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2007 Toyota Tundra - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on March 1, 2007
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Photographers: Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA

It's been one of the auto industry's most anticipated launches, and one of its best kept secrets. But now the wraps are off, and we can share its secrets with you. Designed, styled, and assembled in the U.S., using 80 percent domestic-sourced components, the all-new 2007 Tundra is Toyota's most technologically advanced and mechanically stout pickup truck to date-and certainly one of the company's most ambitious offerings ever. Scheduled to go on sale in mid-February, the new Tundra should be rolling onto your local dealer lot around the time you read this.

Available with three different engine/transmission combos, two wheelbase sizes, and three cab and bed sizes, the new Tundra will offer prospective buyers more than 30 discrete build combinations to choose from. Cab configurations vary from the standard Regular Cab to the four-door, four-passenger Double-Cab (now sporting forward-hinged doors), and the humongous six-passenger Crew Max (think "Toyota Mega Cab" and you get the idea). But first let's get to the nuts and bolts:

Power for the people. The Tundra's all-new 5.7L cast-aluminum V-8 cranks out an impressive 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. The new engine uses double overhead cams with dual variable valve timing, and mates to a six-speed automatic transmission with double-overdrive gears.

Power options for the new Tundra include two familiar powerplants: the standard 4.7L i-Force V-8 found on previous versions of the Tundra, now rated at 271 hp and 313 lb-ft of torque, as well as the 236hp 4.0L V-6 used by the Tacoma and 4Runner; both come mated to the tried-and-true A750 five-speed automatic. The big news for '07, however, is the debut of Toyota's biggest-ever truck engine, a brand-new 5.7L long-stroke V-8 rated at 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. The open-deck cast-aluminum block, which is California ULEV-rated for ultra-low emissions, is the first Toyota engine to be completely built from scratch in the U.S., with blocks cast at Toyota's new Bodine Aluminum shop in Missouri and complete assemblies buttoned up at Toyota's Huntsville, Alabama, plant. Backing the new V-8 is a new transmission, the AB60E six-speed electronic automatic, that's also assembled domestically-in this case, in North Carolina.

While the 5.7L at last addresses the Tundra's chief shortcoming-the truck's always been down on power versus the Big Three's offerings or the Nissan Titan-the really big news (for us) happens behind (and beneath) the six-speed, where a brand-new JF1A transfer case, sporting six-pinion planetaries and a 2.62:1 low-range, spins new aluminum two-piece driveshafts to the biggest-ever axles offered in this truck: an 8.7-inch aluminum frontend with automatic-disconnecting diff, and either a 9 1/2- or 10 1/2-inch (yeah, that's no misprint) rear axle; the 10.5 comes standard with the 5.7L engine, and that robust running gear translates into tow ratings ranging from 10,100 to 10,800 pounds. Ring-and-pinion ratios vary from 3.90:1 to 4.30:1, depending on ring-gear diameter and application (i.e., towing or not). There's no locking diff option for the rearend (yet), so 'wheelers will need to rely for now on the ABS-governed ActiveTrac traction control system that uses computerized cross-axle torque management to simulate the effects of a clutch-type rear limited-slip. (Thankfully at least, the Tundra's stability control is automatically disabled in low-range, so there's one less "driver" trying to tell you what to do on the trail.)

The Tundra's huge center console is wide and deep enough to accommodate hanging file folders and a laptop. Great news for traveling executives, bad news for automotive editors trying to play hooky.

Sitting on an all-new composite frame that's 6 inches wider than the previous model's, the Tundra's new front suspension utilizes a linear-rate coilover/A-arm/stabilizer-bar setup, while in the rear, leaf springs are mounted trapezoidally, out of parallel in an ingenious "toe out" fashion, to improve stability under side loading such as when trailering or cornering. Steering is power rack-and-pinion, and braking comes courtesy of massive 13.9-inch front discs sporting four-piston calipers and vented rotors, and 13.6-inch rear discs with single-piston calipers. Standard 18x8 wheels now mount up to a 5-on-6 bolt pattern with 9/16-inch studs, and 265/65R18 tires with onboard pressure monitoring are standard.

Inside and out, the new Tundra is filled with functional features. Oversized door handles were designed for large hands wearing work gloves, and jointless wiper blades reduce wind lift and noise. A gas-charged strut makes opening and shutting the tailgate a one-finger affair, and a cleat-on-rail tie-down system is an available bed option. The Tundra's capacious center console is big enough for (and accommodates) hanging file folders, and Bluetooth-compatible electronics ensure hands-free cell-yakking. There's a backup camera in the tailgate handle (!) and a built-in toolbox behind the rear seats. Both XM and Sirius satellite will be available audio options, all incab wiring now uses halogen- and chlorine-free vinyl with no solders anywhere, for reduced lead exposure ... and, oh yeah, a TRD Off Road Package can also be had.

No doubt about it, from power and performance to safety and environmental features, Toyota has sweated virtually every detail of this truck. But how would it drive?

