Toyota Tundra – 2007 Review: Despite its record sales and breadth of product, there was one point that separated Toyota from total market domination. One look at the 2007 Tundra and its apparent that it’s a new game now.
In the world of trucks, bigger and brawnier rules. The domestics have understood it, and Nissan saw the light before launching its 305-horsepower Titan. Toyota missed the mark completely with the T100, and came up short with the first generation Tundra. With a giant leapfrog move for 2007, Toyota skips matching its competitors, and instead blows them away with a larger and more powerful full-size pickup, one that addresses every concern of its target audience.
By: Thom Blackett
Photo credit: Toyota and Ron Perry
What We Drove
For this evaluation, we borrowed a 2007 Tundra CrewMax SR5 4WD model from Toyota for one week, during which time we accumulated about 500 miles. Our tester featured a 5.7-liter V-8 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, a $345 bedliner, and Option H. In exchange for $3,995, Option H provides a JBL sound system, front bucket seats with eight power adjustments for the driver, power sunroof, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cold weather package, daytime running lights, TRD off-road suspension package with 18-inch alloy wheels rolling on BFGoodrich tires, and oversized towing mirrors. Add in a $645 destination charge, and the sticker rang up to $38,970.
With 381 horses and 401 lb.-ft. of torque at your beck and call, the Tundra stomps out most every non-diesel offering on the market. Putting the hammer down is a total hoot, but be prepared for 12.8 mpg and $70 fill ups. Mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission with a fun manually-shifting sport mode, the powerful V-8 offers immediate throttle response and abundant thrust for easy passing at all speeds. Engineers have packed in a great surprise at higher revs, as the tuned exhaust reverberates with a meaty growl.
Around town, the redesigned Toyota is marked by steering that lacks road feel, well-modulated brakes, and a compliant ride, even with the TRD suspension. On the highway, the unloaded Tundra is trouble-free on smooth expanses, but bucks annoyingly over expansion joints.
Off road, the big V-8 pulls the truck nicely and we had no issues with bottoming out. After pulling to a stop and shifting into neutral, a twist of the dash dial put us into 4-Low; with the shifter in first gear, we crept down a steep grade at about 3 mph without using the brakes.
With its supersized dimensions, our Tundra CrewMax needed to offer some concessions to lessen visibility issues. Sitting about one foot from the body were mirrors with upper and lower panels – unfortunately, only the upper panels were powered, meaning the driver had to get out to manually adjust the lower section, or solicit the help of a passenger. Using those mirrors is a requirement, as seeing smaller vehicles alongside this big Toyota is otherwise nearly impossible. The side windows represent an expansive greenhouse, but the ride height negates their effectiveness for outside viewing. Rear pillars are acceptably wide, though outboard head restraints soak up too much of the rear window.
Fun to Drive
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but offer up the keys to a powerful, big ride that’s also fast, and chances are there’ll be no shortage of takers. At least that was the case in our office. Once accustomed to the Tundra’s dimensions, our editors had a great time exercising the potent V-8, listening to its throaty note, and tackling various terrain. Unfortunately, those highlights were tempered with expensive trips to the gas station, multi-point maneuvers required to line this barge up in regular ol’ parking spaces, and ingress acceptable only to rock climbers.
Front passengers are afforded plenty of comfort thanks to well-padded and spacious bucket seats, ample back and thigh support, and in the case of our SR5 test truck, eight-way power adjustments. A wide, padded armrest is positioned between the seats, complemented by padded door armrests, yet the window sills are treated to hard plastic. The leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel is a welcome addition. There’s plenty of room for drivers of all dimensions, but shorter folks will come to rely heavily on the grab handle mounted on the A-pillar. Our 5-foot-8-inch-tall editor found it to be a must-have.
There’s an insane amount of room in the Tundra CrewMax’s rear seat. It seems to us that some of that room could be sacrificed for a longer bed, but with solid demand for this particular body style, it’s clear that others disagree. Shorter passengers will appreciate the pillar-mounted grab handle for easier entry, and everyone will like the doors that open to about 90 degrees. There’s leg room galore for even the gangliest of riders, along with commensurate amounts of head and shoulder room. Slide the seat forward, and the backrest can be tilted, but no adjustments fix the flat and hard cushions.
For a truck – a full-size off-road biased TRD version at that – the Tundra is reasonably quiet. There’s a bit too much wind noise penetrating the cabin at highway speeds, ever-present road noise, and the 5.7-liter V-8 engine can clearly be heard across the rev range. However, in terms of trucks, it all falls within acceptable limits, and to its credit, the exhaust tuning makes the V-8 sing wherever the tach needle may be pointing. The interior of our test truck was free of any squeaks or rattles.
