Review: The Toyota Truck for Cowboys and City Slickers Alike

This Western-inspired luxo-pickup is now available with a TRD package, bringing better looks and (slightly) better off-road performance.

If you need a throwback truck that can tow approximately 10,000 pounds and wrap its occupants in cowboy-inspired leather, make room in your barn for the 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition ($46,500) . Toyota introduced this special trim level a while ago, but this year you can have your cake and eat it too: this Western-inspired luxo-pickup is now available with a TRD package, bringing better looks and (slightly) better off-road performance.

The 1794 Edition pays homage to the oldest working cattle ranch in Texas, located in San Antonio and established in 1794. Toyota purchased that property and built a manufacturing plant that now outputs Tundras and Tacomas. 1794 badging simultaneously identifies this top-of-the-line workhorse and pays homage to its birthplace. The interior looks like it was designed by a cowboy Tim Gunn. Finely detailed suede and perforated saddle-brown leather cover seats (borrowed from Lexus) feature 1794 embossing; shiny wood-grain accents on the steering wheel and dash make it even more of a dressed-up show pony. Special-edition floor mats made of durable rubber and dorm-room-tough carpet sum up the aspirations of this truck well: a work-boot-ready, action-packed pickup. (Just be sure to knock the dirt off of said work boots before getting in).

Toyota Tundra 1794

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Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 381
Torque: 401 lb-ft
Drive System: Four-wheel-drive
Towing: 9,100-9,900 pounds
MPG: 15/19, city/highway
MSRP: $51,000

The rest of the interior is relatively unchanged from models past. There are three different cab options: two-door, four-door and Crew Max, which is nothing short of remarkable. Its 42.3 inches of rear legroom, more than an Audi A8 L, is spacious enough for two comfortable adults, a car seat and maybe some camera gear. Both Platinum trim and 1794 Edition trucks boast Toyota’s premium Etune JBL sound system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as well as parking sensors — something that should be standard in all giant trucks, in my opinion.

The 2016 Tundra gets a slightly updated grille, but the newly available TRD package is a surprisingly bountiful, no-brainer add-on. It includes upgraded wheels, trail-tuned Bilstein shocks, front tow hooks and skid plates for the engine and fuel tank. And it costs a mere $100. New cowboy boots will cost twice that amount — I had to look at the option sheet twice to make sure that number was accurate.

One knock on most trucks is that they drive like…well, trucks. The 5,690-pound Tundra drives more like a mild-mannered SUV, which is a good compromise. Its tight turning radius makes parking garages manageable, and its smooth ride made its massive girth feel quite tame. Under the hood, an upgraded 5.7-liter V8 creates 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque — plenty of oomph to get this big guy moving — and whether hustling down the highway or driving around town, the power is manageable and the truck is compliant. Normally it would take me a few hours of seat time to really get a feel for bigger trucks like this, but I felt very natural in the 1794 very quickly. I took a Tundra from NYC to Maine years ago — my assessment was the same then. It’s comforting to see that its driving manners remain consistent.

That sums up the intention of this vehicle well: a work boot-ready action-packed pickup.

Toyota is doing something right when it comes to trucks. Their Tacoma and Tundra finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in American truck sales last year. However, overall, the Tundra sold only 118,880 units, which is meager compared to Chevy’s more than 600,000 Silverados in 2015. Obviously Toyota needs to ramp it up. A major interior redesign and useful tech like CarPlay/Android Auto have to be in this truck’s future; Toyota are the last of the major automakers not to offer either service. The 1794 Edition certainly brings a new level of wow, and the new TRD option is excellent — but a price upwards of $50,000 seems like movement in the wrong direction, especially when the super-cool and capable TRD Pro Edition costs $3,500 less. Regardless, this is one tough truck. It’s handsome, capable, comfortable and includes an impressive host of options. Just don’t forget the boots.

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