Toyota has long been a strong competitor in the North American pickup truck market. Beginning in the 1950s, it made a name for itself with a number of successful compact pickups, including the Stout, Briska and Hilux (also known simply as the “Toyota Pickup”). Today, their lineup consists of the mid-size Tacoma and the full-size Tundra.
The Tundra began as a successor to the T100 pickup, and the early prototype was initially known as the T150. The name was later changed because it sounded too similar to Ford’s competing F-150 pickup.
The Tundra was more successful than the T100 from the start, and its popularity has only grown since its introduction in 1999. It currently accounts for 17 percent of the full-size half-ton market, and its sales peaked in 2007 with just under 200,000 trucks sold.
Let’s explore the Tundra’s production journey over 16 years and two vehicle generations.
First Generation: Model Years 2000 – 2006
2000-2002 Tundra Access Cab
The first generation of the Tundra was assembled at Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Indiana, and shared many similarities with the older T100 and the Tacoma, though it was a little larger. The 2000 model truck was available in the 2-door Regular Cab as well as the Access Cab, which featured two additional rear-hinged doors and seating for four. It came standard with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that produced 190 hp. It was also available with a 4.7-liter V8 engine that produced 245 hp. This was the first time a V8 engine was available in a Toyota truck. Transmission options included 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.
The Tundra was well received, and Toyota sold just over 100,000 units in the first year, doubling the sales of the older T100. It produced the highest initial vehicle sales in the company’s history. Even so, the Tundra was perceived as small and underpowered compared to competing pickups from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Chrysler and Nissan.
For the 2003 model, Toyota introduced an updated grille as well as the Stepside Cab, a stepside version of the Access Cab. The Double Cab was introduced the following year, featuring four regular doors and additional room for backseat passengers.
Changes were made to the transmission and engine options in 2004. Beginning with the 2005 model, the 5-speed manual transmission was upgraded to 6 speeds, and the 4-speed automatic transmission was replaced by a 5-speed automatic. The same year, the 3.4-liter V6 engine was replaced by a new 4.0-liter V6 that produced 236 hp. The existing 4.7-liter V8 was updated with Toyota’s variable valve timing technology and rated at 282 hp. For the 2006 model, the V8 was rerated at 271 hp.
The first generation Tundra achieved a towing capacity of 6,900 lbs for the Double Cab version and 7,100 lbs for the Regular and Access Cab versions by the 2006 model year. It was a strong step forward from the T100 and received positive safety evaluations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it didn’t offer full-size truck buyers enough of what they wanted and needed from a pickup. Toyota had plans to change that.
Second Generation: Model Years 2007 – 2013
2007 Tundra CrewMax
The second generation Tundra was first introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2006. It was larger than the previous generation and took styling cues from the Tacoma and the Toyota FTX concept truck. It was manufactured at the existing Princeton, Indiana plant as well as at a brand new plant in San Antonio, Texas. The redesigned pickup had a towing capacity of up to 10,000 lbs depending on engine and body configuration, and a payload capacity of 2,000 lbs.
A brand new engine was featured with the 2007 model truck: a 5.7-liter V8 that produced 381 hp and was mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission. Also available were two carryover engines from the first generation: the 4.0-liter V6 rated at 236 hp and the 4.7-liter V8 rated at 276 hp.
The new Tundra launched with many customization options and 31 possible configurations. Cab options included the 2-door Regular Cab, the Double Cab (which replaced the first generation’s Access Cab), and the new CrewMax Cab, which replaced the first generation’s Double Cab and was intended to compete with the Dodge Ram Mega Cab. Toyota also offered new options for bed length, with 6.5-foot regular and 8-foot long beds available for the Regular Cab and Double Cab, and a 5.5-foot short bed for the CrewMax.
In addition to the new 6-speed automatic transmission, consumers also had the option of the older 5-speed automatic transmission that was compatible with the 4.0-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8 engines. Three different wheelbases were available with the 2007 model.
The second generation was designed in part to be more useful for construction workers. To this end, it featured extra large door handles, a deck rail system, integrated tow hitch, and headrests that would fit a person wearing a hardhat. Other standard features included an electronic automatic limited-slip differential, Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, anti-lock brakes and tailgate assist. Tow mirrors, Bluetooth functionality, a backup camera, and extra-large disc brakes and calipers were optional add-ons.
Production of the Tundra at the Princeton plant ceased in 2008, at which point the San Antonio plant became the sole manufacturer of the vehicle. To this day, the Tundra is the only full-size pickup manufactured in Texas.
The second generation Tundra underwent fewer year-to-year changes than the first generation. Thirteen new variations were added with the 2008 model year, bringing the total number of configurations to forty-four. The 4.7-liter V8 engine was replaced beginning in the 2010 model year with a 4.6-liter V8 that produced 310 hp and was paired with the 6-speed automatic transmission. The same year, the Tundra received a restyled grille and taillights, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger became standard.
Design Update: Model Years 2014 – Present
2015 Tundra CrewMax (Image Credit: order_242 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Tundra underwent a major interior and exterior design update beginning with the 2014 model. Some may consider this the beginning of the truck’s third generation, but in reality no changes were made to the chassis or powertrain, so whether the newest iteration of the Tundra should be considered the third generation is up for debate. Though the mechanical heart of the car remained largely unchanged, the appearance was overhauled and modernized.
On the outside, the Tundra received a larger and more prominent grille, more prominent front and rear fenders, a redesigned tailgate and tail lights, and a raised hood line that gave the truck a chiseled appearance. Changes to the interior included new seats with improved ergonomics, new controls, new gauges, and a redesigned dashboard. Additionally, Bluetooth connectivity, a 3.5-inch dashboard screen, and a backup camera became standard features.
Toyota also included a handful of performance improvements: the suspension was retuned with new damping rates for better ride quality, and the steering rack was re-valved to improve handling. The Regular Cab variant with a 6.5-foot bed was discontinued with the 2014 model. The 4.0-liter V6 engine was re-rated at 270 hp, but it was discontinued the following year, leaving only the 4.6-liter V8 and the 5.7-liter V8.
As you can see, the Tundra has already had an exciting history in its short lifespan. From its imperfect but promising first models to its very successful second generation, and continuing with the new 2016 model, Toyota’s premier full-size pickup has proven itself a safe, reliable and innovative choice for workmen and truck lovers alike. What’s in store for the Tundra going forward? Time will tell, but it’s a safe bet to expect good things.