SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide
The full-sized pickup is a uniquely American vehicle. Large loads, large people, long distances, wide open spaces, the demands of American work and leisure, and inexpensive fuel contribute to their popularity. The two best-selling vehicles in the country by far are domestic full-sized pickups, and big trucks are used extensively for both work and play. Although the import nameplates have a major presence in the compact pickup class, they have never really tried to establish themselves in the full-size class. Toyota would like to change that.
There is an old saying that goes "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Toyota has taken it to heart with the introduction of its full- sized Tundra pickup. Built only at a new plant near Princeton, Indiana, it replaces the smaller, Japanese- built T100, which never quite achieved the success expected of it in part because of its less-than-full size and lack of a V8 engine. The Tundra makes up for those shortcomings with a vengeance. It's longer and larger than the T100, and its available V8 engine has power parity with the similarly-sized V8s of its domestic-brand competitors.
Two Tundra body styles are offered, regular cab and extended cab "Access Cab" in Toyota parlance. All Access Cab Tundras have extended-cab style four doors two normal front-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear doors on both sides for easier access to the rear cab area. Unlike other, similarly- equipped trucks, the Tundra Access Cab's rear doors have external handles that are much easier to use than the common door-jamb latches. Both body styles share a common wheelbase and length, so the Access Cab version trades maximum cargo capacity for passenger or inside cargo room. If the Access Cab Tundra is shorter than some of its competitors, it is consequently much easier to maneuver and park in the urban and suburban situations for which most will mostly be used.
The standard engine is a 190-hp version of the 3.4-liter V6 familiar from the T100, Tacoma, and 4Runner. But the big news is the "i-Force" V8. Like all Toyota engines, it is a dual overhead cam, four- valve-per-cylinder design, tuned for low-end torque. Both engines are available with two- or four-wheel drive powertrains.
I spent a recent week in a top-of-the-line V8- powered Tundra Limited 4x4 Access Cab. With its leather and woodgrain trim and high appointment level, it would have been out of place on the back forty, but it was right at home in all personal-use pickup situations. If the T100 was "the Camry of pickups", the Tundra is the Avalon of pickups a touch larger, and more luxurious.
APPEARANCE: The Tundra is definitely a contemporary pickup, and undeniably a Toyota. While there is some similarity to the T100 and Tacoma, the Tundra is larger than any previous Toyota truck, and more rounded. An aggressively-shaped chrome grille sets the tone. Rounded fender blisters and the 4x4's high stance proclaim power and off-road ability. The Access Cab doesn't hide its doors, as all four handles are plainly visible. The chromed steel bumpers are traditional truck, and very functional.
COMFORT: In Limited trim, the Tundra competes with other premium-level pickups. Space, comfort, and versatility are the parameters, and the Tundra has plenty of each. Despite the height of the 4x4 version, and its 11-plus inches of ground clearance, access is fairly easy even for shorter people. There are plenty of grab handles, and the step-in height is not too excessive. Inside, welcome to premium Toyota comfort. My test truck had front captain's chairs with optional leather upholstery, and a large, useful two- layer center console. But for customers who need less luxury and more passenger ability, a 60/40 spilt front bench seat with an armrest/console is available. The rear seat is a 60/40 split bench. Its somewhat vertical back stays put, but the cushions can be folded up for cargo storage. Or, a hidden storage compartment underneath keeps valuable items out of sight. The instrument panel could be right out of a car, with a hooded instrument pod and centrally-placed audio and climate controls with large, easily-used knobs and buttons. Dual sun visors reduce glare, and the column- mounted gearshift keeps the floor clear.
SAFETY: The 2000 Toyota Tundra has dual air bags, three-point safety harnesses for all outboard positions, side-impact door beams, and available four-wheel antilock brakes.
ROADABILITY: The 4x4 Access Cab Tundra is a contemporary truck on the road. It's nearly as quiet and smooth as a sedan, with little bounciness even unloaded. It is every bit a modern personal-use pickup, with a pushbutton four-wheel drive system and the ability to tow 7100 lbs as equipped. With over 11 inches of clearance, its off-road and boat ramp abilities can be assured.
PERFORMANCE: V8 power, no waiting. The 4.7-liter i- Force engine's 245 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque makes it very competitive with anything in its class. It's the only dual-overhead cam, 32-valve V8 truck engine, and is matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. Power comes in strong at low engine speeds, an ideal arrangement for towing, hauling, or any operation, really. But it doesn't fade at higher speeds, either, with plenty of top-end punch for passing on the highway or hill-climbing. And it's clean, with a ``Low Emissions Vehicle'' (LEV) emissions classification.
CONCLUSIONS: Toyota has seriously jumped into the full-sized pickup class with the Tundra.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 27,830 Price As Tested $ 30,249 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 32-valve V8 Engine Size 4.7 liters / 285 cu. in. Horsepower 245 @ 4800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 315 @ 3400 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically- controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 128.3 in. / 217 in. Curb Weight 4644 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.0 Fuel Capacity 26.4 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane Tires P265/70 SR16 Dunlop Grand Trek Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone with coil springs / solid axle with leaf springs Drivetrain front engine, on-demand four-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 14 / 17 / 15 0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec Towing Capacity 7,100 lbs. Payload 1406 (Limited model) OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium AM/FM/cassette/CD 6-speaker sound system with 6-CD in-dash changer $ 200 Leather package - includes: leather-faced captain's chairs with driver's-side power adjustment, simulated wood grain trim $ 1,420 Carpet floor mats $ 80 Bed liner $ 299