6.21.2014

Where The 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition Is A Big Hit


Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition.

Not six months ago, I wrote a review of the Toyota Tundra Limited and said that while we believed Toyota had gotten the big pickup formula right the year and generation before, buyers didn't agree (The Tundra ranks sixth in pickup sales in the U.S., behind the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra and the Tundra's little brother, the mid-size Toyota Tacoma). My take was that loyalty is huge in the pickup market and as good as the Tundra is, it hadn't found whatever it would take to make Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC owners break ranks in sufficient numbers.

Not quite a month ago, the Phoenix bureau reviewed the Toyota Tundra 1794 Crewmax 4X4 and came to the same conclusion (including our other observation...the Tundra's gas mileage, which at 13 city/17 highway, is worse than Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC).

But...it's still a very nice truck.  It's a Toyota, so it's likely to be trouble-free and last very nearly forever.  What's the problem?

Hoping for answers, I requisitioned a Tundra here in Sacramento and planned a roadtrip.  There are 5 models of Tundra (SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and the new 1794 Edition), so I figured the odds were good that I'd get one of the three not reviewed here at TireKicker.  Instead, much to my surprise, a 1794 Edition was delivered. By no means a hardship, since I'd yet to see one in the metal, and I was curious how it would compare to its obvious target, the Ford F-150 King Ranch.



Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition. 

This one was identical in color to the one the Phoenix bureau reviewed (the distinctive and beautiful Sunset Bronze Mica), and equipped the same apart from not having two options the one in Arizona did: A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and a bedliner. That shaved $835 off the bottom line, so the Northern California truck rang in at $48,880. Looking at the scarring left by a previous automotive journalist, they should have popped for the bedliner. So should you.

With Navigator in the front passenger seat, we set off for Alpine County...the least populous and arguably most beautiful (though it has a lot of competition) county in California. It covers 743 square miles just southeast of Lake Tahoe and has only 1,100 human inhabitants.

Map showing Sacramento, Placerville, Lake Tahoe and Woodfords, CA
Sacramento, Placerville, Lake Tahoe and Woodfords, CA marked by the red marker (Source: Google Maps).

It's stinkin' gorgeous, as Navigator would say.  They call it "the California Alps" for a reason. Best of all, it's only about an hour and a half's drive from the foothills east of Sacramento.  The Tundra performed brilliantly on the highway, didn't break a sweat on the steep mountain passes (Luther Summit is 7,740 feet...Monitor Summit is 8,314) and it performed brilliantly (only occasionally requiring four-wheel drive) on narrow, winding, unpaved Forest Service roads leading to the best view I've ever seen in my life in.....

No.

Not going to tell you where.  If you find it on your own, fine.  But solitude is the name of the game on that particular path.  It's in Alpine County.  I'll give you that much. Odds are there are 2,000 places in that one county that will elicit the same sharp intake of breath and the "I never want to leave here" feeling.  This one's Navigator's and mine.

But back to the Tundra.  It drew admiring glances...no, strike that...long, lustful stares, oohs and aahs for the paint.  People LOVED the interior.

Interior view of 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition interior.

On the way up to Alpine County, I pulled into the parking lot of  Le's Chinese Food in the town of Pioneer to check something on my phone and the owner ran out to us.  I figured he was going to tell us how good the food was and we'd have to disappoint him because we weren't stopping to eat.  No, he wanted to talk about the truck.

Now, the Phoenix bureau has hit the nail on the head about the "1794" thing (if you haven't followed the link and read that review, "1794" refers to the year the ranch in Texas on which the truck is now built was established).  It's beyond inside baseball. Nobody cares.  Worse yet, nobody knows.

The restaurant owner was peppering me with questions...convinced that this was either the Platinum or Limited.  And he was getting more than a little frustrated with me when I kept telling him it was the new "1794 Edition".  He didn't know what that was.  He didn't know it existed.  He thought I was making stuff up.  It took the better part of five minutes to get him to see the Texas belt-buckle sized "1794 Edition" badge on the door that he was standing outside before he got it.

2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition badge
1794 Edition badge.
This was not a slow man.  It's poor marketing.  "1794 Edition" isn't "King Ranch".  It doesn't have a built-in reputation.  As the Phoenix bureau noted, it's not a brand, it's the answer to a trivia question ("What year was the ranch where the Toyota Tundra factory in Texas now stands founded, Alex?").  Toyota needs to tell all of America what that is and why it should care. Or get a new name with some built-in cachet.

But here's the thing:  Once past that, he LOVED the truck.  Wants one.  Says his wife is even crazier about it than he is (and she just saw it from out the window, because she's busy cooking). Finding out it was $1,120 short of 50 grand didn't faze him. If he were 14, he'd have asked for a poster for his bedroom wall.

Our original intent was to camp at....nope, still not gonna tell you....so we had put a significant amount of gear (tent, sleeping bag, folding chairs, cooler, other assorted camp stuff) in the bed of the truck.  But it had been a long, hot week in Sacramento and we ultimately decided in favor of a roof over our heads, a bed and air conditioning.  Thanks to a tip from the very nice people at Sorenson's Lodge, who have a lovely property but were charging a bit more than we wanted to spend, we settled on the Woodfords Inn, a remarkably reasonable old-school motel that has been nicely re-done by the new owner Ron Lamb and his wife.

Another major plus...even though it probably would have been safe in Woodfords, I wasn't about to leave the camping gear in the open bed of the truck overnight.  It all...every bit of it...went in the back seat with room to spare.

Rear seat of 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition rear seat.
And Ron...you guessed it...LOVED the truck. First thing he said to me when I pulled up was that I could probably sell it for double whatever I paid for it (two times zero in my case, but he figured I spent 45 or 50 grand...).  And during our 24-hour stay (Ron has an extremely liberal checkout time policy), the truck came up in conversation between us and with other guests....who all thought it was fantastic.

Now, here's the interesting thing.

None of them, not the restaurant owner, not Ron, not the other motel guests, own a full-size truck.

So the key to success for the Toyota Tundra may well be to find a way to sell to people who aren't current big truck owners, to create its own loyal following and build it to a point where it rivals the numbers generated by GMC, and then Ram, then Chevy and finally Ford.  Maybe the inspiration lies in the High Sierra rather than Texas.

(NOTE: The businesses mentioned have not compensated us in any way for their mentions.  They didn't know we were going to write about them. They are included as points of interest that you may want to check into should you be in the area. Your experience may vary).

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