The 2007 Toyota Tundra Road Test Review
The most popular vehicles sold in the United States are not sedans. They are not SUVs or crossovers either. No, the most popular vehicles sold in this country are pickup trucks. Big honkin trucks, many with rifle-racks in the back window. Of course, a good number of these are work vehicles, but more and more, you will find them used as the primary CarParts.com. These trucks are now available decked out with leather, GPS Navigation, surround-sound entertainment systems, and power everything. In short, all the amenities normally found in high-end automobiles.
People who buy these trucks are often faithful to a particular brand. And it better have an American name, like Ford, Chevy, Dodge or GMC. If Toyota has any chance of making in-roads into this arena, it had better build a great truck, and it had better do it right here in the good old US of A.
Well, Toyota believes that the new Tundra has what it takes in 3s. 3 cab styles, 3 wheelbases, 3 bed lengths, 3 engines, 3 trim levels, and hopefully, 3 American manufacturers that may soon be looking over their shoulders.
Couple that with a choice of 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains and a towing capacity in excess of 10,000 pounds and you have the makings of a winner.
But, what about the folks that insist on a Made in USA label? Well, Toyota tells us that the new Tundra has more US content than any of the trucks from the big three American manufacturers. The Tundra was even designed and engineered here.
Jim Press, President & Chief Operating Officer of Toyota, announced at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show that product planning for the second generation Tundra began at Toyota headquarters in Southern California. All engineering development was directed by the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And styling was the work of their Calty Design Studios in Newport Beach, California and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Tundra is being assembled at two US factories, one in Princeton Indiana and the other one, an all new state-of-the-art facility in San Antonio Texas. The Engines will be built in Huntsville Alabama and the transmissions are manufactured in North Carolina.
Toyota began their quest for the ultimate half ton pickup by spending a considerable amount of time with the people who use these trucks the hardest. The Tundra development team spent months interviewing people who owned pickup trucks. These true truckers told Toyota in no uncertain terms, what they wanted in a truck. This is the first time that American engineers had complete control over the development of a Toyota product.
But what about the trucks? How are they better?
In early December, 2006, Toyota invited a group of automotive journalists to North Carolina to get some hands-on experience with the new Tundra and put it through its paces. We got to drive on highways and rural roads, pulled trailers and even took these trucks way off road to see what they were made of.
We all came away with similar impressions. Toyota has built a half-ton full-sized pickup truck that is the equal of any truck available in the US. We spent a full day kicking tires and slogging through mud to see if Toyota put their formidable engineering talent where their mouth was. Can these trucks take on the American manufacturers on their home turf and make them sweat? Will they dominate this category of vehicle like they did with so many other vehicle types?
The jury is still out on that one, but one thing is for sure, we now have a real horse race. While Ford will remain the dominant player for the foreseeable future, my guess is that Toyota will make a sizable dent in the American pickup truck market. The two factories that are going to build the new Tundra have a capacity to build 200,000 trucks per year. That number is far below the more than 800,000 F-Series trucks that Ford cranks out, but it will certainly be hard to ignore.
The next few sections are full of technical information and details that some people will find hard to slog through, while others will complain that it was not detailed enough. For those who want more, let me know and I will try to get t to you. For all you normal people, I have divided the technical stuff into sections with headings. Feel free to read or skip over sections as you please. There will not be a quiz at the end. My driving impressions follow the technical sections, so if that is all you are interested in, skip down to "On the Road" below.
|3 Cab Styles, 3 Bed Lengths and 3 Wheelbases|
The Regular Cab Tundra has room for two or three people with a sizable space behind the seat for tools and other items that need to be protected from the weather. The floor behind the seat is hard plastic instead of being carpeted, which makes a lot of sense. Toyota claims that this cab has the largest behind-the-seat space of any full size pickup trucks with room for things like professional tool boxes or 5 gallon buckets.
The Regular Cab Tundra is available in two bed lengths, standard and long. The standard length bed is 6.5 feet long and rides on a 126.8" wheelbase while the long bed is 8 feet and sits on a 145.7" wheelbase. All beds have a wall-to-wall width of 66.4" with 50" between the wheel wells. The depth is 22.2". The short bed, which comes in the CrewMax has a length of 5.5 feet.
