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Old 04-20-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow 2007 Toyota Tundra Road and Trail Test

2007 Toyota Tundra Road and Trail Test

Remember the T100? No? Well, I don't blame you, being that very few were ever sold. It wasn't that it was a bad truck or anything, but with no V8, a smaller overall size than its peers and rather bland styling it didn'thave what it needed in order to pull full-size pickup truck buyers away from the domestic brands. The Tundra did a much better job when introduced in 1999 as a 2000 model ... a theme that was expanded in model year 2004 with the four-door Double Cab. Still, it remained slightly smaller than the Big 3 trucks and, despite offering a ruggedness that has been a Toyota truck hallmark since the Japanese automaker brought its first pickup to market some seventy years ago, the 1937 G1, it was only moderately well-received by the traditional pickup truck crowd.

So, will all this change now that Toyota has launched the larger, more powerful and much more capable all-new 2007 Tundra in even more body configurations? After all, it only seems logical that Toyota will eventually do to the pickup truck segment what it did with its top-selling Camry in the midsize sedan category. That, of course, presupposes that it intends to beat Ford at its own game and eventually become number one in light duty trucks, and other than buying the beleaguered domestic manufacturer outright, as some analysts speculated might happen when heads of both companies first sat down for talks at the Japanese automaker's Tokyo headquarters in December of last year, it will need to seriously improve sales of its Tundra if it hopes to pass F-150 deliveries that are regularly over 900,000 units per year.

But let's get one thing perfectly straight. Even if Toyota harbors such wishful thinking, its team of executives, present for the launch of the all-new 2007 Tundra, didn't hint that such lofty ambitions were in their plan of attack. Rather, Toyota has finally put a full-size pickup in direct contention with the F-150, as well as the General's all-new Silverado and Sierra twins, Dodge's Ram and,lest we not forget the mildly revised Nissan Titan. It's big, as ruggedly handsome as anything in the class, sinfully powerful, and like the old Tundra, wonderfully refined. It's so refined, in fact, that I have to admit to being a little put off.

I mean, isn't a pickup truck supposed to shake and shimmy when going over bumps? Shouldn't its occupants be able to hear the whir of the tires when on the highway, or at least a rumble from the exhaust? C'mon, this is sacrosanct pickup truck fodder! Truck guys like truck sounds, and one of the best truck sounds is a gurgling exhaust note telling all that there's a big, honkin' V8 behind that mean lookin' grille. Evidently Tundra buyers aren't interested in such vulgarities. Fair enough.

Open the sound-resistant driver's door and stroll around the back of any Tundra equipped with the all-new i-Force 5.7-liter V8, mind you, and you'll hear all the rumble your ears will need in order to make you a true believer. Even the displacement of its top-line 350 cubic-inch V8 is a sure sign that Toyota's after common ground, and when its outrageous output is mixed into the formula, measuring up to a maximum of 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, well, it's cleanup time at the Toyoda family Wagyu cattle ranch.

HEMI? What HEMI? GM's top-line 6.0-liter V8? Kicks the General's butt too, and Ford hasn't got anything close to this Toyota mill. Nissan? Yeah, whatever. Only the Big 3's heavy-duty trucks come to the party with anything as robust, and then only with their pricy diesels. Off the line, the Tundra, so equipped, catapults forward with more fortitude than I've ever experienced in a pickup this side of the Viper-powered Ram SRT-10. Truly, the acceleration is so strong it'll make you feel like Todd Bodine launching out of the pit in his No. 30 Tundra before taking to the high ovals atDaytona in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. OK, maybe not, but as far as production trucks are concerned, this is one mean machine. As expected there's enough passing power on tap to lay slower moving traffic to waste, which, when trying to make haste on a two-lane highway with abbreviated passing lanes, could be seen as a safety perk.

