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With the 2007 Tundra, Toyota has decided to get serious about the light-duty truck market. Gone is what some derisively called a "7/8s" pickup. In its place is an honest-to-goodness, full-size, half-ton pickup that raises the competitive bar.
Other than some basic, no more than skin-deep styling cues that keep an appropriate modicum of faith with what has gone before, everything about the 2007 Toyota Tundra is new. From mundane features like four-wheel disc brakes to a cost-is-no-object, all-new 381-horsepower V8, from a re-configured assembly line in Indiana to the costly construction of a plant in Texas, Toyota has pulled out all the stops. That thinking extends to the number of variations offered.
The 2007 Toyota Tundra comes in three body styles: a two-door Regular cab; a Double Cab with front-hinged, secondary rear side doors; and a four-door CrewMax. It's available in three bed lengths and three different wheelbases. There are three engine choices, a V6 and two V8s, and a choice of five-speed and six-speed automatics. Rear-wheel drive is standard, four-wheel drive optional. Three trim levels, DX, SR5 and Limited, offer seating for two, three, five or six. In all, Toyota says the '07 Tundra has 31 different build configurations.
Payload ratings range from 1410 pounds to 2060 pounds. An available deck rail system in the bed anchors moveable tie-down cleats rated at 220 pounds. Maximum towing capacity tops out at 10,800 pounds, at launch best in class.
A DVD-based, GPS-linked navigation system with backup camera is available. So is a state-of-the-art, rear-seat entertainment system with a nine-inch LCD that's the equal of anything in the class. With the front bucket seats comes a center console storage system that's as close to a mobile office as any honest pickup should be.
Fully contemporary suspension design smoothes the ride and gets some interesting, geometric tweaks in the rear that improve stability and steering response. Standard electronic stability control, plus traction control and limited slip differential, adds a comforting level of occupant safety.
Clearly, the full-size pickup market is undergoing dramatic change. Nissan led the way with the Titan, but has been hampered by a limited lineup. Toyota wasn't about to make the same mistake, and it obviously hasn't, whether in a variety of models, powertrains, trim levels or interior features.
If Ford, Chevrolet (and GMC) and Dodge think they're hearing something behind them and are worried it's gaining, they're right. They are, they should be, because it is.
The 2007 Toyota Tundra lineup comes in five different setups. The Regular Cab offers only storage space behind the front seat, and either the 6.5-foot standard bed or the 8-foot long bed. The Double Cab features rear side doors, forward-hinged like on an SUV, and seats for as many as six; the Double Cab comes with the standard bed or the long bed. Then there's the CrewMax, with full-size rear side doors, and the short bed.
The base engine is a 236-hp 4.0-liter V6. Next up is a 271-hp 4.7-liter V8. At the top is a 381-hp 5.7-liter V8. The 4.0-liter and 4.7-liter engines come with a five-speed automatic, the larger V8 comes with a six-speed automatic. All have a manual gear-selection feature. Electronic, part-time, four-wheel drive is offered on V8-powered Tundras.
The base Tundra DX is a the workhorse edition and only comes as a Regular Cab. A fabric-upholstered, 40/20/40-split, bench seat, vinyl floor covering, column shift and manual-crank windows are standard. So is a four-speaker, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary audio input. The manual air conditioning is dual-zone, though, and the steering wheel tilts. Toyota's unique, gas strut-boosted, tailgate assist is standard, too. Steel wheels wear P255/70R18 tires.
Options include a Cold Weather Package, with heavy duty battery and starter and heated, power outside mirrors; a Tow Package with integrated hitch, four-pin and seven-pin connectors, trailer brake controller connectors, supplemental transmission cooler and, on the 5.7-liter V8 models, manually extendable towing mirrors incorporating turn signals and running lights. The SR5 package includes chrome bumpers and grille surround; power windows, door locks and outside mirrors; cruise control; variable intermittent wipers, and upgraded upholstery fabric and carpet.
SR5 trim is available in all three cab configurations. The SR5 fabric front bench gets better quality upholstery and eight-way driver and four-way passenger adjustments, both manual. Other driver-assist and creature-comfort upgrades include power windows, central locking and outside mirrors; cruise control; keyless remote; two more speakers, for a total of six; a third power point; carpeted floor mats; and rear seat heater duct. Exterior trim is upgraded with chrome bumpers and a chrome grille. The V8 towing package is standard on the Long Bed. The multi-function mirrors come standard with the 5.7-liter V8.
Additional options include a JBL AM/FM/CD stereo with six-disc, in-dash changer, 10 speakers, Bluetooth and leather-trimmed steering wheel with redundant audio controls; DVD-based navigation system with backup camera; and running boards. The TRD Off-Road Package for an SR5 short bed V8 engines includes a specially tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, P275/65R18 tires on unique, aluminum alloy wheels and fog lamps.
