The Toyota Tundra is a serious full-size pickup, whether measured by dimensions, hauling capacity or towing capacity. The 2010 Tundra models feature a new grille design and redesigned taillights. Also new for 2010 is the availability of a smaller, more fuel-efficient V8. Refinements for 2010, including adjustable headlights, improve on an excellent truck.
We've found the Tundra to be a stable, comfortable truck for towing a 20-foot enclosed car trailer over long distances. Towing capacities top 10,000 pounds on some models, and maximum payload ratings reach 2,000 pounds.
Tundra comes in three body styles: Regular Cab with two doors; Double Cab with conventional front-hinged, secondary rear side doors; and CrewMax with four full-size doors. Seating is available for two, three, five or six. Three bed lengths and three wheelbases are available.
Trim levels range from basic Tundra Grade to luxurious Limited models with leather upholstery, and from the lowest end to the highest is a price differential of around 2:1. But even the base models are loaded with useful features, including tons of interior storage options, an easy-lift assisted tailgate and four-wheel disc brakes. High-end models are available with GPS navigation and a rearview camera, or a rear-seat entertainment with a 9-inch LCD screen. An available deck rail system in the bed anchors moveable tie-down cleats rated at 220 pounds each.
For 2010, a new 4.6-liter dohc V8 engine is available. Rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and with EPA fuel-economy ratings of 15/20 mpg City/Highway, the 4.6-liter V8 not only has a lot more power than the V6, but better fuel economy, as well. As with the 5.7-liter engine, the 4.6-liter has dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i), which optimizes valve timing for the best combination of performance, economy and emissions. It is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. Toyota expects the 4.6-liter V8 to offer the best combination of power and fuel economy of any standard V8 in the full-size truck segment.
The 5.7-liter V8 engine carries over. With 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque and a six-speed automatic transmission, Tundra boasts one of the strongest, most responsive powertrains in the class. The dohc 5.7-liter is an excellent choice for towing trailers, and has entirely reasonable EPA fuel-economy ratings of 14/18 mpg City/Highway.
A 4.0-liter V6 engine, with 236 horsepower and EPA ratings of 15/19 mpg City/Highway, is the entry-level low-cost choice. It's available only with two-wheel-drive versions of the Regular Cab or Double Cab, and it makes only slightly better economy than the 5.7-liter V8.
The 2010 Tundra offers two new trim levels, a Platinum Package and a Work Truck. The Platinum Package will be available on Crewmax Limited models with the 5.7-liter V8 and Flex Fuel powertrains. On the outside, the Platinum Package includes a billet-style grille, chrome bumpers, unique 20-inch alloy wheels and tires, daytime running lamps, door-sill protectors with a Platinum logo, and Platinum badging. Inside, it includes a power memory function on the driver's seat, outside power mirrors and puddle lamps, and a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel. Also included is a power moonroof, navigation, ventilated seats with a unique perforated leather surface, wood-trimmed shift knob and door switch plates, automatic up/down power windows, chrome accented vents, and headrests with an embroidered Platinum logo.
The Work Truck Package will be available with Regular Cab and Double Cab models, in two-wheel or four-wheel drive, and with standard or long-bed configurations, and with any of the three engines. It will have black bumpers and grille surround and power mirrors will be replaced by manually controlled outside mirrors. Inside will be washable vinyl seats and rubber floors, and several trim and convenience items have been deleted, including cruise control and remote keyless entry, and gauges will be replaced by warning lamps. The idea is to offer to commercial buyers a work truck at a reduced price.
For 2010, all Tundra models receive a new look with a freshened grille and taillamp design. All 2010 Tundra models will have driver and front-passenger knee airbags as standard equipment. Also new for 2010: height-adjustable headlamps, which addresses a gripe we had with previous models. Previous models did not allow any aiming of the headlights, posing a problem when towing a trailer or hauling a heavy load. A shelf to help organize storage space has been added to the lower glovebox, and a new seven-pin hitch connector sits above the hitch to help avoid damage when going over dips and bumps. Two new audio systems are available on 2010 Tundra models: The Tech Audio system features AM/FM/CD, integrated satellite radio receiver, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs and six speakers, while another system includes AM/FM/CD, auxiliary input, a backup camera and six speakers.
