2020 Toyota Tundra: Big beast, long name, trails pack

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By James Raia

Vehicle names and colors were once simple. But intense competition prompts marketing ideas under the theme of more is better. It’s not. Welcome the 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax.

The initials TRD stand for Toyota Racing Development, with the word Pro added as embellishment. Combined, it’s one vehicle simultaneously focused on racing and off-road duties.

The 2020 Toyota Tundra has a long name, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax. But it has a more direct name for one of its exterior colors, Army Green. Image courtesy of Toyota.

The TRD Package means Bilstein shocks raise the stance two inches, good for the 18-inch wheels. It also includes dual exhaust, a front skid plate and an eight-inch touchscreen for the Toyota Entune infotainment system. CrewMax means an extra spacious cabin, with a five- or six-seat configuration and more interior storage.

Overall, the Tundra is a brute-force beast. It’s 19 feet long, about 6 1/2 feet tall and the same measurement wide. There’s also 10.6 inches of ground clearance. One of 12 available trims, this Tundra option is ready for adventure.

Regardless of trim, the new Tundra is equipped standard with a 5.7-liter, 381-horsepower V8 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Also included: 4WDemand part-time four-wheel drive with electronically controlled transfer case, A-TRAC and an automatic limited-slip differential. There are trailer brake and sway control.

Gas mileage averages are what might be expected for a truck marketed for heavy duties. The EPA estimates are 13 miles per gallon in city driving, 17 mpg on the highway. For anything but off-road treks, it’s pathetically inefficient, which is why the Tundra has a 30-gallon tank.

Functionality is the Tundra showcase trait. With its V8 (the V6 was discontinued) and a standard 4.30 axle ratio, the towing capacity is boosted to approximately 10,000 pounds. The towing pack also includes a trailer hitch, engine and transmission fluid coolers, a tow/haul mode, HD battery and alternator, and an integrated 4/7 pin connector.

The Star Safety System includes stability and traction control, anti-lock braking, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology. One luxury item is the JBL 12-speaker premium audio system.

Truck basics are the norm, and the Tundra can’t match many manufacturers now years into their transitions into comfort over ruggedness in their truck lineups. But the Tundra’s seating is stiff and marginally supportive. Where the Tundra could be at its road best — over potholes and other substantial road interruptions — it’s not. Nor does the Tundra have much buffer from road noise and wind rush.

The basic motif extends to the dashboard design. Controls are large, marked well and easy to use. It’s hardly an attractive layout, but it’s appealing in a dated way. The TRD trim also includes black leather-trimmed front bucket seats with red contrast stitching.

For drivers accustomed to cars, pickup trucks present a new perspective. They offer a high, comfortable driving perch — an on-road confidence booster. But the Tundra has blind-spot weaknesses. With its jumbo size, the truck is also hard to maneuver in city road duties. Attempting to park in normal-sized lot spaces isn’t wise.

While basic in many areas, the Tundra is far from dank. It’s modernized with a USB media port and two USB charging ports. It’s also equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and temporary free uses of SiriusXM satellite radio, Safety Connect and Wi-Fi Connect.

It’s not all bad for the base price of $52,780. But competitors, including the better-selling Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, do better with their respective optional towing and other upgrade packages.

The Tundra gets one top mark over competitors. Its exterior color choices attract attention. Smoked Mesquite and Magnetic Gray Metallic may please the marketing department’s creative types, and the colors are bold. Army Green is the best choice. It defines the Tundra’s color and purpose in two words, no embellishment required.

James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes The Weekly Driver, a free podcast and newsletter. Sign-up on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. Contact James via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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