The Limited trim features leather-trimmed front bucket seats with seat heaters, 10-way power adjustable for the driver's side, four-way power adjustable for the passenger's side; floor-mounted shifter and center console; automatic dual-zone climate control; the JBL AM/FM/CD audio setup but with 12 speakers; tilt/telescope steering wheel; sliding rear glass; and auto-dim inside rearview mirror with compass and programmable garage/gate remote. Outside, the front bumper is color keyed, while the rear bumper remains chromed, as does the grille surround, although now the grille bars get chrome, too. The outside mirrors upgrade to chrome, heat, auto-dimming and integrated turn signals. Fog lamps, engine skid plate and bed-mounted, deck rail system with adjustable tie-down cleats are standard, too. P275/65R18 tires on aluminum alloy wheels are standard, P2275/55R20 on alloy wheels optional.
The CrewMax comes in SR5 or Limited trim. Features and options pretty much track those of the Double Cab, but with a few additions: a vertically sliding, power rear window; a slide-and-recline, three-passenger, rear bench seat; and an ov
In much the same way as there's a certain look a minivan must have to earn the public's acceptance in that market segment, so does it appear today's full-size pickups must mimic at least to some degree the Peterbilt-like, oversize grille and bulging hood that first appeared on the Dodge Ram in the early 1990s.
To this end, the 2007 Toyota Tundra abandons the high-stepping, nose-in-the-air look of the 2006 Tundra in favor of a more down-to-earth, but still dominant grille, boldly framed in black or chrome, depending on trim level, and carrying into the truck's fascia the lines of the deeply sculpted hood. Headlights are set into the fenders and separated from the bumper, itself bottom-loaded with black resin, chrome finish or body colored, again by trim choice.
The side view is rather bland, very Toyota-like, with understated fender flares tied together by a gentle indent along the lower door panels. The optional towing mirrors look overly large on the regular and double cab models. Deep recesses make beefy door handles easy to grip. The CrewMax uses these big handles on all four doors, while the Double Cab uses vertical grabs on the back doors that are a bit snug. Body proportions comfortably accommodate the three bed lengths and three wheelbases. Interestingly, gaps between body panels aren't as tight as in the newer models of some of the competing brands; Toyota's stylists concluded slightly wider gaps are more suggestive of the impression of ruggedness they want the new Tundra to make.
Rearview, of course, is traditional pickup. No stand-out styling cues here, save maybe for the backup lights, which are dimensionally almost the equal of the taillights.
Finally, the Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup. In all but one or two dimensions, the Tundra's three different beds are within mere tenths of an inch of the competition's comparables, in most cases on the plus side. The short bed on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra measures 2.3 inches longer than its Tundra counterpart, the Ram standard bed is 2.4 inches shorter, and the Silverado's beds are 1.2 inches shallower, the Ram's beds two inches shallower.
Interior ergonomics are way above par for full-size pickups. The seats are comfortably cushioned without being soft, with modest side bolsters in front. Deep seat bottoms provide ample thigh support. Fabric upholstery feels durable, likewise the leather, which is more of a heavy-duty grade than luxurious.
Visibility is unparalleled; even the rear seat entertainment system's drop-down LCD is only barely noticeable in the rear view mirror.
Dash-mounted controls, most of the more critical and frequently used large knobs with solid detents, show preference to work gloves over polished fingernails. The steering wheel, the largest in any Toyota, is properly scaled for the largest Toyota pickup. The floor-mounted shift lever feels more natural and more precise, with the manual-select gate on the driver's side of the gate, than the column-shift, but neither transmit any sloppiness.
The Tundra has a roomy cab. In occupant measurements, the '07 Tundra generally gives up little or nothing to the competition, although where it trails, it's sometimes by more than an inch; for example, in hiproom where the Ford F-150 offers almost 2.5 inches more in front, the Dodge Ram almost two inches more both front and rear. However, in all-important rear seat legroom in the double cab, likely the biggest seller, only the Dodge Ram tops the Tundra, with the F-150 coming up two inches short.
Generally, the CrewMax is more comfortable for rear passengers. The back seat in the CrewMax is closer to the 40/20/60 front bench seat in shape and contours with deep seat bottoms and a slide-and-recline feature. The Double Cab rear seat is the most bench-like. Dogs may prefer the Double Cab, however. With the seats folded for cargo, the Double Cab has a significantly lower load height, which should make it easier for canines to get in and out.
The passenger seatback in the Regular Cab folds forward to present a flat work/writing area, and there's room behind the seat for a mid-size generator and a five-gallon bucket. This is besides bins, both open and capped, for tools and such.
If there's fault to be found on the inside the 2007 Toyota Tundra, it's that it's overloaded with features. Especially the up-level interior, which some might say tries to be everything for everybody. But even the base, front bench-seat cab surprises with the number of goodies.