Of course, there are some that will see such overindulgence as a road hazard, and I suppose leaving a 5.7-liter equipped Tundra in the hands of a teenage boy or young ***** male, or for that matter your average automotive journalist, would hardly seem the most intelligent move. For such party poopers, and those who would rather reduce their monthly payment, Toyota offers an upgraded 4.7-liter V8 with a more moderate 271-horsepower and 313 lb-ft of torque. This is a great powertrain too, with ample performance at take-offand all that most people need when it comes to hauling and towing. When talking fuel savings, however, there's no reason to go for the smaller engine at all.

Actually, due to the larger powertrain's extra forward gear (six compared to the 4.7's five) and greater torque, the latter of which results in lower energy requirements in order to move the Tundra's sizeable mass, you'll actually save a bit at your local gas station. In fact, the 5.7-liter equipped Tundra 4x2 achieves a best in class rating of 16 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway, beating the 4.7-liter engine by a substantial 2 mpg on the open road.

These are EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) figures, of course, so don't expect them to directly relate to your own personal experience, but the general theory should bolster the 5.7-liter engine's case when hills, curves, loadcarrying and towing are thrown into the mix, being that the larger engine will once again be less stressed and therefore deliver slightly better fuel economy. The theory gets thrown a little off track when factoring the 4x4 into the equation, however, as the 4.7 manages to eke out 15 mpg compared to the 5.7's 14 mpg, but nevertheless equals out on the highway as both engines manage 18 miles to the gallon.

Yes, I know that I don't normally spend so much time and energy figuring out fueleconomy stats, but I do it here for two reasons. First, because Toyota has a reputation for delivering fuel conscious vehicles and therefore any improvement (or lack thereof) over its own outgoing Tundra, not to mention the competition, is a big deal, and secondly because light-duty truck segment sales are often driven by fleet managers trying to stretch every dollar out of already thin budgets. Even seemingly inconsequential improvements in fuel economy can matter as much as capability and reliability when you've got ten or twenty trucks running hard all day long, day in and day out. But then again the differentiators aren't necessarily nominal when side-by-side with some of the Tundra's Big 3 rivals; depending on engine, trim and other details, mind you. In other words, I was willing to do the calculations for old and new Tundras, but I'm not about to dedicate the next three paragraphs to comparing the new Tundra to every conceivable configuration of Ford, GM, Dodge or Nissan half-ton pickup. Suffice it to say that most Tundras will beat their similarly equipped competitors at the pump.

Moving on then, will thethrifty 5.9 haul as much as the good old boys from Motown? Well, at the time of this writing at least, yes ... and then some. Depending on how you configure your truck (standard rear-wheel drive trucks almost always manage higher payloads and greater tow ratings) the Tundra is capable of carrying 1,220-lb loads at the low end and 1,860 lbs of what-have-you at the high end, all snugly strapped into a rather large, factory-lined bed with handy tie-down hooks, a fancy clamping system and an integrated bed rail for made-to-fit accessories.

One of the reasons that domestic trucks sell so well is because of the myriad of configurations you can buy them in. Most brands will sell you a regular cab truck with a short box, or at the other end, a crew cab with a long box, and then everything in between, despite the reality that producing small numbers of oddly configured trucks can be a rather expensive luxury. The fact is, however, when you're selling close to a million pickups per year, which is the case for Ford and GM, then even a small run a of niche configuration can add up to a relatively large number. Toyota's numbers aren't so large, at least not yet, and while understanding that it will sell more trucks if it caters to its customers a la carte, the Japanese brand has expanded what it previously offered to three unique layouts.

The first is the standard Regular Cab, which, with its three-person capacity pretty well speaks for itself, while the second is a new version of last year's Double Cab, now sporting normal front-hinged rear doors instead of the awkward clamshell setup. For families or fleet managers needing to transport larger crews, the new CrewMax is the way to go, as it opens up one of the largest interiors in the light truck class.

As far aswhat bed can be had with which cab, suffice it to say there's quite a number of variations, the shortest being the Regular/Double Cab with a 6.6-foot Standard Bed, and the longest being the Long Bed version of the same model(s) with an 8.1-foot long box, stretching to 247.6 inches bumper to bumper. The CrewMax, incidentally, can only be had with the 5.6-foot short box. No matter the configuration, the Tundra only comes in two overall lengths, 228.7 inches or the aforementioned 247.6 inches.

