Nissan has cancelled the Titan - for all practical purposes, anyhow. (The 2011 model will be a re-badged Dodge Ram.) It seems very likely that Honda will retire the doing-poorly Ridgeline (which isn't really a truck anyhow.)
That leaves the Toyota Tundra as the proverbial Last Man Standing - and the only Japanese-brand alternative to a Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado or Dodge Ram 1500. All three of the Big Three's big trucks have recently been updated, too - while the 2010 Tundra's to a great extent the same truck it was back in 2007.But the Tundra still has a few strong cards left to play, so don't dismiss it before you've taken a moment to consider it.
WHAT IT IS
The Tundra is Toyota's full-size, 1500-series pick-up. It is available in regular cab (two seats, two doors), crew cab (Four seats, two standard-sized doors and two smaller rear doors) and CrewMax (four seats and four full-size doors) bodystyles, with various bed lengths, V-6 or V-8 engines and 2WD or 4WD.Base price is $23,455 for a base model regular cab with V-6 and 2WD. A top-of-the-line Crew Max Limited with 5.7 liter V-8 and 4WD runs $42,455.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010
Though it looks the same as last year's Tundra, there are several key upgrades to the 2010 model intended to keep it competitive with the Big Three's trucks. Chief among these is a new mid-range 4.6 liter, 310 hp V-8 that replaces the previous 4.7 liter, 271 hp V-8. This new engine is now standard on all but base/2WD Tundras. Another interesting new feature for 2010 is a vertical up-and-down power back window. There's also a Lexus-like Platinum package that's similar to the Cowboy Cadillac Ford F-150 King Ranch.
The Tundra is a Hoss. I'm 6 ft 3 and 210 pounds and the thing makes me feel small. Most available rear seat space (in CrewMax configuration) of any 1500-series truck on the market
Very strong mid-range 4.6 V-8 makes it (usually) not necessary to step up to the (more expensive) 5.7 liter V-8.
Base 236 hp V-6 is plenty adequate for work-truck use. (Dodge Ram 1500's isn't. Neither is the Silverado's.)
Impressive and near-class-leading (10,400 lbs.) maximum tow rating. Tough, rugged leaf-spring rear suspension.
WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD
It's a Hoss. So huge-feeling it can be intimidating to drive, especially for people who aren't well over six feet tall and 200-plus pounds.
Not the greatest interior layout. Some controls/displays are hard to see/operate.
Leaf spring rear suspension gives a bouncier ride than coil-spring rear suspension in competitors like the new Ram 1500.
Base model is priced about $2,800 higher than base model Dodge Ram 1500 ($20,610), about $2,600 higher than base model Chevy Silverado ($20,850), and about $1,600 higher than an equivalent base model Ford F-truck ($21,820).
UNDER THE HOOD
Base model/2WD Tundras come with a 4.0 liter, 236 hp V-6 and five-speed automatic. This engine really shines compared with the much-less-powerful (and arguably, underpowered) 4.3 liter, 195 hp V-6 that comes in base model Silverados. It's also stronger (and larger) than the Ram 1500's base 3.7 liter, 215 V-6.
And it's nearly as strong as the 4.6 liter, 248 hp V-8 that's standard in the Ford F-150.
Another bright spot is the new-for-2010 4.6 liter V-8 that's standard in all but the base/work truckTundras (and all 4WD-equipped models). Its 310 hp rating places it above the F-150's optional 292 hp 4.6 V-8 (and only 10 hp behind the F-truck's strongest available engine, the 5.4 liter, 320 hp V-8).
The Tundra's new 4.7 V-8 also beats out the Silverado's mid-range 4.8 liter, 295 hp V-8 - and nearly matches the Silverado's next-up 5.3 liter, 315 hp V-8.
It exactly matches the Ram 1500's mid-range 4.7 liter/310 hp V-8.
Zero to 60 with this engine is is just under 8 seconds. It also gets about two miles-per-gallon better gas mileage than the previous 4.7 liter V-8. A six-speed automatic comes with the 4.6 liter V-8.
The Tundra's optional, top-of-the-line engine is a 5.7 liter, 381 hp V-8 that pushes the 0-60 time down to about 7 seconds flat. That is amazing hustle for a full-size truck.
The Tundra's 5.7 V-8 is much stronger than the strongest engine available in the Ford F-150 (5.4 liters, 320 hp) and roughly matches the Dodge Ram 1500's 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 (390 hp).
The Chevy Silverado's optionally available 6.2 liter, 403 hp V-8 is, however, still the King of the Hill as far as maximum horsepower goes.
But the Tundra nonetheless manages to edge out the Chevy on maximum tow capability: 10,800 lbs. vs. 10,700 lbs. It also beats the just-redesigned Ram 1500 by several hundred pounds (10,250 lbs. max).
Ford beats them all, though - with a Hercules-like maximum tow rating of 11,300 lbs.
ON THE ROAD
All the 1500 series trucks on the market right now drive beautifully - despite their battleship-like size and girth. Differences in ride quality/handling exist, but they're slight and in everyday driving use, they are all incredibly easy to operate, smooth and quiet.
The Tundra's steering may even seem overboosted at first, but you'll find the truck tracks right where you point it and can be driven a lot faster than you might expect without any sense that you're beginning to push your luck. On not-great roads, the simple (but tough) leaf spring rear suspension can get a little bouncy, but it's not severe enough in my opinion to wish for the (lighter duty) coils found in competitors like the Ram 1500.
