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Toyota grows a bigger Tundra for 2004

November 28, 2003|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

It's a tough world out there, especially when you're a truck.

If the Chevrolet Silverados aren't taking shots at you, the Dodge Rams and Ford F-150s of the world are lining up to follow suit.

How does Toyota answer the challenge? How does it respond to the big boys with the biggest toys? With enough gusto and machismo to be a legitimate thorn in their collective side.

Along with the new Nissan Titan, the Toyota Tundra is the only import-branded vehicle beating down the full-size truck door. Listen closely and you can hear it knocking. Soon, you'll hear it roaring.

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Toyota is ready to make its first jump into big-time NASCAR racing: the Craftsman Truck Series (in February of 2004). And just to get everyone ready, the automaker has something big cooking. Really big, actually.

New for 2004, Toyota has introduced the much-anticipated four-door Tundra Double Cab to its full-size pickup truck line, the longest, widest, deepest and roomiest hauler the company has ever built.

The Double Cab joins the two-door Regular Cab and Access Cab with its shorter bed and two rear-hinged doors for easier back-seat entry. Three trim grades are offered: base; mid-level SR5; and the top-of-the-line Limited. The base trim is available only on two-wheel-drive regular cabs.

In any version the Tundra is good-looking. All 2004 models arrive with a front fascia that was updated in '03, standard anti-lock brakes and a center console that could easily fit in with the full-size Toyota Sequoia sport-utility vehicle.

With plenty of box/cab/engine variety, the Tundra can satisfy both the weekend-renovator and the full-time, full-on commercial user. Still, Toyota says the Double Cab is like nothing you've ever seen.

From every angle, the taller and wider truck plays the part of a brawny big-rig machine. If the four giant doors don't instantly give it away, revised taillights will help you pick it out of the Toyota crowd.

The Double Cab's real strength is that it does not compromise bed length or depth to offer greater rear-passenger room than previous models. It's here that Toyota paid special attention. There's a lot of leg room and a more relaxed seat angle to provide greater comfort, which makes the back of the Tundra more than an occasional space to sit. The split folding seats offer an extra measure of utility for carrying things you don't want to put in the bed.

Rear passengers also get their own heating and air-conditioning ducts and there's even an optional DVD entertainment system.

Under the Tundra's hood for 2004, it's the same Toyota dependability. Two double-overhead-cam engines are available: a 3.4-liter V-6 that comes with a five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic; and a 4.7-liter V-8/automatic combo. Either can be mated to four-wheel drive.

With the Tundra appropriately equipped, there's enough grunt to haul up to 7,200 pounds.

For buyers looking for everything under one roof, Toyota's big truck is a pretty complete package; the option list is a short one.

But the best news is already here with the Double Cab.

With each successive generation of full-size pickup, Toyota finds itself in the hunt for more customers and bigger market share. It's a true contender in a class loaded with heavyweights.

Not a Dodge. Not a Ford. Not a Chevy. But a hard dose of reality for all of the above.

© 2003, Wheelbase Communications

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