The current-generation Toyota Tundra is an aging truck that faces off against a much fresher Ford F-150, with brand-new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500 on tap for 2019. The Tundra and the Nissan Titan are the only regular-duty full-size pickups to rely solely on V-8 powertrains. Although there certainly are truck folk who believe that’s the way it should be, the market has embraced more efficient options including turbocharged V-6s and turbo-diesels. The lack of powertrain choices and the dismal fuel economy from the V-8s are just two of the many things that dramatically date this pickup, which has been a good performer but even when new never seriously challenged the class leaders. Plus, aside from a few updates here and there, the 2018 Tundra is essentially the same truck that debuted for 2007.
The Tundra comes in five different trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, and the 1794 Edition. For 2018, Toyota dropped the regular-cab and TRD Pro models from the lineup but did add an optional TRD Sport package for the SR5 trim. (The TRD Pro returns for the 2019 model year.) The 2018 Tundra is offered in Double Cab and larger CrewMax configurations, and customers have the choice of a 5.6-foot, 6.5-foot, or 8.1-foot cargo bed. V-8 engines displacing either 4.6 or 5.7 liters send their output to the rear wheels or all four via a six-speed automatic transmission. The 5.7-liter engine is optional on the SR and SR5 and standard on upper trims.
We hadn’t tested a Tundra Double Cab since the assembled-in-Texas pickup underwent a refresh for 2014. This particular example was a Limited-trim 4×4 Double Cab with the 6.5-foot bed and the TRD Off-Road package. The latter only costs an extra $70 on the Limited and includes model-specific five-spoke wheels, Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates for the engine and the fuel tank, front tow hooks, LED headlights and fog lights, TRD floor mats, and TRD body decals.
Riding on 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin LTX AT2 all-terrain tires, this Tundra produced performance figures very close to those of previous 5.7-liter trucks we’ve tested. Almost every acceleration test was within a few tenths, and braking and skidpad numbers were nearly identical as well, with a 190-foot stop from 70 mph and 0.70 g of grip.
Like drinking Coca-Cola out of a real glass bottle or waiting a full week to see a new episode of a TV show, there’s something comforting and enjoyable about doing things the old way. There’s a familiarity factor to the Tundra that’s missing from some of its newer competitors: There’s no whistling from a turbocharger, no push-button ignition, no oddball shifter, no weird belt buckles or tribal tattoos strewn about the cabin, no materials too nice to get dirty. It’s just you, a big engine, a spacious cab, and a cargo bed.
That naturally aspirated 5.7-liter V-8 makes for good pickup in this pickup truck. In our testing, the Tundra rolled from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which feels plenty quick for such a big machine, although it’s significantly slower than rivals such as the F-150 and the Silverado. And when spurs are put to this V-8, its exhaust burbles nicely.
A notable, although subjective, achievement for the Tundra is how well its exterior design has aged. The steel body might be a bit bulging and bloated, but some found it handsome in a jeans-and-white-T-shirt kind of way. Where competitors have busy lighting elements and attention-seeking grilles, the Tundra now appears simple and subtle in comparison.