And the best selling vehicle in America is (drum roll, envelope please):
The Ford F-Series Pickup Truck!
This is a refrain that’s almost become automatic over the years, as Ford’s F-Series pickups have been the best selling vehicles in America for a number of years, and the best selling trucks in America for the past 30. An incredible 796,039 F-Series trucks were sold in 2006.
Chevy’s Silverado has come close (about 636,000 sold in 2006), but has not been able to knock the King Ford off of its lofty pedestal. Dodge’s Ram has a following, as does Nissan’s Titan. The sales numbers for both pale in comparison to the F-Series.
And then we have the Toyota Tundra, on a mission to capture the top slot, or at least become a major player in the pickup market.
At a recent press launch in Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to test the mettle of Toyota’s latest battle weapon, the all-new 2007 Tundra.
Toyota’s been at the pickup game for a number of years now. Their first entry into “large” pickup market was the smallish T-100. Without the size or power needed to pass muster, and with lackluster crash test results, the T-100 only lasted a few model years before the first Tundra was released in 2000. Still undersized and underpowered, the Tundra was nonetheless a competitor, as folks enamored with Toyota’s legendary quality overlooked some of Tundra’s faults and shortcomings.
But now the battle is truly on. Tundra is no longer undersized, underpowered, or lacking in the features that pickup drivers want whether on a construction site or on the links.
The Tundra is available in several versions: Regular Cab, Double Cab, or Crew Cab (dubbed “CrewMax”). Bed sizes range from 66.7″ to 97.6″. Rear wheel drive or four-wheel drive, V6 or V8 engines, and DX, SR5 and Limited trim levels mean shoppers will have many choices to get their Tundra just the way they want it.
Cab choices also affect the style of Tundra. For me, the CrewMax is my favorite. I like the long box surrounded by Tundra’s curved front and rear fenders. It’s a unique look in a market dominated by squarish, boxy designs. For some journalists I talked to though, the rear taillight integration into the rear fenders was a weak point. One thought it softened an otherwise tough look, another pointed out that the position of the lights on the outside flanks of the fenders made them more susceptible to damage. I agree with the second point, but find no other faults with Tundra’s design, which I find refreshing.
Front end styling is also polarizing. I like the rugged, ready-to-do-business look. Others thought the huge chrome grille was excessive. One only needs to briefly look around to see “excessive” works well in this segment.
So how does Tundra work on the roadways? Very well indeed. Do opt for one of the V8 engines (4.7 or 5.7-liter), which push this two-ton plus (depending on cab size) behemoth with authority. I tested the V6 Regular Cab as well, and upon hard acceleration, I mostly got a lot of engine noise and not a lot of thrust.
These engines are linked to either a 4X2 or 4X4 drivetrain. Toyota’s “TRD” Off-Road package is available on 4X2 and 4X4 models. According to Toyota’s data, the new Tundra claims a “Best in 1/2 Ton Class” towing capacity. The 4X2 Regular Cab with the 381 horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 can tow 10,800 pounds. Max payload for the same configuration is also a claimed class leading 2,060 pounds. Towing demonstrations at the press launch confirmed this Tundra is a super hauler. Ford’s F-150 also claims best in class towing and payload, with ratings of 11,000 pounds towing and 3,050 pounds payload for light-duty models.
Toyota has also taken steps to ensure that towing places no undue stress on this workhorse. Tundra incorporates an automatic transmission cooler and warmer. The warmer allows fluid to quickly warm up to proper operating temps in cold weather conditions. An overall 10% increase in total engine cooling capacity (versus the previous model) and up to 25% more alternator output mean placing heavy loads on this drivetrain won’t translate into heavy loads on your wallet for stress-related repair bills.
Inside, the new Tundra combines function, comfort and utility. Take for example the center console. It’s big enough to hold a laptop computer, and has rails built in for hanging folders. It’s a contractor’s “office on wheels” dream truck. Door handles and control knobs are designed to work even while wearing work gloves. Tundra’s cockpit provides two 12 volt power outlets, with an additional rear console outlet on CrewMax models. In addition to the 9.5 liter center console, Tundra’s storage areas include a 3.4-liter upper glovebox, door pockets that hold 22 ounce bottles, and a built-in toolbox behind the rear seat of all models that provides easy access to the jack and lug wrench. Four different interior colors and available deep-grain leathers round out the comfort equation. An optional moonroof gives the spacious interior and even larger feel.
Tundra has also taken the interior upscale with many standard luxury features. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel (manual or power depending on trim), heated power front seats, an overhead console, multi-function information center, auto-dimming side mirrors with chrome accents, and AM/FM/CD with MP3 jack are standard equipment. Significant options include a 440 Watt 5.1 surround system, Bluetooth capability, steering wheel audio controls, and a rear seat entertainment system. An available DVD navigation system includes a JBL audio system and integrates a rear backup camera. The rear camera can be a miracle worker when trying to align a trailer or position a boat on a launch ramp.
Tundra is backed by a 36-month/36,000 mile basic warranty. Additional warranties cover the powertrain for 60 months/60,000 miles and provide comprehensive rust protection. The new Tundra was developed and designed, and is built in America. An all-new dedicated production plant in the heart of pickup country (San Antonio, Texas) joins an existing plant in Indiana for Tundra production.
Tundra pricing starts at $22,900 for the Regular Cab, to $29,675 for the CrewMax.
So does this all-new Tundra stack up to the competition? Yes it does. It’s a competent blend of worksite toughness, and on road comfort. And with competitive base pricing, Ford, Chevy and Dodge should keep their eyes peeled to their rear-view mirrors, as Tundra is bearing down on them quickly.