The Toyota Tundra is no 7/8-scale truck. This third-generation Tundra is an honest-to-goodness, full-size pickup, whether you measure by load, dimension, or work capacity. The first iteration, called T100, was about the size of a Dodge Dakota, and it taught Toyota that in America a larger truck needs a V8 engine. The second generation, and the first with the Tundra badge, taught Toyota that 7/8 is not full-size. The current generation, launched as a 2007 model, shows that Toyota has learned those lessons well.
The Tundra is big and burly by design. To that end, it abandons the high-stepping, nose-in-the-air look of Tundras built before 2007 in favor of a more down-to-earth but very large grille, boldly framed in black or chrome, depending on trim level. The grille pulls lines from the deeply sculpted hood into the front end. Some like the rounded lines and others call them inflated. In any case, it has presence, and we think it looks great.
In side view, the Tundra has understated fender flares tied together by a gentle indent along the lower door panels. Body proportions comfortably accommodate the three bed lengths and wheelbases. Interestingly, gaps between body panels are deliberately wider than contemporary robotic assembly might allow. Toyota's stylists decided that slightly wider gaps better suggest the rugged first impression they wanted the Tundra to make.
Some of the details on the Tundra's body add interest and function. Deep recesses underneath make the beefy door handles easy to grip. The Tundra CrewMax has these big handles on all four doors, while the Double Cab uses vertical grabs on the back doors that are a bit snug for large hands.
The optional larger towing mirrors look a little too big on the regular and Double Cab models but function trumps form here; they work great.
The rear view is traditional pickup. There are no stand-out styling cues here. The tailgate is damped, making lowering and raising it easier and quieter.
Wheels vary by model, but they're all truckish in appearance. The standard 18-inch, drilled steel discs on base Tundras are actually quite attractive in their basic, functional look. SR5 models get styled steel wheels, stamped more expressively to resemble alloys. The aluminum alloy wheels on the Limited models feature thick, monolithic spokes. The optional 20-inch alloys satisfy the current trend toward lots of wheel and not much tire, not our choice for towing or other serious truck duties.
Opening and closing the tailgate is dramatically eased by the tailgate assist (standard). The mechanism starts with a torsion bar in the hinge assembly to make the tailgate feel lighter, and includes a gas-pressurized strut, concealed behind the left taillight, to damp the lowering and assist in raising the lockable tailgate.
The Tundra is a well outfitted pickup with a comfortable cabin. When it was first launched, the full-size Toyota Tundra raised the bar on working truck interiors. Little has changed since then, save the choice of a bench front seat on Double Cabs.
Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent. The standard mirrors are large, and can be adjusted to deliver a panoramic view all the way around the truck. The optional tow mirrors are superb. The tow mirrors feature a large traditional mirror that's power operated, with a small convex mirror at the bottom that's manually adjustable. They can be adjusted to cover all blind spots. The tow mirrors can be manually extended outward to help the driver see around enclosed car trailers and other big trailers. They can be folded inward when parked to reduce the chance of damage. We wish the small convex mirrors were power-adjustable, but these are great mirrors.
The navigation system includes a rearview camera, which is a valuable feature. It's useful for spotting shorter obstacles when backing up because the top of the tailgate towers well above the height of small children, making it an important safety feature. We've found having an experienced co-driver watch the display screen while the driver monitors the mirrors to be a very effective technique when backing up. The rearview camera is also extremely useful when hitching a trailer, allowing the driver to position the ball directly below the trailer coupling without having to jump out of the truck several times while jockeying into position. The rearview camera is handy when parallel parking, easing and speeding the task. Rainwater, mud, glare from the sun, shadows and sunglasses can limit the effectiveness of this feature, but usually it produces a bright, highly useful image on the navi screen.
A sonar system with an audible warning and an indicator on the dash helps the driver determine the proximity of the front corners to objects when maneuvering in tight quarters, another useful feature when parking this big truck. Headrests on the back seats can block the view rearward if not in their lowest position. Removing them or flipping the back seat down affords the best view, but be sure to replace them when passengers sit back there. The rear-seat entertainment system's drop-down LCD screen is only barely noticeable with the rear view mirror adjusted to its lowest position, a nice feature.
