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 relatively 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 dominant 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. It first tried with the Japanese- built T100 a few years ago. While it was an exceedingly logical solution to pickup needs, the T100 missed the mark because of its smaller size and lack of a V8 engine. The Princeton, Indiana-built Tundra makes up for those shortcomings with a vengeance, with size and power comparable to any of its domestic-brand competitors.
Two Tundra body styles are offered, regular cab and "Access Cab" extended cab. Both body styles share a common wheelbase and length, so the Access Cab version trades maximum cargo capacity for passenger or inside cargo room. The standard engine is Toyota's familiar 190-hp, 3.4-liter V6. The "i-Force" V8, with 245 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque, compares favorably with any competition. Both engines are available with two- or four- wheel drive powertrains.
I've just spent a week with a V8 4x4 Access Cab Tundra in mid- level SR5 trim. It's big, and there is no power shortage from the i- Force V8. But despite its brawn, the Tundra is one of the most comfortable pickups made. It should fill the bill for personal use or work duty.
APPEARANCE: As big as it is, there is little doubt that the Tundra is a Toyota pickup. Its rounded design inspired the latest restyle of the smaller Tacoma. But here "rounded" does not equate with "soft". An upside-down trapezoidal grille and large headlights in front and noticeable fender blisters on the sides give it an aggressive stance, and available overfenders and mudguards complete the rugged off-road look. Bumpers are good old pickup chromed steel. The Access Cab wears its four door handles proudly, the rear- hinged rear doors are not hidden as on some competitors.
COMFORT: In SR5 Access Cab trim, the Tundra is accessible, spacious and comfortable. While a 60/40 split bench is standard in front, my test truck had the optional captain's chairs with grippy cloth upholstery that would not be out of place in a mid-level Camry, and a deep, two-level console. Plenty of comfort and convenience there, and cupholders and power points galore. A steering column-mounted gearshift adds useful space to the center console. The rear 60/40 split bench will hold three people, although space will be tight for really large people. It is an extended cab, not a crew cab. The rear seat cushions flip up for additional cargo capacity, and there is a small hidden storage space under the right cushion. Good soundproofing, a rigid chassis, and a well-tuned suspension add to passenger comfort.
SAFETY: The 2002 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: Toyotas are known for their civilized, quiet ride characteristics, and the Tundra is no exception. It's a standard pickup in chassis design, with body-on-frame construction, an independent double wishbone front suspension with coil springs, and a solid axle with leaf springs in the rear. But even in high-riding 4x4 trim, with a suspension tuning optimized for off-road driving, the Tundra is never harsh or jarring. The "Off-Road Package" features progressive-rate springs and Bilstein shocks for soft comfort over small irregularities and firmer control over larger bumps. In my test truck, it was never bouncy unloaded, and, while the suspension was comfortably compliant over rough surfaces, it was stable and composed in corners. While the rear brakes are drums, the front vented discs, which do most of the work, have four-piston calipers. The Tundra has no problem stopping quickly. The push-button four- wheel drive system is easy to operate.
PERFORMANCE: No complaints about a lack of power allowed. The Tundra's 4.7-liter "i-Force" V8 is a typical Toyota engine, with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. It makes 245 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 315 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm, figures that are equal to or better than the output of any competitor's similarly-sized powerplants. Low-rpm torque is excellent, just what is needed for towing, or hauling heavy loads. It doesn't fade at higher speeds, with plenty of top-end punch for passing on the highway or climbing hills. And it's clean, with a "Low Emissions Vehicle" (LEV) emissions classification.
CONCLUSIONS: Toyota is in the full-size pickup field in a big way with the Tundra.
SPECIFICATIONS 2002 Toyota Tundra SR5 Access Cab 4x4 V8 Base Price $ 26,305 Price As Tested $ 28,960 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. / 217.5 in. Curb Weight 4518 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.4 Fuel Capacity 26.4 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane Tires P265/70 SR16 BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock optional Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone with coil springs / solid axle with leaf springs Ground Clearance 11.2 in. 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 1,512 OPTIONS AND CHARGES All-weather guard package - includes: heavy-duty starter, battery, and heater $ 70 Offroad package - includes: 16-inch wheels, P265/70x16 BF Goodrich tires, black overfenders, front and rear mudguards, foglamps, off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers $ 955 Cloth captain's chairs $ 75 Convenience package - includes: keyless entry, power windows, door locks, and mirrors, sliding rear window with privacy glass, sunvisors with mirrors $ 1,355 Carpet floor mats $ 86 Bedliner $ 299 Delivery and processing fee $ 480 Extra Value Package Discount -($ 480)