By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Toyota has been in the truck business for more than 50 years, but it?s only been the last 20 years that they have started to compete head-to-head with the full-size American pickups. First there was the T100 in 1993, which was renamed the Tundra for the second generation in 1999. In its first year on the market, the Tundra was named Motor Trend magazine?s ?Truck of the Year? and it accumulated a shelfful of other important awards that first year.
In 2014, the Toyota Tacoma received another major redesign, and it actually started to feel and look like one of the full-size pickup trucks. However, it wasn?t quite the same. If you think of the full-size truck market as a group of big burly TV sports commentators wearing custom-tailored suits and colorful traditional ties, the Toyota Tundra guy is the one wearing the tailor-made suit with bow tie.
he 2016 Toyota Tundra is very much like the other big burly American trucks, right down to being built in the United States (San Antonio, Texas) whereas some of the American trucks are built in Mexico.
Part of the appeal of full size trucks had been the wide variety of trim levels and options, and the new Tundra is growing with a total of 50 possible configurations available. Choices include six trim levels, three cab sizes, three bed sizes, two engines and a multitude of option packages and accessories. Of course, not all variations are available with each trim level. Even with all the choices the American brand trucks still have a larger number of variations.
Each of the six trims has a bold grille distinctive to that model. The fenders flare over front and rear wheels and a deep low character line give the Tundra a rugged look. In the rear the locking tailgate has clean simple lines with the Tundra name tastefully embossed in the lower right corner. Thoughtful design features include an easy-to-lower-and-lift tailgate, three-piece front and rear bumpers designed to reduce repair costs should a section become damaged and an available spray-in bed liner.
Tundra engine choices include a 310-hp 4.6-liter V-8 and a 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8. Both engines have an aluminum block, DOHC aluminum alloy cylinder head with Toyota?s Dual VVT-i variable valve timing system. Both engines come with a standard six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive or the optional four-wheel drive.
The 2016 Toyota Tundra models include the SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition and the TRD Pro, which we drove. Even the basic models have an extensive equipment list, and when you get up to the Platinum and 1794 editions there are no significant options, these trucks have it all.
Incidentally, the property on which the Tundra plant is built outside San Antonio was originally the JLC ranch, the oldest working cattle ranch in Texas. It was founded in 1794 and in tribute, Toyota named the top model Tundra after it.
We were impressed by the quick acceleration of our 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro test vehicle with the 5.7-liter engine. Buff magazine testing indicates a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 6.4 seconds. The EPA fuel economy estimate for this Double Cab model with four-wheel drive is 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. We averaged 14.0 during the week we drove it.
Toyota offers an Off-Road Package on the SR5, Limited and 1794 models, but it?s the TRD Pro that is the purpose built off-road model. The TRD Pro name is embossed in the upper section of the rear fender on these models indicating that they are ready to head off road. Standard features include an aluminum skid plate, aggressive 18-inch TRD black alloy wheels, special Michelin Off-Road tires and a special off-road suspension. It has Bilstein High-Performance shocks designed with special hydraulic bump stops, plus the shocks have piggyback external reservoirs for enhanced cooling and increased rod travel. We had a sample of what this truck could do about a year ago at a Toyota program in Oregon?s Tillamook (Oregon) State Forest and it was impressive crawling over rocks and easily pulling up steep sandy hills.
The TRD Pro also has a special low restriction dual exhaust system that sounds great, especially during hard acceleration, however, it tends to be louder than we?d like during highway driving. Based on the model and configuration the Tundra towing capacity ranges from 9,800- to 10,500-pounds.
With its black leather trimmed seats with red stitching, Entune Audio with integrated navigation, backup camera and other TRD Pro features it?s a very well-equipped off-road truck, but it lacks some of the creature comforts of the posh models like the Platinum and 1794 models. It?s more of a ?real? truck than one of the super comfortable highway cruisers.
The Toyota Tundra prices range from $31,145, including the destination charge, for a two-wheel drive, regular cab up to $50,775 for the CrewMax Platinum and the 1794 Edition.
For more on the 2016 Toyota Tundra go on line to http://www.toyota.com/tundra/ .