I drove a Toyota Tundra and a Chevy Silverado to see which full-size pickup is better - and the winner was clear

Toyota TundraMatthew DeBord/BI

In the highly competitive world of full-size pickups, there are three main players: the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado, and the RAM 1500. That's 1-2-3 in the usual sales ranking.

Behind that formidable trio, one finds the Toyota Tundra. When the Tundra first arrived in the US, it was a daring move. Toyota intended to build on its legacy for reliability and quality by attacking the most American of vehicle segments. The Tundra was the first full-size pickup from a Japanese brand, and it was built in the USA.

That was 20 years ago. The Tundra has been moderately successful, but it hasn't cracked the top-three party. The situation has only worsened for Toyota over the years, as Ford, Chevy, and RAM has effectively captured all the share to be had in the upper reaches of the market.

2019 Chevy SilveradoMatthew DeBord/Business Insider

The Silverado is usually number two, behind the F-150, and to maintain that position, Chevy has an all-new truck on dealer lots.

The Tundra, meanwhile, is completely not all-new. The 2007 second-generation design was upgraded in 2014, but the pickup is long in the tooth. That's not necessarily a bad thing for Toyota, as the company can continue to sell a lot of trucks without having to spend big money to steal customers from the Detroit Big Three.

So how does the Toyota Tundra match up against the Chevy Silverado? Glad you asked. I've driven both trucks. Here's how they compare:

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Let's start with the underdog — the Toyota Tundra 1794 Crewmax, tipping the cost scales at about $53,000, landed at our test center in suburban New Jersey last year.

Let's start with the underdog — the Toyota Tundra 1794 Crewmax, tipping the cost scales at about $53,000, landed at our test center in suburban New Jersey last year.
Read the review »

The Tundra has been around since 2000 and has amassed a loyal following, even as it fails to seriously compete with the big three.

The Tundra has been around since 2000 and has amassed a loyal following, even as it fails to seriously compete with the big three.

The current generation arrived in 2007 and was updated in 2014, making it a pretty old platform. That certainly doesn't mean Toyota doesn't take the Tundra seriously. In a week of driving it around — with a nice long run to the Catskills in upstate New York thrown in — I found out why.

You're not going to confuse the Tundra for anything other than a full-size pickup. Ours had a 5-foot-5 double-walled bed and a power-sliding rear window, as well as a "Super White" exterior and LOTS of chrome.

You're not going to confuse the Tundra for anything other than a full-size pickup. Ours had a 5-foot-5 double-walled bed and a power-sliding rear window, as well as a "Super White" exterior and LOTS of chrome.

The 1794 backstory is intricate: The oldest cattle ranch in Texas, near San Antonio, dates to 1794. The property is where Toyota built its US pickup-truck factory.

The 1794 backstory is intricate: The oldest cattle ranch in Texas, near San Antonio, dates to 1794. The property is where Toyota built its US pickup-truck factory.

Tundra badging on the liftgate was subdued.

Tundra badging on the liftgate was subdued.

A 5.7-liter V8, making 381 horsepower, lives beneath the hood. This motor supplies 401 pound-feet of bone-crunching torque. The Tundra can tow 10,000 pounds.

A 5.7-liter V8, making 381 horsepower, lives beneath the hood. This motor supplies 401 pound-feet of bone-crunching torque. The Tundra can tow 10,000 pounds.

The six-speed automatic gets the job done, but I found it to be antiquated relative to the competition. Fuel economy is a thoroughly unimpressive 13 mpg city/17 highway/14 combined.

The six-speed automatic gets the job done, but I found it to be antiquated relative to the competition. Fuel economy is a thoroughly unimpressive 13 mpg city/17 highway/14 combined.

The 1794 Tundra is a close second to the plush Ram 1500 for sheer interior bliss. And although the rear seats aren't as comfy, they're plenty roomy.

The 1794 Tundra is a close second to the plush Ram 1500 for sheer interior bliss. And although the rear seats aren't as comfy, they're plenty roomy.

The great thing about pickups is — Duh! — hauling capacity. And with the 1794 edition, you get the best of both worlds: cargo room to burn in the back, abundant premium-ness up front.

The great thing about pickups is — Duh! — hauling capacity. And with the 1794 edition, you get the best of both worlds: cargo room to burn in the back, abundant premium-ness up front.

Infotainment works fine, with GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, device integration, and satellite radio. The touchscreen interface, however, is small and rather outdated — it's more or less the same as what I have in my 2011 Prius.

Infotainment works fine, with GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, device integration, and satellite radio. The touchscreen interface, however, is small and rather outdated — it's more or less the same as what I have in my 2011 Prius.

There's also a JBL audio system, an 11-speaker rig that sounds pretty good, though it doesn't quite cross into premium territory.

