521 BBQ & GRILL, INDIAN LAND, S.C. — Lunch stop here proved two important things. It is possible to get good barbecue at a building that's not condemned, and Toyota's (TM)
remake of its Tundra full-size pickup is a perfect fit in the pickup landscape dominated by Detroit models.
The locals in the parking lot barely looked up as the new, big Tundra pulled in. Sitting inside the restaurant and glancing out the window, it was difficult to pick out the Tundra's rump from among the other pickups.
Normally, such lack of distinction would be anathema. But this time it could be right. Having failed, more or less, to understand the American pickup ethic in two previous tries, the Japanese auto giant has gone all-out this time.
It is pushing the 2007 Tundra as a true truck first, a Toyota just incidentally. And, boy, is that a change for a company that's awfully stuck on itself.
PHOTOS/AUDIO: Tundra with Healey's comments
Truck-selling being a numbers game, Toyota beefed up the truck so it needn't feel shy around its peers. All models, properly equipped, will tow more than 10,000 pounds — as good as, in some cases better than, other full-size standard-duty trucks.
Carrying capacity is a beefy 2,060 pounds. Unfortunately, that's the regular-cab model that most people won't buy. The big-selling crew- and extended-cab models carry 1,465 to 1,755 pounds. Respectable, but several hundred pounds less than you'd get in similar General Motors trucks (Test Drive, Jan. 5)
The optional 5.7-liter V-8 is rated 381 horsepower, 401 pounds-feet of torque, more than any other gasoline engine in a standard-duty pickup. The result is the robust and easygoing power you expect from a mighty-engine pickup. As a bonus, the 5.7 has shockingly sudden and satisfying acceleration, provoking lots of horseplay during the test drives. That's a dimension of fun you don't get from the Detroit rivals.
Pinnacle of the new size-matters approach is the Tundra CrewMax. It has praise-worthy rear legroom and rear-seat versatility, exactly what you want if you're buying a crew-cab truck. To beat CrewMax's room, you have to look to the Dodge Ram Mega Cab. But the big Dodge gets its big cab simply by being long: 19 inches longer than the Toyota crew.
CrewMax's rear seats slide fore-aft. Nobody else's do. Fully forward, the rear has enough knee- and legroom for adults and enough room behind that the back can be reclined dramatically. Again, unique.
Even when the CrewMax back seats are back all the way, there's as much cargo space behind the back seats as in the trunk of a small car.
All that interior room comes at the expense of a little cargo bed space. But the Tundra CrewMax bed still is about 5-feet-6-inches long, enough for most users and not much different from the size of competing models.
If your pickup is the family truckster, then nothing matches the Tundra CrewMax's combination of comfort, utility, agility.
OK, so you don't need that much cab. Fine. The Double Cab is a little roomier than other extended-cab models. Like the Dodge Ram Quad Cab, it has four real doors and an abbreviated back seat.
What else stood out in the test drives:
Good taste and restraint weren't in play when the front of the Tundra was crafted. But at least you won't mistake it for anything but a real truck. That's an image Toyota wants.
Non-pareil in CrewMax, just OK in the Double Cab because of too-upright rear seats.
Cloth upholstery is more comfortable than leather. That isn't news in a Toyota truck, but it's worth a reminder before you pay for leather.
Proper driving position was easy to find, helped by a tilt-telescope steering column.
Merely sufficient with the 4.7-liter V-8 carried over from the '06 lineup. It suffers when compared with the GM trucks' 4.8- or 5.3-liter V-8s. But the Toyota 5.7-liter V-8, which Toyota predicts is the one most buyers will choose, is peerless and a ball.
Turning-circle diameter is listed as a modest (by big-truck standards) 44 feet for most models. The truck is a snap to park in spots tight enough that you'd be reluctant to try in other trucks.
Brakes and steering, not always sharp on a pickup, felt agreeable on the pre-production testers.
Fuel economy ratings are mediocre, a fact GM is seizing upon. Highway driving is where the GMs have the biggest advantage in ratings. However, in real-world suburban test driving, a Chevrolet Silverado got far worse mileage than its rating, while in the driving routes around here, the Tundras came closer to their published ratings.
Tundra is at or near the top among big pickups. There's little reason not to choose it.
