By MALCOLM GUNN
Toyota's passion for pickups is readily apparent with the upcoming release of the 2007 Tundra.
From nose to tailgate and every square inch in between, this truck appears ready to mount a serious challenge to Ford, Chevy and Dodge supremacy.
The new Tundra can now be counted in the same category and for more reasons than you might think. Not only does it finally compete in terms of size with the acknowledged Big Three of the truck world, but its genesis is thoroughly North American. The design was shaped in Toyota's California studios, while the technical and engineering details were developed in a number of the company's facilities in the United States. Finally, two of Toyota's assembly plants in Indiana and Texas will begin churning out these beasts of burden later in the year for early '07 delivery.
The Tundra has grown by 10 inches in overall length and nearly five inches in wheelbase. The truck is also four inches wider and five inches taller than its predecessor, placing it on a par with the other full-size pickups. David Hicks , sales manager of Capital Toyota, says that due to their expected size Capital may even have to enlarge their service station to accommodate the new vehicles.
Toyota mastered the art of tough-truck design with its previous-generation Tundra and this latest edition conveys a definite brute-force look that includes a power-bulge-style hood, a U-shaped grille containing three stout horizontal bars and a massive protruding bumper with a non-functional skid plate.
In back, the locking tailgate uses heavy-duty shock dampers on the hinges so the gate won't unexpectedly drop.
The new chassis, along with a beefy 5.7-liter V8, helps push the maximum towing capacity to 10,000 pounds, well above the previous 7,100 pound rating. Although Toyota hasn't released the new engine's power rating, you can likely expect at least 300 horses under the hood.
Also on the menu will be a 236-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 on base trucks as well as a 271-horse 4.7-liter V8, both of which were used to keep the old Tundra on the go.
According to Mark Smith, general sales manager of Toyota of Cleveland the 5.7 is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed manual and five-speed automatic are expected to take care of the shifting chores for the smaller motors. "The new 5.7 I4 is something we haven't had before," says Smith. "This car is just a big, massive-manly looking truck!"
On the inside, the enlarged cabin offers added storage space via a two-level glove box plus lap-top-swallowing console. There are also bigger dash controls that are easier to operate.
Once again, Tundra will be available in regular, extended-length Access Cab and four-door Double Cab styles, as well as in Base, SR5 and Limited trim. Four-wheel-drive will be optional on V8-powered trucks. All told, 30 different models will be sold, about twice as many as before.
Will the new and improved Tundra be sufficient to alter the purchasing habits of traditional brand-loyal truck owners, or is the Tundra destined to remain distanced from the pack?
It's difficult to say at this point, but if effort is any indication, this thoroughly North Americanized pickup should make plenty of new friends down the road.