To date Toyota, to its credit, had not attacked the full-size pickup market head-on, with its "seven-eighths" sized Tundra happily filling the bill for many customers. This has changed with the intro of the new Tundra Double Cab, about as big a pickup as any out there. It has some controversy, with many (including our own John Pearley Huffman in this corner of the Web last September) saying its bulk overwhelms the Tundra's traditional virtues and that its introduction represented the abandonment of a comfy market niche.

Methinks Mr. Huffman, a devoted Tundra SR5 Access Cab owner, may have been swayed by the Tundra branding denoting this behemoth. Aside from the drivetrain and suspension, there's not that much Tundra left in this four-door.

What we do have has largely been crafted from Sequoia sheetmetal, which provides a taller cabin and greenhouse, adding three inches to overall height and four inches to overall width. The beltline of the Sequoia is also four inches taller than that of the basic Tundra, which allows for the creation of a deeper pickup bed that measures 74.3 inches in length, more than seven inches longer than that found in Ford's new F-150 Super Crew or Nissan's Titan crew cab.

Speaking of the greenhouse, the full-size, fully retracting rear window makes for a very airy environment. As we had sub-zero temperatures the week the truck was in my driveway (no way it would fit in the garage), all I could do was confirm the switchgear retracted and raised the window as advertised, and dream of warmer times to come. 

Seating also comes out of the Sequoia shop, although it's been modified slightly to fit the pickup's cab. This provides the big selling point for the Tundra Double Cab: interior space, particularly for rear passengers. The back seat has a 24-degree reclining angle (same as the Sequoia's, compared with 18 to 21 degrees elsewhere in the segment), and with 37.5 inches of available rear leg room, the rear cabin is the most comfortable space available in the four-door pickup market, especially when console-mounted cupholders and B-pillar-mounted vents are factored in.

Lengthened and strengthened

To accommodate all this, the Tundra chassis was lengthened (and then some) while the center and rear frame rails were given thicker-gauge steel. The wheelbase is 140.5 inches; overall length checks in at 230.1 inches - aka 19 feet, 2.1 inches - if you're checking your garage space.

Having not ever driven a Tundra of any stripe, I found criticism that the Double Cab was underpowered to be a bit much. The 4.7-liter DOHC 32-valve i-Force V-8 puts out 240 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque - certainly not the top numbers in this power-obsessed class, but mated to a rationally calibrated electronic four-speed, the mill is extremely responsive, allows for authoritative passing, and purrs like a basket of kittens (well, large kittens) - just what you'd expect from a Toyota. Still, with a maximum towing capacity of 6500 lb in the 4x4, the big Tundra does not compare favorably to Ford's and Nissan's 9000-lb towing spec.

Our Marlin Blue tester had the optional TRD off-road package, which provided Bilstein shocks, beefier springs, off-road tuning, 16-inch alloy wheels and B. F. Goodrich all-terrain 265/70R rubber. It navigated our unplowed, winding rural mountain roads in total confidence, although I found myself gunning the throttle a couple of times to kick the distant rear end around uphill hairpins. On winding paved roads, the tires felt somewhat floaty in the turns, but winter maintenance residue may have been largely to blame.

The brake pedal has a nice progressive feel to it, but distances were long; why Toyota fitted rear drum brakes to a truck of this size is a mystery.

Still, for its size, this is a very refined ride, with NVH values at typically low Toyota levels. On the highway, its limousine length makes for luxurious cruising; in parking lots, the length becomes an enormous pain in the butt - a turning circle in excess of 47 feet makes for a mess of Y-turns.

Toyota expects the Double Cab to account for half of all Tundra sales annually, but how much of a dent it will make in Ford, GMC/Chevy, and now Nissan's numbers remains to be seen. The more powerful Titan, in particular, may provide the most competition in terms of sheer value - a similarly equipped Titan crew cab stickers for about $2000 less than did our Double Cab. With a new Tundra plant gearing up in San Antonio, the Double Cab may prove to be little more than a stopgap response to a white-hot market, but hey, it can now be said that Toyota has finally gone big-time with trucks, and done so in its usually refined fashion.

 

2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5 4x4
Base Price:
$28,975; as tested, $32,105
Engine: 4.7-liter DOHC V-8, 240 hp
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, two-speed transfer case, four-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 230.1 x 79.3 x 74.4 in
Wheelbase: 140.5 in
Curb weight: 4965 lb
EPA fuel economy (city/hwy): 14/17 mpg
Safety equipment: Front airbags, anti-lock brakes, side-impact door beams
Major standard equipment: Transmission cooler, bed rail caps, cruise control, power door locks, tilt steering wheel, overhead console, rear ventilation ducting, center console
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles basic; five years/60,000 miles powertrain

 

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