2000-2005 Toyota Tundra

Glenn Paulina
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The ride was what you would expect of a full-size pickup on rough pavement. (The body-on-frame Tundra's front is suspended by coil springs and double wishbones with an anti-roll bar. The live-axle rear uses traditional leaf springs.) "It will never be confused with a Camry," senior editor Joe Lorio noted. On good roads, though, it straightened out to the point where it felt "less trucklike than other full-size pickups," in managing editor Amy Skogstrom's words. Mr. Davis suggested that it would work best "on Sun Belt roads."

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What works best, as we discovered during the year, is to order the TRD package if you're going to be doing any real amount of dirt roading, as the Jennings family tends to do. Baja king Ivan Stewart had a hand in tuning the Bilstein monotube high-pressure gas dampers, the key component of a $925 option ($95 on the loaded Tundra Limited) that also includes foglamps, BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, alloy wheels, and special mud flaps and fender flares.

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Our 4x4 Tundra came in base SR5 trim, which, to the naked eye, means fabric seats instead of leather. It's a $25,585 truck--nothing to sneeze at. But your money also brings air conditioning, dual side mirrors, halogen headlamps, a tilt wheel, cruise control, carpeting, a really useful flip-down center armrest with perfect cup holders, and good safety equipment (dual front air bags, belt pretensioners, and force limiters). We added the requisite CD player, ABS, cool alloy wheels, power stuff (which, annoyingly, did not include keyless entry), foglamps, and floormats to jack the total up to $28,795. (You can order the exact same thing today for $240 less.)

Everyone hated the seat fabric, which grabbed your clothes when you jumped in and held you like packing tape. Mr. Davis used a swear word to describe it in the logbook. We whipped on a set of $199 Cordura seat covers from Overland Outfitters (877-788-4327), which offered not only great protection from the elements but also a fair degree of butt slippage, killing two birds with one stone.

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We also ordered our Tundra with the Access Cab, Toyota's version of the four-door pickup. Both rear doors had convenient outside handles; you didn't have to fiddle with a latch on the inside door jamb. But we had to have the driver's side adjusted on two different occasions during scheduled maintenance to keep them from, not popping open, but sort of unsealing enough over big bumps to set off the Door Ajar warning light and the interior lights. The more serious concern was the lack of comfort in the back. Space was tight, even for kids, and the seat was so uncomfortably upright that even our dogs preferred the floor. The rear bench flips up, and the dog beds go neatly within. Executive editor Mark Gillies also mentioned the impossibility of safely installing the two child seats he needs back there for his twins, chastising the rest of us for not having kids enough to notice its uselessness.

Did I mention dogs? So did a couple of other editors in the logbook. After a particularly long spell of hauling big hunting dogs in that back compartment, we added an aftermarket ionic air purifier, which I don't think worked that well. Associate editor Eddie Alterman, on the other hand, praised its ability to tame the "dogalicious olfactory offensiveness."

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In a world where Ford sells more than 800,000 F-series pickups and Chevy and GMC send out nearly as many Silverados and Sierras in a year, selling 85,349 model-year 2000 Tundras is a mere fart in a stiff wind. Still, it must have thrilled Toyota to no end. Mostly, it's one more piece in a corporate strategy that, over the years, has delivered one solid car after another, then one good truck and SUV after another, until it has filled its showrooms with such a well-rounded complement of vehicles that you don't have to shop anywhere else.

Seeing that trusty TOYOTA badge now affixed to the tailgate of a full-size pickup ought to strike fear in the hearts of the competition.

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