Can Tundra SR5 challenge Big 3?

Toyota is working hard to dominate the U.S. auto market

By: Les Jackson

The Toyota Tundra SR5 4×4

   Toyota is working hard to dominate the U.S. auto market. The company makes (arguably) the most reliable vehicles in the world, and cars like the Camry and Corolla consistently outsell everything else. On the truck front, Toyota pretty much "owns" the Asian and African markets and in recent years the automotive giant has slowly made inroads here against the Big Three.
   That’s a tough fight, however, because not only do Ford, GM and Dodge sell about 6 million trucks (collectively) each year, but also the owners of these vehicles have an almost fanatical emotional attachment to them. Don’t ever make the mistake of suggesting that a Ford truck owner buy a Chevy or Dodge, or vice-versa. These people love their trucks and firmly believe their particular brands are the most dependable. The reason for that belief is obvious: these trucks are all enormously dependable and rugged.
   If the U.S. truck market is to be conquered, Toyota needs to overcome not only the love affair owners have for their Fords, et al., but also the perception that the Toyota brand is "foreign." That’s a tough challenge, but Toyota is taking it on with the Tundra, and each successive year sees improvement in the platform.
   My test Tundra is the SR5 4×4, an extended model dubbed the Double Cab. It sells for $30,310 plus options, right in line with the competition. Its tall styling makes it look very large, although it’s actually slightly smaller than the Ford, Chevy or Dodge trucks. That means little, really, unless you are sitting in the rear seats. Legroom back there is about 4 inches less than the competitors. Headroom is excellent, however.
   Powering this Tundra is a 4.7-liter, 282-horsepower V-8 with a stump-pulling 315 lb.-ft. of torque. Starting off in the machine always delivered a strong pull, thanks in part to a quick throttle tip-in. While the engine isn’t rated as powerfully as the competitors, there’s no doubt that it will handle whatever any owner throws at it. There’s also no doubt that it will last a long, long time. The engine is mated to a smooth, rugged five-speed automatic transmission that seems more than up to the task. Fuel mileage isn’t bad for a truck, and gentle touches of the gas pedal will yield upwards of 20 mpg on the road — assuming you aren’t carrying a load of any size.
   Underneath the Tundra is a coil-spring, double-wishbone independent front suspension with low-pressure gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is conventional leaf-spring, with low-pressure gas-filled shock absorbers. "Live" rear axles are always favored for trucks, chiefly because they don’t exhibit camber changes when towing. This makes them far more stable and controllable than when equipped with independent suspensions.
   The Tundra’s ride isn’t too choppy, something I’m always aware of when driving empty trucks. Toyota managed to get the spring rates soft enough for everyday use, yet strong enough to handle payloads. It may not have quite the same tow/haul rating (you can option one for that purpose) as most of the competition, but I’ll opt for comfort over occasional capacity anytime.
   The tall greenhouse of the Tundra makes for great outside visibility. You ride high in the seats in this vehicle, and there are no excuses for not seeing what’s around you in traffic. The seats themselves are firm, but quite comfortable, and dash instruments are easy to reach. Getting into and out of the Tundra requires care and big steps. It’s a long way to the floor from the street, and although there are grab-handles, it’s still a significant pull to get in and a jump to get out. Big trucks are just like this, however, and the Tundra isn’t different from the rest. I just don’t think there’s any need to go through such gyrations in an everyday vehicle unless you need one.
   So, is the Tundra a better truck than the Big Three models? I don’t think it’s better, but it certainly is equal in almost all respects. That doesn’t mean Toyota will take away the huge pickup truck market anytime soon, but over time, more and more buyers will turn their way. Maybe within the next 15 years, the truck market will belong to the Big Four…
Visit for more on the automotive hobby. Tech expert Les "Dr. Crankshaft" Jackson explains auto restoration on his Web site,, and is co-host of the nationally syndicated automotive radio show "Cruise Control."