2011 Toyota Tundra: Introduction
The Toyota Tundra is a full size pickup that unfortunately still doesn’t get “full size” helpings of respect among the notoriously brand loyal community of buyers who continually return to Ram, GM and Ford dealers each year. When most people think of a Toyota truck they think of the Tacoma as that has been on the market looking very much the same for many decades. The Tundra, on the other hand, offers up all of the luxury features, technology and V-8 power a full size pickup truck lover could want whereas the Tacoma is rather limited in these regards.
In addition to offering two distinct TRD developed “off-road packages,” Limited trim buyers are now forced to opt for the Platinum Package which goes a little overboard with the luxuries if you are buying this as a work truck but proved reasonably priced (compared to a fully loaded F-150, at least) coming to a total of just over $48,000 with destination. Two-door, regular-cab models start at just $24,435.
The 2011 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited 4x4 with Platinum Package we tested boasted dual zone climate control, navigation, perforated leather seats, a towing package, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted audio/phone controls, XM satellite radio, a USB port for your iPod, a 4 CD JBL premium audio system with 12 speakers and a subwoofer, heated/cooled front seats, power front seats with a memory function, 20-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, back-up camera, a 5.7-liter 381 horsepower/401 lb. feet of torque V-8 and a six-speed automatic.
We could have lived with a little bit less of the Platinum Package’s extra chrome trim on the grille as this is supposed to be a Toyota pickup not a Lincoln Town Car. But make no mistake about it, the 2011 Toyota Tundra is one serious pickup truck that we think might be best suited for work duties thanks to its heroic hauling and towing capacities but might not find favor with the family thanks to a freeway ride that is definitely very “trucklike.” Read on to find out what we thought was right and what felt wrong about the 2011 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited 4x4.2011 Toyota Tundra: Exterior
Even though the 2010 Tundra has all the beefy hardware and capability you would expect of a work truck, its exterior appearance maintains an unerring sense of class, refinement and style. It is bold and macho but only overbearingly flashy when you look closely at that blinged out grille up front. That much chrome may sell units in the Tundra’s home state of Texas (it’s built there along with the Tacoma) but there are other states in the union not so enamored with the art of bedazzling.
Non-Limited trim Tundra models get almost no chrome trim on the exterior so if you can’t stand seeing your reflection as you walk up to your truck buy one of the less pricey editions. More basic CrewMax models with the full four doors start as low as $29,000 so picking a lower trim level can also save you quite a bit of cash especially if your Tundra is just going to be a work truck.
Shiny trim, navigation systems and JBL audio systems may be perfect for trips to the lake with your boat but they are kind of unnecessary when you are just hauling building supplies along with four sweaty and smelly construction workers. If the latter is true of your personal situation then just make sure your Tundra has power windows and air conditioning.2011 Toyota Tundra: Interior
The smartest feature in the Tundra Crew Max is the rearmost window glass that can be completely rolled down much like the windows in the doors. The benefit of this feature is that it completely eliminates wind buffeting in the cabin if you have the rear windows rolled down, and if you ever ride with dogs in the cab of your pickup you know the rear windows need to be rolled down.
Interior cab space in the CrewMax model is ridiculously generous with rear bench legroom proving more impressive than in the 2011 Dodge Ram we tested the same week. The seats were also the perfect combination of softness and support and were covered with an eye catching “Red Rock” leather that is best described as a light shade of brownish red. We think they really helped to dress up the interior but they are different so they may not be to all tastes.
The Tundra’s interior also featured an overabundance of storage options like a dual level glovebox and a cleverly organized center console for files, pens and other work essentials. The front cupholders held all manner of soft drinks no matter if it was just a can of Coke or an over the top yet oh-so tasty Double Gulp of Diet Coke from 7-11. Hey, we are North Americans and we like our freedom to alternate the sizes of our own beverages of choice.
