First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab; photo by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Toyota Tundra

Toyota says its truck-building heritage can be summed up in the phrase, “Never Quit.” That’s an effective way of encapsulating the stubbornness with which Toyota seems to approach building trucks for the competitive North American market. While the brand’s trucks are largely beyond reproach in terms of durability, Toyota has yet to sell a full-size truck here that’s been a serious competitor to the big trucks built by the Big Three domestics.

The first “full-size” Toyota, the 1993 T100, was significantly smaller than domestic full-sizers of the time, and didn’t even offer a V8 engine – a serious no-no for a “big” pickup. A V8 wouldn’t become available until the first-generation Tundra arrived for the 2000 model year, but even then with only 245 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque (later models were uprated to 282 horses and about 320 lb-ft), that motor was outclassed by the big-bore motors offered by domestic competitors.

Toyota Canada officials admit that, as a result, the company has never been able to snag more than three per cent of the Canadian full-size pickup truck market, with the Tundra selling no more than 3,000 copies each year. With the second-generation Tundra about to go on sale in North America, Toyota brought Canadian journalists together in London, Ontario to drive the new truck for the first time.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra CrewMax; photo by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

The fact that Toyota chose to launch the Tundra in southern Ontario just before the Detroit auto show is no accident. DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors all have operations in southern Ontario, and Detroit is the home of the North American auto industry. Toyota obviously has its sights set on Dodge, Ford and General Motors with this truck, which is being built in Texas, which is also significant.

For the first time, Toyota might actually have a product that will make a dent in the domestics’ market dominance – and they’re building it on the domestics’ home turf: the trucks themselves are being built at the San Antonio, Texas plant that Toyota opened in November as well as at the Princeton, Indiana plant that was slated to open in January. The Tundra’s motors are built in Alabama and the transmissions are assembled in North Carolina. If that’s not enough, engineering development was done in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the styling was drawn up at Toyota’s Calty design centres in California and Ann Arbor. It all adds up to what Toyota calls the “most North American new product launch” in the company’s history.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra; photo by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

Toyota’s approach involves invoking its established reputation for durability coupled with a product that, hopefully, will strike a chord with truck buyers. Its engine choices should hit the right notes. All Tundras come with V8 power: a 4.7-litre, 271-horsepower motor carried over from the old Tundra motivates base Tundras, while a new 5.7-litre V8 is available. This is an all-new motor, and Toyota says its impressive 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque are class leading, and as far as we can tell, it’s true (though the new GMC Sierra Denali will offer a 400-hp, 6.2-litre V8). Both engines use Toyota’s dual VVT-i variable valve timing system, which in this case, acts on both intake and exhaust cams, which Toyota claims is a segment first.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra Regular Cab; photo by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

There’s no V6 engine for Canada at this point, though the U.S. market gets the 4.0-litre V6 from the old Tundra as the base powerplant. That strikes me as a strange tactic for Canada, a market that’s traditionally less spendy than the States; a lower-priced V6 might be a good idea here. In any case, Toyota Canada says the V6 may be offered here in the future. They also said that a diesel engine is a possibility, but when I spoke to Toyota Canada Incorporated CEO Kenji Tomikawa in 2005, he said Toyota was looking at adapting its gas/electric hybrid powertrain technology to the truck market in place of diesel power. How that will play out is anyone’s guess; my guess is that a gas/electric powertrain robust enough to out-tug a torquey diesel is pretty far off yet, but don’t be surprised if Toyota pulls it off in the future.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra DoubleCab with optional TRD off-road package; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Toyota says it expects official fuel consumption numbers to look something like 15.4 L/100 km (city) and 11.7 L/100 km (highway) for 4×2 trucks with the 4.7-litre engine, and 15.8 L/100 km (city) and 12.1 L/100 km (highway) with four-wheel drive. The 5.7-litre engine actually uses less fuel in 4×2 form, with preliminary figures of 15.3 L/100 km (city) and 10.9 L/100 km (highway); with four-wheel drive, expect consumption to be 16.8 L/100 km (city) and 11.9 L/100 km (highway).

