Toyota Tundra 4X2 Limited Review

toyota tundra 4x2 limited review
Tribute bands are a beautiful thing: talented musicians who use their artistic gifts to duplicate other people's creativity and style for stupid easy money. Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup is cut from the same cloth. Much like your favorite KISS wannabes, the big T's truck earns its keep by imitating Detroit’s core competency. Supposedly, that ain’t enough; US pickup truck buyers are thought to be more brand loyal than Queen fans (if you pardon the reference). So does the Tundra have what it takes to evoke the masters and rock the house?

The Tundra’s curvaceous sheetmetal hearkens back to the last-gen Ford F150– with only a butch twin-bar grille as a modern concession to big-rig boldness. The soft but hard theme continues downstream, as the curves end in hindquarters that feel distinctly truckish– in the nicest possible way. The Tundra's double cab profile proclaims its intention to haul more than mulch. Meanwhile, the door-mounted "Limited" decals proclaim its buyer’s appreciation of life’s finer things (like you’re too "country" for a Lexus rig). It’s all good, since people who buy a megabuck truck aren’t looking for something that says “tough” like a Texas lawman… Oh wait, they are.

Like a repressed trust fund baby, the Tundra's interior displays a smattering of external influences with no identity of its own. The dash bears more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned F150, with gauges influenced (ripped off) from a late-90s Explorer. The interior fit and finish is as spotty as 101 Dalmatians; the Tundra sports everything from excess A-pillar flash casting (sans side-curtain airbags) to a fistful of revolting plastic plugs, which date back to the advent of grunge rock. In this age of high dollar design budgets, the polymer droppings littering the dash, steering wheel and console are a major disappointment. I mean, we’re talking 36 large.

While Lexus-like door panels, leather trim, navigation and JBL tunes trick the truck; the Tundra’s interior is still an ergonomic earthquake. Corolla-esque door handles look feminine and require dainty fingers to manipulate without continual restorative manicures. Grabbing too much column-shifter activates the wiper stalk, while a bizarre dash-mounted button is the sole method for manual first gear engagement. Rotary HVAC controls operate without fluidity or grace. The power retracting rear window is the Tundra's sole redeeming feature; it increases the open-air convertible factor and encourages meaningful conversations with your cargo. (Expect another horrid dash plug for Tundra's lacking this option.)

So this rig ain't no Cowboy Cadillac, but does it work hard? You betcha.

The Tundra's relatively trim dimensions make parking lot maneuvering a pleasure. But it's bigger where it counts; the double cab's stunted bed is still the longest in its class. The truck holsters a 4.7L V8 that spreads its 313 ft.-lbs. of torque throughout the rev range like peanut butter on bread. Teamed with a smart five-speed automatic, the V8 is always ready to roll, with quick downshifts and boundless passing power. Tundra's fast-ratio steering feels right, keeping the "Tokyo Drift" limited-slip rear axle in check on wet pavement. Rear drum brakes disappoint on paper, but even with a spongy pedal, stop the Tundra with resounding authority. The Toyota's light-hearted frame ensures a rough road lets the dash, cab and bed all dance to the beat of a different drummer.

The Tundra's hardware is far from class leading, but the rig passes the all-important truck test: towing. While the V8 needs all 32 intelligently-timed valves to tow a 6000lb load, the autobox makes sure multiple downshifts motivate the Tundra to hillclimb like a pack mule. Expect a decent 12mpg with highway towing, down from the 19mpg rating awarded from the EPA. Even with a land-yacht behind it, the Tundra’s mediocre stopping hardware yanked all and sundry to a standstill with zero drama. Yet the Tundra's flexi-flyer frame showed telltale signs of weakness: the bed pulled away from the cab, notably worse than many a Detroit-bred beat-to-shit work truck towing the same load.

Motown still does something right: they know their trucks. While the Tundra performs adequately it doesn’t reassure and impress like one of its homegrown competitors. And the inverse relationship between interior quality and asking price make Toyota’s pickup a not-so-funny joke. After thirteen years of truck know-how, Toyota still doesn't have the juice to school the Big Dogs. Ah but…

Remember Toyota's first minivan? It was a mid-engined deathtrap, no match for Chrysler's baby. But Toyota eventually got it right, building a showroom superstar in the Sienna. The 2007 Tundra is set to bust a move with fresh threads. And it’ll be assembled by folks who know a thing or two about trucks: Texans. For now, Ford's class-leading F150 can rest on its laurels. Next year, who knows? Imitation may soon prove to be the sincerest form of market share.

