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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Toyota Tundra Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Toyota Tundra Overview

Beauty and a Beast

For years, Toyota's reputation for building durable, rugged and handsome trucks was limited to the mid-sized arena in the form of the SR5 and later Tacoma pickup trucks. Then Toyota did something most people thought they would never do; they built a full-sized pickup to compete head on with the best from Ford, Chevy and Dodge. The move was not only bold it was risky. No other Japanese or European manufacturer had ever tried to break into the full-sized truck market dominated by the big three but Toyota was determined and their hard work resulted in the creation of the Tundra pickup. Now in its third year of production, the Tundra has become one more proven success story for the company that wrote the book on quality.

Though it is listed as a full-sized pickup, the Tundra is not as large as the traditional Dodge/Ford/Chevy full-sized pickups. It offers no crew cab nor does it come with a dual-rear wheel setup or a diesel engine. The Tundra is designed to be both the workhorse and comfortable cruiser of the average person who just happens to use their truck as if it were a combination minivan and U-Haul. The reserved size does not limit the Tundra's hauling abilities as evidenced by the fact that you can still fit a full sheet of plywood in the Tundra's bed. There are some definite advantages to the Tundra's less sizeable design, the most obvious being ease of maneuverability. With less bulk, the Tundra is easier to park and offers the driver excellent visibility at all four corners.

New for this year is the Stepside Tundra, which retains all the power and room of the regular truck, but adds stylized flairs to the sheet metal surrounding the bed. There are step up panels just in front of the rear-wheel wells for easy access to cargo and though the bed itself loses some volume, it remains as wide between the wheel wells as a regular Tacoma truck plus it gains two inches in depth due to the higher sidewall. The Stepside comes standard with an "Access" extended cab and is available on both the SR5 and Limited models; it can also be ordered in either 2- or 4-wheel drive.

Also new for 2003 are handsome new front face and rear taillights. The design gives the once subdued Tundra a much more aggressive appearance that jumps out at you. On Limited models, the grille and bumpers are flanked by large chrome trim pieces; SR5's get color-keyed grilles for a more sporting appearance. If you order the optional Sport Suspension package, you'll not only improve the handling of your truck, you'll also get a set of really hot 17-inch alloys to boot.

Power is one of the benchmarks by which full-sized trucks are judged, so Toyota has given the Tundra one of its most powerful engines; the Lexus-inspired 4.7-liter, 32-valve V8. This engine produces 245- horsepower, which is more than enough to move the Tundra, its passengers and their cargo. What really stands out about the Tundra's V8 is the way it does its job with all the smoothness and refinement of a passenger car engine. Armed with a tow rating of 7200 pounds and payload rating of 2000 pounds, the Tundra can more than hold its own against the larger and more powerful trucks.

The Tundra is available in three trim levels: base (which comes only as 2WD regular cab), SR5 and Limited. The base regular cab and SR5 share the same tough 190-horsepower V6 engine teamed to a 5-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is optional). One step up from the base model is the popular SR5 Access Cab, which has more interior space, a rear seat and two more doors. The top-of-the-line Tundra is the Limited model. The new Stepside is available in both SR5 and Limited trim, but comes only in Access cab form and only with the V8 engine. All three trims offer a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 configurations.

On the open road, the Tundra's steering feels direct and centered. For a full-sized truck, the big Toyota handles well, without extreme displays of body roll or lean when cornering. The Tundra has excellent brakes that bring the big truck to a sure and precise stop time after time. The suspension, brakes and steering all contribute to an overall feeling of being firmly in control of the vehicle at all times. The ride is smooth, almost car like, and remains so even when the pavement turns to raw earth. The Tundra's smaller size and excellent ground clearance—11.2 inches on the 4x4 models—make it ideal for off-roading.

Toyota calls its extended cabin space an Access Cab. Access Cab models feature door handles on the outside of the swing-out rear doors, which allows rear seat occupants to enter the cab without having to open the front door first. Though the Access Cab doors swing in the opposite direction of the front doors, the wide open space they create is somewhat hindered by the front shoulder belt, which is attached to the floor and ceiling instead of the seat. The Tundra Access cab provides more room for passengers than the regular cab truck, but the Tundra's smaller size means that those who occupy the rear seat may feel a bit cramped, especially full-grown adults. Up front, there is plenty of room to stretch out and the Tundra's comfortable bucket seats make long trips a joy. The handsome interior is also nicely laid out and tightly screwed together.

All Tundra's come standard with a locking tailgate, standard anti-lock brakes, two 12-volt outlets, sun visors with pull-out extensions and solar-energy absorbing glass. Access Cab models also feature a flip-out rear quarter window for better ventilation.

The Limited model is fully loaded and includes power windows and door locks, cruise control, an electrically-operated sliding rear window and alloy wheels. Optional equipment includes leather seating surfaces and an upgraded audio system. Both the SR5 and Limited also offer Toyota's TRD off-road package which beefs up the suspension, adds larger wheels and tires and includes more skid plating to protect the underside of the vehicle.

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