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AN INSIDE LOOK

FULL-SIZED AT LAST
2007 Toyota Tundra set to best all comers in the ˝-ton pickup market

By Bruce W. Smith

Many of their well-deserved “best in class” milestones in the ˝-ton pickup arena are being felled by a new full-size contender—the 2007 Toyota Tundra—and the entry of this band new entry is bound to make Dodge, GM, Ford, and Nissan squirm at least a little.

The all-new, American-designed, American-built 2007 Toyota Tundra has more towing capacity than the Ford F-150, offers the most powerful 6.0-liter-and-under V8 than offered in any of its competitors, and has more legroom than found in any regular cab or four-door pickup.   

Toyota’s new Tundra offers consumers 31 configurations, a maximum towing capacity of 10,800 pounds, an optional 381hp 5.7L V8, six-speed automatic standard, and enough interior room to offer reclining and sliding rear seats in the Tundra CrewMax—a direct competitor to the Dodge Ram Mega Cab.

"We learned from the (Nissan) Titan launch that you can't just out-spec the
competition," says Jim Farley, group vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. "Our national [advertising] campaign likely will be more focused, maybe something like, 'We listened to (the customer), and you got what you wanted."

That’s not pure hype, either. From our time on the road behind all the models offered with the healthy 5.7L V8, it is clear to see Toyota has finally stepped big-time into the full-size pickup arena.

BUILT FOR THE WORKING CLASS

 Seeing the new pickup for the first time leaves little doubt Toyota enters the full-size pickup market with the working men and women of America as the primary focus of attention.

The new pickup is big—a full 10 inches longer overall length, nearly five inches taller, and four full inches wider than the Tundra it replaces. Such exterior dimensions place the 2007 Tundra squarely among the biggest of ˝-ton pickups on the market.

Toyota has brought what they call the “power of the fist” design them from the concept Toyota FTX Concept Truck show a couple years ago into the new Tundra. From the side the pronounced wheel arches give the Tundra a distinct barbell-look, and the tall bed sides, big tires and wide stance add to truck’s overall muscular look.

That look isn’t just cosmetic; it’s stout underneath, too.

With development and engineering support from Hino motors, Toyota’s heavy-truck affiliate, U.S. engineers and designers at the Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, worked from the ground up to make the new Tundra ideally suited for enduring the rigorous demands placed on a pickups by those who work and recreate outdoors in America’s heartland.

The reinforced, high-tensile steel chassis, which is a full six-inches wider than the ’06 Tundra and considerably stronger, sets the stage for the entire truck. The frame is tough, being built with a heavy gauge steel in a composite design comprised of a fully-boxed front half, open “C”-channel under the bed, and special rolled ”C”-channel under the cab.

Engineers also took special interest in making sure the suspension mounts were rigid enough to maximize every centimeter of performance from an all-new suspension, be it heavily laden or running empty.

In fact, the design of the rear leaf springs and independent coil-over-shock front suspension on the new Tundra allow it to remain at a level ride height even while carrying or towing the maximum load for that particular model.

That balanced vehicle attitude means the truck’s driving characteristics remain constant, giving the driver a strong sense of confidence while driving. That was demonstrated as I sat behind the wheel of a new Double Cab 4x4 while towing 9,800-pounds of building materials on a flatbed trailer.

Despite nearly 1,000 pounds of tongue weight on the weight-distribution hitch, the Tundra sat perfectly level. The same was true when the deep, wide cargo bed of a two-wheel-drive Regular Cab Tundra I drove was loaded with nearly a ton of bricks.

By the way, those working in construction, ranch, farming, or landscaping business, will appreciate the new long bed because it’s the deepest in the ˝-ton pickup class. At the same time, the tailgate on all Tundras is one of the easiest to open and close thanks to a built-in gas-charged assist strut located inside the left rear pillar that greatly reduces such efforts.

A SMOOTH HANDLER   

Driving the new Tundra pickups, regardless of model, brings more than a few pleasant surprises, too.

Tundras, of all confirgurations, have one of the highest payload capacities in the market and the highest towing ratings in the ˝-ton pickup class. They are rated to tow anywhere from 10,100 pounds to 10,800 pounds depending on the model and setup.