All Tundra beds have lockable tailgates with a gas-charged damping unit for a smooth opening drop and easier closing. When driving with the tailgate down, the damper keeps the tailgate from bouncing on rough roads. The tailgate is easily removable and has an electrical disconnect on models with a backup camera.
The Tundra can be equipped with either a front bench seat or buckets and a console. The front bench seat is split 40-20-40 and has a center section that has both a headrest and a shoulder belt. The backrest for the center section can recline or be folded flat for use as an armrest with cup holders and storage compartments. The passenger seat can fold flat to form a table.
If you choose front bucket seats with the center console, you get a large console glove box that can fit standard-size file folders on tracks molded into the box and even a laptop computer. This is ideal for people who use their trucks as mobile offices.
Other storage areas include a double glove box in the dash with the upper box capable of holding a standard Thermos bottle. There are large pockets under the front door armrests and bottle holders in each door capable of holding 22oz. bottles.
The Double-cab Tundra has room for 5 or 6 people depending whether you opt for a front bench seat or buckets and a console. The Double-Cab has 4 forward opening doors. The rear doors swing a full 80 degrees for easy access and have power rear door windows that go all the way down. The standard length bed on the Double-Cab rides on the 145.7" wheelbase while the long bed comes with the longest wheelbase of all at 164.6"
The Double-Cab rear seat is split 60/40. The rear seatbacks are angled at 22 degrees for comfort. Toyota says that the best-in-class competitor has their back seat angled at 18 degrees. The previous Tundra Double-Cab had back seats angled at 12.5 degrees. Back seat cushions on the Double-Cab can lift up individually to provide more interior floor space when not in use by passengers.
I personally think that Toyota did a great job on the styling of the Double-Cab. Rear door handles are semi hidden, but easily accessible. The proportions just seem right. Of course, styling takes a distant back seat when a truck is purchased for its utility, but many of these trucks serve as the CarParts.com where style takes on a more prominent role in the buying decision.
The CrewMax cab is huge with tons of leg room for back seat passengers to stretch out (up to 12 inches more than the Double-cab). The back seats can slide forward or back and recline. The seatback can also flip forward to form a hard platform for gear and even has tie downs to secure the load. There is additional space for storage behind the rear seat, especially when the seat is slid forward. Another nice feature on the CrewMax is an available rear window that is power operated and slides completely down.
3 Trim Levels
The Tundra is available in three trim levels so that you can order it as a work truck, A luxury passenger truck, or something in between. The base trim level is called DX and is meant for work trucks. It is only available for the Regular Cab models. The DX trim level includes a number of upscale features including Dual Zone Climate Control, Driver and front passenger side air bags and roll-sensing curtain air bags for all rows. The standard sound system in the DX is an AM/FM/CD stereo with 4 speakers and an audio input jack. The DX has crank operated windows and rubber floor mats in place of carpeting to keep the price down.
The SR5 trim is available in all 3 cab styles and adds an 8-way manually adjustable driver's seat and 4-way front passenger seat. The SR5 also includes carpeted flooring, chrome bumpers and grill surround, cruise control, Illuminated entry, power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, upgraded upholstery and variable intermittent windshield wipers.
The Limited is available on the Double-Cab and CrewMax models. It includes 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, anti-theft alarm, chrome power-retracting heated and auto dimming side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, JBL sound system with 10 speakers, Heated leather trimmed seats, and a host of other luxury features.
3 Engine Choices
You can always count on Toyota to have reliable, fuel efficient engines that are also friendly to the environment. The problem has been that these engines usually leaned toward fuel economy and clean air at the expense of maximum performance. Well, this new Tundra proves that you can have your cake and eat it to. The new 5.7 liter i-Force V8 engine has a maximum output of 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft. of torque, more than any other full-size half-ton pickup currently on the market. The 5.7 liter engine is available in any Tundra.
There is also the tried and true 4.7 liter i-Force V8 that was in the previous Tundra. This engine produces 271 horsepower and 313 lb.-ft of torque. This is the standard engine in the CrewMax cab and is optional on the other cabs. This is the same engine that powers the Toyota 4Runner, Sequoia and Land Cruiser.