2011 Toyota Tundra: Trim
Understanding the need to offer a variety of cupholder sizes is a no-brainer in a full size work truck but did Toyota have to offer three sunglass holders in the overhead storage locker? Admittedly, having tested at least 50 brand new models with sunglass holders that are too small for North American eyewear, it was a treat to see such large ones on offer in the Tundra.
The dashboard design of the 2011 Toyota Tundra is an odd affair with some of the climate controls located more than an arm’s stretch away and other secondary control locations are oddly chosen. Compared to the dash of the 2011 Ford F-150 which is made of higher quality plastics and boasts a design that is stylishly architectural in nature, you might think that the Tundra’s dash is a bit of a design disappointment.
The worst part of Limited edition Tundra’s interior, however, has to be the wood trim which has the realism and appearance of something you would find adorning a very cheap poker table in a shoddy downtown Las Vegas casino. Whoever thought this trim looked anything like wood clearly has an acute case of agoraphobia and has never been outside. Toyota’s truck engineers need to have a meeting with their friends at Lexus for some tips. Now.2011 Toyota Tundra: Performance and Safety
The most memorable aspect of the driving experience in our test 2011 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited 4x4 was the sinister growl of the 5.7-liter iForce V-8 which pumps out 381 horsepower and 401 lb. feet of torque through an expertly geared six-speed automatic. Downshifts were prompt and at cruising speed upshifts were imperceptible. This powertrain gives the Tundra muscle car levels of forward thrust and affords the driver plenty of fun behind the wheel.
Surprisingly for a pickup truck, the thick rimmed and beefy steering wheel gives plenty of feel and is easy to use in tight parking lots thanks to fewer turns lock to lock than you find in some of the competition. The brakes are also immensely strong and make the brakes in the F-150 and Ram feel more than a little bit inadequate.
2011 Toyota Tundra: Towing
If you plan on using your Tundra as a work or towing truck it is even more important for you to opt for the 5.7-liter V-8. Tow capacity for this engine is 10,100 pounds while payload capacity is 1,555 pounds. Those are mighty impressive numbers for a pickup that excels at accelerating, stopping and even cornering. Still, it’s a shame about the constantly fidgeting ride quality at freeway speeds because it ruins what could otherwise be a great road trip truck.
The 2011 Toyota Tundra CrewMax is also available in 2WD form with an all-new 4.6-liter variant of the iForce V-8 that musters a still very healthy 310 horsepower and 327 lb. feet of torque. More basic Tundra variants can also be equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 rated at 236 horsepower and 266 lb. feet of torque which sounds like a bad idea to us as buying a small engine in a heavy truck is not a one way ticket to fuel economy nirvana... or moving very fast.
Our as-tested fuel economy average of 14.3 miles per gallon just barely topped that of the identically sized 2011 Dodge Ram 5.7-liter Hemi engine in the gas guzzler stakes. Keep in mind, though, that this is a truck that weighs over 5,000 pounds when empty. If you tow or haul a lot your fuel economy average will no doubt be lower, and you’d be delusional to expect Toyota Prius-like fuel economy returns. The only people who think that’s possible work in politics.2011 Toyota Tundra: Conclusion
Despite the fact that the 2011 Toyota Tundra “rides like a truck,” we still found it to be a very enjoyable vehicle to drive mainly because of the very comfortable cabin and the thunderous amount of power afforded by the 5.7-liter V-8 whose smoothness wouldn’t be out of place in a Lexus. Its mix of refinement and visual machismo is a full-size pickup truck concept you will only find at a Toyota dealer.
We also loved the ease of use afforded by all of the electronic systems in our Limited model even if we still wish Toyota would allow navigation destinations to be inputted when the vehicle is in motion. Haven’t they heard of passengers?
Ultimately, however, the only thing holding the Tundra back from further market domination is its truly subpar ride quality compared to rivals from Ford, GM and Dodge. To some, though, this may just serve as a reminder of the Tundra’s traditional full-size pickup truck credentials. If you don’t mind a little thumping on the freeway, there is a lot to like about the 2011 Toyota Tundra Crewmax Limited 4x4.
Toyota provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by James Hamel