I drove a $53,000 Toyota Tundra pickup to see if it could hang with Chevy and Ford — here’s the verdict

The Tundra platform is, to be blunt, ancient. The current generation of the pickup has been around since 2007. Everybody expects Toyota to update it soon, to keep pace with new full-size trucks from Ford, Chevy, and RAM.

Except, of course, that there’s no rush. The Tundra, while a dandy truck, isn’t even remotely competitive with the big three. And yet Toyota continues to crank on the vehicle, to satisfy what is by its standards robust US demand.

You may have anticipated the punchline, set up by that clunky six-speed automatic transmission, that gas-chugging big V8 motor, and the circa 2010 infotainment system. That’s right, Toyota doesn’t need to expend resources on the Tundra because it isn’t a combatant in the great pickup war that’s ongoing among the Detroit big three.

The crusty old Tundra isn’t broken, so why fix it?

Indeed! In my testing of the truck, I was almost ready to call it my new favorite, second only to the exquisite RAM 1500. There’s something to be said for a platform that simply performs, is notably comfortable, and that carries Toyota’s ironclad reputation for reliability.

For example, that thirsty V8 and steampunk six-speed aren’t likely to give you much trouble. And you know that even if you beat this pretty vehicle to pieces, it won’t let you down. Toyotas are tanks.

Ride quality truly stands out. The RAM 1500, with its all-around independent suspension (the Silverado and F-150 continue to use leaf springs), is like driving an old-school American sedan. But the Tundra is like piloting a Lexus. The contrast with the more crude, purposeful Tacomas we’ve tested is vivid. Rolling around town or up into the country, the Tundra rapidly impressed me with its soothing, car-like manners and handling.

When you need it, of course, that torque-y V8 is there for ya. But for long hauls, I’d choose the Tundra over just about any other big pickup.

At around $30,000 for the base truck, the Tundra is price-competitive with everything else in the segment. But given that Ford, FCA, and GM have all revamped their full-sizers, Toyota is going to have to do something with the Tundra to sustain its market share.

No one is asking Toyota to mess with a good thing — and the Tundra is pretty darn good — but the segment is modernizing and Toyota can’t wait forever to roll out a gen-four Tundra. That said, it can wait a few more years without enduring significant damage.

Sometimes it’s an advantage to be number four!

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