2007 Toyota Tundra Review

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John Pearley Huffman John Pearley Huffman Editor
January 8, 2007

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the new made-in-Texas 2007 Toyota Tundra is significantly larger than the one it replaces. That’s not much of an achievement; after all, Toyota only had to have the CAD systems juice every dimension up about 5 percent to get that job done. What is surprising is how clearly the new Tundra breaks with traditional Toyota truck philosophy. After 72 years building straightforward, simply decorated, relatively unadorned and conservative trucks, Toyota is now in the stylish truck business.

 

There’s an argument to be made that this paradigmatic design shift by Toyota really took place with the introduction of the 2005 Tacoma. Could be. But even the Tacoma is nowhere near as agonizingly self-conscious as this new Tundra.

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Self-conscious though it is, there are elements of the new Tundra that can only be described as brilliant. And other parts that have to count as bizarre or disappointing.

 

The big part

 

Exactly how big is the new Tundra? That depends on which Tundra is being measured – Regular Cab, Double Cab, and mucho macho CrewMax. Excised from the lineup is the extended Access Cab that had been a staple of the Tundra line since its introduction back in 1999 (and this writer has owned one since 1999). By eliminating the extended cab model and adding a monster-spec crew cab, Toyota is aping the Dodge range of Rams. However all 2007 Tundras are, at least nominally, half ton models while Dodge restricts it’s Godzilla, the Mega Cab, to 3/4- and one-ton models.

 

The three Tundra body styles come riding atop three different wheelbases. The Regular Cab Short Bed (78.7-inch long bed) model has 126.8 inches between its front and rear axle lines while the Regular Cab Long Bed (97.6-inch long bed), Double Cab Short Bed (78.7-inch long bed) and CrewMax (66.7-inch long bed) stretch that to 145.7 inches, and finally, the Double Cab Long Bed (97.6-inch long bed) runs a vast 164.6 inch wheelbase.

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In contrast the Dodge Ram 1500 comes in wheelbases starting at 120.5 inches for the Regular Cab Short Bed, then 140.5 inches for the Regular Cab Long Bed and Quad Cab Short Bed, and beyond that is a 160.5-inch wheelbase for the Quad Cab Long Bed. The 2500-series Mega Cab rides on the 160.5-inch wheelbase.

 

When it comes to overall length the Tundra is 209.8 inches long as a Regular Cab Short Bed, 228.7 inches long as Regular Cab Long Bed, Double Cab Short Bed or Crew Max, and 247.5 inches long as a Double Cab Long Bed. The various Dodge Rams are 207.7, 229.7 or 247.7 inches long.

 

Go through all the specs one by one and it’s apparent that the Tundra is right next to the Ram in every one – sometimes a little bit smaller, often a little bit larger. Dimensionally, it’s pretty much the same story with the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. And it’s a significantly bigger truck than the 2006 Tundra which as a Regular Cab or Access Cab measured 218.3 inches long over a 128.3-inch wheelbase and in largest Double Cab form stretched out 230.1 inches over a 140.5-inch wheelbase.

 

In short (as if there’s anything short about this big Toyota), the Tundra is now fully as gargantuan as the domestic branded competition.

 

And it matches that size with some awesome capability. Payloads range from 1,410 to 2,080 pounds and every new V-8-powered Tundra can lug at least 10,100 pounds behind it. Of course the domestic brand trucks can haul a heck of a lot as well. In fact the capabilities of all these trucks are at some point academic since very few of the owners will ever approach them.

 

The brilliant stuff

 

Two of the three engines available on the new Tundra are slightly tweaked versions of familiar engines installed in the outgoing Tundra. The third engine is new from crankcase to throttle body and probably the finest gasoline-fired V-8 ever installed in a pickup. And the world is full of great truck engines.

