The knock in the past has been that Toyota’s pickups, namely the T100 and the Tacoma, were really only pretenders to the full-size segment many contractors love so dearly.
It’s no wonder the Japanese automaker is coveting this, the largest selling segment among either cars or trucks in the United States. Trucks are where the growth market has been for several years now.
“First and foremost, Tundra will deliver true full-size pickup truck capability,” said Don Esmond of Toyota.
At first, it seemed that Toyota just wasn’t getting it. It introduced pickups that were almost full size, or “bigger than a compact” (or however the press mongers wanted to word it). The company also hedged on bringing a genuine V-8 engine to market, which any red-blooded American trucker will tell you is absolutely necessary in this lucrative and fiercely loyal market.
Whatever their reasoning in the past, the Tundra finally delivers. That all-important V-8 engine is 4.7 liters and 245 hp, and will be the first double-overhead cam, 32-valve offered. It runs lean enough to qualify as a low emission vehicle.
A V-6 engine will still be offered as standard equipment, as with most of the other domestic pickups. Not really an import at all, the Tundra is built exclusively at Toyota’s new $1.2 billion plant outside of Princeton, Ind.
Options aren't really optionalToyota realized that just offering a full-size pickup truck with a V-8 would put the company in the running, but just barely.
The key to the full-size truck segment’s success is the wide range of options and configurations; you can get a truck to suit almost every purpose and need these days. Toyota offers the Tundra in two- or four-wheel drive; standard two door or four door; and 6 1/2- or 8-ft beds.
One area still lacking is in the variety of powerplants available. The V-8 is a welcome and necessary addition in that direction. But the U.S. competition offers more than just one V-8, as well as turbodiesels.
Those who need something for heavy-duty hauling or trailering won’t have the option of, say, a Cummins turbodiesel like on the Dodges, or a Super Duty Ford that can pull almost anything. Maximum towing weight with the Tundra V-8 is a relatively conservative 7,200 lb.
It does, however, offer such niceties as dual 12-V power outlets, locking tailgate, and fancy sound systems. Metallic paint and leather seats are optional.
Switching from two- to four-wheel drive is done at the touch of a button. And an off-road package features beefed-up suspension and tires, alloy wheels, mudguards, etc.
Oddly, if you order four-wheel anti-lock brakes, you automatically get daytime driving lamps, which were first introduced by GM and not a favorite with everyone. They are, however, said to improve daytime visibility.
Why no vans?It also seems odd that Toyota chooses not to attack the contractor market with a full-size van, since it could base it on this new truck platform.
Detroit sources say there are no plans for a full-size van because Toyota’s U.S. manufacturing operations are capacity-constrained — in other words, they will sell all of the 100,000 pickup trucks the new plant will build in a year.
A planned expansion will add another 50,000 vehicles, but all of those will be a new sport utility vehicle.