter into neutral just to curb the sensation.
Dare I say it, an electronic start/stop system would have been preferable — and not just to quell vibrations at stoplights. Over a week of mixed driving that included a fair number of romps through the countryside, the added drag of winter rubber conspired with an outdated powertrain to create a fuel bill capable of sending the ExxonMobil CEO’s grandchildren through college. Average consumption? A 13.2 mile-per-gallon chugfest.
Of course, weight plays a major role in the Tundra’s Texas-sized thirst. Untouched by development dollars earmarked for lightweighting, this particular Tundra tips the scales at 5,677 pounds — some 809 pounds heavier than an aluminium-bodied F-150 in a similar spec.
None of this is to say the Tundra’s a slouch when the situation calls for more power. The 5.7-liter churns out 401 lb-ft of torque, 1 lb-ft more than the F-150’s 5.0-liter V8 and 18 lb-ft more than the 5.3-liter V8 found in the Silverado and Sierra, so performance isn’t obliterated by the added heft. It just seems that Toyota’s leaving the fuel-sipping tech bag unopened until the next-gen model arrives.
That model, likely due out for 2019, should add a few items Tundra drivers now go without. Items like a lane-holding system, a 360-degree camera, a larger multimedia screen, automatic emergency braking, keyless entry and push-button ignition, multiple rear seat plug-in points, and more accessible front seat connections. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are only found on the sides of milk cartons in the Tundra.
It’s also odd that signing off on a $62,800 (CAD) Tundra doesn’t automatically deliver a running board — as a 6’4″ man, clambering into the lofty cabin didn’t cause too much embarrassment, but anyone shorter than 6 feet will surely need the assistance of a ($625 U.S./$780 CAD) side step. And why a grab handle for every occupant but the driver? Is this some sort of “are you man enough” challenge?
Still, there’s no arguing the Tundra isn’t right-sized. Legroom abounds, especially in the rear. Comfort levels are decent. In the near absence of those all-important plug-ins, the one-piece, fully retractable rear window could serve as a useful distraction for the kiddies. Ever play Eye Spy out the back? Your time’s limited, so the game’s even more challenging. Break those digital chains! On a personal note, having seen the 2019 Silverado and Ram 1500, the acres of horizontal chrome spread across the Tundra’s face is something Toyota might want to consider keeping around for the next generation.
Front-end styling isn’t going in a direction I like.
We might not all agree on the styling direction of the latest Detroit Three and Nissan offerings, and yes, we might roll our eyes at the ever-increasing levels of opulence, but those fresh-faced youngsters show this 11-year-old what’s needed to play in the big leagues. If Toyota can check the same boxes, the Tundra’s future is bright. The brand loyalty’s already there.
For now, the Tundra reminds me more of my great-granddad’s Belgian cavalry horse than any prize-winning stud. The oldest, slowest horse in the outfit, it unfailingly arrived at the battle dead last. Unlike the Tundra, however, this made it the most sought-after horse in the regiment.
[Images: © 2017 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]
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