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Toyota, like the other Japanese automakers, has always built trucks. But until the full-size Tundra hit the market last year, never a big lunker comparable to a Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado or Dodge Ram. The compact sized-Tacoma and the former midsize T100 are perfectly decent trucks, but they can't compete with the domestic big guns, all of which offer mighty V-8 engines and thus towing/payload capability that a Tacoma or T100 can't match.
It's weird, when you think about it. After making their nut in the small-car market, Toyota (and Nissan, Honda, etc.) quickly expanded operations to challenge Ford, GM and Chrysler on all other fronts — even to the point of launching their own luxury car divisions. But full-size trucks? The Big Three have had this market entirely (and quite profitably) to themselves.
The Tundra changed all that; it was the first full-sized Japanese truck to be offered in the U.S. market when it launched in 2000, and like its domestic-built competition, comes in short- and long-bed models, can be ordered with an extended cab, with or without four-wheel-drive and offers V-8 power as an option.
Stacking the odds
So how does it stack up against the best-selling Ford F-truck, the Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado?
Let's begin with a comparison of price ranges. The Tundra starts out with a definite edge. Last year’s prices began at $15,605 for the base 2WD regular cab model with the V-6 engine and run to $29,065 for a loaded V-8 Access Cab with part-time 4x4.
Of the competing Big Three models, only the Dodge Ram 1500 undercuts the Tundra in price — and just barely ($15,555 for the base 2WD "work" model). Both the Ford F-series and the Chevy Silverado are noticeably more expensive in base configurations ($17,245 for the F-150 regular cab 2WD with the 4.2-liter V-6; $16,045 for the base 2WD Silverado with the 200-hp 4.3-liter "Vortec" V-6).