Toyota’s Tundra Double Cab measures up

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Seating for five people in a full-sized light-duty pickup truck was unheard of just a few years ago. Standard-cab pickups were the norm; the maximum load was three people squeezed into a cab.

Extended cabs, with a tight second-row seat, slowly gained popularity though the 1980s and 1990s, as trucks became more family oriented. But rear quarters were cramped, and enduring more than a half-hour drive in the second row was a chore. The second row was on balance a nice storage area from the rain.

Then rear access doors started popping up in the mid ‘90s. That made entry and exit less of an effort. But pickups were still not suitable for families.
Times have changed.

The sport utility craze has led to several variations on the truck theme. One is the crew cab pickup.

Now that Toyota has come on board, every full-sized pickup sold in the United States comes with a crew cab, or four-door, option. That includes the all-new Nissan Titan that was recently introduced.

Toyota developed a four-door version of its Tundra pickup for the 2004 model year calling it the Double Cab. Toyota needed a crew cab configuration more than its competitors because the rear quarters on the Tundra extended cab – called Access Cab in Toyota parlance - are cramped and the seating position is bolt upright. Another reason for the Double Cab is that Toyota has been roundly criticized for not having a true, full-sized pickup.

The new crew cab rides on a ladder-frame chassis that is longer than the other Tundra pickups. Its length (230 inches) and wheelbase (140.5 inches) are 12 inches longer than the Access Cab. And it is 4.5 inches wider and three inches taller than the Access Cab with a bed that is virtually the same length at just over six feet.

That makes it about seven inches longer than the beds in the Ford F-150 Super Crew or the Nissan Titan Crew Cab. The bed is also 3.5 inches deeper than the standard Tundra because of the increased height of the truck.

The Tundra Double Cab is a big truck even when compared to big trucks. In the full-sized ranks, only the Chevrolet Silverado crew cab has a longer wheelbase and comes in at the same length as the Tundra. No one who drives the new Double Cab can find fault with Toyota full-sizing its trucks.

The Tundra Double Cab’s size translates into interior comfort. Back-seat passengers can stretch out. There are 37.5 inches of leg and knee room in back, even enough space to survive if the front seat riders need their seats far back on the tracks.

That’s more space than provided in the new Ford F-150 or the Dodge Ram. Toyota officials say comfort is derived from a rear seatback angle of 24 degrees compared to the 18 to 21 degrees for most of the competition.

We drove the big Tundra in November on some rough off-road sections of a huge Texas ranch near San Antonio, site of the future Toyota truck plant, and in normal daily driving at home.

The truck handles well in all situations. Gaining 4-wheel drive high or low is as simple as pressing a dashboard button. Despite the new gargantuan size, the Tundra is fun to drive except in parking lot situations where its brutish 47-foot turning circle can be a challenge.

The driving position is excellent. On-center feel is good. The seats are comfortable. Toyota quality is evident from a quiet interior to its solid driving stance completely devoid of rattles and squeaks.

The Double Cab comes in two trim levels, SR5 and Limited, and in either rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive configurations. The SR5 rear-wheel drive model starts at $26,195. The SR5 4-wheel drive model begins at $29,515.  Limited models start at $29,810 and $33,400.

Our test truck was an SR5 4-wheel drive version with a handful of options that brought the bottom line to $32,153 including destination charge. Options included 17-inch alloy wheels; keyless entry; accessory group including compass, outside temperature and garage door opener; anti-theft alarm; and a towing package.

All Tundra four-door pickups come with the same V8 that has graced the Tundra since its introduction several years ago, a 4.7-liter 32-valve power plant that produces 240 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque.

Although the silky smooth V8 is asked to pull about 600 more pounds than the equivalent SR5 Access Cab, the engine acquits itself quite nicely. It can move from 0 to 60 in 8.8 seconds, about average for class. And it can complete a quarter mile in 16.8 seconds at 83 miles per hour.

Toyota gave the Double Cab a lower axle ratio to overcome its greater weight. This helps acceleration, particularly at low speeds. Toyota also could have made use of a  5-speed automatic to help motivate the big truck, but choose to stay with the 4-speed transmission.

Where the smallish V8 loses out in comparison to the F-150, Ram, Silverado and Titan is in towing capacity. If you don’t plan on towing more than 6,500 pounds, than this is not an issue. But if you need more, the aforementioned competitor’s crew cab configurations have tow ratings from 7,550 for the Ram to 9,400 for the Titan. By the way, Tundra’s payload of 1,580 pounds is on a par with the competition.

One noteworthy feature of the Toyota V8 - it will operate on the less expensive 87-octane regular.

Most of the comfort features you would expect from a vehicle edging toward the 30 grand mark are standard equipment including air conditioning, stereo with CD and six speakers, power locks and mirrors, power windows, tilt steering wheel, cruise control and variable intermittent wipers.

One nice standard feature worth pointing out is a power vertical sliding rear window. That’s a convenient ventilation aid that can be regulated by the driver.

If it’s a Toyota, you can figure on quality inside and out. And the 2004 Tundra Double Cab is no exception. It’s a solid, big addition to Toyota’s Tundra lineup. It will stop the finger pointing and it will fill the gap until Toyota’s new Texas truck plant comes on line with a big truck in every part of the segment.