New & Used Toyota Tundra: In Depth
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The Toyota Tundra replaced the mid-sized T100 as Toyota's big pickup more than 15 years ago, and ever since then it's struggled to gain market share among full-size trucks. Even after moving production to Texas and expanding the Tundra lineup, Toyota still finds itself playing an unaccustomed fourth fiddle to the full-size pickups from Ford, Ram, Chevy, and GMC. With a new Nissan Titan on the horizon, the Tundra will soon be the oldest technology in a battle that relies on innovation to woo customers.
Read our full review of the 2015 Toyota Tundra for more on the latest model, including full specifications and pricing.
While critics have often found the Tundra to be the wrong size or aimed at the wrong audience, it has also met praise for its non-standard approach to the pickup scene. First sold in 1999 as a 2000-model truck, the Tundra has evolved, growing larger and more powerful over its three generations.
From initial launch, the Tundra was offered with a choice of two engines: a 3.4-liter V-6 making 190 horsepower and a 4.7-liter V-8 good for 245 horsepower; Toyota also offered TRD supercharged versions of both engines for some extra power. The first round of engine upgrades came for 2005, when the V-6 was replaced with a 4.0-liter unit and the V-8 received variable valve timing, giving both a power bump. The first-gen Tundra's styling was certainly conservative. It was offered in Regular, Access (with rear-hinged doors), Double Cab configurations. Toyota's first attempt at a full-size truck was somewhat hamstrung compared to the domestics as it was only able to tow around 7,000 pounds.
In 2006, the second-generation Tundra arrived, adding a new 5.7-liter V-8 engine option and bumping the tow rating up to 10,100 pounds, a much more competitive figure in the half-ton class. A number of high-performance TRD packages are also available, including a street-focused Sport package and a special off-road Rock Warrior package. This much larger Tundra was offered through the 2013 model year.
The second-generation Tundra offered a choice of three engines: the 4.0-liter V-6, a 4.6-liter V-8 rated at 310 horsepower and a 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 381 horsepower. The largest V-8 also was available with flex-fuel capability. The Regular Cab model was the work truck of the range, offering a minimalist base feature set, though it could be optionally upgraded to include more advanced features. The Double Cab model offered a higher base specification, including more available upgrades. The CrewMax model, with its four-door layout, offered luxury items like an available power moonroof, a standard power vertical sliding rear window, plus optional unique exterior accents including a chrome grille surround, chrome-trimmed power-folding side mirrors, and more. Bed configurations for this Tundra included standard and long beds, though the long bed was only available on the Regular and Double cab models. The V-6 model was only available in 4x2 drive layout, while the V-8s were available in either 4x2 or 4x4.
Safety ratings for this Tundra were good, with the truck earning the IIHS' Top Safety Pick, plus four-star ratings from the NHTSA. Today, the Tundra retains the four-star government rating and receives top 'Good' scores in the four categories for which it is rated, but it is not eligible for a Top Safety Pick nod since that now requires an acceptable score in the new front small overlap test, one to which it has not yet been submitted by the agency.
Interior features followed similar paths to upgrade as the exterior features, with the larger-cab models offering more in the way of available upgrades and base equipment. The base Regular Cab truck included an MP3-capable six-speaker CD stereo, dual-zone climate control, split-folding bench seat (bucket upgrade available), and rubberized flooring, with carpeting available as part of a package upgrade. DVD-based navigation was available across the range. Stepping up to the Double Cab version added standard cruise control, power windows and door locks, and a fold-up rear seat, plus the ability to upgrade to an enhanced JBL audio system with integrated DVD navigation, bucket seats, and an overhead console bin. The CrewMax could be purchased in an upgraded Limited trim, which added the JBL system as standard, upgraded Optitron gauges with information display, tilt-telescoping wheel, front and rear sonar for parking, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather-trimmed upholstery with power front seats, and more standard interior storage compartments.
For 2013, a new Display Navigation with Entune system was added as an option. Centered around a new 6.1-inch high-resolution touch screen with split-screen capability, the system included an integrated rearview-camera display, a USB port with iPod control, hands-free calling, SiriusXM satellite radio capability, HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, voice controls, and Bluetooth music streaming.
Toyota gave the Tundra a mild freshening for the 2014 model year. The revised trucks debuted at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show sporting new front-end styling, added feature content, and a slightly nicer interior. The same three engines were included, keeping the Tundra behind the revised Ram, new GM trucks, and well-endowed Ford models. The new technology inside was a nice touch, but the Tundra's main problem remained its less powerful and less fuel efficient motivation.
For the 2015 model year, Toyota has dropped the 270-hp V-6 engine option in the Tundra, leaving it only with its choice of V-8s.
It's expected that a new Tundra will arrive soon, better equipped to fight in the marketplace. This is especially important considering the brand's imminent move of its U.S. headquarters to the state of Texas, the spiritual home of trucks in America. Toyota recently showed a refreshed (but not all-new) version of its smaller Tacoma pickup, which likely means the Tundra is next in line for some much-needed attention.