There's a bi-level glove box, with an upper compartment big enough to hold a mid-size Thermos bottle. The lower compartment, more than twice the size of the upper, is lighted and fitted with a damped door. Front door map pockets are molded to hold two, 22-ounce water bottles; likewise, rear door map pockets on the CrewMax. Double Cab rear door map pockets hold one bottle. Front door armrests house flip-out compartments beneath the power window switch plates; models with manual windows forgo these conveniences.
Column-shift Tundras have two, flexible-sized cup holders in a slide-out tray beneath the climate control panel and two more in the backside of the fold-down center section of the 40/20/40 bench seat; in the double cab, still two more fold out of the base of the backside of the front seat center section, in the CrewMax, yet another two in a rear seat, fold-down center armrests. The console in floor-shift models contains three cup holders, two in a lift-out plate covering a large compartment; between this and the shift gate is a narrow slot, concealed beneath a snap-out cover, that Toyota notes is just right for a Thomas Bros. map/guide book. The seat bottom in the center section of the 40/20/40 bench seat pivots forward to reveal an otherwise fully concealed compartment.
The crowning touch of the new Tundra's interior is the center console compartment in the uplevel cabin trim, the one with bucket seats. This compartment transforms the Tundra cabin, for all intents, into a road-going office, to a greater extent than any of the competition. The
Pickup makers like to tout their different tacks on frame design, materials and construction. There's hydro-formed this, C-channel that, fully boxed the other, then welded versus one-piece, high-tensile steel against, well, whatever; for the record, the Tundra is a hybrid, unibody-on-frame, which is fully boxed in the front half, rolled C-channel in back. Truth is, though, what a driver really cares about is how it all comes together under the right foot, at the seat of the pants and at the hitch. And of all five-and-a-half (to cover Chevy and GMC) full-size, light-duty trucks in play, the Toyota Tundra heads the class.
A couple examples from the powertrain department make the point. The V6 and the 4.6-liter V8 are what has been state of the art for a number of years, as are many of the competition's engines, with variable intake valve timing, sequential fuel injection, knock sensors (allowing in most cases use of 87 octane gas), electronically managed throttle-by-wire and dual-length intake manifolds.
But the real news, and in the truest sense of that word, is in the 2007 Tundra's 5.7-liter V8. This all-new (there's that word again) V8 advances light-duty truck engine technology with the addition of variable exhaust valve timing. And not just timing, but phasing as well, also changing the speed of the valves' movement, the duration (how long the valves stay open) and the overlap between exhaust and intake. Careful manipulation of these dynamics achieves two, complementary goals, optimizing power and fuel economy and lessening stress of valve springs. Downstream, the two-into-one, dual exhaust system achieves balance between the two pipes by looping one back on itself inside the muffler, thus making them in fact the same length and, for the most part, equalizing back pressure so one bank of cylinders doesn't have to work any harder than the other in pumping combusted gases out of the engine.
There's more, but these examples make clear that Toyota's engineers didn't just cobble together some bits and pieces from the engine department's parts bins in building what's currently the most powerful V8 in the class. The benefits of this level of attention to detail are evident throughout the 2007 Tundra.
More generally, power delivery in the two V8 engines is linear, and surprisingly strong at low engine speed. This is especially so in the larger of the two, where 90 percent of the torque is on tap from 2400 revolutions per minute to 5500 rpm. Very impressive is the absence of any discernible surge associated with any of the intake manifold length transitions or valve-related variations.
Fuel economy is competitive, with the V6 4X2 earning an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, the 5.7-liter V8 4X2 16/20 city/highway and the 4X4 14/18 city/highway; only the Silverado does the Tundra one better, with its 5.3-liter V8 4X2 earning a highway rating of 22 mpg.
Gear changes in the transmissions are smooth, but more apparent when trailering. Adaptive downshifts during braking on downhill grades are well managed, properly timed and helpful.
Based on a half-day of towing on interstates and country roads, there seems to be quite enough power, although the Tundra's optional brake controller lacks the sophistication of Ford's, which works more like a rheostat than an on/off switch, making for much smoother stops.
Opening and closing the tailgate is dramatically eased by the Tundra's ingenious tailgate assist. Not content with merely incorporating a torsion bar in the hinge assembly to make the tailgate feel lighter, the Tundra gets a gas-pressurized strut, concealed behind the left taillight, to damp the lowering and to assist the raising of the lockable tailgate. Talk about thoughtful and thorough.
Steering feedback is, well, odd. Not disturbing or uncertain, but odd. There's a softness on center, which tempts a driver to m
At last, the Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup. And in almost every measure, the all-new 2007 Tundra equals or tops the domestic brands. It offers more power. It can tow more. It's more comfortable. And with the right options, it's even more fun to drive. The new Tundra is clearly award-winning merchandise and the truck Toyota faithful have been waiting for.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Louisville, Kentucky.
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