Tundra 1794 gives Toyota stylish competitor in Texas truck wars

Peter A. Hubbard


(August 2, 2018) If you think the “Car Wars” are competitive these days — you’re wrong. Dead wrong.  Where the OEMs are really slugging it out is in the “Truck Wars.”  Perhaps living in Texas gives me a slightly better vantage point, so here’s a bulletin from the battle front.  This war is serious! 

After all, this is where the OEMs make the most money nowadays — selling trucks and deluxe crossover — not selling cars or miserly little gas-sipping subcompacts. 

As a result the Big Brutes are getting bigger, better — and more luxurious.  Not only that, all truck makers have a Texas Edition of some sort; and the reason is simple. Somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of all full-size pickups are sold in Texas.

It’s also why for nearly 25 years now, the Texas Auto Writers Association big Texas Truck Rodeo, held every October, is circled in red on all the OEM’s annual calendar of “must attend” events. A few years back, you even heard gravel-voiced Sam Elliott touting the fact on national TV that FCA’s Dodge Ram had won the coveted Truck of Texas award. 

So were those facts taken into consideration when Toyota decided to built an assembly plant for the full-size Tundra (and mid-sized Tacoma) at a site in Texas, on the south side of San Antonio? Probably.  And ever since 2008, thousands of pickups every month come rolling off the assembly line there.

Toyota truck plant near San Antonio

In fact, the 3,000-plus acre site where the plant is located was once part of a Spanish land grant, dating back to 1794 — thus the “1794” badge on Toyota’s deluxe Texan-ized version. 

The San Antonio plant allows Toyota to lay claim to having the only full-size truck actually built in Texas — if you don’t count the truck-based Tahoes, Suburbans and Escalades built by GM in their venerable Arlington, Texas, assembly plant. 

Although a serious contender in the full-size-pickup market, after 10 years on the road Toyota’s 2018 Tundra line is getting a bit long in the tooth, despite a freshening in 2014. Back then Toyota added a larger grille, more enhanced fenders front and rear, a redesigned tailgate and tail lights, as well as a completely redesigned interior.

The only sheetmetal parts carried over from the previous model were the cab and doors. The hood line was raised to give Tundra a more chiseled look and the tailgate grew a small integrated spoiler.

Changes to the interior included the addition of a standard 3.5-inch information screen, bluetooth connectivity, and back up camera. Also added were redesigned seats, new gauges, new controls, updated ergonomics, and a fresh dashboard with improved materials and metal-look surfaces.

But the Tundra now faces much stiffer competition from Ford, Nissan, Ram and GM.  All offer more models, with more features and more power. Ford updated its F-150 in 2015, Nissan updated its Titan line in 2017 and both FCA and GM have already unveiled new Ram and Silverado/Sierra pickups for 2019. All the competitors offer more power and models with more features at this point.

The Tundra line also suffers from the fact Toyota does not provide either a diesel-engine option or heavy-duty (HD) three-quarter or one-ton versions.  In the last five years the Tundra has succeeded by offering a wide range of models and powertrains, but those options have been trimmed somewhat. Despite such disadvantages, the Tundra still enjoys a solid reputation for built quality, ride comfort, reliability and resale value. 

While Toyota’s full-size pickup may not be able to claim best-in-class bragging rights in any of the major “tough truck” categories, it still has the muscle to tackle the jobs most half-ton pickup buyers require.  Toyota has also rolled out several “enthusiast” models. For example, in 2015 model they introduced a sixth trim level, the Tundra TRD Pro as part of the new TRD Pro family. A rear under seat storage tray was added to SR5 and Limited Double Cab models, and a 3.5" TFT multi-information display was made standard. The 4.0-liter V-6 engine was also discontinued.

The 2016 model was given an updated front chrome grille on SR5 and 1794 Editions (on the 1794 Edition the front bumper center also switched from Silver to Magnetic Gray). A large 38.0 gallon fuel tank option (standard is 26.4 gallons) on 5.7-liter V-8 SR5 models became part of the SR5 Upgrade Package, while it comes standard on Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, and TRD Pro. Toyota retuned the suspension with new damping rates to improve the truck’s ride quality over the previous models. They also re-valved the steering rack to improve steering feel.