Serious hauling wasn’t part of our Tundra test, but we did appreciate the bedliner which prevented scratches from a few mountain bikes that got tossed in. Unfortunately, because of the shortened bed on our CrewMax, we had to twist the handlebars, shortening the bikes enough to get the tailgate raised. Heavy lifting is required to get any cargo up to the high bed, and shorter drivers can forget about reaching over the sides to access anything in the Tundra’s box. However, we dug the damped tailgate – just lift the handle and let ‘er go.
Toyota has long been a company known for quality vehicles, which has left us all the more surprised by recent instances of sub-par assembly. If this new Tundra is any indication, things are back on track, as build quality issues were almost non-existent. Outside, there was only a slight discrepancy between the gaps on the left and right sides of the front bumper. That attention to detail carried over to the interior, where all parts were well aligned and solidly affixed, with one exception – the driver’s sill plate popped off easily, and would surely become an issue once dirt or other debris was introduced to the area.
Let’s call the Tundra’s interior materials good, not great. To warrant a better grade, Toyota would need to swap out the cheap headliner for a mesh material, supplement the solid plastics with more soft-touch panels, ensure that the grains match on the upper and lower pillar sections, and lose the plastic door handles. Furthermore, those inferior bits and part of a door panel assembly comprised of too many bits and pieces, all of which have the potential of working loose, breaking, or rattling. On the sunnier side of the equation were the padded armrests and the soft leather on the steering wheel and shift knob.
Aside from being freakishly big, the 2007 Toyota Tundra’s style is starting to grow on us. We should qualify that by saying that the style of certain Tundra’s is growing on us, such as the CrewMax. The Double Cab long bed still looks odd, and may continue to do so indefinitely; sight of the Regular Cab’s long doors still causes the occasional grimace. Since its introduction, however, we’ve come to accept and embrace the tall front end with its ever encroaching grille and the bulging hood line. Experiencing all the Tundra has to offer from the driver’s perspective helps to diminish any visual deficiencies, as well.
This is one of the many areas in which the Tundra shines. There’s plenty of interior storage space, including an expansive center armrest that swallows file folders and a laptop computer. Don’t have an office at home? Buy the Tundra and you won’t need it. Additional interior storage includes large door pockets with dual cupholders, dual gloveboxes, overhead sunglass and card holders, dual seatback pockets, a few cubbies and slots on the center console for odds and ends, fold-out cubbies below the power switch panels on each front door, and a fold-down rear armrest with dual cupholders.
Usually dead-on in terms of control layout, Toyota could’ve provided the new Tundra with a more driver-centric instrument panel. Our test truck featured the JBL sound system with basic functions. The setup is visually pleasing, especially with its shiny black finish, but even taller drivers have difficulty reaching some of the buttons. Steering wheel controls, large enough to be usable even with gloved hands, offset this problem somewhat. An AUX outlet for MP3 players is located on the bottom of the instrument panel, just above a small cubby suitable for device storage.
With full-size trucks being assigned construction and everyday-working-man duty, the need for sturdy, easily-manipulated controls is certain. The Tundra takes this to the point that some may consider it a mockery. Included here are monstrous dials for fan speed, driver and passenger temperatures, and mode. As with the radio, drivers of all sizes may find some of the climate control functions to be out of reach. Once one does grab hold, the unsubstantial feel of the controls is unsatisfying. Rear passengers are granted vents on the center console which are supplemented by duct work that feeds air from under the front seats.
All the buttons you’ll need in daily driving life are in the expected spots. That means the power window and door lock switches are on the doors, the power mirrors operated with buttons on the left dash, the sunroof controls overhead, and a dial for the four-wheel-drive system staring at you from the center dash. The power rear window, which completely lowers into the rear body wall, is activated with a well-marked switch on the left dash, and a tow/haul mode button is well-placed forward of the console-mounted shifter. The trip computer features obvious buttons on the dash, with a digital readout above the instrument panel.
If you’re not familiar with the full-size truck scene, getting up to speed is simple. Other than the Tundra, there are basically five primary players – Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-Series, GMC Sierra, and the Nissan Titan. The best competition currently comes from GM, which has overhauled the Silverado and Sierra for the 2007 model year. These updated domestic twins offer a greatly improved ride, fresh styling, more rigid backbones, and more robust powertrains. However, most versions can’t currently match the Tundra’s five- and six-speed automatic transmissions. Nissan has treated its Titan to mild updates for 2008, while Ford is due to unveil a redesigned F-150 for 2009.
2ND Opinion –
As the biggest, baddest truck out there, the new Tundra impresses and disappoints at the same time. The 5.7-liter V-8 is easily best-in-class. But the rest of the truck is only very good, and I’m not sure it’s better than a Silverado. The Chevy is more comfortable, with a better interior layout and nicer materials. In some ways it’s as if the Toyota is too big; I’m more than 6 ft. tall, and still stretch to adjust the cabin temperature. This Tundra is very good, and definitely a strong competitor, but maybe not the instant overall class leader many were expecting.
MyRide.com Road Test Editor