Way back in the early Nineties, Toyota made their first foray into the North American style of work trucks with the T100. Traditional truck buyers were less than enthused by the T100′s lack of V8 power and lesser capabilities and few buyers switched showrooms. Toyota followed up the T100 with the first generation Tundra, which was much better received. It was a true full size truck. This new truck was still down on power when compared to the traditional domestic work horses, but the driving experience was beyond the competition. With the latest redesign, Toyota has brought the Tundra to the forefront of truckdom with true 2 door work trucks and high end 4 doors for the boss and his family.
Our tester was a 2008 Toyota Tundra SR5 4×4 regular cab with the 5.7L V8. The first thing one notices about this truck is the size. The Tundra is HUGE. This particular truck came with the 6.5 foot bed, which from a distance gave the truck a similar visual to an early Nineties short box domestic. In other words it doesn’t look all that big until you get close to it when the gargantuan reality presents itself. Toyota is well in sync with the competitors in the size market, which is still important to those looking for a work truck regardless of fuel prices.
While we’re talking about size, I might as well bring up the 5.7 liter V8. No longer can the Tundra be accused of being a 90 pound weakling. This traditional sized, normally aspirated V8 pumps out a whopping 381 horsepower and a stump pulling 401 lb/ft of torque. These numbers add up to a 10,100 lb tow rating, which would have been unheard of for a half ton pickup ten years ago. This is one serious work truck!
In days gone by, a work truck had no bells and whistles, just a bench seat and maybe a sliding rear window to keep things cool. Today’s truck buyer expects much more comfort than that. The boss might drive a machine that would make luxury cars of old blush, but even the grunt in the maintenance truck deserves a few basic goodies. Our tester had just two bucket seats in the front, meaning this is a solo or two person machine but those two are flying in relative style compared to the old days. In between the seats is a giant center console that contains a cavernous storage bin aimed at the business end of the trades. Space for a laptop, note pads, pens and more, along with a cool removable center pocket that doubles as a hanger for file folders are all contained below the armrest. Around the cabin there are plenty of nooks and crannies for storage and far more cupholders than 2 people will ever need.
Over the last few reviews I’ve written about Toyota’s have included the word nimble when describing handling. One would hardly expect a giant pick up truck to fall into the nimble category, but the Tundra somehow does. For such a big truck, the steering is light and responsive. When driven with an eye towards fuel economy the 6 speed automatic transmission is smooth and shifts are barely noticeable. Step on the gas to leave the light a bit quicker and one is quickly reminded that there are close to 400 ponies under the hood. This is one mud monster that flies. Don’t bother looking at the fuel gauge when driving enthusiastically though.
What more can one say about a work truck? The Tundra drove well on the road, has lots of interior features that are practical for the contractor or tradesman who lives in their truck and is tough as nails to boot. Anyone in the market for a true work truck would be hard pressed to find a tougher, more capable truck, let alone one that comes complete with Toyota quality as standard issue.