2003 Tundra Stepside Promises Style and Substance
By: Michael LevinePosted: 02-06-02 10:00

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The 2003 Tundra Stepside and its rakish lines take stepside styling and pickup practicality to all new levels for a truck.

In its debut in Chicago the Tundra Stepside drew audible gasps from from the audience of journalists as the cover was pulled off on this very distinctively designed truck.

The most notable and dramatic design elements are the wide rear shoulders that flare out with retro style and feature prominent red tail lamps. The lamps cut into the Stepside's wheel arches in a look that mimics the rear lights and fenders found on Chrysler's PT Cruiser, but go a whole order of magnitude further in form. It's also very similar to Rinspeed's Tatooo, using much of the same rear form vocabulary.

The front fascia of the Tundra receives an update for 2003 to give it a more masculine look. It sports a new grille that blends smoothly into the front bumper.

Lowered ride height and 20-inch HRE Performance wheels come from Toyota Racing Development's (TRD) influence. A TRD cat back exhaust has also been added to provide an extra 6hp and muscular growl during acceleration.

Until now stepside pickup owners sacrificed bed space for style. Not with this truck. The length and width of the Stepside's bed remain exactly the same as the regular Tundra's 76.5 x 49.1 inch cargo box. Bed height is actually increased by nearly two inches to a depth of 19 inches.

When Toyota's Senior Vice President and General Manager, Don Esmond, introduced the 2003 Tundra Stepside Concept at the Chicago Auto Show he made it clear that Toyota is, "...aiming for the heart and soul of the US auto industry - full size pickups" with this latest Tundra iteration.

Another journalist wryly observed that the Tundra Stepside is Toyota's "step by step by stepside" effort to steadily offer more and better features on its pickups. A classic Toyota long-term strategy used to gain market share when it enters new automotive segments.

Esmond told PUTC that he expects the 2003 Tundra Stepside to sell in volumes of under 1000 units per month when it goes on sale this fall.

No pricing has been announced yet and the truck will only be available in an extended cab configuration with the uplevel Limited Access Cab trim and options.

On a related note, PUTC also asked Esmond about when a crew cab configured Tundra might reach showrooms. While he declined to give a specific date for when this truck might arrive he did cryptically comment that, "Toyota recognizes crew cab pickups as a growing segment in the truck market."

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