When the second-generation Tundra was launched, it marked quite a serious departure from Toyota’s traditional thinking when it came to building trucks. It was huge, heavy and offered a plethora of options and trim packages, plus three different engines. The mid range option, the 276 horsepower 4.7-liter V8, was carried over from the smaller, first-generation rig, but in the new Tundra it just didn’t seem at home. Many of those who bought one, complained of sluggish acceleration, and less than average fuel economy. As a result, roughly 80 percent of Tundras sold within the last three years have been equipped with the bigger, 381 horse 5.7-liter iForce V8.
|1. Just 13 percent of Tundras in the U.S. were sold with the old 4.7L engine; Toyota aims to sell more than 20 percent with the new 4.6L unit.
2. The new 4.6L makes 310-hp and 317 ft-lbs of torque.
3. Fuel economy is improved to 15/20 mpg for 4×2 and 14/19 mpg for 4×4 models.
4. The tow rating has been raised by 500 lbs to 9,500 lbs.
5. A total of 44 individual configurations are available on the Tundra, allowing the buyer to virtually ‘custom build’ their truck.
But in these frugal times, there are those for whom the 5.7 engine is perhaps a bit much, both in terms of power and fuel usage. A lot of big trucks aren’t always used for towing or hauling heavy payloads, which explains the popularity of mid-level engines, especially in rivals Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado. For 2010, Toyota has attempted to address the weak link, by dishing up a new 4.6-liter V8 that is lighter, more powerful and efficient than the engine it replaces.
From the outside, Toyota has actually given the 2010 rig a facelift, but you’d be hard pressed to notice. The grille now has two big bars instead of three, and the front bumper has been slightly altered. The rest of the styling remains as before, with slightly exaggerated curves, plenty of chrome and prominent bulging fenders.
This time out, our test victim was a Double Cab model and although this configuration counts for the bulk of Tundra sales, we actually think the regular cab model looks better in terms of aesthetics. Build quality still remains so-so, it’s not up to the same standard as Ford’s F-150 and the rear fenders and tailgate feel like they’ve borne the brunt of cost cutting.
Compared to our last tester, the 2010 Double Cab came well equipped, with bucket seats, a center console with floor mounted shifter, a premium sound system with Sirius/XM satellite radio and power everything, which made the cabin feel even more car like. You’ve still got the twin column stalks and switchgear that’s typical Toyota and the floor/console shifter features a ‘sport’ manual shift mode, though in all honesty, very few truck buyers are likely to use it. Yet for all the fancy gear, the cabin still had a somewhat cheap feel to it, particularly the dash, door panels, oversized rotary knobs and secondary buttons.
Compared to the old 4.7, the new 4.6-liter V8 is rated at 34 more ponies (resulting in 310-hp overall), while torque increases by just 4 ft-lbs; to 317 in total. On the road, there’s no questioning the Tundra’s fairly composed manners and good sound insulation. The seats are also among the most comfortable in a full-size pickup and the switchgear fairly easy to use. One thing that did prove bothersome was the instrument cluster. The location of the speedometer and tach is fine, but the secondary gauges are sprinkled, almost seemingly at random across the instrument panel and they’re awkward to read, especially once you’re on the move.
MORE TIMING, MORE PUNCH
For those used to the big 5.7-liter V8, acceleration from the 4.6 may seem a bit mild in comparison, but compared to the old 4.7, it’s noticeably stronger. Variable valve timing is now employed on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, so you get a better spread of power. Thanks to a fairly short first and second gear on the new six-speed transmission, acceleration is decent enough, with good mid-range punch. Another bonus is greater towing capacity over the old engine – some 500 lbs, for a total rated GVW of 9500 lbs. That matches the mid-level domestic rivals and almost equals the 5.7-liter engined Dodge Ram.
A fairly standard 3.90:1 final drive is designed to boost fuel economy, though for hauling and towing, best spring for the optional 4.10 ring and pinion to make maximum use of the power band. The six-speed auto is hard to fault and in normal operation gear swaps are seamless and smooth and in an attempt to boost fuel economy, both fifth and sixth gears are overdrive ratios. Still, despite the supposed concessions toward saving gas, during our test, fuel economy was barely improved over the old 4.7-liter truck. In the city, we were averaging about 14 miles per gallon and 19 on the open road (versus 14/17 for last year’s truck). It was also interesting to note that the larger 5.7 V8 virtually matches these numbers in miles per gallon stakes.
Toyota officially rates the Tundra Double Cab at 15/20 mpg (city/highway) for 4×2 models and 14/19 for 4×4 trucks.
CHASSIS AND TIRES GREAT ON-ROAD, BUT NOT OFF
As with most rigs in this class, Toyota uses a part time, electronic push-button system to activate four-wheel drive, both high and low range. Off the beaten path, the 4.6-liter Tundra is less engaging than the 5.7. It’s here where the torque deficit becomes apparent, particularly if you’ve got to power out of a gulley or climb steep hills at low speeds, though it does reasonably well on milder stuff.
The factory Bridgestone tires are also all but useless for anything other than smooth pavement – why Toyota continues to equip these rigs with basically all-season passenger car tires continues to amaze us.
On rough and washboard surfaces, the Tundra isn’t particularly at home. Steering shock is better than some other trucks in the class, especially Dodge, but the rest of the structure creaks and rattles like an old farmhouse in a Force 10 gale. The worst is the rear. Because Toyota uses reinforced C-shaped frame rails out back (not fully boxed sections), rear end flex is very noticeable, especially over bad ruts and potholes, the box almost dancing independently from the cab. Over the long term, this can cause real durability problems, especially if you do tow with your truck or work in a construction zone where daily excursions on rough surfaces are a given.
Since its 2008 model year introduction, the current Tundra has been praised for its standard four-wheel disc brakes and in the stopping department it’s very hard to fault, with strong bite, good modulation and great pedal feedback, certainly welcome attributes for such a large, heavy vehicle.
Toyota pitches the Tundra at a starting price of $23,155 for a Regular Cab model, plus an extra $1,000 with the new 4.6 engine. The Double Cab is $25,495, or $25,460 with the 4.6-liter V8 and the Crew Max gets the 4.6 standard for $28,465. (In Canada, the 4.6 is the new base engine with pricing starting at $24,995 CAD for Regular Cab and $31,725 CAD for the Double Cab. The standard CrewMax engine is the larger 5.7-liter V8).
For our money, given the level of performance and fuel economy available from the new 4.6-liter V8, you’re almost better spending the extra $1,000 for the 5.7-liter iForce unit, which offers considerably more grunt and capability with comparable fuel economy. Toyota says that it aims to sell more than 20 percent of Tundras with the new 4.6-liter engine but based on our assumptions (even in these economy minded times), much like the 4.7 before it, there’s still little reason to consider this motor over the larger mill.