When Toyota first announced it was coming out with a full-size pickup truck to go head to head with the big boys from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge, the question arose as to whether an import could truly compete as a heavyweight. The answer is in: The new Toyota Tundra is now ready to take on any American-made pickup truck--on all levels.
Superiority? Toyota is pulling no punches by introducing one of the biggest, strongest, and most capable vehicles in the segment as well as investing billions in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the heart of truck country--San Antonio, Texas. Significance? With Toyota looking to more than double its presence in the hotly contested half-ton marketplace, the Tundra represents one of the most highly anticipated new vehicle launches in many years--car or truck. Value? The new Tundra offers three different powertrains (one V-6 and two V-8s), with the 5.7-liter V-8 a high-tech wonder and torque monster--and is among the most powerful engines in any half-ton configuration. Toyota's platform has the entire segment covered with three different bed sizes, three separate wheelbases covering five different cab and bed configurations, combined with three different trim packages (Tundra Grade, SR5, and Limited) in 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains--44 different flavors to interest buyers, from work truck to luxury touring.
Offering that kind of variety right out of the gate is impressive and ambitious; in fact, some might say too ambitious. The recent launch of the new Tundra hasn't been without a few hiccups. Several months ago, an early output of camshafts in the 5.7-liter V-8 were failing. Toyota traced down all the affected parts to a specific batch and have since made the corrections to the design. No failures have surfaced since. More recently, there've been some reports of transmission shudder under certain low-speed conditions, which dealers have traced to a torque-converter issue. Toyota says these incidents were isolated and also have been resolved. And, finally, there's been chatter on the Internet concerning tailgate problems, which Toyota is in the process of tracking down. Stories like these spread like wildfire, unfortunately, given the lightning-rod effect this new truck is having with enthusiasts and the speed with which an Internet item can travel. With all that said, let's take a deeper look at what's special about our 2008 winner.
As mentioned in the introduction to this special section, we ran our contenders through a series of on- and off-road courses at a working Arizona proving-ground facility, subjecting all our test units to a rigorous series of trials. It was in our work-duty testing that the Tundra first started to catch our attention, with the 5.7-liter V-8 Limited CrewMax Tundra running miles ahead of the competition, with and without a loaded trailer in tow (note our performance analysis in the story and the Tundra's winning Performance Score). The Tundra proved itself a star player in plain dress (Double Cab Tundra Grade, 4.7-liter V-8; $27K) as well as fully decked out (CrewMax Limited, 5.7-liter V-8; $47K). When dressed down, the front bench seating allows for a column shifter and work-truck dash with a dual glovebox and hidden center storage compartment under the center seat. Our fully loaded model had supple leather captain's chairs and a huge center console storage bin, large enough to hold a few laptops and serve as a filing cabinet. The CrewMax model, with its extended passenger cabin, offers a sliding rear seat with drop-forward and slide-forward capability.
One of the more important interior comforts, cabin quiet (while driving on rough roads or at highway speeds) is probably the Tundra's most impressive quality. If there's a quieter truck out there, we haven't driven it. Only two beefs with the interior: the center stack's excessive size and visual split (looks like it's cut in two) and the location of the navigation system almost out of arm's reach for the driver.
Is it the perfect truck? Not sure that one exists yet, but by offering 44 different flavors, Toyota expects to have what most buyers are looking for. That makes sense to us. Of this we're certain; it's not a bad start--stuffing heavy-duty truck capabilities into a half-ton truck that's quiet and strong. After quite a bit of debate, our judges agreed: The most worthy recipient for Motor Trend's 2008 Truck of the Year accolade is the all-new Toyota Tundra.