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2012 Toyota Tundra Performance

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Performance

Last year the Tundra adopted a new base engine with more power and more refinement, but there's still not much reason to buy it instead of one of Toyota's two great V-8 engines.

The base six-cylinder is a 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter piece with variable valve timing and 34 horsepower more than the V-6 in the 2010 Tundra. It's not as much a gas miser as, say, Ford's new V-6, and not as powerful, but it can be a reasonable way to keep the Tundra's pricetag low when it counts--mostly in fleets. That's its intended mission, anyway, and it's available in the Regular Cab for a reason.

A big performer with either V-8, the 2012 Toyota Tundra gives drivers every reason to abstain from six.

The Tundra swapped out its mid-line V-8 last year as well, replacing a 4.7-liter design with a revised 4.6-liter eight. This one's more powerful and easier on gas than the engine it replaced, and it earns EPA ratings of up to 15/20 mpg. With 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, it equals some other V-8s in the segment, though the F-150's base six-cylinder engine nearly makes the same power, though it lacks the Toyota's utterly smooth power delivery.

For the most luxurious, Lexus-like experience in a Toyota truck, there's the 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8. A strong engine with sharp all-around responsiveness, the big V-8 twists out enormous torque just off idle and has passing power to rival some luxury sedans, even when towing. A gas-mileage rating of 14/18 mpg isn't exactly overwhelming, or surprising.

Toyota still uses a five-speed automatic in base Tundra pickups, but the V-8 versions have six-speeds, with smooth shifting. Manual transmissions disappeared long ago from the lineup.

Steering and braking are still a highlight of the Tundra, though we prefer the quick electric steering in the F-150 and the smoother hydraulic responses of the latest Ram 1500. The Tundra feels light and precise and quick to take direction, and controls its body roll very well, especially for its size, though ride quality is choppy when the truck's running a light payload. The brakes are among the best in the class, big and firm to the foot.

Toyota offers four-wheel drive on every Tundra, and it's rugged enough to get its own off-road package. Top towing capacity is 10,400 pounds, very capable, though a thousand pounds or more off the mark set by some of the domestics.

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