Review: 2005 Toyota Tundra

August 15, 2005
As with the T100 before it, the Toyota Tundra concedes size and power to the five other full-size truck brands, forfeiting brutish measurements for a less tangible advantage in overall refinement. For 2005, Toyota has addressed the power deficit with new V-6 and V-8 engines. The V-6 displacement grew from 3.4 to 4.0 liters, an increase that nets an additional 55 horsepower and 62 lb-ft of torque, for totals of 245 and 282, respectively. The 4.7-liter V-8 gained variable valve timing, boosting horsepower from 240 to 282 and increasing torque by a modest 10 lb-ft, for a total of 325. A six-speed manual transmission replaces the five-speed manual in V-6 Tundras. This well-mannered pickup family is offered in regular-cab, Access Cab (extended), and Double Cab (crew) body configurations, with the range earning two 2005 IntelliChoice Best Overall Value awards.
The Tundra is anonymously handsome, its capable components wrapped in sheetmetal better suited for pushing through air than stirring emotions. Within its broad-appeal design, the Tundra is pure Toyota, focused on value, function, and utility. For example, climbing into the Tundra is a bit easier than in most other full-size trucks, due to its slightly shorter overall stature--non-Double Cab Tundras are three to five inches shorter than the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram--and its light, easy-to-open doors. It's still an ascent, however, so, like most other pickup makers, Toyota provides A- and B-pillar-mounted grab handles for assistance.
Out back, getting items into the bed is eased by a reasonable load height. The Tundra's tailgate is extremely heavy, though, and wrestling with it had us wishing for Ford's Tailgate Assist feature, which uses a built-in torsion bar to make closing the rear of the F-150 a snap. Another niggle: The optional bedliner shakes and rattles over bumps; Nissan has the right idea by offering a spray-in bedliner for the Titan.
And though they may negatively affect ride quality, slightly larger wheels might serve to spice up the Tundra's somewhat dowdy appearance--the standard 16-inchers look tiny, and the optional 17s aren't much better. The 2005 models are distinguished only by updated head- and taillamps.
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The functional design largely carries over for 2005, with excellent material quality and top-notch fit and finish throughout. All the surfaces feel good to the touch, and the controls are textbook examples of interface simplicity. The instrument panel was updated for 2005, and a new optional navigation system is available on select four-door models. The optional between-seat console is particularly nice, with a flip-up notepad holder and a generous opening capable of swallowing copious amounts of travel gear. Front-seat comfort is acceptable, but suffers from a lack of side bolstering and backrests that seem too upright no matter what the degree of recline. The driving position is second-to-none, however, with superior visibility out the front and a tilt steering wheel that always seems to be at a comfortable angle.
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For rear passengers, there are up to four cup holders and, in Double Cab configuration, a power vertical sliding rear window that, when combined with the optional sunroof, gives the Tundra a more airy, open feel than in other trucks. The rear bench suffers from, again, upright seatbacks, flat cushions, and a lack of padding, but here those traits are necessitated by flip-and-fold seats. In Double Cabs, they fold flat and then tumble forward, creating a large storage area where items can be secured via straps built in to the bottom of the collapsed seats. If you've still got more stuff to stash, there are also various bins and cubbies hidden under and behind the rear seats.Other gripes regarding the interior concern dim instrument-panel lighting--even dialed up all the way, some buttons were too difficult to read at night, and still others weren't illuminated at all.
In addition to the between-seat console, which is included with the dual front bucket seats option, interior embellishments include rear-seat DVD entertainment (Double Cab only), a sunroof, and a JBL in-dash six-disc CD changer.
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While it may not be a class leader in terms of size or sales, the Tundra definitely wins top marks for its long list of available safety features. While only anti-lock brakes and dual front airbags are standard throughout the Tundra lineup, Toyota offers side and side curtain airbags--as well as electronic stability and traction control--to Double Cab buyers. The Nissan Titan matches this list of safety features, but the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra can only be had with ABS and dual front airbags.
