Toyota Tundra Loses Big in PUTC Texas Truck Showdown

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Another comprehensive test by our friends over at has the Toyota Tundra finishing dead last. Is it the vehicle being sent to be blamed or is the truck falling that far behind?

Toyota Tundra Loses Big in PUTC Texas Truck Showdown

Toyota lost big in a showdown on the best towing truck, yet was it more about the truck sent than the competition?

If you haven’t seen the story, essentially decided to do a towing “showdown” in Texas and invited in all the different half-ton competitors. The thinking is Texas is home to the largest full-size truck market in the world and the terrain provides ample opportunity to do a variety of tests. PUTC asked each competitor to send a 2-wheel-drive truck equipped with standard towing equipment around $51,000.

For this test, Toyota sent a 4×4, TRD Pro 1794 edition.

Click here to see the first post and work your way to the end. For reference, here is how the Tundra fared:

No. 5: 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition, 5.7-liter V-8; 2,102 points

Toyota Action 1 II

100-point categories (best in test): Fuel-tank capacity

The Verdict: “Perhaps a Tundra equipped differently could have made a better tow rig,” Bruzek said, “but this Tundra with its off-road package was far outclassed for a comparison on maximum towing.”

What They Liked

Quick start: The Tundra “launches with authority,” Smith said, and Williams agreed: “The engine and transmission is always ready to jump off the line.”

Transmission: “It may be short a few gears compared with the others,” Bruzek said, “but the Tundra has very positive shifts from its six-speed package.”

Handling: “Its light steering effort makes for quick lane changes, despite being the heaviest in this comparison,” Bruzek said, and Smith liked how the Tundra “handles the trailered load.”

The 1794 trim level: Bruzek liked the “beefy looks of its TRD Off-Road Package,” while Williams said that “the 1794 Edition is a good first attempt with room for improvement,” and Sundling appreciated its “quality luxury interior.”

And …: Smith liked the “overall visibility.” Sundling applauded that its “4.30 axle ratio is made for towing; you have to go to a Ford F-450 to get that axle ratio.” And Williams noted that “there is nothing like the CrewMax cab out there. It’s an entirely separate room in the back of the cab.”

What They Didn’t

Poor mpg: It “inhales fuel,” Smith said. “The fuel mileage is the lowest in this group,” Sundling noted, and Williams added, “fuel economy for a truck like this in a segment this competitive needs to be much better.”

Toyota Int 1 II

Transmission, while towing: “It did a lot of hunting when loaded with a heavy trailer,” Williams said, and Sundling found that “at slower speeds, even in Tow mode, the transmission hunts for gears and doesn’t stay in gear until it reaches higher speeds.”

Ergonomics: Smith disliked “the Tundra’s placement of switches and knobs,” while Sundling noted that he’s “glad they finally have a factory trailer-brake controller, but it’s hard to see while driving and using the manual control.”

The exhaust note: “The optional TRD exhaust is an initial novelty that grows old the more miles you put on the truck,” Bruzek said, and other judges agreed.

And …: “Most outdated truck in the group, other than the sheet metal,” Sundling said. “Brake pedal feel is light and uncommunicative,” Bruzek said. Williams found that there was “too much sagging in the rear end with payload; 1,200 pounds of [calculated] payload here is unconscionable.”

Why Did Toyota Send a 4×4 TRD Pro?

When this test was published, I was out of town and after reading the comments on this site, it seems the biggest question mark for our readers and PUTC’s testers is why Toyota didn’t send a more comparable truck. In fact, this isn’t the first time Toyota has sent a different truck than requested.  For the 2015 light-duty V8 challenge, Toyota once again sent an odd model choice for the test.

Why does this happen? It all comes down to what is available at the time and production limits. Since Toyota has been pushing only certain variations of the Tundra lately, there are plenty of these trucks in the press fleet, so Toyota sends what they have rather than pulling a truck from the production line (like often happens from the competitors). This pretty much puts the truck in a losing proposition before the test begins.