The standard engine in the Regular Cab and Double-Cab is the4.0 liter V6 which pumps out 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft of torque. This engine is also used in the Toyota 4Runner as well as in the FJ Cruiser and the Tacoma
All Tundra engines use regular gas and have electronic drive-by-wire throttle control and Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVTi)
The 5.7 liter I-Force V8 engine is all new, utilizing an open-deck cast aluminum block. This engine block is the first Toyota truck block that is cast in the U.S. at a Toyota plant in Troy MO. The engines are assembled in Huntsville AL. This is also a very clean engine meeting California's ULEV II emission standard and also meets the very stringent federal Tier2 Bin 5 standard.
The V6 and 4.7 liter V8 are coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission with standard sequential shift control. The 5.7 liter engine is mated to a new 6 speed automatic that was developed specifically for this engine.
The 6-speed automatic has a lifetime fluid fill that never needs periodic changing. The wide gear spread means that there are no complex transmission/axle ratio choices in order to get the right truck for the job.
All Tundra transmissions are manufactured in the U.S.A.
The Tundra has class leading towing capacity when properly equipped. Maximum towing capacity is 10,800 pounds for the regular cab 4x2 with the 5.7 liter engine and towing package. Toyota states that this is best-in-class and overlaps the capacity of some 3/4 ton trucks.
The optional tow package uses a weight-distributing receiver. This is a one-piece hydro-formed structure that is integrated into the frame. Pre-wiring includes an under-dash connector for 3rd-party trailer brake controllers. There is also a 7 wire trailer brake & lighting connector under the bumper. On Tundras with the 5.7 liter V8, there is a Tow/Haul shift mode button included with the package that will modify shift logic for improved upshift and downshift control while pulling a trailer.
The cooling and electrical systems are upgraded with the tow package and includes an ATF warmer and cooler for more stabilized transmission temperatures under heavy workloads. There is also a power steering cooler mounted below the radiator.
Finally, the outside mirrors can be manually telescoped out to see around a wide trailer. These mirrors have a lower convex section that is manually adjustable for wider peripheral views s well as running lights and turn signals on the outer mirror housing.
If you plan to do much towing, it is a good idea to order your Tundra with the optional rear view camera. The camera comes as part of the DVD Navigation system and displays a view to the rear directly on the navigation screen in the center of the dash. You can also order a stand-alone rear view camera without Navigation. With that setup, there is a small screen imbedded in the inside rear view mirror.
The view from the camera clearly shows the hitch ball at the bottom of the screen, so it becomes a snap to align the hitch without any help from a second person calling out directions. Another advantage to a backup camera is that you can see obstructions that are not visible in your mirrors or by looking over your shoulder.
Nuts & Bolts
The Toyota Tundra for 2007 has an all-new chassis with frame rails that are 6 inches wider than the previous model. Unlike the Ford F150 with its fully boxed frame rails, Toyota chose to use a composite design with the front half fully boxed with reinforcements near the suspension mounting points and an open C-channel rear half with reinforcements under the cabin area. Toyota claims that this design has been optimized for durability, crash protection, handling and low NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) levels.
The brakes have been upgraded from previous models and include standard 4 piston front calipers and huge 13.9 inch ventilated rotors that are a meaty 1.26 inches thick. The rear calipers are single piston and clamp around 13.6 inch rotors. The emergency brake is drum type mounted inside the rear rotors.
The 2007 Toyota Tundra includes Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control as standard equipment on all Tundra models. 4x4 models are equipped with A-TRAC (active traction control) that works in 4x4 mode when front and rear axles are locked and provides independent wheelspin sensing and torque management across each axle.
An automatic limited-slip differential is standard and provides cross-axle torque management that allows some wheel spin.
The Tundra comes standard with 18 inch wheels and tires. There is also a 20 inch package available. Tire pressure monitoring is standard across the board.
Two new rear differentials are used, depending on engine choice. The V6 and 4.7 liter V8 get the differential with a 9 1/2 inch ring gear. This gear comes in two ratios depending on whether or not you order the towing package. This is the largest ring gear of any 1/2 ton full-size pickup truck. The 5.7 liter engine comes with an even larger 10.5 inch gear which is larger than most 3/4 ton pickup trucks.
The 4x4 system comes with an all-new 2-speed transfer case that uses a 6 pinion gearset and 1.5 inch wide drive chain for improved durability This system uses shift-on-the-fly 2WD-4WD and an automatic disconnecting front differential.
On the Road
All this dry technical stuff make your eyes glaze over yet? Fear not, the tech talk is over and it is time to see what the seat of the pants tells us.
