Reviewing trucks is hard work. I normally muck about doing burnouts or pissing off large groups of hardcore enthusiasts on YouTube. OK, truth be told, those two reviews represent my entire body of work reviewing trucks. We’re more about clipping apexes (why isn’t that apexii?) and opposite lock here at RFD. But when someone offers me a truck for a week, I take it. So TL;DR: the first one I liked, the second one I didn’t; how does Toyota’s Tundra stack up?
What Happened In 1794?
Marketing. Marketing is what happened in 1794.
Well the marketing happened somewhere around the year 2014. Apparently, 222 years ago, Spanish colonist Juan Ignacio de Casanova (baller name bro) founded the oldest working cattle ranch in Texas, the “JLC Ranch”. Google that term in 2017, and you’ll get a link to Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX).
If you aren’t following me, I understand. You can read the rest on Toyota’s website; there is war, intrigue, and taxes, not in that order. Toyota purchased 2,600 acres of this ranchland south of downtown San Antonio in 2003 and liked it so much, they named a damn truck after it. Meant to compete with Chevy’s Silverado High Country, Ford’s F-150 King Ranch, and Ram’s Laramie Longhorn, the Tundra proudly (?) wears the 1794 badge inside and out.
But is it worthy to roll with the $50K-plus big truck crowd?
At least on paper, it’s pretty damn solid. Like the Texas-sized Toyota, the fancy badged American entries also deliver a 5-point-something liter V8 with 300 some horsepower and 400ish foot-pounds of torques. However, interestingly enough, economy-focused Toyota delivers a truck with only 15 MPG city/highway average. The big three hit about 18 MPG. Maybe it’s because the damn thing is incredibly heavy. Not just for a truck, but for a small moon.
The 1794 weighs in at 5,670 lbs. which is significantly more than the others. That’s no moon – it’s a space station. The lightweight F-150 King Ranch weighs a diminutive 4,850 lbs. Who’s laughing at that aluminum now? Not that the average truck buyer gives a crap – gas will be cheap forever, right? Right? However, it could sway someone’s decision away from the Tundra in a more pragmatic country, if the Tundra is sold in other countries, which it may not be. Canada doesn’t count.
|Tundra 1794||381 hp||401 ft-lbs.||13/17 mpg||5670 lbs.||$50,030|
|F-150 King Ranch||385 hp||387 ft-lbs.||15/21 mpg||4850 lbs.||
|Silverado High Country||355 hp||
|Ram Longhorn||395 hp||
Price is where the Tundra shines, however. While the Ford, Chevy, and Ram all start between $54,000-$55,000, the Toyota clicks in at just $50,030 according to the window sticker on our tester. That’s pretty significant. You can click some extra option boxes on your 1794 and still come in well below the starting price of the other fellas. Our tester, with some blingy 20’s, running boards, and some sort of center console tray thing, still only hit $51,875. That’s not free, but it’s a lot of truck for the dinero.
In contrast to the smaller Tacoma, I could actually see myself daily driving this Tundra. Whereas the Taco was incredibly uncomfortable, the ride punishing, and the seats awful, the Tundra floats down the road like a luxury car. The seats are a bit firm, but nicely adjustable and decent on long drives. It was much more like the big F-150 I drove than the Tacoma, and that’s a good thing.
Inside is a mixed bag that is mostly good. The leather stitching across the dash is first rate, even Lexus-like in application. It sort of reminded me of a nice baseball glove, or something fancier that I can’t come up with. The wheel is covered in leather and wood, the latter carried over across most of the dash. I’m not 100% sold on the center stack. The metal(ish) materials seem to contrast with the more natural wood and leather on either side.
Plus, Toyota, we need to talk about your buttons. I haven’t been in a Toyota yet where I’ve been totally sold on the look and feel of the buttons and knobs. They just sort of feel cheap, but overall the 1794 has an interior worth of a $50K vehicle and everything works pretty well. I found myself reaching up for a column shifter, it being such a large vehicle. While some think that is a dated concept, I rather like it since it frees up more space between the massive center console and the dash, leaving more room for drinks, phones, and such.
