We still can't bring ourselves to embrace the Tundra's styling. OK, that's just a polite way of saying we think it's ugly. Toyota designers told us that they purposely gave the Tundra large panel gaps to make it look more like a truck, which we suppose it does, but it also makes it look less crafted and more thrown together, which it's not. What we did like was the easy-lift tailgate.
It seems like the Tundra tried too hard to distinguish itself as a big fullsize truck by throwing 15 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag. The gauges are way too deep and hard to read at a quick glance. The overall dash layout is unattractive, with too many textures and colors, and the layout of the HVAC controls was confusing at first. However, what it lacks in visual appeal, it makes up for in space and utility. Plenty of rear seat room and places to put things help you forget about the weaker areas. The JBL audio system is solid, though the highs begin to distort quickly at higher volumes. The back up camera works very well, and is a necessity any time you're piloting a vehicle of its size. We also liked the high-resolution GPS navigation, and although the interface had us flipping through menus to get our desired action, if you weren't switching from truck to truck like we were, it would be simple to master. Once behind the wheel, we found it easy to get into a comfortable seating position, and the telescopic steering wheel was a big help. Now on to our real complaints. There are still some programming choices that Toyota made that leaves us scratching our heads. For example, if you lock the windows from the driver seat, presumably to keep children in the rear seats from lowering the windows, the driver's controls won't even lower them until you switch off the lock. We also didn't like the annoying beeps that come on for a variety of reasons. The Tundra won't let you lock the doors with the remote if one of the doors is open; it just beeps at you. It is a nice reminder if you've forgotten to close a door, but imagine you've got a cab full of groceries or other cargo. If you need two hands to remove something from the cab you can't lock the door, put the fob in your pocket, unload it, close the door, and walk away. We really liked the Crew Max's rear seat room, but both the F-150 and Ram offer comparable rear seat room without the reclining seat.
Expansion joints are the Tundra's Kryptonite. Driving at 70mph over certain highways, the Tundra will porpoise and buck at an annoying level. Off-road our TRD-equipped Crew Max did a great job of soaking up bumps, and the acceleration and braking gave us a lot of confidence tearing up fire roads. Towing proved to be bittersweet, as the powertrain made it plenty capable, but the suspension didn't like any sort of pavement except perfectly smooth asphalt.
The Tundra's six-speed transmission has such a short first gear that you have to pay attention to throttle roll-in or the truck will surge. We know it sounds weird to complain that a truck actually accelerates hard; it's certainly a good way to get the heavy truck and whatever it's loaded with moving in a hurry. We also noticed that the six-speed downshifts at odd points when coasting to a stop, not enough to cause the RPM to jump too much, but it's enough to cause compression braking. On the dyno the Tundra just barely edged out the 5.7L Hemi, and the extra power, combined with the gearing, gets it off the line quicker, but in our test it couldn't match the Ram in lane-changing acceleration.
* 5.7L V-8 has tons of power and torque
* Comfortable seating
* Spacious, functional interior
* Rear DVD player is great
* Still looks weird
* Surges in 1st gear
* Transmission downshifts are awkward
* Rear seat armrest is horrible
* Annoying beeps and odd electronic functions
We included our 2008 Truck of the Year Winner long-term tester in this year's competition to see how the competition has changed. We found that everything we praised it for last year had been met or eclipsed by the competition. The 5.7L iForce V-8 still has a slight edge over the Hemi in some respects, but after living with it for a year, we've found that all of its quirks turned us off.