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Toyota Tundra
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Toyota Tundra

The United States truck market is so big that even owning a tiny slice of the pie can be lucrative.

For example, the Toyota Tundra has only about 5 percent of the full-size truck market in the U.S., despite the Japanese automaker's vast dealer network and robust share of the sedan and SUV markets.

Still, Tundra's small share translates to more than 60,000 units sold a year. That compares to about a half-million Ford F-150s sold in America each year, and almost as many Chevrolet Silverados.

While its basic architecture is almost 10 years old, the Tundra is still a competent pickup that seems to be favored by owners who generally have light-duty work in mind, and who find comfort in the proven reliability of the Toyota brand. (Indeed, American-made trucks are some of the longestlasting vehicles on the road, too; but Tundras have the aura of invincibility.)

After spending several days commuting to work in downtown Chattanooga in a Tundra Crewmax Limited, its easy to see why the model still appeals to customers who grew up favoring imports. The Tundra has few demerits, even if it lacks some of the engineering sophistication of more recently redesigned trucks.

Tundras have a base-price range of about $31,000 to about $51,000, and our tester rings up at the high end of that spectrum, at $49,218. Trim levels, in ascending order, are SR, SR5, TDR Pro, Limited, Platinum and top-of-the-line "1794."

Local dealers are well-stocked with Tundras. According to their websites, Capital Toyota on Lee Highway and Toyota of Cleveland in McDonald, Tenn., both have more than a dozen Tundras in stock this week. The Tundra competes with the Chevrolet Silverado, the Ram 1500, the Ford F-150 and the Nissan Titan.

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STYLING AND FEATURES

Our Crewmax Limited tester, with its four-door configuration and spacious back seat, is a good alternative to the five-passenger SUV. For families who want the versatility and towing capacity of a pickup, the Tundra Crewmax is a legitimate primary family vehicle. The Tundra can tow 10,500 pounds or haul about a ton of cargo.

Crewmax Tundras, such as our tester, are only available with the 5-foot "short bed." That means the truck is more conducive to hauling La-Z-Boy recliners and bags of mulch than stacks of lumber.

Our Quicksand-colored tester is actually beige by another name. The neutral color is a good fit for a pickup. Think of it as white with a splash of personality. It also pairs well with our tester's black leather interior.

The exterior of the Tundra was freshened in 2014 and still looks contemporary three years later. A massive chrome grille stretches from headlight to headlight. In our opinion, it's dramatic but not menacing. Some contemporary trucks, on the other hand, look like they want to eat the compact car in front of them.

The Crewmax's compact hood line and short bed give it a somewhat un-truck-like profile, but the spacious cabin makes the design trade-off worth it. Knee room in the back seat is immense, enough for tall adults to stretch out on long trips. The back seat is also wide enough to easily accommodate three passengers. The front buckets are generous, and the leather seating surfaces on our upscale Limited feel both soft and durable.

Our Limited tester comes loaded with such goodies as 20-inch wheels, dual-zone climate controls and eight-way adjustable seats. The Entune Premium telematics package ($785) includes navigation, upgraded JBL audio and Sirius XM radio (with subscription).

Tundras come with two engine options, a 4.6-liter V-8 (310 horsepower) and a 5.7-liter, 381-hp V-8 — the engine in our tester. Car and Driver clocks the bigger motor at 6.4 seconds in the 0-60 mph dash.

Fast facts

- Model: Toyota Tundra 4X4 Limited

- Exterior color: Quicksand

- Interior color: Black

- Engine: 5.7 liter, V-8

- Horsepower: 381

- Transmission: Six-speed automatic

- Fuel economy: 17 mpg highway, 13 mpg city

- Local Dealer: Capital Toyota, Lee Highway

- Price (as tested): $49,218

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The big V-8 supplies impressive power. On cold start it roars to life and there's never a doubt that it has enough torque to do your bidding, whether that's hauling a load of bricks or pulling a camper.

In everyday driving, the Tundra's steering-wheel travel requires you to concentrate a bit on the task at hand. Like all full-size trucks, the Tundra is a bit of a challenge to park. But all that is manageable after you get acclimated to its girth.

The ride is composed, if not taut, and highway cruising is surprisingly sedate. We wouldn't be afraid to take the family to the beach in this pickup.

Our tester is an on-demand 4X4 setup with a host of options to beef up its off-road portfolio. The "TRD" extras include an upgraded rear sway bar ($299), a performance dual exhaust ($1,100) and a special skid plate ($425).

BOTTOM LINE

While the Tundra may not represent the latest and greatest in truck technology and design, it is a tried and true model that should prove bullet-proof if you decide to park it in your driveway.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-645-8937.

 

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