Slowly but steadily Americans have been cozying up to the idea of buying a pick-up truck from the automakers in the Land of the Rising Sun, and after taking delivery of our 2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab Limited, it’s not hard to see why.
Toyota has been successful in the “small” truck business for quite some time, however, the American marketplace is driving the automaker to build bigger trucks. And they’re bigger than ever – would you believe the 2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab is nearly four inches longer than a 2004 Ford F150 Super Crew Truck? Well, it is. With an overall length of 230.1-inches and a wheelbase of 140.5-inches, the Tundra carries one heckuva big stick.
Speaking of sticks, the 74.3-inch long truck bed will swallow up plenty of them. Our Tundra came equipped with an optional cargo extender device that allows us to store a 4-by-8 foot sheet of plywood completely flat when the tailgate is dropped down and the extender is folded “out.” When not in use, it flips forward and provides secure storage space for things like groceries – a nice touch.
The size is a welcome attribute, especially for passengers, as the rear seats offer nearly 38-inches of legroom. That’s enough space for our 6-foot 4-inch editors to ride comfortably for extended periods of time, and more than enough room to stuff things like car seats, groceries and luggage. Adding to the comfort level of the back seats is an unprecedented rear seatback angle of 24 degrees – this back seat’s almost as comfy as a Barco-Lounger.
Front seat passengers of our Tundra Limited ride comfortably in heated, leather upholstered seats that offer decent support, but true to every truck we’ve tested, the seats lack adequate thigh and leg support. Our staffers complained (regularly) that their legs fell “flat” on the seats, and that the seating position became uncomfortable on extended journeys. Furthermore, the passenger seat lacks power adjustments – its only adjustments come by way of manual levers – which makes finding a comfortable setting all the more difficult.
The driving position is high and offers a great view of the surrounding environment, but again, we have to ding the front seating position – our “go leg” (the right leg) has to be held at an uncomfortable angle when driving. And to make matters worse, there isn’t a good place to rest your leg, so while driving longer distances, the position becomes exceedingly uncomfortable.
There’s plenty of headroom no matter where you sit, and that headroom is further accentuated by our truck’s optional power sunroof. With the roof open, the truck feels very much like a Range Rover – it’s that open and airy.
All of this size and roominess comes at a premium though. Maneuvering the Toyota Tundra Double Cab had even our most veteran truck drivers complaining about the wide turning radius. Parking required a navigator and a flight plan, and don’t even consider making a U-Turn without some support staff. For reference, we made several U-Turns on a four-lane stretch of road, and were unable to accomplish them “cleanly” – they always turned into “Y-Turns.”
The other handicap to the Tundra Double Cab’s size becomes evident in the performance category. While the 4.7 liter, DOHC, 32-valve i-Force V8 delivers 240 horsepower and 345 pounds-feet of torque, it feels like its straining to push the 5100 pound truck. Our Beltronics GX2 Accelerometer confirmed our suspicions, yielding 0-60 runs of around 9.5 seconds. While this might seem quick, consider the fact that the similarly behemoth Nissan Titan reaches sixty miles per hour three seconds quicker.
That’s not to say the Tundra is slow, in fact, the lack of performance is barely noticeable in daily operation. The Tundra is fluid and smooth, a true testament to Toyota’s superb engineering capabilities. Creaks, rattles, squeaks, wind, and road noise are almost nonexistent regardless of the outside conditions. We’ve driven our Tundra Double Cab over some nasty terrain, at high speeds, in some uncomfortably windy situations, and we’ve heard nary the unwelcome noise. The ride is also surprisingly plush and comfortable, that borders on luxury car-like softness (all without the wallowing or body roll).
Part of this is a direct result of the Limited’s standard 17-inch alloy wheels that wear surprisingly quiet P265/65R-17 Dunlop mud and snow tires that are mounted to a pretty sophisticated suspension system. Braking duties are handled by twin-piston disc brakes on the front and drum(!) brakes on the rear. ABS is standard, and the brakes offer a modular, reassuring feel. Our Beltronics GX2 Accelerometer indicated seventy to zero stopping distances of 196 feet, which is a bit longer than we’d like to see, but respectable for a vehicle of this size.
Our Tundra Limited came equipped with Toyota’s Touch Select electronic four-wheel drive system. The system allows for the driver to engage 4-HI at speeds up to seventy miles per hour. 4-LO will only engage or disengage if the vehicle is completely stopped and placed in neutral. We noticed some clunking and jerking when engaging the 4-HI, but it was entirely within the acceptable range and wasn’t of much concern.
Toyota’s attention to quality, convenience and comfort is evident throughout the entire truck, which tries hard to pamper the driver and passengers. However, despite all of the efforts and amenities, certain “common sense” items have gone mysteriously overlooked. Case in point: the climate control system. It’s entirely manual, and there’s no option for an automatic climate control system. We struggled to think of when we last drove a $35k+ vehicle that didn’t come standard with automatic climate control.
The radio also suffers from some engineering oversight – it’s sunken into the dash, which makes operating it somewhat difficult. The smallish knobs and odd-shaped buttons are already difficult enough to operate…burying them in the dash only makes matters worse.
Small quirks aside, we’re pleased with the Toyota Tundra Limited so far. We’ve been averaging approximately 15 miles to the gallon, a figure that we expect to see increase as the motor has a chance to loosen up. The Tundra attracts rubberneckers wherever we go, and people are always eager to ask about our thoughts on the truck. They also like to inquire about the truck’s power rear window, and we’re more than happy to show them how it raises and lowers, a first for a full sized truck.
We’ll continue to report on our experiences with the Tundra over the next year, so stay tuned for updates. We’ll be anxious to see if the Tundra continues to perform admirably or if the honeymoon fades. We’ll also be anxious to see if maneuvering the mini-aircraft carrier becomes any easier.