Like the light-duty challenge, I would argue the Tundra would have fared a lot better if the appropriate model was sent. While losing one test isn’t that big of a deal, when it comes to vehicle of the year awards, it also hurts since many of these same judges vote on those vehicles as well. Consequently, the Nissan Titan won the Pickup of the Year Award besting the Toyota Tacoma. If you don’t think how poorly Toyota fares in head to head testing plays a role then you are just fooling yourself.

PUTC’s says up next will be a MPG challenge. Our prediction for that test is simple – Tundra dead last.

Filed Under: Tundra News


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  1. DJ says:

    Seriously, a car company that sells the number of trucks as Toyota does, doesn’t a have variety of press vehicles or the ability to pull one of their own trucks for a couple weeks, and then turn it into a press vehicle? Doesn’t help when you have a dated platform to begin with.

    Toyota definitely did not send the right truck. However, an mpg, a few tenths of a second, I don’t think a 2wd model would have put the Tundra from worst to first.
    The Tundra is dated, and how could it not when it was designed a decade ago!

    Yes I know Quality, durability and reliability were not measured in this test, they never are. This is a truck test and they’re all about numbers. Sweers continues to look bad with his dated product. Once again, he better have something up his sleeve next month in Chicago.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Let me clear up a few things.

      1. Toyota has one of the largest press fleets in the country and has many vehicles in my local press fleet. It has some variety for example in the Tundra there is a double cab and crew max version of the TRD Pro. When the 2014 came out, they offered nearly every trim configuration in crew max. All 4wd as well.
      2. Press fleets are managed by the marketing team and, quite often, this team orders vehicles months ahead of time. Now, each manufacture is different on their press fleets, but for Toyota they will be ordering vehicles to be built for this fall and next year’s press fleet. With their production system – i.e., build 100 of these, 100 of those, etc…, it is simply impossible for them to pull one from the factory. However, Ford, GM and Ram have much more manufacturing capacity and they can pull vehicles off the line at will.

      I would argue a different truck would have made more difference than you would think. Two reasons – 1. the judges had to continuously take the model differences into consideration all the time. This gets annoying and works against the said truck. 2. these contests can often be really close and every point does often matter greatly especially when it takes away from another. Imagine if the Tundra had done even better, would they have given the other trucks the same high marks? Maybe, maybe not. Judging is tough business.


  2. ricqik says:

    Dated? No way!… Sweers said it’s all new as a 2015 model.

  3. ricqik says:

    My mistake, all new in 2014.

    • DJ says:

      oh yea, all new…….except the drivetrain untouched since it was designed in 06′.

      What a disappointment the 14′ Tundra was, exterior was a huge improvement, interior was an improvement, but a total F-150 copy let’s be honest, and is now kinda dated already.

      But to not tweak the 5.7 in 2014 was horrible, why not DI at least to boost the numbers and refresh it. Nope, just parade Sweers around making excuses about how many valves he has, while head-to-head the Tundra is now smoked by the competition, but hey people are still buying so what does Toyota care.

  4. Breathing borla says:


    I don’t think this was a 1794 TRD Pro, it was just a 1794 with the TRD package.

    and I agree with DJ, a 2wd tundra would have finished the same.

    That GMC 6.2 8-speed was darn impressive, I can’t believe it was faster 0-60 loaded with 1750 lbs that the tundra was empty.


    • DJ says:

      GM 6.2 & 8-speed is to today’s trucks what the Tundra 5.7 & 6-speed was in 2007, super impressive.

      I have always been a Toyota guy, but that combo has me seriously jealous and considering maybe a test drive. It is part of the reason I’m so disappointed in Sweers and Toyota, step back up to the plate! you’re getting left in the dust and we know Toyota is better than that!

    • GoBig says:

      Right you are Borla. I’ve even seen dealers who don’t seem to know the difference in models. They advertise trucks as a TRD pro when in fact they’re an SR5 model with the TRD off road package. Two different animals.

      I think the mpg arena is the one area Toyota is lagging. I’m waiting for the Chicago show. Will they pull a rabbit out of the hat?

