2009 Toyota Tundra Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 23, 2009

The 2009 Tundra beats the Big Three in safety and matches them in capability.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the Toyota Tundra to help you decide which reviews to trust and where opinions differ. We provide you with the best information, impressions, and details. The truck experts at TheCarConnection.com also studied other road tests of the 2009 Toyota Tundra to put together this conclusive review.

Completely redesigned for 2007, the Toyota Tundra is now just as big and burly as the perennial class best-sellers, the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado.

The 2009 Toyota Tundra continues with its especially imposing outward appearance, with a prominent, upright grille, detailed headlamps, flared wheel wells, and just a few equipment changes for this year.

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The interior of all 2009 Toyota Tundra models feature a tilt/telescope steering wheel, big, supportive seats, controls designed to be used with gloves, and a huge center console capable of holding a laptop.

Although the Tundra isn’t available in quite as many models as its full-size competitors from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge, the Tundra still bewilders with sheer equipment possibilities; whatever the purpose, there’s a Tundra for it. To better compete with Detroit, the Tundra is available in a wide range of body configurations: Regular, Double Cab, and CrewMax cabs with three different bed lengths. The Double Cab has small rear doors and enough seating space for children, with a folding seat bottom when it's not in use, but the CrewMax has full-size back doors and enough space in the backseat to compare with the second row of full-size SUVs.

Engine configurations vary from a 4.0-liter V-6 with 236 horsepower up to the 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter iForce V-8. In between is a 4.7-liter V-8 making 271 horsepower. The iForce comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, but other engines get a five-speed auto. When properly equipped, the Tundra can tow up to 10,800 pounds. In select regions, 2009 Tundra 5.7-liter 4x4 models carry flex-fuel capability at no extra charge.

In driving Double Cab and CrewMax models—both with V-8s—TheCarConnection.com finds plenty of power and torque in either the 4.7- or 5.7-liter engines. With the 5.7-liter and six-speed automatic (the 4.7 comes with a five-speed auto), the powertrain is especially responsive and smooth, with the combination offering both the mammoth torque off the line good for towing and the higher-rev pep that’s necessary for quick passes on the highway. Fuel economy is a low point for the Tundra, even when compared to its full-size peers; the EPA estimates with the 5.7-liter and 4WD stand at just 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway, ranging up to 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway with the base V-6 and 2WD.

A new TRD Sport Package, available on the 2009 Toyota Tundra 4x2 Regular Cab and Double Cab standard bed models, is optimized for an aggressive street appearance, while a new TRD Rock Warrior Package is specially tuned and ready (in appearance as well) for hard-core off-roading.

The 2009 Toyota Tundra certainly has more standard safety features than most of its competitors. Front-seat side airbags and roll-sensing side-curtain airbags are standard across the line, along with anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes and electronic stability control. The Tundra garners four stars in federal government frontal and side-impact crash tests, but it earns the top "good" rating in all of the insurance industry tests and a 2009 Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.

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2009 Toyota Tundra

Styling

The styling of the 2009 Toyota Tundra gathers some of the best attributes from big pickups, but it’s nothing innovative.

Sporting the same aggressive exterior that debuted in 2007, the 2009 Toyota Tundra has changed little stylistically. After facing some criticism for the lack of true work capacity on previous versions, Toyota went back to the drawing board and unleashed a true, full-size Tundra.

Toyota offers "44 different flavor choices" for the 2009 Tundra, says Motor Trend. Thanks to a variety of cabs, beds, and trims, Toyota can compete with the full-size pickups offered by the Big 3. Motor Trend details the possibilities, writing that the 2009 Tundra offers "three different bed sizes, three separate wheelbases covering five different cab and bed configurations, combined with three different trim packages (Tundra Grade, SR5, and Limited)." No matter which configuration you opt for, the 2009 Toyota Tundra is characterized by "a sculpted hood, huge three-bar grille and oversized vented bumper" that The Detroit News says "combine some of the best looks of the American trucks," though additionally noting that while it "looks good," the Toyota Tundra is "hardly original."

The Detroit News reviewers feel that, "from the side, the Tundra looks disproportionate, especially when equipped with an extra long bed or largest cab," as the "front end looks too short and the four-door CrewMax cab looks too big." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, however, generally approve of the exterior styling on the Toyota Tundra, with Kelley Blue Book contending that the "2009 Toyota Tundra projects the assertive image that buyers of full-size pickups desire" on all trim levels. They also note that "for 2009, Toyota gives the lowest-cost version of the two-door Regular Cab model styling more consistent with that of a work truck," which Cars.com says is highlighted by "a chrome bumper and matte-black grille surround rather than a shiny black bumper and surround." Edmunds points out that "the standard-cab truck comes only in the Grade trim," though the two other cab options are available in all three trims. The one major knock against the Toyota Tundra's exterior is the profile view.

