2003 Toyota Tundra


2000 Toyota Tundra

This 2000 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2006.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8
  • Sophisticated V8
  • Quiet ride
  • Respectable handling
  • Access Cab not very roomy
  • Pickup box shallower than competitors
  • Fewer engine choices than others in class

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
Toyota has big hopes for this, its first, real, full-size pickup.

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
But as I mentioned, this new full-size pickup from Toyota isn't just a me-too truck. It's different from the Dodge Rams, Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverados out there.

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
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between Tundra and its competitors is the sense of a comfortable, nearly refined ride.

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
There's also the stiff, new frame under the Tundra. Toyota claims it's the most rigid in the half-ton truck segment. Frame rails are one, continuous piece of steel in the Tundra—also a first in this segment.

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
The Tundra with V8 also has responsive acceleration. A Tundra television ad has already been touting results of Toyota-sponsored tests that showed Tundra out-accelerating the competition with their base V8s in 0-to-60-mile-an-hour runs. Maximum horsepower in the Tundra is 245 at 4800 revolutions per minute and torque is 315 pound-feet at 3400 rpm.

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.

Feels smaller
Inside, the Tundra doesn't feel quite as large as the competitors, and it isn't. Hip room is noticeably less. In the Access Cab it's down 10 inches from the Ram Quad Cab in the back seat and 6.3 inches in the front. Rear-seat legroom is 4.1 inches less than in the segment-leading Silverado Extended Cab.

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
Toyota did change the usual arrangement for the door handles on the second-row doors of the Access Cab. On the Dodges, Fords and Chevrolets, these handles are hidden in the door jamb between the front and second doors and aren't easily accessible to second-row riders.

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
While the front captain's seats in the test Tundra are nicely supportive and cushioned, the rear bench seat in the Access Cab is rather uncomfortable. Unlike the bench in the Silverado, it doesn't recline, so you must sit upright. And there are only two head restraints back there, though the seat is designed to carry three.

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?
Obviously, Toyota hopes to get a good number of Toyota owners into the Tundra. The company said some 40,000 left the brand in 1998 to buy full-size trucks elsewhere. But this still leaves 60,000 of that 100,000 sales target.

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.


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BB04 - 9/22/2014 7:16:34 PM