    • Tmac says:

      Too bad the Chevy 6.2 only drinks premium.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Good catch. I’m so used to EVERY Tundra being a TRD, I sometimes automatically call it a “Pro.” I’ll fix the article.

      In case you missed it, here are my thoughts on 2wd:

      “I would argue a different truck would have made more difference than you would think. Two reasons – 1. the judges had to continuously take the model differences into consideration all the time. This gets annoying and works against the said truck. 2. these contests can often be really close and every point does often matter greatly especially when it takes away from another. Imagine if the Tundra had done even better, would they have given the other trucks the same high marks? Maybe, maybe not. Judging is tough business.”


  5. Randy says:

    More than half the review is entirely fiction. That is to be expected.

    Looks like a 1794 with the OF (off road) package to me. Not a TRD Pro; so if that is true again has no idea what they are talking about.

    The winner of the test the 6.2 Chevy/GMC has a 20 plus year cab design. The Tundra for sure is at least 10 years newer.

    Has anyone actually spoken to people that have owned and driven 2015/2016 F150’s with the 3.5 EB towing 8,000 lbs. plus over washboard roads for several hours? If they have, they would know the owners hate them. Possibly the worst half ton tow rig in the last 25 years.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I screwed up the TRD Pro item not

      FWIW, I wouldn’t tow that much with an EcoBoost. I would buy the 5.0L gas for sure.


  6. Captian Critical 101 says:

    What’s there to be surprised about? The problem is rooted in Akio Toyota; this dude is into cars big time, not trucks, even though trucks are the most profitable vehicle in the universe. More evidence of this is in the mid size truck segment which is about to explode with Mercedes, Hyundia, Honda, GM, Ford, etc. enter the arena.

    Don’t believe me about Akio?

    • DJ says:

      While I like to blame Sweers for the dated Tundra, here is what I believe is contributing to the lack of updates:

      Toyota is at capacity at the San Antonio Plant, every truck they make, they sell. From a purely business point of view, why invest more money if your dated truck that you’ve recouped R&D costs on long ago is still profitable!?
      Toyota made the investment in 07′ but the economy subsequently tanked, they never hit their goal of 200k Tundra’s sold, and they’ll never take that gamble again.

      Nissan decided to step up in a big way, redesigning the Titan and offering a new updated V-8 and a diesel, meanwhile, Toyota soldiers on with their decade on design!

      • Captain Critical 101 says:

        I don’t think Sweers is to blame as he became chief engineer in 2010. For him to become chief engineer, the position had to be vacated, so the question here is why was the position vacated? The previous engineer was involved with the 2nd gen Tundra, which at the time was way ahead of the competition. It we can find out why he left, we’ll have a much better idea just what goes on with the American made Toyota trucks.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Right you are that Akio is a big motorsports guy. I’d love to talk trucks with him sometime, but it hasn’t worked out just yet.

      He does listen to the public though. When journalists told him Lexus needed some sort of halo vehicle or direction, he listened and Lexus built the LC 500.

      Check out this transcript –

      Again, I hope he is reading this or he hears us on trucks.


      • Captain Critical 101 says:

        Thanks for posting the link, his passion for cars is clear and that explains why the Tundra is bottom feeder of Toyota’s resources. Here’s a couple of excerpts:

        “Lexus should clearly define their brand”

        And finally …

        “Lexus is at a crossroads.”

        Those were some strong opinions!

        And honestly … I want to thank you for them … because I really took them to heart.

        I was determined to make sure we became a more emotional brand … and that the words …boring and Lexus … never showed up in the same sentence again!

        So it was just after Pebble Beach … that I decided to take direct responsibility for the brand. I also decided to form Lexus International …as an independent company … a company that would be …more imaginative …with its own … •design,
        •and marketing resources.

        First, those two comments describe the Tundra. The competition is fierce for the 1/2 ton market. The refinement improvements for the Taco are very good, but the drivetrain for it is disappointing, which implies that the Tundra may not improve by much in the drive train area.

        Second, look at the direction of marketing in 2007 vs now. Back then Toyota was taking on the competition, now the ads are lack grit and are.