The really noticeable differences mostly come down to acceleration and ergonomics.
On acceleration, the Tundra is among the best available. Even its standard V-6 has enough oats to pull the truck along at a respectable clip, without straining. In this respect, it is much superior to the Chevy Silverado (in base form, equipped with the Mr. Punyverse 195 hp V-6).
This is one area where the Tundra's higher base price is objectively justified. The Chevy (and the Dodge) may cost less, but you really almost have to upgrade to one of their optional engines to make the serviceable. The Tundra's new, mid-range 4.6 liter V-8 is also a winner.
I spent a week with one, using the truck in typical "country" fashion - hauling stuff, going up and down the mountain (elevation change of about 1,200 feet in the course of about three miles). It felt much more confident than the F-150, which has the weakest V-8s of all current half-ton trucks.
The ony reason, in fact, I could come up with to buy the Tundra's larger, top-of-the-line 5.7 liter V-8 would be for the maximum towing capacity. The 5.7, in addition to the 70-something hp boost, also comes standard with a tow-intended 4.30 rear axle ratio. With the 4.6 engine, the axle ratio is either 3.90 or 4.10.
But unless you really need to pull 10,000-plus pounds (or want to race Mustangs!) the 4.6 is probably the better choice. On ergonomics, though, the Tundra has some issues.
Several key controls are awkwardly placed or hard to see. For example, the radio's dial indicator is often unreadable during high-sun afternoons. And the knobs are waaaaay over to the right and hard to reach while driving - even for a gangly six-footer like me, with much-longer-than-average arms. This makes it almost-essential to pay extra for the available steering wheel-mounted secondary controls.
The rotary control knobs for the 4WD settings and fan, meanwhile, are large and easy to operate even with a glove on (good) but both are partially hidden by the huge column shift stalk (bad). This is also where Toyota mounts the up and down buttons for the six-speed automatic's manual shift control. You have to drive one-handed to operate this, which isn't the hot ticket.
The newer/more recently updated Silverado, F-truck and Ram 1500 are noticeably more user-friendly in terms of their interior layouts - and overall, less intimidating to drive. It may be sexist and un-PC to say this, but you need to know: If you're a man, the Tundra's ergonomic issues, which magnify its hugeness, probably won't bug you.
But your wife/girlfriend/daughter may not like it - which will bug you, eventually.
AT THE CURB
The Tundra's probably the least boxy big truck on the market - the bed excepted. This part of the Tundra has the same high-walled, industrial-scale look that first appeared on the Super Duty F-truck a couple of years ago. The upside is your cargo's more secure. The downside is that it can be hard to get to (or even see) that cargo if you're not well over six feet tall yourself. Like other current half-tons, the Tundra's has a useful moveable tie-down system that's nice to have for securing ATVs, motorcycles and other odd-sized stuff.
My tested Tundra crew cab (two standard doors, two smaller rear doors) felt like it had more square footage than the first floor of our house. Three-across riding is possible up front (an upside to the pull-down column shifter) and if not, the center section folds down to become a useful warren of storage compartments. Flip it forward to reveal a large hidden compartment underneath that's big enough to easily swallow a laptop.
Sport buckets (with center console) are also available, if you prefer that layout.
The back seats in the crew cab are easy to get into and comfortable to be in, with no shortage of legroom - but if you want serious real estate, the CrewMax (four full-size doors) goes all the way, with an incredible 44.5 inches of backseat legroom vs. 34.7 for the regular crew cab. That's about two inches more legroom for stretching out than you'd get in a Mercedes-Benz S600 or extended wheelbase (limousine) Audi A8L or Lexus LS600L! No other half-ton truck on the market can match it.
This hugeness makes the power-actuated vertical rear window and back-up camera (display in the rearview mirror) must-have features, though.Other useful features include available folding tow mirrors, Cold Weather and TRD Off-Road Packages with M/S rated tires, skid plates and HD suspension.
Two things not there that would be nice (and which the competition offers) are a built-in trailer brake and a more comprehensive gauge package with, for instance, a temperature gauge for the automatic transmission. If you tow (especially up steep grades) having one of these can save you a $2,500 early tranny replacement.
Another thing I'm not a big fan of is the electronic limited slip axle. It uses the ABS to limit wheelspin, not a mechanical locking differential. If the ABS goes out, so does your "posi" rear.
In terms of occupant protection in a crash, a large truck such as the Tundra is just about the safest place to be. The sheer massiveness of the vehicle - as well as the protection afforded by a girder-like frame and the fact that the thing rides higher up off the ground than most other vehicles - is an inherent advantage. Toss in multiple air bags (including standard driver's knee air bag and full-length curtain air bags) and it's hard to get hurt inside one of these vaults on wheels.
Quality-wise, the upside is the 2010 Tundra is largely the same as it was in 2007. This leaves a an objective, real-world record of excellent durability and reliability to refer to. We know it's a good, solid truck. The downside is the truck is aging and isn't the class leader in most key areas that it was three years ago. The new F-truck (and the even newer Ram 1500) present stiff competition. When the next-gen. Tundra comes out in a year or so, the re-sale value of the of the current model is likely to drop.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Though it's no longer the obvious Number One, it's still a strong contender - especially when armed with the excellent 310 hp 4.6 liter V-8. And if you need rear seat lebensraum, there's still nothing else that can touch it.