Review: 2010 Toyota Tundra SR5 Double Cab 4×2
By Roger Boylan
The logic of people who are neither builders nor ranchers driving full-size pickup trucks in lieu of cars escapes many. I know it escaped me for a long time, even after I’d been living in Texas, world capital of pickupdom, for many years (after all, I’m an ex-New Yorker, and for a long time hardly even got the point of cars). But I finally get it: for a smallish family, a big, high-riding pickup can serve as a cut-rate SUV. Whereas a Toyota Sequoia, for instance, starts at $39K, a Double-Cab Tundra, the Sequoia’s truck cousin and platform mate, can be had for $26K. My test vehicle, which I have to thank for this revelation, was, in fact, one of these: a 2010 Tundra Double Cab SR5.
Its arrival was timely, obviating the need to subject our aging domestic fleet (Jag S-Type, Chrysler PT Cruiser) to the rigors of a road trip. Our daughter had recently started her college studies in Dallas, a drive of some 250+ miles from the Boylan demesne in south-central Texas. Over the Labor Day weekend, to help settle her in and provide her with a brief but intense dose of parental fussing for old times’ sake, my wife and I loaded up the Tundra and drove up to the big D.
The driving was easy: mild weather, slight breeze, tolerable traffic despite the long-weekend exodus. The big—the very big–truck (79.9 in. wide, 75.8 in. tall) does indeed ride like an SUV, except over rough surfaces and expansion joints, when a faint juddering from the undercarriage and empty cargo bed is noticeable; however, I detected no bed bounce or instability. Overall, the ride is smooth and quiet: at 60 mph, the engine, loafing at a mere 1600 rpm, is barely audible. Relaxing, too, is the wide and well-bolstered front bench seat, which cosseted our lumbar regions over the four-hour drive, and which in my test model was bisected by a fold-down armrest/console that contained cup holders and various small storage spaces for cell phones, iP-ods, and all the rest of the modern multitasker’s electronic-gizmo arsenal.
Our truck had the SR5 package, which included a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/ Sirius XM satellite radio (but no navigation), Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary jack, back-up camera (an excellent idea), sonar distance sensor (a bit hypersensitive, but useful), remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery, running boards, 18-in. alloy wheels, bedliner, mudguards, and the standard raft of safety systems. Everything on the dashboard beneath the hard-plastic overhang is laid out with simplicity and precision. (An old-fashioned note pleasing to geezers such as I was the ashtray and cigar lighter just below and to the right of the steering wheel.)
The HVAC controls are big, no-nonsense knobs equally easy to manipulate by callused hands in heavy work gloves or by manicured hands that shun such gloves, and the hefty gear shifter has a twist control at the end to enable manual shifts: clever, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use it. I found the six-speed automatic smooth and efficient enough, although on the highway it seemed occasionally reluctant to summon a lower gear, and the shift detents are too mushy; a couple of times I wondered why the truck was sitting still and bellowing at me instead of backing up, then I realized I’d missed the “R” and gone straight to “N.” Sharper detents are advised.
The steering was a little twitchy, pretty much ruling out fancy maneuvering, but that’s just as well in a truck weighing north of 5400 lbs. The important thing is that the steering is a help, not a hindrance, in vital maneuvers like sudden turns and aiming for the last space in your mall parking lot. The steering wheel itself is thick and hefty, as you would expect in a no-nonsense utility vehicle; redundant controls for the stereo are on the left, the cruise control, as usual in Toyotas, at the end of a stalk on the right. Gauges are backlit in orange, in traditional Toyota fashion, and are easy to read. As noted, storage spaces abound: the dashboard boasts a double-decker glove box, and there are cup- and bottle-holders in the ample door pockets, themselves big enough for a couple of paperbacks and a Kindle or two.
The Tundra has single-cab, Double Cab, and Crew Cab (“Crew Max”) iterations. The Double Cab, like my test truck, is perfectly adequate for two people; indeed, it’s bigger than the crew cabs of many other trucks, with 60/40 split rear seats that fold up against the back wall of the cab to provide ample storage for two weekenders’ getaway. Access to the rear is via two front-hinged doors incorporating fully retractable windows. Again, this is a big truck, so the step-in height can be fairly daunting if you’re not used to it. The step rails (running boards) with which mine was equipped make things easier, although if they get muddy, as mine did, so do your pants legs, as mine did.
With 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque, and fuel-economy ratings of 15/20 mpg city/highway, the new-for-2010 4.6-liter V8, with which my truck was equipped, has dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i), to optimize valve timing for performance, economy, and emissions. This aluminum engine supersedes the venerable but aging cast-iron 4.7-L V8, which previously saw duty in the 4Runner and Lexus GX470, though the GX460 has replaced the 470, and the 4Runner no longer offers a V8 option.
The new V8 is a fine powerplant, responsive and quiet most of the time, raising its voice above a murmur only under hard acceleration, when it can, if asked, shift the truck from 0 to 60 in around 7 seconds. That’s fast, in case you were wondering, and it would probably be faster if the traction-control system didn’t kick in so soon–but that’s a good thing, because you’re not a boy racer, and this thing isn’t a Lotus.
When you need to call a halt to the forward rush, the brakes respond superbly, with various electronic devices, including four-channel ABS, brake assist, and electronic proportioning, which Toyota calls EBD, doing their collective thing when you punch the brake pedal. I had occasion to hit the brakes a lot in Dallas traffic, and I never detected a hint of fade. Equally significant is the engine’s (relative) moderation at the pump: we made the Dallas-to-home drive on just over half a tank, averaging out to around 22 mpg on the highway, 16 or so in town; Toyota claims 20 and 15. With a fuel tank capable of holding 26.4 gal. of regular, you get a driving range of 450 miles or so. This respectable fuel economy comes with more towing power than the old cast-iron V8 had: towing numbers for the 4.6 are 6900 lbs (8300 lbs with the towing package), with a gross combined weight rating of 12,500 lbs.
The Tundra was redesigned in 2007 to be a full-size pickup rather than a 7/8-size truck like the previous generation, which, discreet and inoffensive as it was, fell under most people’s radar. Stylistically, Toyota took some risks in the redesign; this truck, with its huge grille and leering headlights, is a bit kitschy, like a Wurlitzer pipe organ, but it grew on me. The sharply sculpted muscular curves visually mitigate the truck’s inherent bulk and make it look almost graceful, and I liked the bold front fascia. In fact, I liked most things about this truck. As I said, driving it for 500 miles taught me better to appreciate the virtues of the full-size pickup breed. They aren’t just gas-guzzling machomobiles for sad little guys with inferiority complexes. (That’s who Hummers are for.)
And I’m now convinced that a Japanese brand can make an honest-to-goodness full-size pickup that’s as good as the American brands’, whereas I couldn’t quite believe it before. The Nissan Titan, in my opinion, is a wannabe, and let’s not mention the forgettable and forgotten T100. Relative to a Chevy Silverado, the Tundra has wider and softer seats, making the Toyota more comfortable than the Chevy. Relative to the similarly-priced midsize Dodge Dakota that I reviewed several months ago, the Tundra is by far the superior truck. Conclusion: If you need hauling capacity, solidity, the power to pass and the power to tow, adequate interior storage, and the ability to cruise for hours on end with no fuss and a manageable thirst, all at a reasonable price, I can’t imagine how you’d go wrong with a Tundra. Even in Siberia.