Opinionated at any speed

Toyota Tundra SR5 Crewmax 4x4 Limited

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 4:30pm

A pickup truck that’s spec’ed out as a work machine rather than a statement is pretty rare, at least in U.S. press fleets. It’s possible to glam up a top-line Tundra with the Nightshade Special Edition package, but even with every possible option (a combination safe in the center console, anyone?) I was able to boost the price tag to barely above $61,000.  

That’s atop a starting price of $41,020 for the Crewmax 4x4 Limited, with its generous four-door, four-seat cab and running boards. And it is a lot of money—but not compared to the sticker prices of fully blinged-out, leathered-up and testosterone-charged mega-trucks from Ram, Ford and GM, which can exceed 90 grand. 

Another feature of the Tundra also stands out immediately, at least at my house: I can thread it into the driveway in one shot, with no need to make a two-point turn.  How modest! My wife, who has lost her eyesight over the years, noticed something different too: “What is this? It doesn’t feel like a truck,” she said. The ride, while plenty firm, isn’t jarring and it doesn’t make us feel like bobblehead dolls. Nor do I need a Coast Guard 100 Ton Master’s certificate to operate it. 

My wife’s bad vision has become an odd sort of asset in judging vehicles. She isn’t swayed by the badge or sheet metal (she can’t see them), so she goes by feel, comfort and quiet, and how easy it is to get in and out. She actually fell out of a towering monster truck last fall because it was farther to the ground than she realized. She’s pretty tall, and she can hop in and out of this Tundra easily, so that’s another plus in her book.

The motive power is a 5.7-litre V-8 rated for 381 horsepower and 401 torques, a 6-speed automatic transmission and on-demand four-wheel drive with an electronic transfer case, limited-slip rear differential and a towing package good for hauling 10,200 pounds. Also a 6’ 5” bed (with the extended cab) and a 38-gallon fuel tank.

But no fancy tailgate that deploys a grab handle or steps or a wet bar, or even opens slowly. No connectibility features, either, for the contractor who carries a laptop and turns his truck into a rolling office. This points to the Tundra’s shortcomings: Compared to newer trucks from Detroit, this one needs freshening. Why, it even has a key, to be inserted into the ignition lock and then twisted. 

The steering, throttle and brakes are vague and, despite adequate power, it’s not well settled on the highway. In other words, it behaves like a pickup truck—or at least how pickup trucks used to behave. It’s a work machine, not a cowboy Cadillac. 

Silvio Calabi has been reviewing cars since Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels from the White House. He lives in Camden.