There was a lot of commentary about Toyota’s full-sized Tundra pickup when it debuted. It was supposed to hit American automakers where it hurt, competing with the likes of the Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado.
I must admit the Tundra does several things right. Despite its 18-in. wheels and superlarge outside mirrors, there’s practically no road or wind noise. The interior knobs and switches are big and simple to operate. They are specifically designed for somebody wearing bulky work gloves. Our Double Cabbed review vehicle had room for five full-sized people. Back-seat occupants won’t be cramped for space. There’s also a center console equipped to work as a mobile filing cabinet, complete with an area for hanging folders, a flat work space, power outlets for a laptop, and a spot for a cell phone. One of the Tundra’s two glove boxes is designed to hold a thermos bottle. Topped off with a special storage bin for maps and blueprints, the Tundra provides no excuse for having a messy cab.
Our vehicle carried a 5.7-liter V8 putting out 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. It works with a six-speed automatic and certainly has some zip for a half-ton pickup. With that engine, the Tundra is rated to tow 10,800 lb. Surprisingly, there is no option for a diesel engine, which would be my choice if I had to regularly tow that much weight. Tundra buyers less concerned about hauling trailers can also get the truck with a 4-liter V6 or a 4.7-liter V8.
One handy feature for towing is the automatic transmission’s builtin logic for going downhill. It automatically downshifts and stays in low gear so there’s no need to touch the brakes. Our truck had an optional video backup camera aimed down at the trailer hitch to ease the process of hooking up. It was one of my few gripes; the camera switches off the instant you put the truck back in drive. For those of us with bad aim, it would be less aggravating if the video stayed on for a few feet of forward movement.
Also in the back you’ll find a tailgate with hydraulic dampers. That means no banging if you drive with the tailgate open, and so obvious an improvement that you wonder why you haven’t seen it before.
We didn’t get a chance to drive the Tundra carrying a real load, but its handling with an empty bed seemed good. Steering is tight and there is not a lot of bouncing over rough railroad tracks. Overall, I liked the ride, but I am not sure the exterior styling will be everyone’s cup of tea. To me, the Tundra’s nose looked like an overchromed bad copy of a Dodge Ram.
Our review vehicle came with options that included a cold weather kit, a 10-speaker audio system, an interior package that included the center console box and power cloth seats, which I think would get filthy in real work trucks. (Leather upholstery is a better option and is also available.) It also carried the backup camera, a bedliner, and a few other amenities. The whole package came to $35,573.
The rated EPA mileage is 14/18 mpg. These trucks aren’t bought for fuel economy, but if that is an issue for you, it might be worth waiting for the hybrid versions of the Tahoe and Yukon set to come out later this year.
— Lee Teschler