Ready for the Big Leagues? First Drive: 2007 Toyota Tundra

By: BJ Killeen Posted: 01-22-07 19:48 PT
© 2007

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Trying to keep information about the all-new 2007 Toyota Tundra a secret put many a journalist to the test. We saw and drove the vehicles in Louisville, Kentucky, almost six months ago, and Toyota made us cross our hearts, pinkie swear, and sign a stack of documents stating that everything we heard would remain under wraps until the North American Auto Show in Detroit in early January. Let’s just say some of us are better at keeping quiet than others. Word leaked out about horsepower and torque, but you had to dig a bit to find it on the internet. And woe to those who blabbed before the embargo was lifted. We’re sure they’ll feel the wrath for quite some time to come.

Why so secretive? Because this is the most important launch in Toyota’s 50-year history in the U.S. Breaking into market segments and dominating sales has become a normal task for Toyota. Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Prius and numerous other vehicles have quickly become the popular players in their respective segments. The final frontier for Toyota was the full-size pickup truck market, dominated by American manufacturers who have had a century to perfect what the truckers needed to get their jobs done.

We all know the T100 was—let’s face it—a big failure. And Toyota, not one to repeat its mistakes, came out swinging with the previous Tundra iteration. While definitely more successful than the T100, the Tundra also wasn’t able to convince and extraordinary number of F-150 or Silverado owners to switch to a Japanese brand.

Nissan took a stab at it with the Titan, and although it’s sold the projected numbers, Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge continued to remain focused only on each other.

As they say, the third time’s a charm. Toyota was going to go big, or go home, and it chose to go big. Is the new Tundra enough to make the domestic manufacturers lose big-time market share in the full-size pickup arena they once dominated entirely unchallenged? Time will tell.

Now that the Tundra’s beans have been spilled, let’s take a look at what Toyota decided was going to be important to true truckers, the people it considers the Tundra’s target audience.

Up Front

First, the exterior of the Tundra is bigger and more in-your-face than ever before. One thing Toyota designers understood from previous owners is that they wanted more of a presence at the front end. They asked, and Toyota delivered.

The oversized front grille and chrome surround speak of muscle and dominance. It’s a similar story to the remake of Dodge's Ram when it decided many years ago that it had nothing to lose by designing something that was going to polarize buyers. We’ve seen the chats in the forums. Some like the Toyota’s giant grille, some hate it, but no one ignores it. From an impartial viewpoint it’s big, but it’s proportional with the rest of the truck. Everything else is big as well: long doors, big exterior grab handles, big wheels and tires, and big ideas that customers will appreciate inside and out.

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