Among the many things that you consider uniquely American, the full-size high-power pickup is probably pretty high on your list — right up there with hot dogs, baseball and apple pie. So you can imagine the challenges that Toyota faced when it first attempted to
penetrate the American market with a full-size truck. Though Toyota is certainly no
stranger to truck manufacturing, it has taken the company some time to learn what, exactly, American truck buyers expect from their trucks. First came the T-100, a quasi-full-size truck with V-6 power introduced in 1993. Next came the Tundra in the 2000 model year — a full-size truck by classification, but still smallish and underpowered compared to the top offerings of its domestic rivals. Perhaps just as important, the Tundra’s benign styling did little to stir the soul or win the allegiance of American-truck loyalists. Indeed, it’s
been a long and sometimes bumpy road for Toyota’s full-size-truck efforts. But if you know
anything about Toyota, you know that it doesn’t stop until it gets things right. And the
2007 Tundra gets it right in all the ways that count. First and foremost, the ’07 Tundra is
all-new from the ground up, sharing no chassis, suspension components or sheetmetal with
its predecessor. It’s also larger in every dimension than the first generation Tundra, and
offers more choices, too.
Where the previous Tundra was available in Regular Cab, Access Cab and Double Cab configurations, the new Tundra does away with the Access Cab, making Double Cab the intermediate choice and the new CrewMax — a true four-door crew cab and a direct competitor to Dodge’s Mega Cab — the top dog for cabin comfort. Add three bed lengths, three available engines, three trim levels and 2WD or 4WD to the picture, and the new Tundra is available in a staggering 31 primary build configurations. About the only carryover items in the new Tundra are the familiar 236-hp 4.0-liter V-6 and 271-hp i-Force 4.7-liter V-8 engines, both of which are backed by a five-speed automatic transmission. The big news, however, is the introduction of the all-new 5.7-liter i-Force V-8, packing 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. That’s 36 more hp and 26 more lb-ft of torque than Dodge’s swaggering Hemi — delivered on regular-grade fuel.
To produce this kind of power, the new engine employs a relatively high 10.2:1 compression ratio, long stroke and a host of engine technologies designed to optimize output and efficiency. Chief among these are dual overhead camshafts with Dual VVT-i, or Variable Valve Timing with intelligence, which allows for independent, continuously variable cam timing of the intake and exhaust camshafts over 60 degrees of crankshaft angle. That means the engine delivers the kind of low-end torque you’d expect off the line — but as engine rpm increases, cam phasing changes to create stronger mid- and top-end power. Working in concert with the Dual VVT-i is the Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS), a fiber-reinforced plastic intake manifold featuring two intake runner lengths. Based on information the ECM receives on engine rpm and throttle angle, ACIS uses electronically controlled butterfly valves to switch between low-rpm, long-runner and high-rpm, short-runner configurations. The result is improved torque across the engine’s power band. Stainless-steel tubular four-into-two exhaust headers and a high-flow stainless-steel exhaust system complete the picture. Though the
5.7-liter engine is indeed impressive, the new AB60 six-speed automatic transmission Toyota mates it with is a technological marvel — particularly with regard to towing. The AB60 utilizes an ultra-low 3.3:1 first gear to get things moving quickly, and features a torque converter with a lock-up function in fourth, fifth and sixth gears. In addition, the
converter is equipped with a “flex” lock-up function for these gears that allows the
converter to partially lock up under some conditions. For greater efficiency and longer
service life, the AB60 is equipped not only with a transmission cooler, but also a
transmission-oil warmer that reduces friction during warm-up for better shifting and
improved fuel economy. All Tundra automatic transmissions also incorporate Toyota’s “World Standard” fluid with a lifetime fill — and that should mean no more transmission service.
The Tundra’s underpinnings consist of a “composite frame design” that is a combination of
boxed and open C-channel sections. For example, the front section is fully boxed, the
under-cab area uses a rolled C-channel with top and bottom flange reinforcements, and the
rear section is comprised of open C-channel. According to the Tundra’s chief engineer,
Yuichiro Obu, this design was chosen over a fully boxed frame for two main reasons: First,
it allowed Toyota to add material where needed to provide enhanced crash protection and
rigidity, and reduce it in specific areas to provide some degree of flexibility for greater
ride comfort. Second, it afforded Toyota the ability to “tune” the frame for reduced
low-frequency vibration, which results in a quieter ride. Toyota knows that a big portion
of Tundra buyers will be RVers, so it offers a comprehensive list of features in the
available tow package. For openers, the transmission will be equipped with a tow/haul mode.
