2020 Toyota Tundra: good truck, or good riddance?

2020 Toyota Tundra
2020 Toyota Tundra

What changes will make the 2020 Toyota Tundra different?

More convenience features and a second body style for the most hardcore off-road version of this full-size pickup truck. The 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro updates its connectivity tech and is newly available in the more maneuverable DoubleCab configuration.

Other Tundra models will see no major changes, as 2020 will almost certainly — and mercifully — be the final model year for this truck in its present guise. A fully redesigned Tundra is on the way, likely for model-year 2021, and it’ll reportedly use an enlarged version of the same frame that’ll underpin the next generation of Toyota’s vastly more popular Tacoma compact pickup.

Today’s Tundra’s design dates to model-year 2007, when it debuted as the Japanese automaker’s most intense effort yet at a half-ton pickup that could go head-to-head with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500s, and the Ram (formerly Dodge Ram) 1500. On paper, it did. But in the decade-plus since, every Tundra rival has been fully redesigned once and, in some cases, twice.

Tundra, meanwhile, never gained wide acceptance among fleet buyers, tradespeople, ranchers, and farmers, appealing more to personal-use owners. That kept its sales volume at a fraction of its domestic rivals, and ahead of only the Nissan Titan in the segment. By contrast, the Tacoma is the perennial sales leader in its class.

Note that driving impressions are based on road tests of the 2019 Toyota Tundra. We had not tested the 2020 in time for this review, but we can draw some subjective conclusions based on information Toyota released in February 2019.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy a 2019?

Neither. If you can, wait for the next-generation Tundra, which should arrive sometime in calendar 2020 as a 2021 model. Toyota is reportedly developing a brand-new underskin architecture that will accommodate both the Tacoma and, in enlarged form, the next Tundra. Reducing development and production costs in this manner should enable the automaker to continue the Tundra even at modest volume and still realize a profit. That’s good news for half-ton truck buyers.

As for the current Tundra, it’s been eclipsed on nearly every front by newer rivals — so much so the only model we’d seriously consider is the TRD Pro. With its raised suspension, forged aluminum wheels, underbody protective plates, and specific exterior styling cues, it’s a credible yet less expensive alternative to similar-purpose pickups like the F-150 with the FX4 Off-Road Package, the Silverado LT Trail Boss, the Sierra AT4, Nissan Titan Pro-4X, and arguably the alpha dog of this pack, the Ram 1500 Rebel

The 2020 TRD Pro will return in an unchanged 2020 Tundra lineup that’ll also include the base SR, volume-selling SR5, well-equipped Limited, the uptown-luxury Platinum, and the outback-opulent 1794 Edition. The latter two are identically priced flagships that feature distinct design cues. The 1794 Edition takes its name from the founding year of the big Texas ranch that became the site of Tundra’s production facility.

The ’20 Tundra will continue with less variety in cab and bed configurations than offered by Ford and GM. The four-door Tundra DoubleCab will again feature two reduced-size front-hinged rear doors and offer a choice of two cargo-bed lengths: 6-ft-5-inch on a 145.7-inch-wheelbase frame and an 8-ft-1-in box on a 164.6-inch wheelbase. The CrewMax, with four full-size doors, will come only with a 5-ft-5-in bed on the 145.7-inch wheelbase.

For ’20, the TRD Pro joins the SR, SR5, and Limited grades in offering the DoubleCab body style. All ’20 Tundra grades except the SR will also be available as the CrewMax. All but the TRD Pro will again come standard with rear-wheel drive. Standard on the Pro and otherwise optional will be part-time 4-wheel drive (4WD). It includes low-range gearing for off-road use but should not be left engaged on dry pavement. That’s a Tundra deficit; domestic-brand rivals offer full-time 4WD systems that can be left engaged on all surfaces, a big convenience.

Will the styling be different?

Not until the redesign. Credit Toyota’s stylists, though, for penning a body that has aged gracefully over 10-plus years. The only notable visual update was in 2014, with new front and rear fasciae. One original design touch was “Tundra” stamped into the tailgate, a cue Ford and Chevrolet subsequently copied on certain versions of their half-ton pickups. The 2020 Tundra TRD Pro will again stand out with unique wheels and grille but aside from wheel styles and a few exterior badges and decals, little distinguishes one Tundra grade from another.

Another facet in which Tundra falls behind is tailgate and bed versatility. Rivals like the Ram 1500 and GMC Sierra are innovating with tailgates that split open and fold multiple ways, respectively. Tundra’s simply locks, opens, and closes, even on high-end trim levels. Some rivals offer power-lowering gates, too. Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, and Ram also feature tech that eases bed access, such as bumper cutouts, steps, and extendable handholds. Toyota requires Tundra owners to make the steep climb with no discrete assists.

The ’20 Tundra’s interior should reprise a practical but not particularly exciting or luxurious design. Even slathered in premium leather, the Platinum and 1794 Edition grades won’t come close to matching the lavishness of similarly positioned F-150 and Ram 1500 models. Controls are straightforward and sized appropriately for a big truck, something rivals occasionally miss. Toyota’s playing catchup with connectivity, however. Apple CarPlay should finally join Tundra’s standard-equipment roster for 2020. Rumors suggest Toyota will also include Google Android Auto and integration with Amazon Alexa, both of which would be welcome. Owners who don’t want to connect through those sorts of interfaces will need to be content with Toyota’s functional but increasingly outdated Entune system.

