With the unveiling of the 2007 Toyota Tundra, the gloves are truly off in the segment of half-ton trucks as there is now a genuine fourth player in the market. We drove a 2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab Limited 4x4 with its class-leading 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission, and even tested its power output on a dynamometer, and we can tell you that competition is going to be fierce, because the Tundra offers many best-in-class features.
To make sure this new Tundra is truly optimized for the American market, Toyota assigned the entire engineering development responsibility to its U.S. technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, making this the first Toyota product ever to carry this distinction. Some $850 million has been sunk into an all-new plant in San Antonio, to supplement the existing one in Indiana. Together, the two U.S. plants can crank out more than 200,000 Tundras per year, about double the current volume.
31 flavors, just like ice cream
Born out of the FTX concept vehicle, the new Tundra's CALTY-designed bodywork cuts an imposing but muscular figure, particularly the front end with its robotic-look front grille and tapered hood.
Buyers now have 31 configurations to choose from, many of which are new for Tundra. As before, there are three cabs: Regular, Double and CrewMax. Likewise there are three bed lengths: 97.6, 78.7 and 66.7 inches. There are three wheelbases: 126.8, 145.7 and 164.6 inches — all longer than the wheelbase dimensions of equivalent trucks from the Detroit manufacturers.
For our two-week test, we selected what we think will turn out to be a very popular combination: a Double Cab 4x4 with the standard 6.5-foot bed.
Bigger than big
The new Tundra's spacious new cab configurations are generally 4 inches wider than before. The extra width allows for storage nooks aplenty, including a massive center console that can swallow a laptop and even support hanging file folders.
Toyota's interior designers have even enlarged the control knobs for the standard dual-zone climate control system, permitting use by owners wearing winter gloves. This design mantra carries over into the enlarged door pulls and other switchgear. The only downside is that some of the knobs and controls end up a bit too far from the driver.
Most of our testers find the fully adjustable front seats very comfortable, though some drivers are bothered by a prominent edge on the seat squab. Front legroom shouldn't ever be a concern, because with 42.5 inches available, the Tundra has another best-in-class on its hands. A tilt-telescoping steering wheel also enhances spaciousness.
In back, the Double Cab feels bigger than its 34.7 inches of legroom suggests, as the backs of the front seats are deeply scooped out for knee clearance. Also helping to improve the feeling of spaciousness is the dramatically reclined rear seatback. The CrewMax cab even affords some 44.5 inches of rear-seat legroom, more than the Dodge Ram Mega Cab.
Stronger than strong
To properly motivate this massive truck, a 5.7-liter version of the iForce V8 (expected to reside under the hoods of 60 percent of Tundra production) has been developed to complement the 4.0-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8. This long-stroke design features an aluminum block with siamesed steel liners, double-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust cams, and dual-length intake manifold runners.
It all boils down to class-leading output, some 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and a whopping 401 pound-feet at 3,600 revs. And it does it all on 87 octane while meeting ULEV II emissions. For reference, Dodge's 5.7-liter Hemi produces just 345 hp, while GM's Vortec Max 6.0-liter V8 makes 367 hp. The Dodge and GM V8s both develop 375 lb-ft of torque. Nissan's 5.6-liter V8 makes only 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque.
In 4x2 guise, the iForce 5.7 V8's fuel economy rating of 16 city/20 highway fuel economy bests the Hemi and the Vortec by 1 mpg each, while the Nissan languishes at 14 city/18 highway. Our 4x4 test truck with its rating of 14 city and 18 highway squeaks past the Nissan 4x4 and ties the Dodge, but lags 1 mpg each behind the GM engine.
Sitting behind the new engine is a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift feature. Even buyers of the V6 and 4.7-liter V8 get sequential shift, albeit mated to a five-speed automatic. Tow-haul mode is added when the tow package is ordered, a move that 80 percent of Tundra buyers are expected to make. In two-wheel-drive mode, power feeds through a massive 10.5-inch ring gear in the rear differential.