In addition, Flex Fuel (FFV) availability was expanded to 4x2 models and an integrated Trailer Brake Controller was added that is now standard on all 5.7-liter V-8 models (N/A with the 4.6L V-8). Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert availability was also expanded as standard equipment on the Platinum and 1794 Edition, while also being available on the SR5. 

The added Safety and Convenience Package includes front/rear sonar.  The entertainment system received the updated Entune 2.5 system. The TRD Off-Road Package also became available for the premium 1794 Edition. 

For 2018 Toyota decided to drop both the Tundra Regular Cab and TRD Pro models. However, a new TRD Sport trim was added. Toyota’s Safety Sense-P is standard on all grades now, and the system includes pre-collision warning features such as pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beams.

Most extras for the 2018 Tundra are bundled into trims. SR5 models add a larger, 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, sliding rear window and the storage compartment under the rear seats, while Limited trims bring premium audio and navigation, power-operated leather-trimmed and heated front bucket seats, 20-inch wheels, chrome mirrors and door handles, and power-operated sliding rear window. The top-line Platinum and 1794 Edition offer heated and cooled front seats, moonroof, JBL premium audio and blind-spot monitoring. The TRD Off-Road package, in Double Cab or CrewMax form, includes all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, TRD-tuned springs, a front skidplate, and unique badging.

Our test unit was the bronze-colored 1794 Edition, with all the deluxe touches. That included acres of leather trim on the seats, console and door panels, plus wood grain touches in a variety of spots, including the steering wheel. Clearly aimed at picking off Ford F-150 King Ranch intenders, the 1794 literally reeks with luxury. If you didn’t know better, you might think you were riding in an old-school Lincoln or Imperial — maybe even a Rolls or a Jag. 


The 2018 Tundra is available in just two cab configurations and two bed lengths. Double Cab models can be had with a standard bed (78.7 inches) or long bed (97.6 inches). The CrewMax has the biggest cab, and is available only with a short bed (66.7 inches). The SR5 and 1794 models have unique front-end styling.  

The front grilles of full-size trucks these days just keep getting bigger and bigger — the Tundra is no exception.  Seems like the truck makers and hoping the bigger the grille, the bigger the sales volume. 

At the other end of the Tundra, you’ll find a lockable tailgate that automatically lowers slowly to prevent the dreaded tailgate slam.

Our deluxe 1794 Edition also came standard with the larger 38-gallon fuel tank, a towing package that includes a 4.30 rear axle, engine and transmission coolers and heavy duty batter and alternator. It also featured 4-wheel disc brakes and rides on 20-inch allow wheels and P275/55R20 all-season tires. It carried a base MSRP of $50,130. 

Options included the TRD Off-Road package, plus TRD performance air filter, anti-sway bar and dual exhaust.  Other add-ons included paint protection film, center console storage tray, universal tablet holder, bed mat, plus locks for the tires and spare.  With delivery fee, the total came to $54,721.


As with most full-size pickups, the 2018 Toyota Tundra's interior runs the gamut from that of a basic truck with a 3-passenger fabric bench seat on up to the luxurious 1794 Edition complete with soft brown leather interior and wood trim. Double Cab and CrewMax Cab variants seat up to six with a bench in front, or five with the more comfortable bucket seats. Even the base SR Tundra has a 6.1-inch touch-screen infotainment system in the dash, a far cry from the dial radio in your grandad's old pickup. Knobs and controls are easier to reach than in past Tundras, and sturdy enough to be used while wearing work gloves


But even the less expensive versions of the 2018 Tundra are nicely equipped, with a V-8 engine, rearview camera, power windows and door locks, and 6.1-inch touch-screen audio/entertainment system with AM/FM/CD player, USB and auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity. These models also come with a fabric-trimmed 40/20/40-split fold-down front bench seat with 4-way-adjustable driver and passenger seats (tough vinyl is available with the Work Truck package).

All Tundra pickups include the TSS-P system as standard equipment. Our 1794 Edition also included a power vertical rear window, leather heated/vented front bucket seats, a premium JBL audio system. 


