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Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

September 16, 2008

Video Test Drive: 2008 Toyota Tundra

American drivers love their pickup trucks. Sure, with gas prices topping $4 a gallon, trucks are less popular than they used to be. Back in May, the Ford F-150, the country’s best-selling vehicle, was replaced — for the first time in 23 years — by the Honda Civic.

But does that mean no one will ever buy another truck? No way. There are too many jobs and lifestyles that require a good pickup, especially in rural states like Vermont. After test driving the Toyota Tundra I can tell you that, if you’re one of those people who needs the size and capacity of a pickup, the Tundra is a very good choice.

Mike Hughes at Courtesy Toyota handed over the keys to a good-looking green Tundra for my romp around Barre and Berlin, VT.

The Toyota Tundra I tested had the largest engine available — a 5.7 liter V8 — and came with 4WD and a six-speed automatic transmission. Its double cab wasn’t as big as a full-on crew cab, but it still had four doors and a back seat with room for about three people.

For such a large vehicle it drove as comfortably as a car, and was just about as quiet as any vehicle I have ever driven. I enjoyed sitting up so high. It’s a commanding feeling. And there was plenty of power under my foot.

The turning radius is fantastic for a truck of this size. As I approached a T-intersection I was sure I was going to have to do a three-point turn to head back the way I had come. I was amazed when I pulled a U-turn in one shot.

All of the V8 Tundras come with a heavy-duty towing equipment package, including a tow hitch receiver, and are pre-wired for a trailer so you’re ready to tow if you want to. And they’re all built here in the USA, in San Antonio Texas, in a mile-long new facility that started rolling out Tundras in 2007.

Several years ago the Tundra had a reputation for not being as big and tough as its competitors. Well, Toyota took that criticism seriously and the Tundra is now built about as heavy duty as a full-size pickup can be — which might be why the Tundra won the Motor Trend 2008 Truck of the Year Award.

The Tundra is rated for hauling half a ton and towing over 10,000 pounds. The load rating would be even higher if not for Toyota’s decision to use an independent front suspension, which adds greatly to the Tundra’s driveability. The torque range is just sick, providing steady power across a wide range of engine speed. The Tundra also has the largest front-brake rotor of any full-size pickup truck, and four pistons activating the brake pistons — twice as many as the industry standard.

What about safety? The Tundra’s got three separate handling systems that help ensure a safe ride. The Vehicle Stability Control system and Traction Control system adjust speed and braking to keep you on the road. The first checks to see that the vehicle is headed in the same direction you’re steering, and the latter monitors the wheels individually for slippage.

The Electric Brake-Force Distribution system optimizes brake force to each wheel to keep the vehicle balanced. An electronic sensor over the rear axle determines whether you’ve got a full load or are in the truck by yourself.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Tundra is about the safest full-size pickup ever tested. It received top scores across the board and is the first full-size pickup to be judged a “Top Safety Pick.”

My Advice
If you’re even thinking about buying a truck, you owe it to yourself to test drive the Tundra. I found no faults with this vehicle and was very impressed with it for a wide variety of very good reasons. If I needed a truck, or at least could convince my wife that I did, I’d buy one.


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