The Tundra is a solid truck. But it's also an old truck.

The Tundra is a solid truck. But it's also an old truck.

In my review of the Tundra, I wrote:

"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."

BUT, I added: "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 carries Toyota's ironclad reputation for reliability."

Let's move on to a pickup that is in no way an underdog: a "Summit White" 2019 Chevy Silverado. It's the fourth-generation of the nameplate, but it's a full-size pickup that can trace its lineage back to the early 1960s.

Let's move on to a pickup that is in no way an underdog: a "Summit White" 2019 Chevy Silverado. It's the fourth-generation of the nameplate, but it's a full-size pickup that can trace its lineage back to the early 1960s.
Read the review »

This is going to be a battle of the white full-size pickups!

This is going to be a battle of the white full-size pickups!

The new Silverado tips the scales at 5,000 pounds — several hundred less than the outgoing generation, thanks to lightweight steel and aluminum.

The new Silverado tips the scales at 5,000 pounds — several hundred less than the outgoing generation, thanks to lightweight steel and aluminum.

My $57,000 Silverado LTZ Crew Cab ...

My $57,000 Silverado LTZ Crew Cab ...

... came with a short bed, but a larger box is available. (The base work truck is just under $30,000.)

... came with a short bed, but a larger box is available. (The base work truck is just under $30,000.)

The Silverado could be outfitted with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel — or, in the case of my tester, a 6.2-liter V8. This configuration can tow 12,000 pounds.

The Silverado could be outfitted with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel — or, in the case of my tester, a 6.2-liter V8. This configuration can tow 12,000 pounds.

The V8 motors have a cylinder-deactivation feature that can drop the engine down to a fuel-sipping two, if all you're doing is humming along at highway speeds. (Chevy calls it "Dynamic Fuel Management.")

At full bore, the 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 horsepower with a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. That's 65 more ponies than the 5.3-liter V8 mill. It can propel the truck to 60 mph in about six seconds, sending the power through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The MPGs are 16 city, 20 highway, and 17 combined.

The 10-speed automatic is operated by a very old-school column shifter.

The 10-speed automatic is operated by a very old-school column shifter.

The "Gideon/Very Dark Atmosphere" interior is oddly named, but still quite pleasant, if a bit on the utilitarian side. The rear seats, as in the Tundra, were a roomy bench design. My Silverado tester, while nice, wasn't as fancy as the Tundra.

The "Gideon/Very Dark Atmosphere" interior is oddly named, but still quite pleasant, if a bit on the utilitarian side. The rear seats, as in the Tundra, were a roomy bench design. My Silverado tester, while nice, wasn't as fancy as the Tundra.

My tester came with a tonneau cover for the box. It can be folded back to reveal the bed in all its glory. The spray-on bedliner is a $500 extra.

My tester came with a tonneau cover for the box. It can be folded back to reveal the bed in all its glory. The spray-on bedliner is a $500 extra.

The 8-inch center touchscreen isn't huge, but it is responsive, with a few buttons and knobs to fall back on.

The 8-inch center touchscreen isn't huge, but it is responsive, with a few buttons and knobs to fall back on.

There's SiriusXM radio, plus a full array of USB and AUX ports, and even a 120-volt outlet. The system offers a full suite of apps and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The venerable OnStar system provides 4G LTE wireless connectivity, along with navigation and emergency communications.

And the winner is the Chevy Silverado!

And the winner is the Chevy Silverado!

It shouldn't be a shock to anybody that the Chevy Silverado, all-new and ready to rock, wins the battle of the white full-size pickups.

But let's take a moment to acknowledge how competitive the Toyota Tundra is. The design has been around since 2014, and Toyota would be justified in sort of phoning it in, given the pickup's position behind the heavy hitters in the segment.

But the Tundra has a thing, and that thing is comfort and — let's be honest — Toyota's well-earned reputation for building the world's most reliable pickups. You might not like the Tundra as much as a Detroit product, and it might be awkward in some regions to roll into a job site behind the wheel of the Japanese trucks, despite it's being built in Texas. But if you want a truck that will probably last and last and last some more, giving little trouble along the way, consider the Tundra.

OK, on to the winner. The Silverado is what I'd call a purposeful or iterative update of Chevy's full-size hauler. The old truck wasn't broken, so Chevy didn't entirely fix it. The improvements were all worthwhile, however.

"Chevy took a conservative path with the new Silverado, and on balance, that was a wise call," I wrote in my full review of this truck last year.

"I couldn't find anything substantial to dislike about the Silverado. And I found plenty to enjoy. The truth is, American pickup-truck buyers now have ... excellent choices, proof that Detroit knows better than ever what it's doing in this segment."

The Tundra, in this context, isn't a bad truck. Far from it. But it just isn't quite in the Silverado's league.

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