Our dynamometer test of the Tundra returned a rear-wheel power reading of 321 hp, about what one would expect if you assume drivetrain losses to be 15 percent. We couldn't measure peak torque, as the automatic transmission kept kicking down and we couldn't make a pull through the rpm range of the torque peak.
Quicker than quick
In regular around-town driving, the iForce 5.7-liter V8 has power to spare when passing or merging. The six-speed automatic transmission always shifts seamlessly. Particularly impressive is the downhill grade logic. On a long descent, we didn't need to touch the brakes, as the transmission downshifts and steadfastly holds the lower gear.
Unleashing this powertrain down the drag strip, we recorded a stunning 0-60-mph time of 6.3 seconds, while the quarter-mile came up in 14.8 seconds at 93.7 mph. Our best efforts came with the traction control switched off, a move that activates Auto limited-slip differential, a brake-based, electronic-limited-slip function. Mind you, this is a Double Cab 4x4 truck that weighs 5,637 pounds.
The towing package adds cooling, extensive trailer wiring, extendable towing mirrors and upgraded rear springs, and substitutes a 4.3:1 rear-axle ratio for the standard 4.1:1 setup. As a result, this configuration achieves another best-in-class: a tow rating of 10,800 pounds. That's no fluke either, as our 4x4 Double Cab with tow package is rated for 10,300 pounds.
Connecting a trailer using the rear back-up camera is easy. The camera is part of the option package that includes the navigation system or it can be added as a dealer-installed factory option. But its logic is frustrating, because it stubbornly only works in reverse. If one overshoots the hitch by a smidge and has to creep forward, the camera winks out at the crucial moment. Other makers let the camera stay on until forward speed gets to 4 or 5 mph.
Stopping all of this rolling stock takes some big brakes, and the Tundra comes prepared with best-in-class four-piston calipers squeezing massive 13.9-inch ventilated front rotors that are 1.26 inches thick. The standard vented rear discs are 13.6 inches in diameter and 0.71 inches thick. With ABS, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution all standard, this is one thoroughly modern brake system.
At the track, what this means to us is consistent and fade-free stops from 60 mph. Our best stop of 131 feet is none too shabby for a vehicle this weighty. In routine daily-drive use, the pedal remains firm and easy to modulate.
Under your control
All of this electronic brake trickery is made possible because Toyota decided to make electronic stability control (VSC in Toyota-speak) standard, another first in the truck market. In typical Toyota fashion, however, it can't be switched off.
At more typical speeds, we have nothing but praise for the steering, which has precise feel and direct response. Body roll is also well-contained and coordinated. However, during maneuvers at the limit such as our 0.69g run on the skid pad, the chassis tends toward generous understeer. Perhaps the off-road character of the P275/65R18 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires is at work here.
Rough asphalt and off-road sections aren't a problem for this truck, as the optional TRD suspension keeps things well planted. Lumpy bits that make other trucks step out on certain roads we know are a nonissue for the Bilstein monotube shocks and special tuned springs.
Great ride quality is made easier by a stout frame that is a full 6 inches wider than that of the previous Tundra, which allows the shocks to be positioned closer to the wheels and improves their efficiency. The frame also tapers as it crosses the rear axle so the rear leaf springs are much farther apart at the front than they are in back, improving lateral stability and roll resistance.
The ride is decent on normal roads, too, with a generally smooth and composed character. Washboard freeway ripples will get past the suspension, but the ride quality is no worse than one would expect for any empty truck rigged to tow more than 10,000 pounds.
Ready to fight
With no specific on-sale date or pricing released, all we know now is that the 2007 Toyota Tundra will go on sale in February, with the CrewMax showing up in March. The 5.7-liter iForce V8 will be available right out of the gate. And since Toyota broke its own rule and shared dimensional data with aftermarket suppliers months ago, customization goodies like bed covers and whatnot should be ready right away.
Toyota really got serious with this one, and it shows. If you've previously discounted the Tundra because it wasn't big enough or had a toy engine, think again. If you've never considered one before, have a look. More good choices are great for consumers, and since this one has been born, bred and built in the USA, there's no reason to feel guilty about it.