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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh
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I like trucks. I like their looks, their practicality, their stance. I like being able to haul home a yard of topsoil or a mess of two-by-fours, and yet be able to park respectably alongside sedans at the mall. We’ve come a long way from the days when trucks were only for work, and woe to the poor farm boy who had no other way to get his sweetie to town for a Saturday night date.
While I ask my truck to do real work on occasion – my full-size ’95 pickup is the only brand-new vehicle I’ve ever purchased – I bought it, like most buyers do, as a “big car”. Automakers realize this, and so trucks have become increasingly luxurious; on the down side, the prevalent “bigger is better” mentality, especially in the U.S. market, has resulted in everyday trucks that can be big to the point of unwieldy.
Toyota was the first import nameplate to bring a full-size truck to the North American market, when it debuted the 2000 Tundra in 1999. (“Import” is open to negotiation; the Tundra is built in Princeton, Indiana, and a new plant is being built in Texas for the next-generation version expected in 2007.) The early Tundra was available in two body styles, a Regular Cab and Access Cab with rear-hinged back doors; for 2004, the company released my tester’s configuration, the Double Cab, with four full-size, independently-opening doors.
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All Tundras are half-ton models, and each cab size comes with only one bed length (the Regular Cab is eight-foot, Access Cab is six-foot-three, and the Double Cab is six-foot-two – in metric, 2494 mm, 1943 mm and 1887 mm).
There are a few choices among the models. There is a 4.0-litre V6, but it’s only used in the 2WD Regular Cab, where it’s the only engine available. All other models, including the 4WD Regular Cab, use a 4.7-litre V8 exclusively. The Double Cab is available in 2WD or 4WD; Access Cab models are 4WD only. It’s a part-time system with one-touch shift-on-the-fly, automatic disconnecting differential, limited-slip differential, and fuel tank and transfer case protector.
Regular Cab models are sold in one trim line, with no additional options (although there are numerous bolt-on accessories available through dealers). Access and Double Cab models can be ordered in standard trim, or in Limited upgrade, which adds such features as enhanced stereo, leather upholstery, power seats and fog lamps. The lower-line Access and Double Cab can also be optioned with either an Off-Road Package or TRD Yamaha Edition Package. The V6 Regular Cab is $26,010, the 2WD Double Cab is $36,940; in 4WD, prices start at $31,080 for Regular, $38,380 for Access and $40,380 for Double. The line tops out with the Double Cab Limited at $48,015.
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My tester was equipped with the TRD Yamaha Edition Package, an option upgrade sold only in Canada; it includes a throaty TRD dual exhaust (it sounds fabulous), 17-inch alloy wheels, fender flares, a “special edition” grille (which I don’t like at all; it looks like a cheap aftermarket insert), fog lamps, front centre console box, skid plate, and side step bars. That last item would be unbolted pretty quickly if the truck were mine; the bars are too narrow to be good steps, too wide to step over, and if you’re loading gear into the back seat, they just get in the way.
Every door has a grab handle inside, and you’ll need it; it’s a long way up. Once you’re there, there’s little indication that this is a workhorse.
The driver’s seat includes an armrest, everything is fully carpeted (only the Regular Cab comes with a vinyl floor, which really makes much more sense in a truck), and there’s a long list of standard features, including air conditioning, CD player, power locks and windows, heated mirrors and variable intermittent wipers. The 4WD Double Cab includes a power rear window that disappears completely into the cab body, and comes with an electric defroster; I expect it would be a fine thing in summer weather, although I know from my truck’s sliding rear window that any leaves or dirt in the box quickly become one with the interior once you get up to any speed. Push the button to close it and it stops halfway, requiring another push to bring it all the way up. (My guess is the designer closed the prototype’s one-touch window before he remembered that he’d stuck some extra-long two-by-fours through it.)
Controls are clustered into a central insert, and while some can be a long reach for shorter drivers, they’re simple and easy to use, even with gloves. One gripe is with the wipers, which have a variable intermittent setting, but no “mist” function (the owner’s manual shows two available wiper types: one with mist but no intermittent, and one with intermittent but no mist). Better backlighting would be appreciated, as only the driver’s window switch lights up, and you’re left fumbling for the locks. The Yamaha package, which trades the base Double Cab’s 60/40 front bench for the Limited’s captain’s chairs, includes a massive centre console with all sorts of small-item storage. It also adds two extra cupholders, along with two that slide out of the dash as part of the truck’s standard configuration; throw in the ones located in the rear armrest and the back of the console, and you have eight cupholders for five thirsty people.
