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2018 Toyota Tundra: A fresh look with a ride ’em cowboy ride | Scott Sturgis

The Tundra has become popular among full-size truck buyers, and that probably has a lot to do with Toyota's reputation for quality. Other truck models offer hauling and towing capability — without all the extra strain.

The 2018 Toyota Tundra gets a fresh look and some new packaging for 2018. But it remains a little hard to rein in.
The 2018 Toyota Tundra gets a fresh look and some new packaging for 2018. But it remains a little hard to rein in.Read moreToyota

2018 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition Crewmax: Still big and floppy?

Price: $52,730 as tested. ($50,130 for the trim level; moon roof $850; running boards $345; and 20-inch chrome spokes $110.)

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the "well-equipped lineup, cavernous crew cab, and capable off-road packages," but not the "dismal fuel economy, aging powertrains, and styling."

Marketer's pitch: "Built to lead."

Reality: Still big, somewhat smoother, but wears on its occupants.

What's new: Toyota's full-size pickup led the Eagles parade after the Super Bowl victory in February, but what else does it have going for it? The full-size truck gets a fresh look, a TRD Sport package, and Safety Sense standard.

Up to speed: The 5.7-liter V-8 creates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Still, while the Tundra seemed like no great shakes for motivation, Car and Driver reports the truck takes just 6.5 seconds for 0 to 60. (A 4.6-liter engine is also available.)

In and out: Give Toyota credit for offering a four-wheel-drive pickup that's quite easy to climb in and out of. The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and her knees appreciate that.

Inside: The 1794 Edition offers some beautiful details — brown leather trim, special shifter knob. It's a pretty package.

On the road: Mr. Driver's Seat once called the previous incarnation of the Tundra "floppy." It bounced and jostled and kind of went where it wanted to, while I worked the steering wheel to rein in its worst tendencies.

This time around, I felt more cooperation from the Tundra. The steering wheel still feels quite loose, but the country-road handling is not nearly as bad.

But after our four-hour trip across the state, Sturgis Kid 4.0 reported succinctly, "It's the bounciest truck." And he was right. The worn-down right lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike got tiresome after a while, and even shorter drives were a little more "ride 'em, cowboy" than I might have liked.

In the rain: We experienced torrential nighttime thunderstorms while traveling through central Pennsylvania — so heavy that it took a while for the windshield to clear — but the Tundra never slipped an inch, a great feature in a pickup with a light rear end.

Shifty: The beautiful shifter knob in the 1794 Edition matches the rest of the lovely interior. The transmission never lurched or jumped, as a good transmission should.

It has a gear selector mode as well, but Toyota doesn't provide any real shifting capability, just gear limiting. Sigh.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat splits 60-40 to provide a flat compartment inside the truck. Rear seat room was just fine, according to Sturgis Kid 4.0, all 6-feet-2 of him.

The bed in this edition is 5.5 feet long, which surprisingly didn't seem so bad for hauling debris to the township compost pile. A 6.5-foot and an 8-foot bed are also available.

The Tundra payload maxes out at 1,730 pounds, but not with this bed.

I used the Tundra to haul some small pieces of furniture and yard debris, and found plenty of hooks — both low and high — that made tie-downs easy.

Play some tunes: If you can hear them. As backseat passenger Sturgis Kid 4.0 further commented after our four-hour ride, "It probably was the world record for a noisy truck." He said he could hear it right through his ear buds.

The exhaust note makes for fun-sounding startups and pullouts, but just droned on and on — especially in the rear seat, evidently.

But I digress. The Tundra stereo sounds like most Toyota stereos: really heavy on the treble and bass, but not much richness in the middle, where most music lives.

Operation of the unit was easy, with buttons to get you some places — but not to change the music source — while knobs control volume and tuning.

Keeping warm — and cool: I like that the Tundra sticks with round HVAC vents. They're so simple to direct and close.

Operation of the system is fairly simple, with dials for temperature and fan and source buttons.

Fuel economy: I averaged just under 14 mpg in a highway-heavy round of testing. Quite disappointing.

Where it's built: San Antonio.

How it's built: Consumer Reports says its reliability will be a 5 out of 5. Last year was a 4, but previous years were also 5s.

In the end: In a world where an F-150 handles like a car, and where Ram 1500s used to, a Tundra is a lot more than you need to handle, although that Toyota reliability is hard to pass up, as well as its Eagles support.