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I should be thrilled with Toyota’s new Tundra Double Cab. When I first saw the Tundra at a press preview I knew I wanted one and was about the first in line to buy one when they went on sale in May 1999. I’ve put 40,000 miles on my V-8-powered Tundra SR5 Access Cab since then and still find it thoroughly delightful. I know every positive and negative about this pickup and am still a big, unalloyed fan of the Tundra.

Yet, despite the fact that my wife and I have had two children since then and could really use the extra room the Double Cab provides, I’m not even tempted to trade my Access Cab in on a new Double Cab. Because the Double Cab, while it may be a better truck than the Access Cab, isn’t as good a Tundra.

And size has everything to do with it.

Just plain big

If Toyota had been willing to sacrifice bed length, they could have just plopped the new Double Cab’s crew cab body atop the 128.3-inch wheelbase frame atop which all other Tundras are built, but instead they’ve engineered a new frame that uses a dang long 140.5-inch wheelbase so that the bed can retain all but 0.4 inches of its length (74.3 inches compared to the Access Cab’s 74.7) without resorting to an awkwardly long rear overhang. It’s also almost four inches longer than the bed Ford uses on the new F150 SuperCrew. They’ve also made the bed a significant 1/2-inch deeper than the other Tundras’ beds.

The general (and misplaced — more later) criticism that the Tundra is smaller compared to the domestic competition is allayed somewhat with the Double Cab. While the Double Cab is still down 3.0 inches in wheelbase to, for example, the short box/crew cab GMC Sierra, at 230.1 inches, it’s 4.2 inches longer overall. So this is not a small truck.

In fact it’s so not-a-small-truck that basically no sheetmetal carries over from other Tundras to the Double Cab. The four front-hinged doors are of course different, but the cowl has also been shifted slightly upwards so that the front fenders are different too. The result is a cab that feels truly roomy, with abundant headroom throughout, a comfortable 24-degree back angle in the rear seat, and a generous 37.5 inches of rear legroom. Through in touches like rear ventilation ducts, an available rear DVD entertainment system, and a power roll-down rear window and the Double Cab’s rear accommodations are good for more than just occasional use.

The rear seat is also split 60/40 so it can be tumbled forward to carry some cargo inside without messing up the upholstery.

But all that size carries with it a price in agility and athleticism. While the frame is new, the front double-A arm and rear solid axle on leaf springs suspension carries over from other Tundras as does the braking system and most other mechanical components. The regular Tundra already had a languorous 44.9-foot curb-to-curb turning circle (in 4x2 form) and with an additional foot of wheelbase that number climbs to an oceangoing 47.5-feet in the Double Cab.

Another big damper on the fun is weight. A Tundra Double Cab Limited weighs in a stout 5020 pounds, which is up about 395 pounds over a similar Access Cab. In SR5 4x2 form the Double Cab comes in at a full 4725 pounds, which is up 375 pounds from the Access Cab.

Since all Double Cabs come with the same 240-horsepower, 4.7-liter, DOHC, 32-valve i-Force offered in other Tundras, there is a marked deterioration in perceived performance with the heavier truck. Disappointingly, the five-speed automatic used with this engine in the Lexus LX470 and GX470 and Toyota Land Cruiser and 4Runner SUVs has not migrated over to the Tundra or its SUV brother, the Sequoia — and Toyota still fits drum brakes to the back of this now-large pickup. The i-Force is absolutely silken and matches well to its four-speed automatic, but a truck as big as the Double Cab simply needs more power — especially when the output is compared to the stout 345 horsepower Dodge offers with its wonderful 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

Throw in the less immediate steering response and heavier feel that comes with the longer wheelbase, the issues of parking that come with the additional overall length and much of the original Tundra’s light, easygoing feel vanishes. The Double Cab isn’t a bad truck, and surely built to last for decades, but it’s not as sweet an every day companion for those of us who use our trucks for running personal errands and weekend chores than is the original Access Cab.

Leaving the original behind

When I bought my Tundra is was because it was just the right size pickup for my life; bigger than the cramped compacts and just a bit smaller than the ponderous domestic full-sizers. The Tundra Access Cab is a pickup with a light touch, eager responsiveness and engaging personality. The Double Cab feels more like a Sequoia with a bed than a close relative to my truck. It’s somewhat lethargic and indifferent to a driver’s inputs; it’s simply not as much fun.

The product planners at Toyota are convinced that they’re losing prospective customers to the domestic brands and will lose even more to the Nissan Titan because the Tundra is slightly smaller. With a new plant in Texas joining the one in Indiana that’s already producing Tundras in a couple of years, it’s a foregone conclusion that the next generation will be a bigger, brawnier machine — a truck that literally won’t fit in my garage (the Double Cab is already too long).

I know I’m going to be in the minority on this, but I think Toyota is giving up something special in abandoning the current Tundra’s niche. I still believe there isn’t a better personal, light-duty-use pickup on the market than the Tundra Access Cab equipped with the i-Force V-8. By building bigger trucks, they walk away from that.

2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5 4x2
Base Price: $27,000 (est.)
Engine: 4.7-liter V-8, 240 hp
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 230.1 x 79.3 x 74.0 in
Wheelbase: 140.5 in
Curb weight: 4725 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 14/18 mpg
Safety equipment: Front airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: Transmission cooler, bed rail caps, cruise control, power door locks, tilt steering wheel, overhead console, rear ventilation ducting, center console
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles basic; five years/60,000 miles powertrain

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