Autovations: The Toyota Tundra

Remember when US automakers owned the full-size pick-up segment? Hit the hazard lights.

More Americans own full-size trucks than need them. All that bulk and latent utility! A ride as high as a lifeguard chair! Ford's F150 ruled the hill for years. GM's Sierra/Silverado has devotees. But Toyota's been chipping away at the market. And its big, redesigned 2007 Tundra – the top-end model has a 5.7-liter V8 with an aluminum block and head (cast and assembled in the US) – matches its competitors in most categories and beats them in a few, including (by a slim margin) estimated m.p.g.

The model we tested (optioned up to about $40,000) had the voluminous Crew Max cab. That configuration borrows from bed length, and it felt odd having to go diagonal with a 9-ft. rug. (The smaller Double Cab offers a longer bed, at 97.6 in.)

Tundra is refined, from transmission – a very smooth six-speed automatic – through interior appointments. Acceleration bests that of many cars. Big brakes behave nobly in panic stops. On one interstate trip we nursed out 19.6 m.p.g. In mixed use we got 16, not bad for a heavy 4x4 that can tow 10,000 lbs., but a waste, obviously, for dropping your daughter at ballet.

Verdict: niche-owner.

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