[Toyota provided the vehicle reviewed, insurances, taxes and a tank of gas.]

Join the conversation
2 of 31 comments
  • Trd blown motor Trd blown motor on May 18, 2007

    I have owned 2 of the big 3 (chevy & ford), and currently own tundra. I can honestly say that I have experienced good and bad from the three trucks I have owned. Notice I said trucks, and not a fru fru, tranverse mounted V6, front wheel drive, which is nothing more than a minivan with a chopped rear end you call a bed. That my friend is not a truck. A base model S10, colorodo, ranger, frontier, tacoma, is more truck than the ridgeline will ever be.

  • The Ninjalectual The Ninjalectual on Dec 11, 2009

    I currently own a Tundra (double cab, TRD 4x4 model), and for what I needed in a truck, the Tundra is the best truck on the road. My Tundra is used for recreation, not work. I rarely tow anything, and the only "work" I do is hauling bedfulls of firewood out of the Colorado mountains. I use it to haul my ski buddiesto the slopes in the winter. I put a fiberglass shell on it and sleep in the bed in the summer. For offroading, it has more clearance than anything else does stock. It's narrower than the competition, so you can sqeeze through more obstacles and have a wider choice of lines to take. And contrary to what SexCpotatoes thinks, it is quite comfortable to get laid in the bed. (I am 6'2" and have experienced no problems back there) The worst 1/2-ton truck is the Ram. Like many Chrysler vehicles, the Ram looks fantastic in the showroom, but is often literally falling apart before reaching 80,000 miles. You've got to be retarded to buy a Ram for work OR for play, IMO. The Titan does not come with a double cab AND six-and-a-half foot bed, and that 9,000# tow rating is pretty optimistic, to put it nicely. Anyone actually towing that much seems to have rear end problems. The Silverado/Sierra was another interesting option to me, because I have seen some of them looking great at 150,000 miles, and others needing loads of work by 100,000. Seems like Chevy makes a solid truck, but a lot of owners just don't take care of theirs. And Ford... Ford is the only manufacturer who makes a 300+hp feel underpowered. I have never once complained about the Tundra being underpowered. It does have it's problems, of course. I really wish they would offer a manual transmission, for example. I hate how it will start in first gear when starting from a stop in 4-lo, when second or third would be more suitable. I wish they offered a manual transfer case, though to be fair I haven't had any trouble with my push-button system. I loathe the hill descent "feature" where the truck downshifts when you tap the brake when the truck is pointed downhill. If I want to downshift to hold a speed down a hill, I will do it myself, TYVM. But for my dollar, and at 17.5mpg on average, the Tundra is the pickup for me!

  • Luke42 I like the Metris quite a bit, but I never bought one.Two problems kept me from pulling the trigger:[list=1][*]It was expensive for what it was.[/*][*]For the price they were asking, it needed to have a plug for me to buy it.[/*][/list=1]I wanted a minivan that could tow, and I test drove one and liked it. The Mercedes dealer stocked both cargo versions and conversion vans. It was a nice vehicle, and I really wanted one for a while.This is the inevitable fate of cars that I like, but don't actually buy.
  • Garrett I would have gone for one of these if it had AWD. If they had offered it, it could have done far better.
  • Michael500 Sorry, EV's are no good. How am I supposed to rev the motor to impress girls? (the sophisticated ones I like).
  • Michael500 Oh my dog- this is one of my favorite cars in human history! A neighbor had a '71 when I was a child and I stopped and gazed at that car every time it was parked outside its garage. Turquoise with a black vinyl. That high beltline looks awesome today!
  • ScarecrowRepair I'd love an electric car -- quiet, torque, drive train simplicity -- but only if the cost was less, if recharging was as fast as gas (5 minutes) and as ubiquitous. I can take a road trip and know that with a few posted exceptions (US 50 from Reno to Utah), I don't have to wonder where the next fuel station is, and if I do run out, I can lug a gallon of gas back.Sure I'd miss the engine sounds and the joys of shifting. But life is all about tradeoffs.