2010 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4x4
More. Bigger. Better. Stronger. Those are the watchwords in today’s full-size truck and SUV markets. If you want to sell trucks today, they need to offer more, be bigger, better and stronger than the model they replace.
Toyota entered the full-size truck market back in 1993 with its T-100, then followed it up with the Tundra in 2000, a markedly superior product that abided by all the aforementioned watchwords. Then in 2007, Toyota introduced the second generation of Tundra, which stepped up its game even more—a lot more.Toyota continues the trend in its 2010 Tundra by delivering a gasoline-engine truck that is capable of towing 10,000 pounds, yet comes in a manageable size that is usable as a daily driver. As little as five years ago, that kind of towing capacity was available only in something with a diesel engine and dual rear wheels. Oh, how things have changed.
Towing With It
Toyota clearly designed the Tundra with the towing market in mind, and it shows in the attention to detail. For example, the trailer connector features a four-pin-flat plug for boat trailers and a seven-blade round connector for campers and other trailers with electric brakes. No need for adapters, which can be a failure point.
Another key feature in what makes the Tundra so strongly suited for towing is the frame. At the rear, it’s a conventional C-channel, but under the cab, the frame is reinforced, and under the engine compartment, it’s fully boxed. The end result is a discernible lack of vibration inside the cabin when traveling over rutted pavement and while towing. However, what truly makes this truck—particularly in terms of towing—is its engine and transmission. They are the perfect complement to each other.
The iForce V8 engine features variable valve timing, which creates a noticeably broad torque curve. With a lot of truck engines, you can feel the power surge as it nears the peak of its operating range. However, power delivery from the 5.7-liter in the Tundra is strong and constant from around 2,000 rpm right up to redline. This truck has a lot of snap. In fact, it is downright quick, with a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds—without a trailer, of course.
The acceleration is due in no small part to the six-speed automatic transmission. The truck leaps from a standstill, thanks to a low 3.333:1 first gear ratio, and just lopes along at 1,600 rpm at 60 mph, thanks to a 0.588:1 overdriven sixth gear. With six gears at the ready, we expected a certain level of “busyness” from the transmission—and the powertrain management system does bring about frequent gear changes—but because shifts are so well executed, they are not intrusive, or “busy” at all. Shifts are smooth, quick and refined. Even at full throttle, an upshift to the next gear brings little more than a reassuring surge forward and a change in rpm. Well done.
In tow-haul mode, the transmission would still shift up to sixth gear, even at 45 mph. On the freeway, the truck engaged the upper gears based on load and road conditions. On lengthy inclines, it would shift down to third gear, which revved it 3,500 rpm, right at the very peak of its torque curve, where it would chug uphill with no drama.
If there is a downside to the engine, it is that a certain amount of fuel is required to make 381 horsepower. On level terrain, we netted around 11 mpg while towing, according to the truck’s computer. Obviously, we were pulling a huge load, so any less of a trailer in tow will translate to better mileage. Without a trailer, we were able to get 19 mpg on the freeway, which is higher than EPA estimates on the window sticker.
Buyers who want better fuel economy can choose the 4.6-liter V8 and two-wheel drive, which is rated at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway. Even with the smaller engine, towing capacity is still more than 10,000 pounds.
The other pedal—the one for the brakes—is even more responsive than the accelerator. With dual-piston calipers up front and single-piston units on the rear, brakes react within the first few millimiters of pedal travel, with light effort and plenty of power. The antilock system engages at the proper threshold—neither too early nor too late.
While towing, we discovered a few other strong points in the Tundra, chief among them were its mirrors, which were large enough to provide a clear view to the rear, without looking like Dumbo ears. Perhaps their best quality was that they folded in electrically and allowed the truck to squeeze into tighter confines.
We also liked the headlamp level controller, which adjusts headlamp projection to compensate for the rear suspension compression due to tongue weight. Drivers coming from the other direction will appreciate that feature, too.
Another effect of tongue weight is that it tends to unload the front end, and can “lighten” steering. At 10,000 pounds, the trailer we towed was at the very top of the Tundra’s capacity, but we were impressed that the steering never felt light or “disconnected.” At those loads, we’d still recommend a weight-distributing hitch system, but it’s nice to know how well the Tundra performed under such adverse conditions.If there is one feature the truck lacked—and something its competition has—is a built-in trailer brake controller. The Tundra is prewired for an aftermarket unit, but an optional factory controller would be better.
Living With It
This is the only crew cab truck we know of whose rear passengers have more room than front-seat occupants. The Tundra’s rear seat is simply cavernous. Even the rear doors are as wide the fronts. The rear seat split 60/40 and seatbacks folded flat to accommodate boxes or luggage. The rear seats also slide fore and aft, which allowed them to recline a bit in forward positions.
Up front, our test vehicle came with buckets and a console, which was large enough to accommodate hanging file folders. Seats were firm yet comfortable on longer trips, and the steering wheel, which adjusted up and down, and telescoped in and out really help fine tune the driving position.
Of course there were other details we really appreciated. First, the rear window powered up and down electrically, opening up the whole back of the cabin. By lowering the window all the way down, we were able to cool down the cabin quickly without having to turn on the air conditioner. The window also made it a little easier to see and to hear our spotter when we were backing the trailer into its space at the storage facility. Every truck should be available with such a window.
We appreciated the truck’s dead-pedal, which are fairly common on cars, but not pickups. Every truck should have one of these too.
We also loved the tailgate, which was, well, brilliant. For starters, the tailgate was light and easy to lift. Second, and most important, it was fitted with a spring-assist damper so it wouldn’t come crashing down. You could open the gate and drop it, and it would gently come to rest at level. Third, the handle came fitted with a back-up camera that displayed the rear view on the nav system screen on the dash. It seems a bit geeky get excited about a tailgate, but this one warrants it.Finally, we came away impressed with the suspension tuning, just the right amount of compression and rebound damping to create a good compromise between comfort and the stiffness needed for towing. We are certain the Michelin LTX A/S tires played a role in the the quality of the Tundra’s ride, which was among the best—if not the best—of any four-wheel drive pickup we tested, even on terrible stretches of concrete freeway.
It’s clear Toyota is committed not only to the full-size truck market, but also to the towing market, and it abides by the watchwords: more, bigger, better, stronger. The Tundra has enough brawn for all but the heaviest towing duties, a highly refined powertrain and many features not available from other manufacturers.
The basics of navigation system on the dashboard are fairly simple to use, though it does come with a thick manual for advanced uses. In reverse gear, the nav system displays the view from the rearview camera mounted in the tailgate handle.
The Tundra's electrical connections are top-shelf stuff, with a plug for boat trailers and one for trailers with electric brakes. The rear cabin window powered up and down, which was ideal for ventilation and increased visibility while backing a traller.
The 5.7-liter V8 produces 401 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm and 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm. Stopping power comes from dual-piston calipers up front and single-piston calipers on the live axle at the rear.
The bed on our test vehicle came with a handy tie-down system on the rails. Inside, the rear seats folded forward to accommodate cargo and also slid fore and aft, which allowed the seat backs to recline in forward positions.
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