But there's a lot of prejudice among truckers. A J.D. Power and Associates study published in November found that 48% of people who buy Detroit pickups "specifically do not want an import-branded truck." And 33% of the people who buy Japanese pickups say they specifically did not want a Detroit nameplate.
2007 Toyota Tundra
•What is it?
Complete remake of Toyota's big pickup; the automaker's third try at a U.S.-market pickup. It's larger, more-aggressive-looking than its predecessor and will tow and haul more. Available in an array of versions: regular, extended (Double Cab) or crew cab (CrewMax) passenger cabs; cargo beds measuring 66.7, 78.7 or 97.6 inches long; V-6 or V-8 engines; rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).
Available in Toyota's usual three grades, DX, SR5 and Limited. Manufactured at Princeton, Ind., and at a $1 billion plant that just began operating in San Antonio.
Regular cab and Double Cab on sale mid-February. CrewMax available late March or early April.
Not final at press time. Soon, though, because on-sale time is imminent.
Toyota is trying to lure what it calls the true-truck crowd, such as construction foremen and farmers, to add to its ready base of import-brand-friendly buyers who want trucks but don't really need them. It's playing on its made-in-America credentials to draw traditional buyers from Detroit brands.
200,000 this year, 250,000 or more thereafter.
•What're the drivetrains?
4-liter V-6 rated 236 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, 266 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm; five-speed automatic transmission. Manual transmission no longer offered.
Optional: 4.7-liter V-8 rated 271 hp at 5,400 rpm, 313 lbs.-ft. at 3,400 rpm; five-speed automatic.
Optional: 5.7-liter V-8 rated 381 hp at 5,600 rpm, 401 lbs.-ft. at 3,600 rpm; six-speed automatic.
Automatic limited-slip differential standard with all drivetrains.
4WD system is conventional part-time setup with RWD, 4WD and 4WD low-range settings. Driver must shift into and out of 4WD as needed.
•What's the safety gear?
Expected bags, plus lap-shoulder safety belts in all seating positions, a no-brainer in cars but unusual in trucks. Anti-lock brakes, anti-skid system, front-seat, side-impact bags, side-curtain air bags.
•What's the rest?
All models have dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack, power steering and brakes, tilt-adjustable steering column.
Other standard features vary widely depending on cab size and model. Details at www.toyota.com
closer to mid-February on-sale date.
•What's the pledge?
Basic warranty is three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Powertrain is five/60,000. Corrosion is five/unlimited.
No more "not quite." Double Cab, which Toyota says will be biggest seller, is 228.7 inches long (247.6 in. with long cargo bed), 76 in. tall (76.4 in. with 4WD), on 145.7-in. wheelbase (164.6 in. with long bed).
CrewMax is 228.7 inches long, 75.8 in. tall (76.2 in. with 4WD) on 145.7-in. wheelbase.
Regular cab is 209.8 inches long (228.7 in with long bed), 76 in. tall (76.4 in. with 4WD) on 126.8-in. wheelbase (145.7-in. with long bed). All models are 79.9 inches wide.
Weights range from 4,610 to 5,630 pounds, depending on model and equipment.
Rated to tow up to 10,800 pounds, carry 1,410 to 2,060 pounds, depending on model and equipment.
Turning-circle diameter is listed as 44 feet, curb-to-curb, for most models, 39.2 feet for regular cab with standard bed, 49 feet for Double Cab with long bed.
4-liter V-6, only available with RWD, is rated 17 mpg in town, 20 on the highway.
4.7-liter V-8 is rated 15/18 with RWD or 4WD. 5.7-liter V-8 is rated 16/20 with RWD, 14/18 with 4WD.
Trip computers in 5.7-liter CrewMax and Double Cab test vehicles showed 16.7 mpg in mix of suburban/ highway driving. 4.7-liter V-8s ranged from 14.3 to 16.4 mpg in similar driving.
5.7-liter V-8 towing 7,000-pound trailer on highway and in suburbs showed 9.2 mpg.
Drive routes were short, none longer than 33 miles, so fuel economy results might not be representative.
Fuel tank holds 26.4 gallons. Regular (87-octane) gasoline is specified.
Winner, especially for buyers who need honest back-seat room or serious power.