2000 Toyota Tundra
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Toyota tries again to build a big pickup that fits American tastes. This time, there's a V8 with double overhead cams, towing capacity of 7,200 pounds, a one-ton payload and a surprisingly refined ride—for a big pickup. Yes, Toyota is making strides.
Imagine a full-size pickup truck that feels capable but not overly burly, commanding on-road and off, but still manageable in the city. Add a quieter ride and a more sophisticated engine than you'd find in other big trucks, and you're starting to get a sense of the 2000 Toyota Tundra.
A lot riding on Tundra
The automaker built a new plant at Princeton, Ind., to produce this truck. Initial production calls for 100,000 Tundras in the first year. This is more than 2.5 times the best sales for Toyota's previous large truck, the T100.
"Tundra represents the most important and biggest launch since the Lexus division," said Toyota executive Don Esmond. . . . Even though [Toyota] Camry and Corolla posted strong gains . . . it is imperative that we establish a stronger presence in the light truck arena, particularly in the full-size pickup segment."
And thankfully, the Tundra—whose platform Toyota plans to use for a full-size sport-utility vehicle in a year or so—is light years from Toyota's T100.
The T100, introduced in the United States in 1993 and no longer being produced for this market, disappointed with its odd, mid-range size and lack of a V8. In comparison Tundra can haul trailers up to 7,200 pounds and has a maximum payload of 2,011 pounds.
Tundra not a copy of others
Styling is downright conservative when compared to the boisterous-looking Ram and the out-of-my-way Fords. Configuration choices and engine selections are far fewer than in the domestic trucks. For example, Tundra comes with a 190-horsepower V6 or a 245-horsepower V8, while the Ram offers a V6, two V8s, a V10 and a 6-cylinder diesel.
Surprisingly quiet inside
A lot of it, I decided, is due to the quiet environment of this truck. There's no raucous interior noise while driving, thanks to the work Toyota engineers did to keep sound out of the cabin. I heard the test truck's V8 only vaguely during day-to-day trips.
On heavy acceleration, the sound is a bit louder, but it still doesn't make for a brawny din inside.
Decent handling, too
Between the rails are eight crossmembers, and in front the frame is boxed so it can better handle engine weight and manage engine and suspension loads. At the rear the frame has an X-shaped crossmember to improve lateral stability.
Yes, the test Tundra 4X4 Access Cab still has some truck-like reactions to road bumps. For example, the truck bounces a bit over broken pavement. But this truck also takes sweeping curves at decent speeds with nary a flutter, and the ride, overall, is decently damped. To put it in perspective, this is a truck whose ride doesn't make me regret leaving the car back in the garage.
The Tundra's front suspension has a double wishbone layout with coil springs. At the back, there's a live axle with leaf springs. Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion.
Finally, V8 power
But you don't have to be on the highway to appreciate this truck's well-managed power. In the city the test Tundra worked well in traffic flows, neither rushing forward brutishly nor plodding heavily behind other vehicles.
This V8, which Toyota expects to be in 90 percent of Tundras sold, is a departure from those normally found in full-size pickups in that it's the first in the segment with eight-cylinder power using double overhead cam technology. In contrast, the Vortec V8s in the Silverados are based on Chevy's small-block engine that dates to the 1950s.
Based on the V8 in the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX 470 sport-utility vehicles, Tundra's 4.7-liter 32-valve power plant is the first in a full-size pickup to be certified as a low-emission vehicle in pollution-conscious California.
The base Tundra engine—the 3.4-liter double overhead cam V6—is largely a carryover from the T100.
Access Cabs come only with 6.5-foot beds, while 8-foot beds are available on Tundras with regular cabs. Note that the Tundra pickup box depth is some 2.75 inches less than in the competitors.
New design for door handles
In the Tundra, however, there's a handle outside on the sheet metal and another inside, in easy reach of the second-row riders. But second-row occupants still must wait for the front door to be open before they can open their own doors.
I do appreciate the wide opening to the second row seats. The Tundra's second-row doors open beyond a 90-degree angle to aid access. But unlike the Ram Quad Cab and Silverado Extended Cab, front shoulder belts aren't integrated into the front seats. Rather, they jut down from the ceiling in the Tundra.
Rear seating not the best
Outside mirrors, however, are good-sized for good visibility. And buttons and knobs for heating, cooling and stereo are good-sized. Too bad the Tundra horn sounds like it belongs to a small car, rather than a big truck.
Who will buy?
So other buyers must come from other brands of trucks—either compacts or full-size, and from first-time truck buyers, Toyota officials said. Overall, Toyota expects 85 percent of the buyers for the Tundra to be men, with 71 percent of them married. They likely will have a median age of 40 and a household income around $60,000.