As is typical of such a mode, tow/haul activates specific shift logic that holds lower
gears longer when accelerating or decelerating for greater control. But, it also makes for
quicker accelerator-pedal application and release, as well as a wider throttle opening for
any given accelerator position compared to the normal mode. These allowances make for a
towing experience that is closer to driving solo. To handle the added weight of a trailer,
tow-package-equipped trucks are fitted with a massive one-piece hydro-formed hitch receiver that is attached to both sides of the frame with a total of 12 fasteners. The rear leaf springs are a higher rate, designed to make the truck ride level even at maximum payload.
And two all-new differentials — a 9.5 ring gear for 4.0 and 4.7-liter trucks, and a 10.5
ring gear for 5.7-liter trucks — get lower gearing. Extending side-view mirrors, a 7 and
4-pin connector and trailer-brake-control pre-wiring round out the package. Big wheels are
all the rage these days, and Toyota equips all Tundra models with 18-inchers — but not for
the reason you’d expect. The larger wheels are a byproduct of massive disc brakes: 13.9
inches with four-piston calipers up front, 13.6 inches with single-piston calipers rear.
These are the largest brakes in the half-ton segment, and are part and parcel to Toyota’s
“StarSafetySystem,” incorporating ABS Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake-force
Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and traction control (TRAC). Four-wheel
drive models get the addition of Active Traction Control (ATRAC) featuring a unique sensing
system and software designed for use on and off-road. Of course, a Toyota wouldn’t be a
Toyota if it didn’t have some thoughtful features, and the Tundra has many that RVers will
enjoy. For example, Toyota has taken the effort out of raising and lowering the tailgate
with an internal damper located behind the driver’s side taillight. Open the tailgate and
let it drop — it will fall quickly, but gently, into position.
You can also close it effortlessly with just one hand, or remove it entirely. An available navigation system incorporates a rear-view camera, which in and of itself isn’t new for the segment — but Toyota puts a different spin on it, angling the camera down so you can now hitch up a trailer all by yourself, as well as view obstructions directly behind the truck. The Tundra rides quietly, the seats are comfortable, and the instruments and switches are arranged logically on a clean, uncluttered dash. Though the interior may look more like that of a Lexus than a pickup, make no mistake — this is still a truck, and suspension reflects its
utilitarian nature. The ride is indeed firm, but certainly nothing most RVers haven’t felt
before. Our CrewMax was outfitted with the new i-Force engine and six-speed automatic
transmission, with a console-mounted, gated shifter. After several miles of low-speed
driving on tight country roads, we finally found ourselves on a stretch of straight road
with no traffic, and decided to see what the new engine could do. Frankly, we were
startled. Once you stab the go pedal, this thing doesn’t stop pulling until it shifts. It’s
strong off the line, but when the VVT-i kicks in and the ACIS intake manifold switches to
its short runner, the mid- and top-end charge borders on scary. We can only imagine what
this kind of power would feel like in the base 2WD shortbed, regular cab configuration,
which is more than 1,000 pounds lighter than the fully loaded CrewMax we drove.
We had the opportunity to drive the truck solo and towing what amounted to a loaded-down car trailer. Our particular trailer weighed in at 8,560 pounds, which is probably not far from the rating for this model (specific tow ratings for each model were not available when this was written — only the maximum ratings of 10,800 pounds for a 2WD, and 10,500 for a 4WD).
Acceleration, even while towing, is impressive. We had a short on-ramp on which to merge
onto the freeway, and managed to blend right in without slowing any traffic. Once underway, the transmission’s tow/haul mode and its various locked, unlocked and partially locked gears made for effortless towing. Want more power? Just touch the pedal and the
transmission steps down into the next lowest range to keep you up to speed. We have little
doubt that the Tundra will deliver decent fuel economy when towing, simply because so
little throttle input is required. If the only thing standing between you and a new Tundra
is your staunch support of American products, consider this: The ’07 Tundra is Toyota’s
most “American” truck yet. It was designed at Toyota studios in Newport Beach, California,
and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Toyota’s North American development and production headquarters and TMMI assembly plant are located in Kentucky. Its engines are built in Alabama, the transmissions are built in North Carolina and the differentials are built in Arkansas. And by the time you read this, Toyota will have opened its second truck production facility in San Antonio, Texas. Like it or not, that makes the Tundra as American, in some cases more so, than it’s “domestic” competition. The ’07 Tundra is scheduled to hit the showrooms in February. If you are considering a new half-ton truck, you owe it to yourself to go for a test drive.