        As we can see, Akio took the comments personally and did something about it.

        What is his response the Tundra being hammered in most every review?

        So, I think Sweers is doing the best he can with what he has. There is great engineering in the Tundra, but it’s lack budgeting from Toyoda is suffocating it.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:

          Yes, Sweers only has so much budget and it is a company issue. Not defending all of his decisions, just speaking to what he has to play with.

          Akio has been in charge since 2009 and I’ve never met him. My sense is he has been working on the Motorsports side and focusing on the Camry and Corolla. Not sure he has spent much time thinking about trucks.


  7. Captian Critical 101 says:

    Where did my comments go? Are they too critical?

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Just a website issue. Sometimes the comments “auto approve” and sometimes I have to approve them manually. We tend to get a lot of SPAM and sometimes this slows things down where I have to manually approve them.


  8. hemi lol says:

    I would argue the test they did hands down was the most biased test they have done to date!

    What a joke……………..

    the list of scoring differences would have had that truck in the top 2, period.

    look at the judging everything from payload to mpg, to 0 to60, 60 to 0 the PRICE of the truck would have been the cheapest and that’s 20 points nearly by itself.

    One things for certain EVERY test I see from Mark Williams is creatively biased they way they want the test to finish up. its TOTALLY subjective and not factual at all!

    I have NEVER EVER seen a dyno sheet where a Tundra had under 315hp at the wheels and normally its more. I call BS! Even 20% driveline loss is 305 Hp…….. that test in itself changes things. the whole thing is CRAP.

    I challenge Mark Williams to have me take MY truck to this crap and i’ll dust em all.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Soo… How do you really feel??? LOL.


    • Breathing borla says:

      I don’t know HemiLOL,

      I get your points and agree with some of them, but I think we need to give some kind of credit to the other trucks that performed well. I mean dyno or no dyno, the GMC walked everyone got WAY better MPG while doing it. It was faster loaded with 1750 lbs than the tundra unloaded, there isn’t much that Mark Williams did to interfere with most of those performance numbers.

      That said, I don’t take the application of points or subjectivity from any of their tests, I purely look at the performance data, which PUTC does well at since they use closed track and third party timers.

      and as far as you smoking everyone, don’t you have a charger now? if so, put a charger on the others as well to level the playing field, if not, the EB and GMC as simply outperforming the tundra now, they are also outperforming my Ram, it doesn’t bother me.

      The tundra biggest assets are not in these kinda of tests, resale and reliability or QDR in sweers speak. That said, we need to realize that this isn’t 2007, the others have caught up in performance if your talking these type of one-time tests. The tundra isn’t the leave everyone in the mirror monster it was when it came out in 2007.

  9. TRDSmokeU says:

    Like others, I’ve been a loyal Toyota fan but I am starting to think about the next Titan XD. Ram, Nissan, and now Ford are offering a diesel, more transmission gears, and more fuel saving technologies. A company like Toyota (Lexus LC500) who is offering a 10 speed transmission in their cars isn’t even offering an 8 speed in their trucks despite the fact they were the first to offer an 8 speed transmission. Last year, Toyota accrued more money than GM and Ford combined yet they invest in the least in their truck division. Toyota what’s is going to take for you to invest in your trucks?

    • GoBig says:

      I too am a long time Toyota fan. I’ve driven a Toyota truck for 31 years. Ok, so it’s the same truck, but that in itself says something. My 1985 pickup is my daily driver, and is still mechanically solid.

      Nonetheless, I do plan on replacing it in the next year or two at most. I too am going to take a look at the Titan XD. I owned a diesel in the early 80s, and liked it. (Until I got hit and it was totaled)

      It doesn’t look like Toyota is going to go the diesel route any time soon.

      My wife had driven her 1990 4 runner for 26 years, again speaking volumes of Toyota quality. We just replaced it with a 2016 Honda CRV after it narrowly beat the Rav4 as her next car.

      I am going to wait and see what the 2017s are like, and then decide. I’m not very impetuous as evidenced by how long I keep a vehicle. 🙂

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