Under the hood, Toyota provides a set of V-8 engines. A 4.6-liter is the standard engine in lower-trim models, while the powerful-yet-thirsty 5.7-liter V-8 is available across all Tundra models and came standard on our 1794 test unit.  Both V-8s are connected to a 6-speed automatic. All Tundra engines run on regular gasoline, and the big 5.7-liter V8 will accept E85 fuel as well.  The 4.6-liter generates 310 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm and 327 lb-ft of torque @ 3,400 rpm.  Extra grunt from the 5.7-liter V-8 translates into 381 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm and 401 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm. 

The EPA mileage figures for the smaller engine are listed as 15 city/19 hwy. for 2WD, 14 city/18 hwy. for 4WD. As you’d expect, economy numbers are lower for the 5.7-liter V-8.  Those are posted at 13 city/18 hwy. for 2WD models, 13 city/17 hwy. for the 4WD units. 

The truck can be had in either rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive (2WD, 4WD). The Tundra's maximum towing rating is 10,200 pounds and applies to a 2WD Double Cab model with the 5.7-liter V-8. Additionally, models with that engine can be had with an integrated trailer-brake controller.


Toyota’s 2018 Tundra pickup knows how to be tough when it counts yet comfortable when necessary. A standard V-8 is not unique in this field, but for those seeking more power than the 4.6-liter engine can muster, the larger 5.7-liter’s 381 horses and 401 lb-ft of torque provide more than enough grunt to tow up to 10,200 pounds. 

However, that ranks toward the back of the pack, behind Ford, Ram, Silverado and Sierra.  Only the Nissan Titan has a lower towing capacity. The 2018 Tundra’s fuel economy also lags behind the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 equipped with the diesel-engine option. 

Despite those drawbacks, once you hop into the cab and take the Tundra out on the road, it may surprise you with its exceptionally quiet cabin and pleasant road manners. And when we ventured off-road, the 1794 Tundra, with the added TRD Off-Road package showed it has what it takes to tackle rugged terrain, steep hills and fast-moving creeks, despite the absence of a proper locking rear differential.


But if you don’t live in Texas, and don’t have a really good excuse to show off to friends and neighbors in a $50,000+ pickup, you can nab a 2018 Tundra 4x2 SR model with a Double Cab starting at around $32,500. This price is in line with base model Nissan Titans and Ford F-150s, but several thousand dollars less than a comparably equipped Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500. As noted earlier, our decked out 1794 Edition carried an MSRP of nearly $55,000 — without sales tax.

No doubt about it … the Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition is a fully Texan-ized pickup.  All we need to do to complete the affect would be to add a few aftermarket frills, like a combination gun rack/cowboy hat rack to fit astride the rear window, a fashionable grille guard to keep stray deer at away, and maybe some side steps to make ingress/egress easier for our petite lady folk.  

All kidding aside, this is one very fine pickup — and a welcome addition to the Texas Truck wars.  Ever since Ford introduced the very first King Ranch edition pickups for the 2001 model year, the growing popularity of the deluxe “Texas Ranch Truck” has caused the nation’s full-size truck makers to follow suit.  Ram calls theirs the Longhorn, Nissan the Texas Titan, while GM offers wood and leather interiors in their High Country models.  But it costs much less than some of the competing Texas edition pickups, so be sure to compare prices if you ARE a gentleman rancher in search of a new truck.

No doubt about it, you’ll be riding in style in a Tundra 1794. But it’s also further proof that Toyota probably prefers “gentlemen ranchers” to regular blue-collar tradesmen, since they’ve now dropped their Regular Cab models from the Tundra line.

The 1794 has a very supple ride for a pickup, and turns heads everywhere you do.  While trucks tend to be the least pampered vehicles on the road, that’s not likely to be the case with this truck – heck, you might even spot one going through a car wash on a regular basis. But just in case it does get in a jam, Toyota was thoughtful enough to offer a new 3-piece bumper design, making it easy to replace a panel should one get scraped, dented or destroyed


No, it doesn’t have the most horsepower, or the most towing capacity, the best fuel economy, or the most models from which to choose, but Toyota is hoping you’ll overlook those faults, and choose their Tundra trucks — especially their 1794 Edition — based on the excellent build quality and good resale value.

Happy truck hunting.