Leader of the Herd

July 29, 2008 06:00 AM

2008 Toyota Tundra shows real strength in the half-ton pickup market

In the 15 years since the T100 rolled out in 1993, Toyota's big pickup trucks have made huge advancements, making them more and more popular among farmers and ranchers. The T100 morphed into the available V8-powered Tundra in 1999 and set the stage for an even more impressive model, Toyota's first true full-size truck: the 2007 Tundra. The 2008 model continues to impress as well.

Primarily American-designed and American-assembled, the Toyota Tundra is built with one thing in mind: being a true work truck.

"During early development, our [design and engineering] team spent months interviewing owners of full-size pickups on farms, construction sites and logging camps to find unmet needs and features,” says Yuichiro Oto chief engineer of the new style Tundra and two previous North American vehicles.

With 44 configurations, a maximum towing capacity of up to 10,800 pounds, with an available 381-hp 5.7-liter V8, 6-speed automatic transmission, brakes larger than any competition at 13.9 inches, and enough interior room to offer both reclining and sliding rear seats in one model, the 2008 Tundra has set a solid new standard for competitors to follow and has inspired many farmers to do the unthinkable -- change brands.

That's not pure hype, either. The 2008 Tundra is the real deal, as we found out while driving a number of the different models hundreds of miles over the interstates and backroads of rural Kentucky.

Toyota offers the pickup with three different engine choices: the 236-hp 4.0-liter V6 (15 city / 19 highway) and the 4.7-liter i-Force V8 (14 city / 17 highway), both carryovers from the previous Tundra, 4Runner, Land Cruiser and Sequoia -- and the 381-hp 5.7-liter i-Force V8 (13 city / 17 highway ratings) backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission (the others have 5-speed transmissions).

But there's only one real choice if you want pulling power and load-carrying performance: the available aluminum-block 5.7-liter i-Force V8 built at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Alabama.

Farmers will find the optional towing package on the 5.7-liter model exceptionally useful. The lower gearing and gear splits in the 6-speed automatic transmission help develop a ton of low-end torque and keeps shifts crisp while maintaining acceptable fuel economy ratings (13 city / 17 highway).

And those getting the 2008 Tundra with the towing package will find the tow/haul mode invaluable. It holds gears when accelerating or decelerating, which is great for trailering horses and livestock or hauling hay trailers.

The towing package also incorporates what Toyota calls "shift logic,” in which the onboard computer system provides rapid accelerator release when it senses sudden hard braking.

The Tundra is built tough. Not only is the 2007 Tundra ten inches longer, nearly five inches taller and four full inches wider than the Tundra it replaced, it has one of the toughest chassis and suspensions around.

With development and engineering support from Hino Motors Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc., Toyota's heavy-truck affiliate, U.S. engineers and designers at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America in Ann Arbor, Michigan, worked to make the new Tundra ideally suited for enduring the rigorous demands placed on pickups by those who work and recreate outdoors in America's heartland.

The reinforced, high-tensile steel chassis sets the stage for the entire truck. The frame is tough, built with a heavy gauge steel in a composite design made up of a fully boxed front half, open C-channel under the bed and special reinforced C-channel under the cab.

Engineers also took special interest in making sure the suspension mounts were rigid enough to maximize every centimeter of performance from an all-new suspension, be it heavily laden or running empty.

In fact, the design of the rear-leaf springs and independent coil-over-shock front suspension on the new Tundra allows it to remain at a level ride height even while carrying or towing the maximum load for that particular model.

And when loaded, they don't ride overly soft, providing a real sense of confidence behind the wheel.

"From bumper to bumper, under the hood and from the inside out, the new Tundra is a true American truck that has set a new benchmark in the full-size truck segment,” says Jim Lentz, TMS executive vice president.

"It will be aimed at the ‘true trucker,' the true opinion leaders among full-size owners. True truckers are highly credible because they use, punish and demand the most out of the pickups they buy.”

After spending a lot of seat time in both 2- and 4-wheel-drive Tundras, his comments are on the mark.


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