- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

Toyota’s 2009 Tundra Double Cab pickup summons visions of its macho FTX concept truck. The test truck’s powerful form is a reflection of the 2004 show truck, which sent the message Toyota was making an all-out launch into the full-size-pickup market with a “bigger and bolder” truck - one created for truckers who treat their pickups as tools.

Tundra’s muscular body is key to consumers’ perceptions of it being a serious work truck. It sports a powerful-looking snout and grille, its doors are thick and tall, and it features aggressive character lines and fender flares. This formidable body sits on a frame with 30 percent more tensile strength than its predecessor. The Double Cab wears front-hinged rear doors, with pocket-style body-colored door handles, to open 80 degrees for easy access.

The test truck has an essential element necessary to lure die-hard pickup consumers: a muscular 5.7-liter V-8. The 5.7-L 32-valve i-Force V-8 delivers 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. Pricing for Double Cabs packing the V-8 starts at $26,390 for the 2009 model and $26,940 for the 2010 model. Add $800 for a destination charge.

Tundra 4x2 and 4x4 models with the 5.7-liter have estimated city/highway fuel-economy ratings of 14/18 and 13/17 mpg, respectively.

Mated solely to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Tundra Double Cab runs from 0 to 60 mph in the 6.5-7.0-second range.

For the true trucker, Tundra’s towing and payload capacities are critical. A tow package - standard on the long bed, optional on others - allows the 4x2 Double Cab to haul up to 8,600 pounds. The tester is fitted with an optional pair of huge tow mirrors (on the 5.7-liter only), with functions including power-folding, manual-extension, power-adjustability, heating and turn signals.

Tundra’s entry powerplant is a 4.0-liter V-6, delivering a respectable 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Partnered with a five-speed automatic transmission, its estimated city/highway fuel economy is 15/19 mpg. The Double Cab 4x2 with the V-6 has a towing max of 4,800 pounds.

Big news for 2010 is a new, efficient midline engine - a 4.6-liter 32-valve i-Force V-8 that replaces the 4.7-liter. It’s a formidable powerplant with an output of 310 horses and 327 lb.-ft. of torque. Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, the 4x2 model’s estimated fuel economy is 15/20 mpg. Towing capacity for a 4.6-liter-powered Double Cab 4x2 is 7,200 pounds.

Power meets the pavement with standard 18-inch wheels on all models. Twenty-inchers come with an optional package on 5.7-liter models. Generally speaking, passengers enjoy an excellent ride for a full-size pickup, although there are certain types of pavement irregularities that can cause vibration.

The interior design sends a clear signal that the Tundra is a much different truck than its predecessor. The dashboard is driver-oriented, more in the fashion of a sporty car. A clearly defined silver-colored driver-side portion covers the floor console (with long, comfortable shift handle) and wraps the gauge cluster. To the right is a center stack, accented in glossy black. Climate-control knobs are large with textured sides, making fine-tuned settings easy.

The Double Cab’s split rear seat with flip-up cushions features a comfortable 22-degree backrest angle and 34.7 inches of rear legroom.

Practicality comes with a variety of storage compartments up front, including cavernous center storage capable of holding hanging files and a laptop; a double glovebox with an upper compartment and lower portion; and storage compartments integrated into the door-panel armrests.

Of course, in a dedicated work truck the most important storage compartment is the cargo box. The Double Cab’s tall-sided box comes with a choice of two lengths - a 78.7-inch short bed and a 97.6-inch long bed. The long bed, attached to the six-passenger Double Cab, stretches the pickup length to 247.6 inches, making it the longest Tundra model ever built.

The test truck gets the optional Deck Rail System with four adjustable tie-down cleats. Loading is made easier with a “smart” tailgate, which when opened glides down to a stop. Closing the tailgate is a one-handed operation.

The refined Tundra Double Cab is an open-and-shut case for the serious trucker wanting big and bold - and maybe badder, too.

Tim Spell is editor of the Houston Chronicle InMotion section

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