Passenger comfort will mostly run with the big-pickup pack, though the CrewMax’s rear seat lacks the reclining-backrest feature that’s so far a Ram exclusive. Tundra’s front-seaters will again have plenty of room. The standard cloth upholstery is durable and firmly woven, though some drivers might find it uncomfortable for long stretches. If you’re one, shop higher up the Tundra model ladder for a model with the softer leather seating surfaces. In back, DoubleCabs have compact-car-levels of legroom. Adults ride much more comfortably in the CrewMax. Flip-up rear seat cushions allow for a modicum of cargo flexibility thanks to the available locking storage boxes.

Any mechanical changes?

No. the 2020 Tundra will retain an all-V-8 lineup and the sole transmission will remain a six-speed automatic. Expect SR and SR5 models to again come standard with a 4.6-liter V-8 producing 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque.

Optional on those grades and standard on all other ’20 Tundras will be the engine we recommend: a 5.7-liter V-8 of 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It delivers acceleration on par with other full-size pickups of similar output, though Ford and GM rivals are available with engines of more than 400 horsepower. And Tundra’s automatic transmission isn’t quite as responsive as automatics in more recently redesigned rigs, which feature eight or 10 ratios.

As part of its anticipated model-year ’21 redesign, expect the next-gen Tundra to offer at least one V-6 engine option, likely a version of the 3.5-liter available in the Tacoma. Horsepower and torque ratings would probably match, if not slightly exceed, those of the outgoing models’ 4.6-liter V-8. A V-8 option will likely return, perhaps as a version of the 5.0-liter from Toyota’s premium Lexus division and output in the neighborhood of 415 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 would probably use an eight-speed automatic transmission and the V-8 a 10-speed – both notable upgrades.

With the 2020 Tundra, you’ll get the ride quality and handling prowess expected from a pickup last redesigned in the mid-2000s. With the bed empty, it’ll bound and jiggle over broken pavement. Steering response is very lethargic, and you can anticipate the ’20 Tundra to again wallow in quick changes of direction. At least the cabin very quiet when cruising.

Will fuel economy improve?

Not until 2021. The 2019 Tundra’s EPA ratings should carry over – meaning the ’20 will remain the least fuel-efficient truck in its competitive set.

Expect 2020 Tundras with the 4.6-liter V-8 to rate 15/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 14/18/16 with 4WD. Those with the 5.7-liter V-8 should again rate just 13/18/15 mpg with rear drive and 13/17/15 with 4WD. Test Double Cab models with 4WD and the 5.7-liter V-8 averaged 14.6-15.5 mpg in suburban commuting.

All Tundras use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline. The 5.7-liter V-8 can be equipped to also run on E85 Ethanol-blended fuel.

Will there be new features?

A few. Smartphone integration via CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa is the most notable. TRD Pro grades will add keyless access with pushbutton start and those in the CrewMax body style will get an 8-inch touchscreen with imbedded GPS navigation and Toyota’s co-branded JBL audio system.

Otherwise, don’t expect the ’20 Tundra to gain significant convenience or safety features. One area where Toyota is among the leaders is availability of driver-assist systems. Every ’20 Tundra will again come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which includes autonomous emergency braking that can automatically slow or stop the Tundra to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, and object, or a pedestrian (that’s what the “P” stands for).

TSS-P also includes adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, lane-departure alert with lane-maintaining automatic steering correction, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Its model-year ’20 feature set should otherwise remain unchanged from 2019, which itself was unchanged from 2018. See our review of the 2018 Toyota Tundra for a more complete look at standard and optional equipment.

Will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll probably increase, though modestly – and Toyota may even hold the line as an incentive to sell the last of the outgoing generation before the redesigned 2021Tundra arrives. Expect the biggest increase to be for the ’20 TRD Pro, given its added standard equipment.

For reference, here are base-price ranges for the 2019 Tundra, including Toyota’s $1,495 destination fee:

DoubleCab shortbed models with the 4.6-liter V-8 had a base-price range of $33,165-$34,875 with rear-wheel drive and $36,215-$38105 with 4WD. With the 5.7-liter V-8, the ranges were $34,435-$42,430 with rear-drive and $37,485-$45,480 with 4WD.

The DoubleCab long bed for 2019 came only in SR trim and only with the 5.7-liter. Base prices were $34,765 with rear-drive and $37,815 with 4WD.

The ’19 Tundra CrewMax with the 4.6-liter came only in SR5 trim and was priced from $37,295 with rear-drive and from $40,620 with 4WD. With the 5.7-liter, 2019 CrewMax base prices ranged from $38,840-$49,125 with rear-drive and from $41,890-$52,125 with 4WD.

Again, the 2020 Tundra will typically undercut comparably equipped rivals by thousands of dollars. Bear in mind, though, Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram also heavily incentivize their full-size trucks. Toyota does not, so your out-the-door prices could be very similar. Toyota does offer 2 years/25,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance and a brand reputation for excellent reliability and resale value.

When does it come out?

Look for a release date for the 2020 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro in late summer 2019, with the rest of the lineup following by a couple months.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]