Tundras with the 4.7-litre engine get a five-speed automatic, while the 5.7 comes with a new six-speed auto designed specifically for that larger engine. The six-speed incorporates a very short first gear ratio for improved towing performance and two overdrive gears for lower highway fuel consumption. Toyota also claims the six-speed has the greatest ratio spread of any truck transmission on the market.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra; photos by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

In the bigger-is-better sweepstakes, Toyota says the 9.5 and 10.5 ring gears in the Tundra’s differentials (a 9.5-inch gear is paired with the 4.7-litre, while a bigger, 10.5-inch differential comes with the 5.7-litre engine) are the largest in the half-ton full-size truck market. The Tundra’s 13.9-inch front brake rotors are also largest in the class, according to Toyota; anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are all standard.

Other standard driver aids include traction control, stability control and an electronically-controlled limited slip rear differential; 4×4 models get a more advanced traction control system in place of the 4×2′s simpler set-up. Unlike some other recent Toyota models incorporating these types of electronic traction aids, these features are all driver-selectable in the Tundra. All can be left on, or the stability control dashboard button can be used to disable just the traction control system in situations where wheelspin would be helpful, leaving the stability control and LSD active. Another press of the button shuts off everything.

All 2007 Tundras get side and side curtain airbags with roll sensors as standard. Other collision mitigation upgrades include interior door trim designed to minimize pelvic injuries in side impacts, and the front cowl and floor pan were reinforced both to improve offset crash performance and to minimize damage to other vehicles in crashes.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab; photos by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

The hardware upgrades contribute to a truck that drives very nicely, but is still very obviously a truck. When unloaded, the ride is harsh, but road and bump impact noise are well muted. Both engines have enough power to move the Tundra from a standing start with authority, but the 4.7-litre engine feels and sounds strained when called upon in passing manoeuvres. As its elevated horsepower rating suggests, the 5.7-litre engine is far more potent; the extra torque is evident at all speeds, and the engine sounds far more truckish, if that makes any sense. A 4×2 Regular Cab model with the 5.7-litre engine will tow up to 4,895 kg/10,800 lbs.

Like the outgoing Tundra, the new truck is available with three different cab configurations. Gone however, is the old Access Cab with its rear-hinged half-sized rear doors and rather small rear seats. The four-door Double Cab configuration, which was the largest available on the old Tundra, is now the mid-range choice, and offers four real doors and what should be adequate legroom for all but the tallest passengers. The most passenger-friendly arrangement is now the CrewMax, with four big doors – the rears here are longer than the fronts! – and loads of rear-seat space. The rear doors on Double Cab and CrewMax models open to a very wide 80 degrees, making ingress and egress very easy.

The bottom cushions of the rear seats in Double Cab models flip up; some Double Cab models get an under-seat storage compartment. In CrewMax models, the rear seat both slides and reclines, and the rear seatbacks can be folded down.

On the bottom rung of the size ladder is the Regular Cab. Toyota says Regular and Double Cab models have best-in-class front-seat legroom, while the CrewMax has the most rear-seat legroom of any full-size pickup.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra Regular Cab; photos by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

Front seating arrangements include a 40/20/40 split front bench that’s standard in Regular and Double Cab models, with a middle seat that includes a segment first headrest and shoulder belt. The centre seatback can be folded forward to create a centre console with cupholders and storage compartments.

CrewMax trucks get front bucket seats with a huge centre console deep enough to allow file folders to be hung vertically; it’s also deep enough to accept a laptop computer. This arrangement is available on Double Cab models, too, but not in Regular Cabs.

With the front bench seat, there’s a column shifter for the transmission; trucks with the captain’s chairs up front get a wide console with the shifter sprouting from it. The console bin included with the latter set-up adds a lot of utility to the interior in terms of storage, but there’s plenty of small-item stowage with either arrangement. In particular, the door-mounted storage boxes, located in the armrests, struck me as particularly nifty.