The cabs are roomy. In occupant measurements, the Tundra generally gives up little or nothing to the competition. The Toyota Tundra CrewMax is the current leader in rear-seat legroom, offering more of it than it does front seat legroom.
The seats are comfortably cushioned but not too soft, with modest side bolsters in front. Deep seat bottoms provide ample thigh support. The fabric upholstery feels durable and the leather does, too. It's more a heavy-duty grade than buttery-soft luxurious, which is probably appropriate for a truck. We've found the seats very comfortable for towing thousands of miles.
Tundra stands out among full-size pickups in terms of interior storage and conveniences. The passenger seatback in the Regular Cab folds forward to present a flat area for a desktop, and there's room behind the seat for a small generator and a five-gallon bucket. This is in addition to bins, both open and capped, for tools and such. The front bench seat center section pivots forward to reveal an otherwise fully concealed storage compartment.
The glovebox is actually two boxes, with an upper compartment big enough to hold a Thermos bottle. The lower compartment, more than twice the size of the upper, is lighted and fitted with a damped door. The front-door armrests house flip-out compartments beneath the power window switch plates, though models with manual windows forgo this storage. Front-door map pockets are molded to hold two 22-ounce water bottles, and so are the rear-door map pockets on the CrewMax. The Double Cab rear doors hold one bottle. Both the Double Cab and the CrewMax incorporate storage bins and compartments beneath and behind their rear seats, though in the Double cab, a subwoofer replaces the lockable under-seat bin when the up-level stereo is ordered.
Column-shift Tundras have two flexible-sized cup holders in a slide-out tray beneath the climate-control panel, and two more in the backside of the fold-down center section of the bench seat. In the Double Cab, two more cup holders fold out of the backside of the front-seat center section, while in the CrewMax, there are two more still in the rear seat's fold-down center armrest. Floor-shift models have a center console with three cup holders, with two in a lift-out plate covering a large compartment. Between this compartment and the shift gate sits a narrow slot, concealed beneath a snap-out cover.
Models with front bucket seats feature a deep center console that helps the cabin serve as a road-going office. The middle third of the compartment can hold either a removable bin good for stowing CDs or letter-size hanging file folders, ideal for any manner of business or work papers. There's room for a laptop computer on either side of the middle section, and the side nearest the driver has a power point to keep the gear charged up and ready.
Generally, the CrewMax is the more comfortable of the two stretched-cab Tundras for rear passengers. It starts with the doors, which are full length and make climbing in easier. The back seat in the CrewMax is closer to the 40/20/40 front bench seat in shape and contours, with deep seat bottoms and a slide-and-recline feature that allows a more comfortable rake to the seatback. The Double Cab rear seat is the more bench-like, and legroom is less expansive (though still decent). Dogs may prefer the Double Cab, however. With the seats folded for cargo, the Double Cab has a significantly lower load height, which should make it easier for canines to get in and out.
Ergonomics inside the Tundra are generally good. The dash-mounted controls, and especially more critical and frequently used knobs for fan, temperature and airflow, are extra large, with solid detents and a nice positive feel that lets the operator know how far they've been turned. They're tuned more for work gloves than polished fingernails, and that's good. The steering wheel is large, but properly scaled for the largest Toyota pickup. The floor-mounted shift lever has a manual-shift slot on the driver's side of the gate. It feels more natural and more precise than the column-shift, but neither transmits any sloppiness.
Audio controls, climate controls and navigation screen are located on the passenger side of the center stack. This moves these secondary controls closer to the passenger, which is good, but farther from the driver. The Tundra is a wide vehicle, and while drivers below average height will have no trouble getting comfortable to operate this pickup, they might have a harder time reaching some of the controls.
Despite the engines' overhead-camshaft, four-valve-per-cylinder architectures, the Toyota engines tend to make their peak power earlier at lower rpm, where you want it in a truck, than most competitor engines like Dodge's 4.7 and Ford's 4.6 overhead cam and the older-design pushrod setups in GM's V8s and Dodge's Hemi.