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Base powerplant for the new Tundra is a version of Toyota’s DOHC, 24-valve, aluminum block and heads, 4.0-liter V-6 which, in part thanks to VVT-I variable valve timing, is rated at 236 horsepower at 5200 rpm and a peak 266 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The entry level V-8 is Toyota’s, DOHC, 32-valve, iron block, aluminum heads 4.7-liter V-8 which, in part thanks to VVT-I variable valve timing, is rated at 271 horsepower at 5400 rpm and a peak 313 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm. Both these engines are sweet natured in their power delivery, smooth in their operation and relatively efficient in their use of fuel. And both come lashed to a standard, perfectly mannered five-speed automatic transmission.

 

It’s the biggest engine that impresses the most however. Branded as the iForce 5.7 to the public, it’s known as the 3UR-FE within Toyota. Designed around the same structural architecture as the “1UR-FSE” 4.6-liter V-8 used in the Lexus LS 460 that was introduced last year and assembled at Toyota’s plant in Huntsville, Alabama, this is Toyota’s first aluminum block and aluminum head truck V-8. It’s also the most American truck engine the company has built with the aluminum engine blocks and heads cast by Bodine Aluminum (owned by Toyota) in Troy, Missouri.

 

Like the Lexus 1UR-FSE, the 3UR-FE features cast-in iron cylinder liners, dual overhead cams, four valves over every cylinder and VVT-I variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves. However while the Lexus engine uses direct fuel injection, the Tundra engine uses conventional fuel injection. But the big difference is, naturally, displacement. Both engines have 94-millimeter cylinder bores, but the Lexus engine’s stroke is a short 83 millimeters while the Tundra engine’s stroke is a long 102-millimeters. It’s that long stroke that has the I-Force 5.7 making 401 pound-feet of peak torque at 3600 rpm while the LS 460’s engine makes it’s 367 pound-feet of peak torque at a dizzier 4100 rpm.

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On top of all that throw in technologies like an “Acoustic Control Induction System” that uses butterfly valves inside the intake manifold that in two stages can adjust the length of the intake tract based on throttle position and engine speed, tubular stainless steel headers feeding an stainless exhaust system, and the result is a total of 381-horsepower. That makes the I-Force 5.7 the most powerful engine ever sold by Toyota in North America… car, truck or forklift. It beats the LS 460’s 1UR-FSE by a whole horsepower.

 

There are a lot of excellent truck engines out there – the 315-horsepower, 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 in the Chevy Silverado, 317-horsepower, 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 in the Nissan Titan and the 345-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 in the Dodge Ram to name three – but the Tundra’s I-Force 5.7 has them covered with more power, an utterly seamless delivery of that power, and eerily creamy smoothness that’s almost spooky in its Lexus-ness. Then on top of that Toyota pushes the new engine’s advantage by pairing it with a standard six-speed automatic transmission.

 

Using advanced manual counting technology (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand) during the press introduction of the new Tundra, a two-wheel-drive 5.7-equipped Regular Cab Short Bed ripped from 0 to 60 in just about six seconds flat. Except for high-performance sport trucks like the Ford SVT Lightning and Dodge Ram SRT-10, the new Tundra is likely the quickest factory pickup ever built. And unlike the SRT-10 or Lightning, it retains all the usefulness a truck should have while being blisteringly quick.

 

The combination of the I-Force 5.7 and the six-speed automatic transmission is simply… brilliant.

 

The good stuff

 

While the new Tundra features an all-new frame, all-new suspension system and all-new everything else, there’s nothing surprising in the engineering of its structure and chassis. The frame is a conventional steel ladder structure with fully boxed rails for the front half and C-channel members on the back half. The front suspension is double A-arms and coil springs whether the truck is a 4x2 or a 4x4 and the rear suspension is a solid axle on leaf springs. There are four discs behind the standard 18-inch wheels (20s are an option) and ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic brake assist are standard on all models.

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The new Tundra drives as if it were a smaller truck than it actually is. The rack-and-pinion steering isn’t particularly quick, but it’s precise and does provide some feedback to the driver. The ride, even on 4x4 models, is well controlled and there’s not too much nosedive under braking. No truck this size will squirt through openings like a sports car, but even when hauling trailer in Kentucky crosswinds the driver never has trouble managing the Tundra’s behavior and decorum. Is it a better chassis than that of the new Silverado or any direct competitor? That’s an argument best left up to future direct comparison tests. But it’s clear that, at the very least, this massive Toyota’s road manners are fully competitive.