Sure, it’s huge, but the back up camera works well, and the gigantic mirrors help you angle it into whatever spot you need. Whether you’re hooking up your large boat or to just trying to get it into a car-sized parking spot in a garage, the big girl is pretty agile in tight spaces. The turning radius in particular was pretty impressive. I swung it around on a two-lane road without doing a three point turn, something that doesn’t always happen even in smaller vehicles.
How about Performance and Economy?
Well, it’s not economical. I averaged somewhere just under the 15 MPG average with a pretty decent mix of highway and city driving. But nobody bought a big V8-powered truck like this for economy. It’s for hauling people and things, plus some occasional ass. The big 5.7L V8 will light up the rear tires with traction control off and I found it’s merging ability to be first rate. Where the Tacoma felt sluggish, the Tundra feels powerful and gets up to illegal speeds quite rapidly. Whether it is pulling away from a stoplight or charging around an on-ramp to the DC beltway, I never felt like the Tundra was struggling to get up to speed or keep up with traffic.
It’s Pretty Practical
I dinged the Tacoma for being just large enough to not be a small truck, but not quite large enough to hold what I needed it to hold. The Tundra is not small, in any measurement. I had three kids across the back seat, one in a Recaro car seat and two on, well, the regular seats. They fit well, although if you actually have to bring much stuff, it needs to go on the floor in front of the rear passengers or in the bed. This means getting some sort of cargo cover, since the clothes we got from Macy’s probably would have flown out at speed unless we strapped them down.
Day to day, when it was just me, the Tundra was more than adequate. Grocery runs were swallowed up by the large Crewmax rear area with room to spare, unlike in the Tacoma’s smaller Double Cab. I never had actual adults in the back seat, but during photo shoots I sat back there and was quite impressed. I could literally sit with my legs crossed in front of me like in the exit row of an airplane. While I’m not that tall — just at 6′ according to my drivers license — that’s always nice to find.
I see why our truck enthusiast colleague over at Jalopnik applied for a gig that expands his testing and review options. Truck reviews are hard. Once again I managed to not haul anything. Hey, I didn’t have anything large to move around. So, much like most truck owners, I drove it from my townhouse, to some DC parking garages, and out onto some crowded highways, thus ignoring the whole purpose of trucks.
Or is it? These days, most truck owners seem to buy these big beasts as status symbols more than for some practical reason. Unless you’re in some sort of trade that requires the bed space, you’re only using the practicality of a truck occasionally at Home Depot. And if you’re like me, renting a townhouse in DC, where a team of landscapers takes care of the outdoor area, and you can get free delivery on large items like furniture, you almost never need a truck.
But if you do — or you just want one because you want one — the Tundra is a great option. Sure, the second generation Tundra is a decade old this year, and it’s been about three years since they refreshed it. But even at the big daddy 1794 level, it’s cheaper than the competition for a similar truck.
It’s a pretty good deal at the bottom of the range as well. Starting price for the entry level SR model is just about exactly $20,000 less than our tarted up 1794 edition at $30,120 starting MSRP. For about $4,400 more, you can add the same 5.7L V8 and 4WD to a double-cab model with an 8-foot bed for under $35,000. Ford wants over $36,000 for something like that. Plus, Toyota seems to allow you to choose most engine and drivetrain configurations with most trim levels, giving you whatever sort of truck you want.
It’s your call on whether you want to “honor” the great Juan Ignacio de Casanova and his ranch with the 1794 Edition.
Trim: 1794 Edition Crewmax
Trans: 6-Speed Automatic w/Sequential Shift
Engine: 381-hp, 401 lb-ft torque; 5.7 Liter 32V I-FORCE V8
Exterior: Silver Sky Metallic
Interior: Brown…very brown
Delivery Process & Handling Fee: $1,195
Packages & Options
- 20″ 6-Spoke Chrome Clad Wheels $220
- Running Board $345
- Preferred Owners’ Portfolio $85
Total MSRP: $51,875