But like nearly every other full-size pickup out there, the Tundra is only rated to tow 5,000 pounds unless a weight-distribution hitch is used. So those towing trailers with hydraulic surge-type brakes, such as the majority of boat trailers on the road, will not be able to tow more than that amount without surpassing the factory limitations. 

That class-leading weight-distribution towing capacity doesn’t overly affect the ride. The Tundra I drove—both loaded and empty—didn’t feel harsh when empty or mushy when loaded.

In fact I’d equate the ride to that of the current Dodge Ram 1500, a little firmer than the 2007 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500s, and a lot firmer than the current F-150. (Most of Tundra ride firmness is exhibited in the rear suspension where some ride quality is sacrificed for maximum towing capacity.)

Toyota engineers accomplished this feat by mounting the staggered shocks outboard of the rear springs, increasing the stroke of the rear shocks by 5-percent, utilizing soft-rate bump stops, longer-taper and redesigned leaf springs, and positioned them in a splayed “toe-out” configuration.

This rear suspension design is accompanied by a very precise-feeling rack-and-pinion steering system and a new front suspension that keeps all models of the new Tundra running smoothly down the highways and byways of America.

Take the 4x4 version off-pavement and the ride is akin to a stout half-ton; you know this pickup is built for work/towing/hauling and not just a big sedan with a bed. The shock valving in the front is a little too soft on the rebound, to hash on compression—and the rear suspension reveals it’s love for handling a towed load—not necessarily an unburdened bed.

When it comes to maneuverability in tight turns and close quarters, such as one finds in many home-improvement center parking lots, around the ranch and on busy job sites, the Tundra handles like a much smaller pickup. It turns sharper than any of the competitors.

The redesigned front suspension and steering incorporates increased tire turning angle that gives the standard-bed Double Cab a remarkably short 44-foot turning diameter, which is the best in the class.

BIGGER AND BETTER

Occupant safety is also a Tundra strong point. It should rank among the very best in all areas. For example, while other pickup manufacturers seem to be cutting costs by putting drum brakes on the rear, Toyota chose to fit the new Tundra with huge disc brakes at all four corners.

The 13.9”x1.26” vented front rotors, stopped by opposed four-piston calipers, are a full 1.5-inches bigger in diameter than the old Tundra—and are the biggest an thickest front disc brakes on any ˝-ton pickup. The rear discs are no slouches, either, at 13.6”x.71”. Combined they provide the Tundra with tremendous braking power.

That stopping power is further enhanced by the most advanced, state-of-the-art brake control system found on any full-size pickup. The computer-controlled system, like that found in Toyota and Lexus SUVs, affords the driver the best vehicle stability, traction, and braking to maximize occupant safety.

Another benefit of Toyota’s advanced computer braking system is four-wheel-drive model Tundra pickups equipped with the new A-TRAC (active traction control) get enhanced traction capability.

Special sensing and software in the A-TRAC system provide brake- and throttle-enhanced traction control even when the truck is in 4x4 mode with the front and rear axles locked. The system also allows independent wheelpsin sensing at each wheel so power can be managed across each axle to maximize traction under adverse conditions.

Outdoorsmen and off-road adventurers will find this very helpful when it comes time to hit that four-wheel-drive button.

They will also find the TRD Off-Road Package, with its specially tuned springs, 18-inch wheels, B.F. Goodrich A/T off-road tires, and Bilstein gas-charged shocks, and fog lamps, a great upgrade over the “stock” four-wheel-drive  tire/wheel/suspension package.

Again, Toyota has done a great job redesigning the new Tundra. But so has GM in the redesign of their new full-size Silverado/Sierra pickups. Put the two hood-to-hood off-road to see which one delivers the best handling and I’d put my money on the GMs equipped with their Z60 or Z71 suspension package.      

WORKER-TRUCK FOCUS

The new Tundra is available in three cab configurations each with three levels of trim: Base, SR5 and well-appointed Limited. The “Access Cab” has been dropped because the new Regular Cab provides nearly the same interior room, and Toyota adds a brand new model to the line called the CrewMax—an extended body four-door.  

The latter competes directly with the Dodge MegaCab, which laid claim to being the biggest ˝-ton pickup on the market until now.

But, as I found out riding in the backseat for a short trip, the CrewMax does its competitor one better by offering second-row seats with enough legroom that you can actually slide and tilt the split bench—another first in full-size pickups.

