Crucial Cars: Toyota Tundra

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can't live without. For this installment, we talk through Toyota's colossal contribution to the full-size truck market.


2019 Toyota Tundra
2019 Toyota Tundra

Toyota Breaks Into The Seemingly Impenetrable U.S. Truck Market

If you had told a pickup truck driver in the mid 1970s or '80s that Toyota would one day introduce a full-size pickup in the U.S. to compete with the “traditional" full-size pickup brands—Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and GMC—they probably would have laughed you out of the room. And if you'd also told them that just such a truck was going to be produced in Texas—where bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to pickups, and hats—they would have known you were crazy for sure. Toyota, after all, was better known then for its gas-sipping compact cars, as well as its compact Tacoma and mid-size T100 pickups.

Fast forward to 2018 when the full-size Toyota Tundra is the seventh best-selling pickup truck in America. Times, attitudes, and even Toyota trucks have changed a lot since Tundra's debut in 1999.

First Generation Toyota Tundra

First-generation Tundra

First introduced in the U.S. in 1999 for the 2000 model year replacing Toyota's T100 pickup, Tundra wasn't always named Tundra. The Tundra's “concept" or “show" truck models were named the Toyota T150. Sound similar to another pickup truck drivers might be familiar with? Yeah, Ford thought so, too, and threatened to sue Toyota unless the name was changed.

That first Toyota Tundra was named Motor Trend's Truck of the Year in 2000, and viewed by the industry as the first real foreign threat to the domestic full-size pickup truck market, thanks in part to an available 4.7-liter V8 producing 245 horsepower.

For that first generation – spanning from 1999 to 2006 – Tundra's image among hardcore pickup enthusiasts, however, was still that of a smaller, slightly car-like pickup that wasn't really up to competing with full-size American pickups just yet, particularly in the area of towing capacity. That all changed with the second generation, when a slightly larger Tundra was introduced in 2007 with an available 5.7-liter V8 engine, towing capacity of 10,000-plus pounds, and payload capacity of a ton-plus.

What the first-gen Tundra was lauded for, however, was its passenger-friendly cab. An Edmunds review then described the Tundra CrewMax's interior as, “enormous, featuring excellent legroom and a rear seat that not only slides but reclines as well." When you can move and recline a rear truck seat – that's a lot of room.

2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Today's Toyota Tundra

With a base MSRP of $33,425 for the 2020 Tundra and an estimated 13/18 MPG, Toyota offers six Tundra models to choose from:

  • SR
  • SR5
  • Limited
  • Platinum
  • 1794 Edition
  • TRD Pro

Looking at the middle of the models pack, the 2020 Tundra Limited includes a no-cost maintenance plan and 24-hour roadside assistance, plus it seats five.

Comfort and style inside Tundra are accomplished in part with dual zone automatic climate control, leather-trimmed and heated front bucket seats with power front seats, and a premium audio system featuring an eight-inch touch-screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Tundra also features five Toyota-connected services, each controlled via a Toyota app, including:

  • Safety Connect® – emergency assistance and 24/7 Toyota Roadside Assistance
  • Remote Connect – start the engine, lock/unlock doors and more, using compatible smart devices
  • Service Connect – receive personalized maintenance updates and vehicle health reports
  • Destination Assist – 24/7 live agent assistance to locate the next destination
  • Wi-Fi Connect – turns a Toyota into a hotspot with 4G connectivity

Outside, Tundra sits on 20-inch, split five-spoke wheels, features LED headlights and fog lights, makes long-distance trips easier with a 38-gallon fuel tank, and includes a wide variety of safety systems and features. For starters, an integrated backup camera helps prevent collisions, while eight airbags protect vehicle occupants if one does occur. Additional safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), front and rear sonar parking assist, trailer sway control, and a blind-spot monitor.

Just as important to a truck owner are performance and towing. Under Tundra's hood sits a 381-hp 5.7-liter aluminum i-FORCE V8 with DOHC 32-valve cylinder heads delivering 381 hp @ 5600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. @ 3600 rpm, a towing capacity of 8,820 lbs., and a 1,520-lb. payload capacity.

Readily Accessible Parts Availability

The Tundra's all grown up and no longer the new kid on the block when it comes to full-size pickups, but rather a proven performer and integral part of the Toyota family. And, given Toyota trucks' enduring popularity in the U.S. – first with the T100 and Tacoma and now with two decades of Tundra – parts for the Tundra, or any Toyota truck for that matter, are widely available and offer endless options for just about anything you want to do to or with your Toyota truck, whether it's old-school or new. Check out the full selection of exact fit parts at Advance by using the "add a vehicle" tool. 

What do you think of the Tundra? Does it compete with American pickups? Let us know in the comments.  



Last updated November 19, 2019