Review: Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition goes all in on one upping the Detroit Three

The 2022 Toyota Tundra Crewmax 1794 Edition.Doug Firby/The Globe and Mail

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Detroit Three auto makers will be pleased to see what Toyota has done with the long-awaited redo of its full-sized light duty pickup truck.

The 2022 Tundra has abandoned its gas-guzzling V8 engine in favor of a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 that delivers 389 horsepower, 479 lb-ft of torque and less fuel consumption. Does any of that sound like Ford F-150′s 3.5-liter EcoBoost?

The ride, meanwhile, on the high-end trim 1794 Edition has a car-like cushiness reminiscent of Stellantis’s RAM.

And that supertough carbon fiber cargo box? General Motors had it first as an upgrade on the Silverado/Sierra models.

It’s also hard to ignore that the western-themed finish in the 1794 Edition was preceded by Ford’s King Ranch, RAM’s Big Horn and Chevrolet’s High Country.

In this, the first bottom-up redesign of the Tundra since the previous generation appeared in 2007, Toyota has gone all-in on one-upping the Detroit Three. Big? This four-wheel-drive weighs in at more than 2.6 tons and is more than six meters long when equipped with the 6.5-foot box. Towing capacity? See you and raise you to 4,940 kilograms. Rear seat room? Where would you like us to drop the sofa?

For many years, Toyota seemed to be one step behind the competition in the pickup truck sweepstakes. Even with a major update in 2014, the Tundra remained behind in cargo capacity, horsepower and styling.

The rebirth of the Tundra has taken longer than an elephant’s gestation, but, like that massive animal, this truck is ready to leave a deep footprint on the pickup market. The 2022 Toyota Tundra Crewmax does everything its three major competitors do and throws in a little extra for good measure. No longer content to be a faithful but unassuming workhorse, everything about it declares it is massive and uncompromising.

This is especially true in its fully decked-out Crewmax 1794 Edition. The stretched rear seat area is big enough to hold a convention, and its badging declares how desperately it wants to be seen as more American than those three other guys.

As it happens, 1794 is the founding year for the Texas ranch that is now the site of the Toyota assembly plant in San Antonio. The western theme is reflected in the saddle brown leather upholstery, and matching leather trim on the shift console, door and instrument panel.

Like its competitors, Tundra’s four-wheel drive 1794 Edition is a western luxury truck that is capable of heading out onto the pasture, yet way too fancy. Its dark brown Smoked Mesquite paint sparkles in the bright sun, highlighted by ample sections of chrome trim around the doors and front grille. Inside, generous use of synthetic leather on the seats and steering wheel are set off by simulated wood trim. The overall effect is warm and calming.

A finely tuned suspension and massive 20-inch wheels deliver a ride with comfort and greater agility than a pickup driver has any right to expect. The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts so smoothly, gear changes are almost undetectable. The cabin is remarkably quiet at highway speeds, but Toyota has allowed a satisfying growl to creep in when the engine is under hard acceleration.

The instrument layout features a 36-centimeter (14-inch) infotainment screen and 32-centimeter (12.3-inch) instrument cluster with an endless menu-driven variety of useful information. A relatively panoply of switches is banked together under that monstrous screen and is intuitive.

The 1794 Edition has plenty of cameras which assist in backing up, parking and even provide a 360-degree view for navigating tight spots. Ironically, the side mirrors are so big, they inadvertently become their own blind spots. The driver must make a point of looking around them for oncoming traffic.

Toyota has used a combination of technologies to address the biggest knock against its predecessor – fuel consumption that was among the worst in its category. The technology includes the twin-turbo iForce engine, stop-start technology and an electrical outlet, which gives the truck a brief hybrid e-boost after an overnight charge on household current. In gentle, real-world city/highway driving, I was able to eke out a rate of 11 litres per 100 kilometres, and even towing a light fold-down camper trailer, the Tundra delivered 12.5. In the era of $2-a-litre gasoline, it’s 25 per cent better than the older Tundra, but is that enough?

Strong, but too pretty to be a real work truck, the question is who is the 1794 Edition for? My son-in-law called it a “reward truck” – the vehicle for a rancher who has driven trucks his whole life, and wants pure luxury wrapped in cowboy garb. If that’s your jam, giddy up.


The Toyota Tundra can tow 4,940 kilograms.Doug Firby/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

2022 Toyota Tundra 4×4 Crewmax 1794 Edition

  • Base price/as tested: $45,490/$76,570 (including delivery)
  • Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6
  • Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic/two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive low and four-wheel drive high
  • Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometers): 13.6 city/10.4 highway
  • Alternatives: Ford F-150 King Ranch, RAM Big Horn, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country

Looks

The handsome Smoked Mesquite paint job, accented by tastefully restrained use of chrome trim, make the most of this truck. Thoughtful use of LED headlights and taillights are modern without looking too Tonka toy. Yet, I’ve never been able to come to grips with the bulbous grills on many Toyotas. Looks are always a matter of taste, but this one isn’t inspiring.

The Tundra’s LED headlights and taillights are modern, without looking to Tonka toy-like.Doug Firby/The Globe and Mail

Interior

Cozy, warm, quiet and full of technology, but not overwhelming. The caramel-colored leather and wood trim creates a welcoming atmosphere. I liked the firm support of the powered front seats with lumbar support and cool venting for hot summer days. My wife found the seats a bit stiff for a multihour ride. The Crewmax rear seat is big enough to accommodate the Friendly Giant.

Performance

The twin-turbo spools up 389 horsepower, 479 lb-ft of torque with virtually no turbo-lag, and is transmitted seamlessly through a smooth 10-speed transmission. It’s enough to let you pass with confidence, even when towing. The fine-tuned suspension also makes the truck feel much more agile than a vehicle this size has any right to be. Ventilated brakes ensure there is fade-free stopping power, even under extreme conditions.

The Toyota Tundra comes with a 36-centimetre infotainment screen and 32-centimetre instrument cluster.Doug Firby/The Globe and Mail

Technology

The technical delights include Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, lane departure alert and radar cruise. Toyota’s new multimedia information and entertainment system is compatible with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also features new touch screens that employ sight, touch and voice activation.

Cargo

In the longer 6.5-foot box configuration, this truck has plenty of room to haul your kid’s stuff to college. And you do have a massive back seat, too.

The Toyota Tundra no longer lags its main competition in cargo capacity.Doug Firby/The Globe and Mail

The verdict

Greater pulling power, less fuel consumption and extensive use of safety technology make this a significant improvement over the previous Tundra. Competitive pricing reveals Toyota has the Detroit Three’s long-standing light-duty truck dominance in its sights.

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