“During early development, our [design and engineering] team spent months interviewing owners of full-size pickups on farms, construction sites, and logging camps to find unmet needs—and features,”  says Yuichiro Oto, Chief Engineer of the new Tundra and two previous North American vehicles.

“The decision to build a truck for this customer—rather than a truck that benchmarked the competition—was aggressively pushed by our American engineers. And it paid huge dividends,” Oto beams.

“What we got was a Regular Cab designed for realistic work-truck applications; the replacement of the Access Cab in favor of the Double Cab—with a more accessible front-hinged rear door; and the huge CrewMax cab with enough room for the only sliding-and-reclining rear seat in the business.”

BIGGER & ROOMIER

All three models of the new Tundra—Regular Cab, Double Cab , and CrewMax—have strikingly spacious interiors with workman-like styling and features. You feel instantly at home behind the wheel.

The driver’s view around the outside of the truck is excellent with no inherently big “blind spots. The view of the instrumentation and location of all the console controls is also well thought out.

Overall fit and finish is much more work-truck oriented than Lexus luxury as some Toyota trucks have offered in the past. For example, the interior trim materials seem to be toned down a bit, and the new Tundra’s knobs, switches and buttons are within close reach of the driver—and all can be easily operated with gloved-hands.

“On the inside, our goal was to provide the driver a feeling of ‘command and control,’ and xpression we felt was approporaite for the new Tundra design,” says Erwin Lui, the Studio Design Manger at Calty Design Research in Newport, Beach, California. “We wanted to capture the feeling of power…like stepping into a Mack Truck.”

You almost feel that way, too. All three new cabs provide front passengers with four inches more shoulder room than the old Tundra, and the second row seats in the Double Cab and CrewMax give rear passengers nearly three inches more shoulder room.

That extra spacious afforded by the wider body extends to hip room as well. Front passengers now have nearly four more inches of seat width to enjoy while rear passengers have six more inches to spread out.

STORAGE GALORE

Interior storage capacity increases in a similar manner. In fact, the new Tundra is probably the most stuff-friendly pickup on the market. A look around the cabin and you find hidden storage compartments, second-row seats that double as work surfaces, storage under and behind the rear seats, and a huge center console that holds a laptop—or hanging file folders (a world first).

I especially liked the large pockets under the arm rests, the huge upper glovebox that stores a standard Thermos bottle and the lower glovebox to keep registration papers, and the front doors that each has holders for two 22-ounce bottles.

The cabs of the new Tundras are truly setup to be a working office for the pickup owner who needs such a thing in an everyday work environment. 

What is also nice about the new pickups is the Regular Cab feels like competitor’s “extended cab” models—and the Double Cab more spacious than their four-doors. Even cooler is if you really need a four-door with cab space to accommodate a work crew of six and all their gear, the CrewMax can’t be beat.

CREWMAX THE MAX

Dodge touts their 2007 Dodge Ram Mega Cab as “The largest pickup cab ever, with class-leading interior room and comfort for six adult passengers and their gear, the 2007 Dodge Ram Mega Cab extends beyond the competition.”

True—until the Tundra CrewMax showed up. Toyota designers cut a foot off the Double Cab bed and used that extra space on the frame to super-size the four-door’s cab.

The end result is the a super-sized four-door pickup that tows 1,700 pounds more than the Mega Cab and has most front and rear legroom of any full-size pickup. The Tundra CrewMax interior dimensions nearly mirror that of its only competitor.

What the Tundra CrewMax offers that the Mega Cab doesn’t are sliding rear seats, or reclining rear seats with as much range (9-41 degrees).

The sliding second row seats have a fore-aft range of 10-inches; the backs fold flat to double as storage platforms with four tie-down hook built into each seatback; and the center armrest folds down to double as a dual cup holder.

Put those to good use on a long trip and the second row seating of CrewMax feels every bit as comfortable as First Class seating in the biggest airplanes. Or, put another way, your family, friends, and work crew will wanting to ride backseat instead of shotgun.

MAXIMIZING HORSEPOWER  

What really stands out, though, when you drive the new Tundras is the sound and feel of good old American V8 power. It is, too, when you are driving the 381hp iForce 5.7L V8.

Toyota offers the new pickup with three different engine choices: The 236hp 4.0L V6 and 4.7L i-Force V8s that are carry-overs from the previous Tundra, 4Runner,Land Cruiser and Sequoia models—and the all-new 5.7L.

