2004 Toyota Tundra SR5 Access Cab
Toyota makes a charge at the heart of the Big Three automakers with its full-size Tundra pickup.
When Toyota first entered the full-size pickup market in model 1993, it was difficult to believe the T-100 was the best the venerable company could muster. Toyota realized the shortcomings of its efforts with the T-100 and answered with the Tundra, a newer, better iteration of a full-size pickup, which debuted in June 1999.
It needed to be better to compete in a market dominated by the F-150, Silverado, Sierra and Ram pickups. America invented the pickup, and in many ways, the country was built with light trucks. Along the way, the Big Three automakers have learned a lot about what people want in a pickup—and just how much abuse they need to withstand.
The Tundra is as good as any Toyota product—it’s as tight and well built as you would expect—but it is surprising that it still comes up a little short when compared with offerings from Ford, General Motors and Dodge.
The Tundra is marketed and sold as a full-size truck, but it still feels smaller than those from the Big Three. It needs additional legroom to accommodate people more than 6-feet tall. With the seat all the way back, it still feels a bit cramped, and thigh support is scant. The same goes for the rear seats, which are best reserved for children and, with the bottom cushion folded up and back, gear storage.
Size notwithstanding, the cabin featured top-quality materials that looked and felt as though they would last longer than the warranty. The body felt tight, with nary a squeak or rattle. Doors closed with the thud of a bank vault and chassis vibration was virtually nonexistent.
The engine also exhibited no vibration. Power delivery was creamy smooth. In fact, the Tundra’s 4.7-liter iForce V-8 now qualifies as the smoothest tow-vehicle engine we’ve ever tested—not surprising when you consider that the power plant was developed for Toyota’s Lexus line of luxury automobiles. It also qualifies the Tundra as an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle.
Despite a respectable 315 pound-feet of torque, the Tundra could use more. For example, the engine had to wind up a bit to haul a 24’ Nordic boat up the ramp. Tip-in was excellent, though, with no abruptness to throttle input. We did notice a bit of initial shudder from the two-piece driveshaft. In fairness, this trait is common among all trucks with this type of driveshaft.
Once the truck was rolling, the 240 horsepower was enough to for hauling the Nordic, which was admirable, considering it was just a little heavier than the Tundra is rated to tow. The powertrain felt highly refined, and it wound itself out nicely without having the floor the accelerator. With that in mind, we felt that the Tundra would be perfectly suited for pulling trailers right up to its rated capacity, which is 7,100 pounds with the optional tow package. For the extra $430, you get an additional 1,800 pounds of towing capacity, a 130-amp alternator, a transmission cooler and a seven-blade trailer connector.
With more torque and towing capacity, the Tundra would be a formidable tow vehicle, even for the big stuff. But, to get more capacity, you’d likely would need to stiffen the frame and rear axle in addition to dialing some more torque into the engine.
Without a boat in the rearview mirrors, the Tundra is a blast to drive. The engine loves to rev and it gets right with the program when you trounce it. Passing is never a problem, even at freeway speeds, and even though there isn’t the ubiquitous giant plastic sound shield atop the engine, noise intrusion into the cabin is minimal.
Our test vehicle also came with the $1,185 TRD Sport Package, which included a tuned suspension with Tokico shocks and a rear stabilizer bar, 17-inch wheels with P265-65-R17 tires, fog lamps and a limited slip differential. At the ramp the differential made us think it was money well spent.
Under the hood, the Tundra was surprisingly simple and uncluttered. All minor services and checks were easy to perform and even the engine oil filter could be loosened without having to crawl under the truck, which tells us the engineers gave the engine bay some thought.
They also spent a lot of time engineering the brakes, which halted the truck as if it were a go kart. Power was amazing, especially when you consider the light pedal effort. Feel was just as impressive, which is even more so when you realize there are drums at the rear, not discs. And, it’s easy to judge precisely what the truck is doing, right up to when the antilock system comes on hard and strong. In panic stops and gradual applications, the antilock system engages without shaking the truck to pieces and without any disturbing mechanical noises.
In a perfect world, the Tundra would be bigger, with more torque and the capacity to haul a bigger trailer. In the Double Cab configuration, the Tundra is every bit as good as you’d expect a Toyota to be. And for some people, that’s more than enough.
Towing... <15 mpg
Non-towing... 17 mpg
0-60 towing... 19.31 seconds
40-60 towing... 10.87 seconds
0-60 non-towing... 8.6 seconds
40-60 non-towing... 4.7 seconds
Engine... 4.7-liter DOHC iForce V-8
Horsepower... 240 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque... 315 pound-feet @ 3,400 rpm
Compression ratio... 9.6:1
Transmission... four-speed electronic automatic
Axle ratio... 3.92:1
Fuel capacity... 26.4 gal.
Tire size... P265-65R-17
Brakes... front disc, rear drum with antilock
Suspension... Front: double wishbone with coil springs; Rear: multileaf with low-pressure gas shocks
Tow rating... 7,100 lbs. (with tow package)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating... 6,010 lbs.
Gross Combined Weight Rating... 11,800 lbs.
Overall length... 217.5"
Maximum width... 76.5"
Curb weight... 4,410 lbs.
Price as tested... $27,105
1994 24’ Nordic
Customer service... 800-331-4331
Web site... www.toyota.com