As mentioned, Toyota is fully aware that it doesn't quite compete with the Detroit Three pickup builders in the number of choices it offers. Then again, it took GM, Ford, and Dodge decades to develop their portfolio of components and build trucks that were aimed at a customer's specific needs and geographic location. Toyota is now working on that-though perhaps not as quickly as it would if the economy was more robust. Still, added to the equipment list for 2010 are an adjustable headlamp leveling system, fog lamps as standard, more models with towing mirrors as standard, and an upgraded navigation system that responds to voice commands.
Convenience equipment this year includes models with standard features such as map lamps, an auto dimming rear view mirror with integrated compass, an integrated garage door opener, and/or a fold-down seatback table fitted to the front passenger seat.
Model choices for the '10 model year will cover a choice of three cabs: The three-passenger Regular Cab, five or six-passenger Double Cab, and CrewMax cab configurations, and 5 1/2-, 6 1/2-, or 8.1-foot beds. With the new engine factored in, Toyota is now claiming a choice of 15 models-five 4x2 Tundras and 10 4x4 models. Trim levels include "Work Truck" up to a new loaded Platinum 5.7L model.
We had a chance to drive several hundred miles on a run to Kingston, Ontario, and then back to Brampton. Our combined average fuel consumption (as shown on the instant readout in the truck) was 18.4 mpg. Powerwise, we noted that the transmission works in concert with the engine (by downshifting two gears when called upon) to build speed, yet at the high end lopes along at minimal rpm-saving fuel even at 75 mph. With the optional Upgrade Package and rear step bumper, our Tundra Double Cab priced out at $38,859, making it the most economical truck in our evaluation. (We'll have more on the 2010 Tundra in our 2010 Pickup Truck of the Year test, appearing in next month's issue.)
Driving: Gravel Roads
Gravel roads are great for three things: evaluating cabin noise levels, assessing steering feel, and driving dirt into every possible crevice on the truck. Thanks to recent rains, we experienced all three equally.
The consensus among our testers was that the Chevy and Ford were the quietest of these trucks. Not just on overall road noise, but they also deadened the pinging in the wheelwells from the gravel hits. On pavement, tire noise was low and with both engines at idle, it was almost impossible to tell they were running. (With the hybrid, that's a bit deceiving because at stops, the engine stops as well.)
Steering feel was good on all the trucks, but again Ford and Chevy seem to have it over the other two with a more controlled and confident feel. Certainly with the Ford, the new longer wheelbase adds to the overall ride quality-the trade-off is that it increases its turning radius. Inside though, the Ford puts this added length to use as rear cabin space, adding almost six inches of floor space. For spaciousness, Ford has it over the others.
It was interesting to see that the 2010 Toyota Tundra we tested featured a fold-down cargo bed step, an add-on that mimics the Ford step. It's good to see that Toyota reacts quickly to the changing market, not necessarily waiting until the next-generation update to make build changes.