The new 4.6-liter V8 delivers plenty of power and torque and commendable fuel economy. Unless you have to pull a trailer, the 4.6 V8 deserves consideration.
On the road, power delivery in the two V8 engines is linear, and commendably strong at low engine speed. This is especially so in the 5.7-liter, where 90 percent of the torque is on tap from 2400 rpm to 5500 rpm. Very impressive is the absence of any discernible surge sometimes associated with overhead-cam, multi-valve engines. We find the 5.7-liter V8 a delightful engine, very responsive when quick acceleration is needed, smooth and powerful when cruising.
Maximum towing capacity of 10,800 pounds applies to an unloaded Tundra regular cab with the 5.7-liter V8. Ford has a regular cab rated slightly higher, GM crew cabs tend to have the advantage in that division, while the Nissan Titan (which offers no regular cab) stays near 9,500 max and Dodge's Ram runs to around 9,000. It's worth noting, however, that tow ratings are affected by legal and marketing considerations in addition to power, weight, equipment and engineering.
We tow trailers in the 4,000- to 5,000-pound range and have found the Tundra does a superb job. We recommend considering a heavy-duty pickup for towing trailers of more than 5,000 pounds. Overkill with tow rigs is nice on long nights, in inclement weather, during strong winds or dealing with hilly country. Many experts advise against towing a trailer that weighs more than the tow vehicle.
Based on towing a variety of trailers from sea level to 5,000 feet, we're here to tell you the 5.7-liter has more than enough pulling power and appropriate gearing. The Tundra frequently outruns the competition while getting better fuel economy. Unlike Ford Super Duty, the Tundra does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller, but a host of aftermarket controllers do the job.
Overall, both the five-speed and six-speed automatic transmissions work well. Gear changes are smooth, though more apparent when trailering. Downshifts during braking on downhill grades are well managed, properly timed and helpful. In sum the Tundra's transmissions are unobtrusive, which in a truck is usually the best compliment, because in a truck if you frequently notice how the transmission is doing it's job, it probably isn't doing it as well as it could. A Tow/Haul mode is available for increased trailer towing performance and improved transmission durability, and we use it whenever towing.
Ride and handling in the Tundra might be the best in class. Steering response is sure and certain. Somehow, Toyota's suspension engineers have delivered a setup that leaves no doubt the driver is operating a truck, and yet by virtually every measure suggests the Tundra is anything but. Over severely uneven pavement, the solid rear axle makes its presence known with a slightly skippy feeling, but the Tundra's unladen rear end feels less skittish than some other pickups, and there is rarely any disruption that even instantaneously moves it off the driver's intended path. As with most pickups, the ride gets bouncy on bumpy freeways with an empty bed.
Braking is solid, with firm pedal feel. The Tundra's standard four-wheel discs are a first for a Toyota pickup and push the technological envelope in light trucks. The ABS includes electronic balancing of brake force.
The TRD Off-Road Package delivers excellent handling on pavement, and it's especially noticeable when Tundras so equipped are driven quickly on winding, two-lane roads; the TRD Sport package does even better if the roads aren't too rough.
For more severe four-wheel-drive use, the Tundra offers decent articulation and good low-range gearing. When enabled the traction control can be intrusive. Unlike most pickups, the Tundra 4WD also has a switch that backs off the thresholds for deploying the side-curtain airbags. This can be helpful on side-angle trails and ditches that might otherwise trigger a side curtain deployment.
The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup in every sense of the term, and it gives up nothing to the full-size trucks from Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Nissan, and GMC. The Toyota delivers power, payload and tow ratings that meet or beat the best, it's exceptionally comfortable, and it's easy to drive. Tundra shoppers buying as a second car should first consider cab style and seating space. Those buying for truck use will first consider payload and cost. The next choice is either the V6 or one of two V8 engines, and finally the trim package or level of standard equipment. The Tundra offers models to suit the needs of the majority of buyers.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondents Tom Lankard reported from Louisville, Kentucky; with J.P. Vettraino in Detroit; G.R. Whale in California.