 

In place of a traditional limited slip differential, the Tundra has adopted an “Automatic Limited Slip Differential” that works with the standard stability control to provide “computer-controlled cross-axle torque management that allows some wheel-spin.” Whatever. It seems that a traditional mechanical, clutch-type LSD would be simpler. Time and more exposure under more extreme circumstances will tell whether the Tundra’s system works under more severe circumstances.

 

The bizarre stuff

 

Never has any full-size truck from any manufacturer tried as hard to look impressive as the new Tundra. From the massive trapezoidal grille in front, through the wedge shaped cabs and onto the bulges along the flanks of the deep cargo boxes, this is a truck whose designers were determined to be interesting whether the person looking at the machine were 30 feet or an inch away from it. There’s a strong science fiction theme to the styling – the original Battlestar Galactica to be specific – that won’t please everyone. And it’s a startling break from the previous Tundra that was so conservatively drawn.

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Those design themes continue inside the Tundra where the instrumentation lives burrowed into deep individual tunnels for the tachometer and speedometer, while the audio system (and optional navigation system) has it’s own distinctly colored center stack just above the straightforward ventilation controls. Compared to the easily scanned instrumentation in the outgoing Tundra, this new dashboard is fussy and somewhat inelegant. It’s not bad, but like the exterior, it’s trying very, very hard to be interesting.

 

There’s a lot of good in the interior – loads of places to store stuff, a truly vast center console, and the CrewMax is dang near a limousine with a bed – but why is Toyota trying so hard?

 

The disappointing stuff

 

For what seems like decades, Toyota has been the quality standard against which other mainstream forms of transportation must be judged. However in the new Tundra there are some apparent places where the quality of material (at least on the pre-production vehicles driven at the press event) seems iffy. The dash top and top of the doors seem to have been cut off rather than molded with plastics harder than one expects of a Toyota. The massive door latch handles don’t have the heft to be satisfying when they’re used.

 

Of course there’s a lot of good material in this new Tundra’s insides, the question is why doesn’t all of it seem better than the old Tundra’s? If Toyota’s going to set lofty standards with their previous vehicles, it’s up to the new ones to live up to them.

 

Toyota’s goal is to double Tundra sales from 100,000 a year to 200,000 a year with this new vehicle. With growth in the full-size truck market slowing during these times of high fuel expense, that increase in volume for Toyota will have to come from the hides of Dodge, Ford, Chevy, GMC, and Nissan. And Toyota, being the cash-rich behemoth that it is, can afford to price the new Tundra aggressively to grab that market share.

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But at the same time, it seems that Toyota doesn’t have the confidence to be the conservative player it’s always been. If this truck were as cleanly styled as the new Silverado on the outside and as un-fussy inside as the truck it’s replacing, that and the brilliant I-Force 5.7 would probably be enough to guarantee Toyota grabbing the market share it seeks. The truck they’re putting on the market however, is more polarizing than that. Some people are simply going to hate it. And some are going to love it.

 

Me? I got home from the press event and found my old Tundra where I’d parked it at the airport. It has 80,000 miles on it now, hasn’t given me a lick of trouble yet, it still drives well and the paint has retained most of its original luster. The best advertisement for buying a new Tundra when it’s finally time to replace my 2000 is how spectacularly well my old Tundra has held up and continues to thrive.

 

But I like my old truck’s size and easygoing character better than the new truck’s bulk and intimidation. So I’m in no hurry to get rid of my old truck.

 

2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5

Base price: $29,000 (Est.)

Engine: 5.7-liter DOHC V-8, 381 hp

Drivetrain: Six-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive

Length x width x height: 228.7 x 19.9 x 76.0 in

Wheelbase: 145.7 in

Curb weight: 5145 lb

EPA City/Hwy: 16/20 mpg

Safety equipment: Dual front, side and curtain airbags; four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes

Major standard equipment: Power windows/locks/mirrors; cruise control; CD player

Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles

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