The Tundra’s interior receives mixed reviews, with some praising its functionality and others voicing disapproval of certain characteristics. On the positive side, reviewers at Consumer Guide laud the 2009 Toyota Tundra for its "large and well marked" instruments, along with the "generously sized and logically arranged" controls. Cars.com says the oversized gauges "are designed to be easy to operate with gloved hands," a critical feature for work sites. On the complaint side, Edmunds finds that the "attractive gauges are not as easy to read as they could be, due to the individual binnacle design," and some of the center stack controls are "quite a stretch to reach from the driver seat, especially in Tundras equipped with the navigation system." Motor Trend seconds that opinion, claiming that the navigation system is "almost out of arm's reach for the driver."

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2009 Toyota Tundra

Performance

A big, capable engine and confidence-inspiring handling help the 2009 Toyota Tundra perform well.

The 2009 Toyota Tundra is a capable cargo hauler, as well as a sporty and quick full-sized pickup truck.

Edmunds lists the available engines as "a 4.0-liter V6 rated for 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque" that comes "standard on the Tundra Regular Cab and standard-bed Double Cab." Long-bed Double Cabs and the CrewMax come standard with a "4.7-liter V8 with 271 hp and 313 lb-ft," an engine that Edmunds says is optional on the other configurations. The final, and definitely most capable, engine offered on the 2009 Toyota Tundra is the "muscular 5.7-liter V8 that pumps out 381 hp and 401 lb-ft," according to Edmunds. Depending on how you plan to use the Tundra, Toyota offers the right engine for you.

TheCarConnection.com surmises that the 5.7-liter iForce V-8 engine in the 2009 Tundra receives rave reviews. Consumer Guide testers find that "there's good power and response with the 4.7 V-8, but the 5.7 feels stronger at all speeds." Car and Driver says that the 5.7 provides "exhilarating" acceleration, moving from "0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds." The Detroit News adds that it is "velvety smooth when passing on the highway" and "provides excellent acceleration off the line." In terms of workplace practicality, Cars.com notes that "Toyota says the Tundra, when properly equipped, can tow up to 10,800 pounds."

Car and Driver testers rave about the "quick-thinking six-speed" on the iForce engine, which offers "right-now response when you push go." The five-speed provides similarly quick shifts, though the lack of an additional top-end gear hurts the 2009 Tundra's fuel economy numbers, which are already painful. The 2009 Toyota Tundra offers several transmissions and drive systems to put the Tundra's considerable power to the pavement. Edmunds reports that "all versions of the Tundra can be equipped with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive," with the benefits of the 2WD being slightly better fuel economy and greater towing capacity, although it does sacrifice some off-road capability. Cars.com reviewers say that the "two smaller engines drive a five-speed automatic transmission, while the 5.7-liter V-8 works with a six-speed automatic."

According to Kelley Blue Book, the more powerful iForce manages marginally better highway numbers than the 4.7-liter engine thanks to "variable valve timing and the benefits of a six-speed automatic transmission." The EPA estimates that the six-cylinder engine will return 15/19 mpg, the best numbers of all the engine types on the Toyota Tundra. The midrange 4.7-liter engine offers either 14/17 mpg in 2WD trim or 13/16 mpg in 4WD, while the 5.7-liter iForce gets 14/18 mpg in 2WD and 13/17 mpg in 4WD.

The handling capabilities of the 2009 Tundra bring more compliments from reviewers. The Detroit News finds the 2009 Tundra boasts "bigger brakes" that help it offer what Edmunds describes as "a firm, progressive pedal feel and respectable stopping distances, with minimal fade under heavy use." Edmunds raves about the "light, precise steering" that "makes for easy maneuvering in parking lots," along with the Toyota Tundra's "minimal body roll." The Detroit News reviewer adds that driving the Toyota Tundra is "much more fun than anticipated," thanks in large part to the "crisp and clean" steering. When taken off-road, the 2009 Tundra, as Car and Driver reviewers observe, "dances over the chucks and humps with excellent control and no sense that it's being abused." Furthermore, reviewers rave about the stopping ability of the 2009 Toyota Tundra, an impressive trait given the truck's hefty size.

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2009 Toyota Tundra

Comfort & Quality

Occupants of the ultra-quiet 2009 Toyota Tundra will have no problem discussing the truck’s mid-grade plastics.

The 2009 Tundra draws high praise from reviewers for its comfort and usability. A minor drawback actually proves to be the truck’s build quality—normally an area in which Toyota sets the benchmark.

The Double Cab and CrewMax both offer rear bench seating with ample space, though Kelley Blue Book thinks that the "non-adjustable rear seatback" in the Double Cab might be "a bit too upright for long road trips." The CrewMax corrects this by offering seats that are "adjustable both for fore-aft positioning and seatback inclination," says Kelley Blue Book. Seating capacity inside the 2009 Toyota Tundra ranges from three in the two-door Standard Cab to six in both the Double Cab and expansive CrewMax. Consumer Guide reports that the front seats on all versions of the 2009 Tundra offer "generous shoulder space" and are "very comfortable, but are set relatively high so headroom ends up being tight beneath the sunroof housing." Edmunds adds that the "ample front seats are accommodating" on all cabs.