The Tundra posted good scores in NHTSA's frontal crash tests: four stars for the driver and a perfect five for the passenger. The passenger mark ties for best-in-class with the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500, both of which also notched perfect five's in the driver's-side test.
The Tundra is available with one of two engines: a 4.0-liter/245-horse V-6, shared with the Tacoma and 4Runner, and a 4.7-liter/282-horse V-8 that's also found in the Sequoia. While these engine output numbers may trail those of competitors, the Tundra weighs less than the other trucks. The V-6 can be coupled with either a six-speed manual transmission (new this year, replacing a five-speed manual) or a five-speed automatic. The V-8 is only available with the autobox. Downshifts with the automatic are nearly instantaneous, overall power delivery is silky smooth, and the throttle response is immediate, though not as aggressive as that of the Nissan Titan. In 4x4 examples, power is routed through an electronically controlled transfer case; the type of drive--two-wheel, four-wheel high, or four-wheel low--is selected via dash-mounted controls.
The 4.7-liter V-8 does a good job of motivating even the Double Cab SR5 4x4, and it's more than fit to propel the rest of the Tundra lineup, which includes variants nearly 700 pounds lighter. The V-8 is very quiet as it goes about its job; even at full-throat, the sound from under the hood is muffled, giving the Tundra a refined quality.
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Refinement is what the Tundra is all about, from the automatic transmission moving effortlessly through gear changes to the tractable and subdued V-8. The truck is nicely damped, and the interior is quiet even over the gnarliest of roads. The double-wishbone front and leaf-spring rear suspension ably controls side-to-side motions and keeps occupants happy and comfortable--until you push the envelope, in which case, the Tundra rolls and pitches, as would any large truck. But remember, excitement and dynamic performance aren't part of the equation here; think calm, relaxed, and easygoing. Unfortunately, "relaxed" also describes the numb steering--it isn't as communicative or precise as the Ford F-150's--and the brakes, which could use more power and pedal feel.
While it won't likely be the first choice for buyers in search of a good ol' pickup truck, the current Tundra provides a capable, refined, and safe compromise between mid- and full-size pickups. And though it's not as large as the behemoths from Detroit, the Toyota's maximum payload rating of 2,025 pounds (third in class, just behind GM's trucks) and its 7,100-pound max tow rating provide enough muscle for the occasional heavy-duty chore. Its reduced size also makes it much easier to maneuver through clogged city streets and into tight parking spaces.
Tundra buyers receive a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, as well as five-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage and a five-year, unlimited-mileage rust-through warranty. Plus, buyers have the satisfaction of purchasing a vehicle with a proven value track record, as evidenced by its Excellent IntelliChoice Cost Value Rating, ensuring a good return on investment down the road.
A well-refined truck, the Tundra's added muscle and Best Overall Value status make it a must for any smart truck shopper's list.
What's Hot
  • Refined ride
  • Toyota quality
  • More V-6, V-8 power
  • What's Not
  • Not quite full-size
  • Ho-hum exterior design
  • Rear passenger comfort
  • An all-new model is expected for 2007, but Toyota hasn't forgotten the current Tundra. For 2005, the company dropped the 4x4 Access Cab with a V-6 and added a 4x2 regular-cab configuration for V-8 buyers. Other notable changes include a front bench-seat option for Double Cabs, new head- and taillights, a redesigned instrument panel, and an available navigation system in Access Cab Limited and Double Cab models.
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    Tundra owners who prefer a less beaten path will want to check out the available TRD Off-Road package, which includes 16-inch 265/70-series BFGoodrich tires, foglamps, and an off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers. All buyers should be sure to select side airbags and stability control on the options list.

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    2004 Toyota Tundra

    Base RWD 2-Dr Reg Cab V6
    starting at (MSRP)
    $15,955
    Engine
    3.4L V6
    Fuel Economy
    16 City 20 Hwy
    2004 Toyota Tundra