The Regular Cab can be had with the 8.1-foot long box while a Double Cab gets a choice of that or a 6.5-foot short box, while the CrewMax is available only with a 5.5-foot box. Regular Cab, Double Cabs with the short box and CrewMax Tundras measure 5,810 mm (228.7 inches) in length; Double Cabs with the regular box are 6,290 mm (247.6 inches) long. The Double Cab/long box combination rides on a long 4,180 mm (164.5 inches) wheelbase (that’s longer than the overall length of a Hyundai Accent!), which makes this particular configuration a handful in tight parking situations and crowded city streets. The other models sport a more manageable 3,700 mm (145.6 inches) wheelbase.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra Regular Cab (top) and Double Cab and CrewMax interiors; photos by Bill Petro/Toyota. Click image to enlarge

The new Tundra is also 2,020 mm (79.9 inches) wide, a 120 mm (4.7 inches) increase over the old truck, and overall height is way up too, to 1,935 or 1,940 mm (or about 76 inches, depending on model); the old Tundra stood anywhere from 1,800 mm to 1,900 tall, depending on which model you were talking about.

Both Regular and Double Cab Tundras can be had with either engine, while the CrewMax gets the 5.7-litre motor exclusively.

The new Tundra is an attractive truck, insomuch as trucks are meant to be attractive; certainly it’s more distinctive looking than the old model. Toyota says its stylists wanted the Tundra to be unmistakably recognizable at a distance of 300 yards. I’m not sure it’s that distinctive, but the look does draw heavily on the FTX concept that was shown at the 2004 Detroit and 2005 Toronto auto shows and supposedly incorporates Toyota’s fluffy-sounding Vibrant Clarity design language inside and out.

As is Toyota’s way, options are bundled into a variety of packages. Start with the 4×2 or 4×4 Regular Cab model, available with either engine and you get very little in the way of frills. The floor is vinyl, the windows and door locks are of the non-powered variety and the instrument panel doesn’t even include a tachometer. Pick the 5.7-litre engine and this is your most basic workhorse truck, complete with 18-inch steel wheels (all Tundras get at least 18s in order to clear the large brakes).

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Questionable is the fact that this bottom-rung model gets an outside temperature gauge, but not the more useful transmission oil temp gauge that comes standard in Double Cab and CrewMax models (all Tundras get an ATF temp warning light). At least even really basic trucks get air conditioning as standard. Trim levels include the basic Deluxe designation, mid-level SR5 and top-line Limited.

The 4×4 CrewMax Limited is the luxury liner of the group, with heated power-operated leather seats and lots of other niceties. There are a number of option packages available throughout the line-up, which add stuff like power windows, locks and mirrors to Regular Cab models; and back-up and clearance sensors, in-dash six-CD changers, 20-inch wheels and a navigation system with integrated back-up camera to Double Cab and CrewMax models. An Off Road Package is available on the four-door trucks, too. All told, if you factor in options packages, the new Tundra is available in 32 different configurations. In terms of the more physical combinations of engine (4.7- and 5.7-litre), cab (Regular, Double and CrewMax) and box (short, standard and long), the Tundra comes in 12 distinct forms.

First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra trucks toyota first drives
2007 Toyota Tundra; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

There’s no doubt this new Tundra will be a solid alternative to any of the Big Three’s trucks, but what remains to be seen is how willing traditional truck buyers – who tend to be very brand loyal – will be to move to Toyota from a Dodge, Ford or GM pickup. Also coming into play will be pricing. Toyota hasn’t announced prices yet for the new Tundra, but they’re not likely to undercut the competition by much, if at all, leaving the Tundra to compete largely based on the brand’s reputation for solid workmanship. Will that be enough to increase Toyota’s market share in the full-size truck segment? Almost certainly, but by how much is a question that won’t be answered until the truck shows up at dealerships, which will happen in February.