Crucial Cars: Toyota Tundra

Toyota TndraFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our favorite neighborhood mechanic talks through Toyota’s colossal contribution to the full-size truck market.

 If you had told a pickup truck driver in the mid 1970s or ‘80s that Toyota would one day introduce a full-size pickup in the U.S. that would compete with the “traditional” full-size pickup brands—Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and GMC—they probably would have laughed you out of the room. And if you’d also told them that just such a truck would be produced in Texas—where bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to pickups, and hats—they would have known you were crazy for sure. Toyota, after all, was better known then for its gas-sipping, compact cars, as well as its compact Tacoma and mid-size T100 pickups.

Fast forward to 2013 when the full-size Toyota Tundra was the sixth best-selling pickup in America. My how times, attitudes, and even Toyota trucks, have changed.

First introduced in the U.S. in 1999 as a 2000 model year to replace the T100, Toyota’s Tundra was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in both 2000 and 2008. The first-generation Tundras spanned from 1999 to 2006, and with the availability of a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 245 horsepower, were viewed by the industry as the first real foreign threat to the domestic full-size pickup truck market. Tundra’s image among hardcore pickup enthusiasts, however, was still that of a smaller, slightly car-like pickup that wasn’t really up to competing with full-size American pickups just yet, particularly in the area of towing capacity.

That all changed with the second generation, a slightly larger Tundra introduced in 2006 with an available 5.7-liter V-8 engine, towing capacity of 10,000-plus pounds and payload capacity of more than a ton. To illustrate the 2015 Tundra’s towing capacity, since that is such an important consideration for pickup owners, Toyota highlights the 2015 Tundra’s powerful stats in reviewing its latest model online.

“381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, a 6-speed automatic transmission, plus a standard Tow Package with added engine and transmission oil coolers equal heavy-duty towing capability. Add Double Overhead Cams (DOHC), a 32-valve head design and Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing, and you get a drivetrain that can tow a space shuttle.”

And yeah, it really did tow a space shuttle.

With an MSRP starting at $29,020, the 2015 Tundra backs up its powerful persona with design features that make it a truck suitable for work, play and family. Tundra’s high-tech and driver friendly. Consider the Limited Premium Package with an illuminated entry system and front and rear sonar that help drivers park. Also available on the 2015 model year is a dizzying array of available interior packages and custom features, such as the Entune™ Multimedia Bundle, consisting of an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, auxiliary jack, USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, control, and hands-free phone capability.

First Generation Toyota Tundra

First Generation Toyota Tundra

The Tundra is particularly well-known and lauded for its passenger-friendly cab. A recent review by Edmunds described the Tundra CrewMax’s interior as “enormous, featuring excellent legroom and a rear seat that not only slides but reclines as well.”

When you can move and recline a rear truck seat – that’s a lot of room.

Cab configurations for the newest Tundra include a regular cab, Double Cab with four, forward-hinged doors, and the previously mentioned CrewMax with even more room and four doors. Either a six-and-a-half-foot bed or an eight-foot bed are available with the regular and Double Cab models, while the only bed option available with the CrewMax model is a five-and-a-half-foot bed.

One potential downside with the Tundra is its lower fuel economy, which is EPA estimated at 15 and 19 MPG for 2015. But, with the recent trend in lower gas prices, that fuel economy might not be as big a concern as it once was for many drivers.

And while we’re talking numbers, consider this not-so-well-known fact—Tundra wasn’t always named Tundra. When it was first introduced, the Tundra’s “concept” or “show” truck models were named the Toyota T150. Sound like another pickup truck you might be familiar with? Yeah, Ford thought so too, and threatened to sue Toyota unless the name was changed.

Given Toyota trucks’ enduring popularity in the U.S. – first with the T100 and Tacoma, along with the Tundra’s more recent introduction – parts for the Tundra, or any Toyota truck for that matter, are widely available and offer endless options for just about anything you want to do to your Toyota truck, whether new or old-school.

My favorite part about the 2015 Tundra, however, just might be Toyota’s creativity in naming several available colors, including “blue ribbon metallic,” “sunset bronze mica,” or my favorite—”attitude black metallic.” I wonder how that’s different from just plain old black, which is also an available color, minus the “plain old” descriptors of course.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re customizing or cleaning your Tundra, Advance Auto Parts has a top selection of parts and supplies. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

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