Toyota is becoming a Texan.
The Japanese automaker recently announced that it is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to the Lone Star State, where it already builds its full-size pickups.
Coincidentally (or perhaps conspiratorially) Toyota this year introduced its first Western-style luxury truck, the Tundra 1794 Edition.
Named to commemorate the founding year of the San Antonio ranch that the Tundra factory was built on, the 1794 Edition is a rustic take on the urban style of the Tundra Platinum trim level. It goes head-to-head with the popular Ford F-150 King Ranch, Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and Chevy Silverado High Country pickups.
The entire Tundra lineup was updated for 2014 with largely cosmetic and refinement improvements, while drivetrain choices and capabilities have stayed put. The truck now features more chiseled body panels and an all-new interior design that’s more along the lines of the smaller Toyota Tacoma’s.
The 1794 Edition is available only in a crew max body style with Toyota’s big 5.7-liter V8 and either 2WD or 4WD. It features very supple, light saddle brown leather upholstery, wood trim, 18-inch silver spoke wheels and an enormous grille with more chrome than the entire 1950s.
With a starting price of $45,545, it comes standard with a premium JBL audio and navigation-equipped infotainment system, towing mirrors, a sunroof and a full-width power drop-down rear window. The only substantive option is a blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert feature for $470.
On the subjective front, I suggest adding the optional $1,100 dual exhaust system. The standard pipes just don’t speak loudly enough, even for this big stick of a truck. The 381 hp engine isn’t the most powerful in its class, but it’s up there, and the cabin is big enough to let the Rio Grande run through it. To offer more legroom to the backseat passengers, you’d have to give the Tundra a limousine-style stretch.
The oh-so-important tow rating for the 1794 Edition is 9,000 pounds, which is more than enough to haul around your fancy show pony, while some other Tundra models max out at 10,400 pounds. That’s not best in segment, but it’s honest. Toyota is the only full-size truck builder that uses the new standardized rating system developed by the SAE (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers). The other brands plan to follow suit next year, but they currently rate their trucks by various in-house criteria.
Despite its retuned suspension, the new Tundra still floats a bit more than the domestic competition when unladen, and it can be a bucking bronco off-road, too, with noticeable bed hop. But it’s comfortable for long days at the worksite, and the updates do make for a quieter ride than last year’s truck.
Unfortunately, with the last generation motor and six-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy has been left behind at 15 mpg combined for a 4x4, so you might want to offset some of that that consumption by picking up a Camry or Prius for commuting. In fact, there’s a good chance you will; Toyota says nearly half of all Tundra customers own another one of the company’s vehicles. And that’s exactly who this truck is for.
Toyota had high hopes for the Tundra when it entered the full-size truck class in 2000, but it hasn’t been able to crack the Big Three in sales. Customer loyalty is simply too strong for the American brands, and even the Tacoma regularly outsells it. Nevertheless, it’s found a consistent customer base for shoppers looking for a dependable truck who would rather not stray from their friendly neighborhood Toyota dealer, and this year’s changes are more than enough to maintain the status quo.
Whether the move to Texas does anything to kick sales into high gear remains to be seen, but the 1794 Edition is definitely dressed to impress the locals and should fit in in its new home just fine.
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition 4x4
Base Price: $48,595
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Power: 381 hp, 401 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
MPG: 13 city, 17 highway
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.