The rear seats of the Double Cab are also roomy, though Consumer Guide characterizes it as "adequate" as opposed to the "expansive" legroom found in the CrewMax. A characteristic of the Toyota Tundra CrewMax that reviews read by TheCarConnection.com invariably mention is the incredible rear space, which Edmunds says is the "roomiest rear seat of any pickup truck," offering a "limolike 44.5 inches of rear legroom."

MotherProof reviewers rave about the fact that the 2009 Tundra offers "so much clever compartment space," including a "hidden shelf above the glove compartment" and "huge center console [that] includes space for a laptop and hanging files." Kelley Blue Book also mentions the "numerous storage areas and work surfaces" found inside the cabin of the 2009 Toyota Tundra, while The Detroit News points out that the interior can "serve as an office" while on the road. One of the highlights of the 2009 Toyota Tundra is the tremendous amount of storage space that it offers, which makes the Toyota Tundra an incredibly practical vehicle.

Although the interior storage in the Toyota Tundra is a high point for reviewers, the quality of the material used tends to draw their ire. Consumer Guide feels that "the overall quality of the interior disappoints," as "too many cabin panels ring hollow and are hard to the touch." Edmunds appreciates that the designers "placed their emphasis on utility and durability," but one drawback to the 2009 Tundra's functionality is that "soft-touch surfaces are rare," and the interior is bathed in "a large amount of hard plastic trim." However, despite the poor quality of the materials, The Detroit News does point out that they are "thoughtfully constructed," and Edmunds adds "build quality is tight."

Consumer Guide praises the "laudably low wind rush," while Motor Trend declares that "cabin quiet ... is probably the Tundra's most impressive quality," claiming that "if there's a quieter truck out there, [they] haven't driven it." The solid, high-quality construction garners the reviewers' unanimous approval of the interior noise, or lack thereof, on the 2009 Tundra.

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2009 Toyota Tundra

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Tundra is near the top of its class in safety, thanks to strong crash-test ratings and extensive safety equipment.

The 2009 Toyota Tundra boasts good crash-test ratings and an impressive list of safety features.

In IIHS tests, the 2009 Tundra proves to be an exceptionally safe vehicle, earning the IIHS's top grade, "good," for both frontal offset and side impact collisions. The IIHS also awards the 2009 Toyota Tundra a Top Safety Pick for its top performance in the agency’s tests and its standard electronic stability control.

In testing at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2009 Toyota Tundra performs very well. NHTSA subjects the 2009 Tundra to front impact tests and awards it four out of five stars for both driver and passenger protection. The Toyota Tundra also earns four stars for rollover protection when equipped with four-wheel drive, but the two-wheel-drive versions fare worse, scoring only three out of five stars.

"Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard" on all 2009 Tundras, reports Edmunds. Cars.com adds that more safety features arrive in the form of "an optional camera in the tailgate to improve visibility when backing up or hitching a trailer." Also, opting for the top-end Limited trim of the Toyota Tundra brings "front and rear parking sonar," according to Kelley Blue Book, which piles on even more accident prevention capability.

Consumer Guide reviewers report one feature that aids the Toyota Tundra's safety rating is the truck's "good outward visibility," which can combine with the "available rearview camera" to further increase visibility toward the rear of the vehicle. Kelley Blue Book adds that the "tall seating position makes it easy to see the highway ahead."

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2009 Toyota Tundra

Features

The 2009 Toyota Tundra comes quite well equipped in standard form, with lots of luxury features to step up to.

Thanks to Toyota’s three available trim levels, the 2009 Toyota Tundra is available with a wide variety of standard and optional features.

The 2009 Toyota Tundra’s list of standard features and MSRP vary widely among the Base, SR5, and Limited trims. Consumer Guide states that the Base trim of the 2009 Tundra features "air conditioning w/dual-zone manual climate controls, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, front split bench seat, AM/FM/CD player, [and] digital media player connection." They go on to note that the Toyota Tundra SR5 offers standard "front bucket seats, 8-way power driver seat," and an "in-dash 6-disc CD changer." Edmunds finds that the Toyota Tundra in Limited trim brings "leather upholstery, front captain's chairs with 10-way power adjustment for the driver," a "10-speaker (12 in CrewMax) JBL sound system, Bluetooth and power-retractable, auto-dimming sideview mirrors."

Kelley Blue Book reports that "Toyota offers a comprehensive assortment of more than three dozen dealer-installed items." Some of the most noteworthy optional features on the Toyota Tundra include "a navigation system, a backup camera, driver seat memory, 20-inch wheels and, on the CrewMax only, a sunroof," according to Edmunds.

Consumer Guide reviewers find that the 2009 Tundra's "navigation system is easy enough to program," a rare trait among the navigation systems offered by many automakers.

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