And accessing that bed is one of the truck's coolest features, a tailgate that only the Japanese could have dreamed up. Gone is the oh-so-gauche slam of heavy metal on metal as the rear gate falls from grace on squeaky metal hinges, replaced by a well-damped, silently soft landing. How refined! I can't remember how many people I showed this to, with equally awestruck faces each time. It's also a light lift back into place,clicking into its moorings for a nice, tight, rattle-free fit. Interestingly, the recently updated Titan also features a soft-drop tailgate, so it seems that the inspirational engineering muse is still alive and well and dropping creative innovations on waiting and willing product developers simultaneously ... or one of these two had an especially effective spy. No doubt, the domestics will copy this feature in short order, but for now only the Tundra and Titan offer it.

Stepping inside, the new Tundra is a really nice place to spend time. I suppose none of us should be shocked or anything, considering that when the previous Tundra hit the scene it was quickly pronounced the Lexus of pickups. I wouldn't go so far to say that this nickname is particularly fair to any new Lexus, a brand that produces some of the best-made, highest quality interiors in the business, but the new truck's cabin is definitely a step up from the outgoing one, which, as you may have gathered was already very good. Eschewing a trend toward classy, luxury-oriented truck interiors, which began with thecurrent F-150 that was recently upstaged by GM's latest half-ton twins, the new Tundra has been designed to appeal to sportier drivers. Even when loaded with leather and other high-end features it's silver-rimmed gauges with silver surrounding surfaces are anything but old-school, and the piano black that covers the audio and HVAC interface looks stylish, and oh-so Japanese. All the associated buttons are glove-sized, so those with larger hands won't be fiddling around when trying to adjust the temperature or change radio presets, and, of course, there are steering wheel controls available for the latter anyways, which are also well set up for large-digit users.

One of those knobs can set the four-by-four mode (or four-by-two mode) of choice to 2H, 4H or 4L, and as expected, when set to either of the latter two it navigated the few off-road segments Toyota provided with as much ease as it tallied up mile after mile of paved roads and highways, or for that matter soaked up the bumps and dips of the city. And while the undercarriage was undergoing rough treatment, I certainly felt comfortable in the truck's large driver's seat, which is supportive in all the right places and can be ordered covered with fabrics and leathers that appear as if they'll stand up to the test of time, not to mention heavy labor.

Long-term durability should be true of the entire truck actually, although being a new model it's impossible to say for sure. Still, one look underneath at the chassis and you'll appreciate that Toyota didn't go halfway with the Tundra. Everything is so wonderfully over-engineered that it should be able to handle years and years of abuse, which is exactly what work trucks are forced to endure. For these reasons, and others already mentioned, I expect the new Tundra to sell muchbetter than the one it's replacing, although it'll be decades before Toyota ever achieves F-150 sales numbers with the Tundra. This may come in time, however, as its Tacoma midsize pickup is now number one in its segment. One thing's for sure ... this new Tundra will seriously dent Titan deliveries and steadily encroach on sales of the Big 3 trucks too. And if Toyota ever builds diesel-powered heavy-duty versions of this truck, and the Tundra already seems pretty close to your average ?? ton, life on the range will get even more interesting.

With so much variety, it certainly is a good time to be a light-duty truck buyer, and if you're serious about getting the best truck for your needs, you might want to put domestic loyalties aside and drive Toyota's updated Tundra ?? although it is made in Texas so it's kind'a like you're buying North American. Either way, it's as good as any in the half-ton class and in some ways better. I'm not going to go so far as saying that it's the best of the lot, as some competitors do some things better, but on the whole, as a well-rounded pickup, the Tundra is tough to beat.

Source: [url=http://car-reviews.automobile.com/Toyota/review/2007-toyota-tundra-road-and-trail-test/2808/]Automobile.com[/url]
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