June 14, 2004

Consumer Reports picks Toyota Tundra in test of five crew cabs

Yonkers, New York – The Toyota Tundra has reclaimed Consumer Reports’ top rating in the pick-up truck category following tests of five crew-cab models for the July issue of their magazine.

Consumer Reports tested the Tundra against four other crew-cab pickups, the Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Chevrolet Silverado, and Dodge Ram. All five vehicles had similar configurations, with four-wheel-drive and V8 engines. Sticker prices ranged from U.S.$32,000 for the Tundra to U.S.$36,000 for the Silverado.

The Tundra was CR’s Top Pick in the pickup category in 2000, 2001, and 2002. It subsequently lost that title to the Chevrolet Avalanche, which was a Consumer Reports Top Pick in 2003. CR did not name a Top Pick in the pickup truck category in its Annual April Auto Issue for 2004 because it had not yet tested the latest pickups on the market. The Avalanche now ranks second overall in CR’s ratings of full-sized pickups.

“The Tundra’s strong V8, quiet cabin, and civilized ride make it the most well-rounded pickup that Consumer Reports has tested,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test facility in East Haddam, Connecticut. “The Tundra also has one of the longest cargo beds in this group.”

The Tundra achieved an “Excellent” overall score in testing, while the F-150 and Titan are rated “Very Good” overall. The Silverado and Ram posted “Good” overall scores, although the Ram barely made that grade.

Consumer Reports is recommending two of the pickups tested, the Tundra and the Silverado. To be recommended, the vehicle must have performed well in Consumer Reports’ tests, have at least average reliability based on CR’s surveys of its subscribers, and have performed adequately if crash tested or included in a government rollover. The F-150 and the Titan are too new for CR to have reliability histories. The Ram scored too low in CR’s tests.

With the introduction of the new crew-cab model, the Tundra emerged as the most well-rounded pickup tested by CR. The Tundra SR5 (U.S.$32,447 as tested) offers the most comfortable ride of the test group, a quiet cabin, and sound handling. The 240-hp, 4.7-litre V8 is smooth and quiet albeit not as quick as the other trucks tested. The four-speed automatic is smooth. Braking performance is impressive for a large truck. The Tundra’s reliability has been excellent.

The redesigned F-150 is a significant improvement over the previous model. The F-150 XLT (U.S.$35,550 as tested) rides more comfortably, handles more nimbly, and has a quieter interior with better fit and finish than its predecessor. The 300-hp, 5.4-litre V8 delivers very good acceleration, but the four-speed transmission wasn’t always responsive to downshifts. Braking performance is just adequate, with long stops on wet surfaces. CR doesn’t have reliability data on this new version yet.

The Titan, Nissan’s first full-sized pickup, scored slightly below the F-150. The Titan SE ($33,540 as tested) is quick, handles relatively nimbly, and rides reasonably well. The cabin is roomy. In addition, it’s the only truck in this group that offers side and head-protection airbags and electronic stability control (ESC). The smooth, powerful 305-hp, 5.6-litre V8 was the quickest of the group. Its five-speed automatic transmission is responsive and smooth. Engine noise is a bit pronounced. Braking is good. CR doesn’t have reliability data on the Titan yet.

Aside from a new crew-cab version, the Silverado hasn’t changed much since its 1999 introduction. The Silverado 1500 Z71 (U.S.$35,585 as tested) offers a selectable four-wheel-drive system with a full-time mode and the highest payload capacity in this group. But its powertrain isn’t as smooth as some of the Tundra’s or Titan’s. It’s handling is ungainly and the ride is stiff. The 295-hp, 5.3-litre V8 delivers very good acceleration and the four-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Braking performance is just adequate. Reliability for the Silverado has been average.

The Ram, which was last redesigned for 2002, added a 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 for 2004. The Ram 1500 SLT (U.S.$34,415 as tested) has a jittery ride and cumbersome handling that hurt its overall score, as did the barely adequate brakes. But the Ram has the largest cargo bed among the pickups tested, and can tow more than 8,000 pounds. The 345-hp, 5.7-litre V8 provided strong acceleration but abysmal fuel economy at 11 U.S. mpg in CR’s tests. The five-speed automatic transmission wasn’t as smooth or responsive as others tested. Braking performance was only adequate, with long stops. The Ram’s reliability has been average.

Full tests and ratings of the five tested pickups appear in the July issue of Consumer Reports. The complete report is also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.

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