I had a chance to sample several versions of the Tundra under various conditions from highway cruising to winding country roads in the civilized world. Then we went off-road on a fairly challenging trail in the woods that Toyota had laid out for us. It turned out to be even more challenging than they planned since it had rained quite heavily the night before.
Not to fear. I had plenty of experience driving in this type of terrain and had a good time watching the Toyota rep, who was along for the ride, squirm as I plowed into some washed out areas along the route. We reached one area where we had to climb a fairly steep mud-soaked hill. All four wheels dug in and started spinning with no motion from the truck. No problem. I put the truck in reverse and backed down a bit so I could get a running start, then turned the dial on the dash to engage 4-Lo. I aimed for a slightly different track and, sure enough, the big Toyota crested the steep hill with minimum wheel spin.
Plenty of ground clearance allowed us to simply drive over the large rocks and small downed trees that were in my path. The Tundra had excellent articulation, meaning that while the left front wheel was in a hole and the right rear wheel was in another hole, all 4 wheels remained in contact with the ground. Even when one wheel left the ground, our progress was not slowed one wit. The Tundra is a capable off-roader.
We left our Blue Double-Cab behind so that my colleagues could sample the off-road trails and jumped into a freshly washed silver CrewMax for a tour of the rural area of North Carolina. Sitting in the hotel parking lot, I first surveyed the massive dash panel that Toyota calls "Command and Control". The dash is well laid out with large knobs and buttons that are easily handled with work gloves. Yes, there were a pair of work gloves in the truck that we had available for us to test the claim and, yes, the controls were easy to use with the gloves on.
I found the driver's seats to be very comfortable with good thigh support. Our CrewMax Limited had the adjustable seat cushion that allowed us to increase or decrease thigh support at the touch of a button. It did this by extending the front of the seat cushion or tucking it in for us short leg folks. I found the driving position good with all major controls within easy reach.
Placing the console shifter in Drive, we set off on a route that was designed to allow our group of automotive journalists to sample a variety of roads and highways in the area. The CrewMax felt and handled like a comfortable and quiet luxury car. Road noise was very well muted and wind noise was kept in check despite the extendable mirrors that were part of the towing package.
We were surprised by how steady the ride was. Normally, an unloaded pickup truck has a ride that is different from other vehicles. This is because the rear springs that are designed to deal with a fully loaded bed. When the bed is empty, you will get a fairly bouncy ride in the rear, while the front springs absorb most of the road irregularities. This gives a pitching sensation as you drive. The Tundra CrewMax showed very little of that effect. When we later took out a long-bed Double-Cab, the pitching effect was a bit more pronounced, but not at all objectionable.
Out on winding country roads, the Tundra cornered well and remained flat and poised. The i-Force 5.7 liter V8 had plenty of power for neck snapping acceleration when needed (or when our right foot was itchy). The 6-speed automatic transmission was as smooth as silk with barely perceptible shifts at light throttle.
Finally, we got a chance to do some towing. Toyota had a Double-Cab Tundra hitched to a large box trailer that we were told was loaded with 8,000 pounds of cargo. We pressed the "Tow/Haul" button to tell the transmission we were towing a heavy load and set off. Pulling this load seemed almost effortless for the big V8, though we could tell that there was substantial weight behind us. Our short route took us up to highway speeds for a short hop. We also negotiated some hills and a bit of stop and go. We didn't try any timed runs, but it felt like there was plenty of reserve power whenever we needed it. Stability was quite good at all speeds.
The Ford F150 is known for its solid structure and quiet cabin and the Toyota Tundra is at least as good. Toyota did not provide any competing vehicles for us to determine conclusively which one is best in each area, but our seat-of-the-pants impression is that Toyota has a very competitive truck with many unique features that true truckers will want to have.
In general, this is a big brawny half-ton truck that seems to be moving into three-quarter-ton truck territory. Toyota has proven time and again that they know how to build vehicles that American people want and will buy.
From my first impression at the Chicago Auto Show last February where the Tundra was first revealed to the public, to our day long exposure to early production trucks that we could drive and knock around, I have to say that it looks like Toyota hit the target they were aiming for. A real trucker's truck that should make a significant dent in the huge American pickup truck market.
Thumbs up to the new truck on the block.