Go to any amateur track or race weekend and you’ll notice a sea of trucks, SUVs and trailers littered throughout the paddock. Racers, time trialers, and even some HPDE students want the support of a quality tow vehicle. While nearly any midsize-or-larger SUV or truck can tow an open trailer, the aerodynamics and generally higher curb weight of an enclosed trailer puts a bigger strain on the tow vehicle.

So, when Toyota offered up a 2019 Tundra as support for HyperFest, the biggest East Coast NASA weekend of the year, how well it could pull my enclosed trailer was at the top of everyone’s mind.

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Toyota wanted me to drive this 2019 Tundra Platinum CrewMax (that’s a mouthful) so badly that they let me have one when I asked nicely. It was mine for seven days and provided to me freshly-detailed with a full tank of gas.

What Is It?

This is a 2019 Toyota Tundra Platinum CrewMax, which has four full-sized doors and a 5.5′ bed. The Platinum trim level is the nicest way you can equip a new Tundra, unless you want the 1794 Edition that makes you feel like a Real Live Farmer, akin to Ford’s King Ranch or Ram’s Longhorn.

To get this out of the way… this is not A New Truck. Toyota first introduced this generation of Tundra for the 2007 model year, and gave it a bit of a refresh for 2014. The basic “bones” of the 2019 Tundra are still that of the 2007 Tundra, and you can tell in some regards.

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Although Toyota offers a few drivetrain options, all Platinum-trim Tundras come with the 5.7L “iForce” V8, which makes a naturally-aspirated 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. My Tundra had electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive, and all Tundras have a standard six-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain has not changed since 2007, although it remains competent.

The biggest update made in 2014 was to the interior. This 2019 Platinum trim has swaths of unique, quilted leather on the seats, doors and dashboard, on top of a decent feature set. Heated and ventilated seats are standard, as is Toyota’s Entune infotainment on a 6.2″ screen, pushing sound through a “premium” JBL audio system. Buyers get LED headlights and foglights, and headlights can be adjusted to compensate for payload or tongue weight. A sunroof is optional, even on the Platinum, and is not panoramic in size. Inexplicably, if you want the “sunroof and running boards” package, you can only get your Tundra Platinum with black paint. Ditch the running boards, and the full color palate is available.

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All CrewMax Tundras also have a Toyota exclusive – the roll-down rear window. Similar to the 4Runner, the entire back cab glass motors down into the cab wall at the touch of a button. Toyota holds the patent, and they’re not sharing. Smaller cabs offer a sliding rear window instead.

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All Tundras come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which is what Toyota calls their driver assistance suite. On Tundra, it includes pre-collision assistance with automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

Let’s Talk Towing

My round-trip to Virginia International Raceway allowed for roughly 500 miles of towing evaluation with my CargoPro enclosed trailer hooked to the hitch. The trailer has a 20′ box and 4′ V-nose, coming in around 27′ total length and 6,500 lbs loaded.

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Hooking up was simple, although the smaller 6.2″ screen and low-resolution backup camera made it slightly difficult to distinguish between the trailer tongue, the tow ball, and the gravel parking lot. There is no way to zoom in on the hitch as you get closer to the trailer.

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On the road with the trailer in tow, the 2019 Tundra was impressive. While the 5.7L V8 is no technological marvel by now, it makes competitive power and torque figures. Like any naturally-aspirated engine, it has to rev to make its best figures, so be ready for 4,500 rpm up bigger hills. At higher RPM, the noise coming from the V8 is not unpleasant, but there is a good bit of it – the exhaust is a bit loud and sound insulation in the cab could be better.

Beyond simple power figures, general acceleration with the trailer attached was strong. The gearing, between the six-speed automatic and standard 4:30:1 axle ratios, makes it fairly snappy off the line and allows easy passing as needed.

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Toyota includes an integrated trailer brake controller, which was quick to configure and worked smoothly once in motion. Braking, in general, was solid with no fade on longer hills. Unlike competitors, the transmission does not downshift on its own to assist with slowing the vehicle as brakes are applied.

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Several friends had either owned or test-driven Tundras prior to the 2014 refresh, and everyone complained about the suspension. It allegedly rode too harshly unloaded and sagged too much with tongue weight applied. Toyota re-tuned the suspension for 2014, and I had no complaints about this 2019 Tundra. Sag was minimal, and easily eliminated with my weight distributing hitch. The truck had very good body control over bumps, and never got wallowy, as can happen when the truck and trailer hit bumps at different times.

Is This Old-School Truck Worth New-Truck Money?

The value proposition of a brand-new, fully-loaded 2019 Tundra Platinum is where I have the most difficulty. Although the truck is, frankly, an excellent towing companion, there is plenty that makes the truck feel a bit old-school.

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No matter what trim, all Tundra buyers get a regular key that you must insert and twist to start the truck (oh, the horror). There are no “smart” door handles that sense your hand and unlock, you must use the buttons on the key for that. The Entune system has a small screen and no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Thankfully, both quibbles will be resolved for the 2020 model year.

The JBL sound system is considered “premium,” but it is by far the worst part of the 2019 Tundra. While general clarity is excellent, the entire sound stage is set within the dashboard, as if the rear speakers have no purpose. JBL includes a subwoofer, somewhere, but it doesn’t do much as all low-end comes from the front doors. Overall volume is incredibly low, regardless of source, and I kept it near maximum volume just to get to “slightly above average” listening level. There will be no windows-down jamming in a stock Tundra.

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Mirror controls (top left) are not backlit at night, for whatever reason
Photo: Jake Thiewes

Perhaps the JBL qualms don’t bother some. After all, the amplifier can be upgraded easily enough. Where the 2019 Tundra still shows its age is in the lack of other technology and “premium” features compared to the competition. There is just one camera, pointed rearward – no front or 360° views available. Toyota actively discourages the use of any Toyota Safety Sense features while towing, where the competition has updated theirs to work with trailers. Lane departure alert just beeps at you, and cannot keep you in your lane. There are no power running boards, no panoramic sunroof, no rear heated or cooled seats. The tailgate must be locked with that simple key. There is no clever bed lighting or helpful steps.

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My CrewMax in Platinum guise came with a MSRP of roughly $52,500. At that price point, I find it hard to swallow given what else is available, new, for that kind of money. However, stepping down to the Limited trim still provides the key bits of Platinum’s content, with nearly $10,000 less outlay required.

The 2019 Toyota Tundra is not a bad truck. To the contrary, it’s pretty good and does hit the basics – it’s just a bit of an old truck. And for many buyers, looking at reliability and very solid basics as their priority, those “old bones” remain a compelling selling point.

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