2007 Toyota Tundra Crew Max

Erik B. Johnson

When it came to the one figure that resonates most with pickup buyers, maximum towing capacity, the old truck never had a chance. The Tundra's rating of just over 7000 pounds fell far short of its rivals' 9000-pound (Dodge, GMC, and Chevrolet), 9500-pound (Nissan), and 9900-pound (Ford) benchmarks. Some folks say that size isn't everything, but they've obviously never owned a pickup truck--being labeled the weakling in a class where perception is everything was a serious handicap.

Well, consider the problem addressed--big time. The new Tundra boasts over 10,000 pounds of snowmobile-tugging, camper-humping, and boat-pulling ability, thanks to a redesigned frame as well as an all-new top-of-the-line engine. The old truck's 4.0-liter V-6 and 4.7-liter V-8 will continue to see duty in the new model, but the heavy hitter will be a 5.7-liter iForce V-8, expected to churn out more than 350 hp--an 80-hp boost over the 4.7-liter. All three engines will mate to a six-speed automatic transmission, unusual for a segment where, until recently, five speeds was considered positively decadent.

Even with the extra gear, it's hard to imagine that the Tundra won't guzzle copious amounts of fuel. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition when viewed in context with Toyota's recent advertising meant to convice the world that its Hybrid Synergy Drive vehicles, such as the Prius and Camry Hybrid, are the best thing to happen to the environment since rainwater. The Tundra's thirst, then (as well as that of the next-gen SUVs it is sure to spawn), ensures that any damage caused by Toyota's hybrids to the oil companies' bottom lines will be repaid several times over.

The 2007 Tundra was designed and engineered in the U.S. and will be manufactured in Indiana and Texas, the latter of which rightly can be considered the natural habitat of the pickup truck. A brand-spanking-new plant in San Antonio, which will build only Tundras when it opens this fall, is a significant risk for Toyota, both financially--it represents some $850 million in total investment--and politically. Because while Toyota may become the world's number-one automaker without the Tundra's help, it will be a mission more easily accomplished if the truck proves able to convince a sizeable number of meat-and-potatoes domestic pick-'em-up truck buyers to make the swap from an F-150 or a Silverado. The company has been downplaying the possibility of becoming the top dog, often trotting out an "aw shucks" attitude during interviews and press conferences. But if this impressive new truck is any indication, Toyota is gunning for GM's title with far more gusto than they would have us believe. If the Tundra drives and hauls as well as its specs lead on, Toyota may be crowned king of the automotive world much sooner than you think.

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