After spending several days driving the various pickups and engine options, my take is this: The little V6 should only be purchased if you have something against a V8 and really need to get 17/20mpg. The smaller V8 might sound like a good compromise—but it gets worse fuel economy (15/18) than the V6 or all-new 5.7L, so why bother.

No, the only engine anyone should get in a new Tundra is the 5.7L.  This engine will wipe erase any doubts that Toyota can build an “American V8.” This state-of-the-art small-block is stout and sounds every bit as powerful as any V8 on the road. It delivers 16 City/20 Hwy in the 4x2s, and a Hemi-like 14 City/18 Hwy. (GM’s 5.7L with Active Fuel Management gets 3-4mpg better fuel economy, but makes some 65hp less.)

It’s built at the new Toyota Motor Manufacturing Huntsville, Alabama (TMMAL) plant where Toyota’s investment is almost half a billion dollars for a state-of-the-art operation that can crank out 400,000 V8 engines per year.

Such advanced features as Electronic Throttle Control, Variable Valve Timing, Acoustic Control Induction, and dual cams are just a fraction of what’s inside the all-new “long-stroke” muscle-truck engine that makes the most horsepower-per-liter (66.8 HP/L) in the 6.0L-and-smaller V8 class.

The 5.7L i-Force V8 is an aluminum block design with a 10.3:1 compression ratio, yet it is designed to run on Regular Unleaded. It makes delivers an impressive 401 lbs/ft of torque at a low 3600rpm, which is ideal for a work truck environment, trailer towing and off-road applications.

That type of power comes from the engine’s unique long-stroke configuration (3.70” bore x 4.02” stroke), state-of-the-art computer-controlled workings, and a performance-oriented exhaust system that utilizes stainless steel 4-into-2 headers and a tuned exhaust system

MORE FIRSTS

While the majority of today’s pickups are running 4- and 5-speed automatics, the new Tundra offers a new six-speed automatic. While it is a 4-speed with two-overdrives, what makes it specials is that is designed specifically for the equally new 5.7L packages (the smaller engines get 5-speed automatics) and is well-matched to the power curve. It has a very low 3.33 First gear with the remaining five gears nicely spaced up through double-overdrive.

Toyota even gave the new Tundras two new rear differentials: the B24 (9.5” ring gear) for the 4.0L V6/4.7L V8, and the B26 (10.5-inch ring gear) for the 5.7L. Both are bigger and beefier than any ˝-ton competitor, and the B26 comes with 4.3:1 ratio when ordered with the towing package.

Get the 5.7L with the towing package and no matter what speed you are driving, rapid acceleration is just a fraction of a second away. The down-shifts are crisp, the power exhilarating. The new Tundra is a true muscle truck, easily capable of out pacing any competitor whether loaded or empty.

And those getting the new Tundra with the Towing package will find the “Tow/Haul” mode invaluable; it holds gears when accelerating or decelerating, which is great for trailering. It also has what Toyota calls “shift logic” where the on-board computer systems provide rapid accelerator release when it senses sudden hard braking.  

 Such an item is almost expected as the features and overall performance on the 2007 Tundra pickups are just flat-out impressive.

Are they better than every other competitor? In several areas, yes. In others the Tundra might be a half-step behind. But at least now the Big Three and Nissan can feel the hot breath of a tenacious rival on their full-sized pickup necks.—Bruce W. Smith

BASIC SPECIFICATIONS

Specific Model:   2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4x4 Std Bed

Seating:            5- (bucket) or 6-passenger (bench)

Engine: 381hp 5.7L V8 (opt)

Transmission:    6spd Automatic

Transfer case:   JF1A Hi/Low; shift-on-the-fly 2WD-4WD

Wheelbase:       145.7”

Track:              67.9”

Height:              76.4”

Length: 218.3”

Front Sups:       Double A-arm w/ coil-overs

Rear susp:        Solid axle w/ leaf springs

Steering:           Rack-and-pinion

Fuel Capacity:  26.4 gals.

Axle ratio:         4.3:1 (w/ Tow package)

Curb weight:     5,280 lbs

Max payload: 1,650 lbs

Max towing:     10,300 lbs w/ W-D hitch; 5,000 pounds w/ Std hitch

 

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