Thanks to the Double Cab’s length, there is considerable legroom for rear-seat passengers: 953 mm (37.5 in.), or only 170 mm (6.7 in.) shorter than Dodge’s living-room-sized Mega Cab, and only an inch and a half under Ford’s F-150 SuperCrew and Chevrolet’s Crew Cab. The 60/40 rear seats fold in half; pull a lever, and they tumble forward to uncover a flat cargo floor. This reveals two grocery bag hooks on the back wall, although they’re set too deep to be much use.
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Toyota’s 4.7-litre V8 is quite a powerhouse for its size, making 271 hp and 313 lb-ft of torque; by contrast, Dodge’s 4.7-litre makes 235 and 300, Chevrolet’s 4.8 makes 285 and 295, and Ford’s 4.6-litre makes 231 and 293; the Big Three do offer bigger engines, but the price goes up, too. And while none of them are fuel misers – I averaged 16.9 L/100 km (17 mg Imp) in the Tundra – Energuide’s official ratings list the Toyota as the most efficient of the four engines. The Tundra’s 6700 lb (3039 kg) towing capacity also exceeds the competition’s similar base models (ie, without extra towing packages).
The Tundra’s body is mounted on a stiff frame, with one-piece rails, eight crossmembers and a fully boxed front subframe with coil-spring, double-wishbone front suspension. Its ride is big-car comfortable which, along with its height and width, gives one a feeling of being disconnected from the road; a common complaint among reviewers is that it feels like driving a “big Camry”, and they’re right. Any similarity to the Camry ends when you have to spin the wheel; although the steering is light and easy, the 4WD Double Cab’s turning circle is 14.3 metres (47 feet), and most parking lot manoeuvres require two attempts. Come Christmas at the mall, you’ll have to use the Tundra’s size for intimidation, because there’s no way you’re going to swoop into any parking spot ahead of a car.
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The Tundra’s 4WD system can be shifted into 4High by pressing a button at any speed under 100 km/h; it can be returned to 2WD at any speed. 4Lo, as usual, is engaged while stopped and is used for heavy-duty, low-speed off-roading. The column-mounted shifter has a button to turn off the overdrive, and can be pulled down to Third or Second gear; should First be required, you drop the shifter into Second and then hit a button on the dash. The large brakes are discs and drums, and ABS is standard on all models.
As good as the Tundra is – it’s well-built, beautifully finished, and packs a lot of power into its package – it still has to face a long-standing prejudice among traditional truck buyers, most of whom want their trucks badged by one of the domestic Big Three. If you can get over that, give the Tundra a look; it’s definitely worthy of it.
But if you just want a big car, keep in mind that the Tundra Double Cab is one honkin’ big rig. (It’s rather ironic that this is the same company that makes the Prius.) That isn’t exclusive to the Tundra, but like all trucks its size, it’s a climb in and out, it doesn’t fit easily into most parking spaces, it has a wide turning radius, its big tires are expensive to replace, and a lot of fuel is going to pass from tank to engine. Don’t just test-drive it in a straight line down the road; put it through all the paces you’ll expect of it in daily use. Especially if you bought your last truck a decade ago, when what was the biggest of the big is now one of the smallest trucks on the road.
Technical Data: 2006 Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4×4
|Options||$3,610 (TRD Yamaha Special Edition Package)|
|Price as tested||$45,400 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger full-size pickup|
|Engine||4.7-litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves|
|Horsepower||271 @ 5400 rpm|
|Torque||313 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm|
|Wheelbase||3570 mm (140.6 in.)|
|Length||5845 mm (230.1 in.)|
|Width||2015 mm (79.3 in.)|
|Height||1900 mm (74.8 in.)|
|Ground clearance||290 mm (11.4 in.)|
|Curb weight||2258 kg (5030 lbs)|
|Towing capacity||3039 kg (6700 lbs)|
|Payload||735 kg (1620 lbs)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 15.8 L/100 km (18 mpg Imp)|
|Hwy: 12.2 L/100 km (23 mpg Imp)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Warranty||3 yrs/ 60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|
|Assembly location||Princeton, Indiana|