What's Hot:
10 1/2-inch ring gear, 10,000-plus tow rating, it's actually a Toyota ... need we say more?

What's Not:
We're still getting used to the bulbous body styling.

Our Take:
At long last, Toyota's big-truck breakthrough.

The layout of the new Tundra's interior (the upscale Crew Max version is shown here) is as basically intuitive and user-friendly as the previous model's, though the stereo/Nav controls on this unit are a bit far for the driver to reach. We like the 4WD actuation dial, smack in the middle of the dash, as well as the preferred-by-us floor-mounted manumatic tranny shifter and notched gates.

Naturally, we had to testdrive the fullest of the fullsizes, so we hopped into a Crew Max 4x4 equipped with the 5.7L, six-speed, and optional Tow Package, which gives you full trailer wiring and brake-controller pre-wiring under the dash; a seven-pin rear connector; stiffer (i.e., load leveling) rear spring rates; a higher-capacity alternator; a bigger transmission cooler; a transmission-temp gauge on the instrument panel (which oughta be standard, if you ask us); and a pushbutton Tow/Haul mode that recalibrates throttle, shift, and braking algorithms when the vehicle is under load. To make things really fun, we hitched up a twin-axle trailer loaded with cinder blocks and moseyed on over to a local truck scale: 9,200 pounds, we were informed upon weigh-in (the trailer, not us), after which we hit the highway for a 100-mile meander over the blue highways of Kentucky thoroughbred country.

Even under load, the Tundra was a pleasure to drive. The big V-8 never felt taxed or overworked throughout the powerband, and while kickdown could be a tad abrupt on long grades, the Tundra was happy to turn a smooth, quiet 2,000 rpm at 70mph cruise. Road feel was sure-footed throughout our drive, with the front end solidly planted, and steering feel firmly weighted, despite some 900 pounds resting on the tongue. We definitely appreciated the big front discs when we needed to slow down; the massive binders seemed perfectly proportioned, neither particularly grabby nor prone to excess fade when stopping from freeway speeds with 4 1/2 tons in tow. And although we didn't need them for our particular load, 5th-wheel haulers will appreciate the Tundra's telescoping oversized side mirrors as well.

After our tow test, we grabbed the wheel of another Crew Max, this one unladen (or so we thought), to see how the 5.7L would perform on its own. We had no stopwatches on hand, but our count-out-loud guesstimate was a zero-to-60 acceleration time in slightly over seven seconds. In a 5,800-pound pickup truck? But wait: To top it off, once we'd finished our impromptu dragging, we exited the truck to discover 1,000 pounds of sheetrock neatly stacked in the bed. Who knew?

We didn't get to do any tough 'wheeling with the Tundra-while Toyota had constructed a mud course for us, recent heavy rains had rendered it impassable-but we did get the time for some pleasant slow-speed driving on a nearby ranch's rutted and rocky access roads, where the Tundra's coil suspension and 10.2 inches of ground clearance showed their trail-compliance, and our tester's optional BFG Rugged Trail T/As did their usual exemplary job of providing a good compromise between aggressive trail traction and quiet road manners.

Well, we know it can tow, and we know it can go reeeeeally fast ... but how hard can you 'wheel it? We'll find out as soon as we can get our hands on one for some in-depth trail testing. For now, though, we're content to call the new Tundra a milestone in fullsize pickup truck design, and it is without doubt the big-truck breakthrough that Toyotaphiles have been waiting for since the '93 launch of the T100. We'll take one 'wheeling in an upcoming issue.

Vehicle/model: 2007 Toyota Tundra
Base price (4x4 models): N/A
Engine(s): 4.0L V-6/4.7L V-8/5.7L V-8
Max hp & torque (lb-ft): 236 & 266/271 & 313/381 & 401
Transmission(s): A750E five-speed auto/AB60E six-speed auto (5.7 only)
Transfer case: JF1A part-time two-speed
Low-range ratio: 2.62:1
Frame type: Steel ladder
Suspension, f/r: IFS, double wishbones, coil springs/Live axle, leaf springs
Axles, f/r: S22NF 8.7-inch/B26 10.5-inch
Axle ratio: 3.90:1-4.30:1
Max crawl ratio: 37.49:1 (with six-speed and Tow Pkg.)
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13.9-inch vented discs/13.6-inch vented discs
Wheels:18x8.0 steel or alloy
Tires (tested): P265/65R18 BFG Rugged Trail T/A
Wheelbase (in): 126.8-145.7
Length (in):209.8-228.7
Height (in): 75.8-76.4
Base curb weight (lb): 4,610-5,630
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 29/25 (4x4 DoubleCab)
Minimum ground clearance (in): 10.2-10.8
GVWR (lb): 6,200-7,200
Bed dimensions, l/w/h (in): 78.7/66.4/22.2 (standard bed)
Max towing capacity (lb): 10,100-10,800
EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): N/A
Fuel capacity (gal): 26.4

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