Sunday, March 25, 2007

Truckin' thru the Weekend

The proceeding comments are not a paid endorsement.
The writer was not compensated in any way for his assessment of the vehicle…although he did drive it around for a few days in Houston in the springtime, which could have mind-altering effects on anyone.

Texas is Truck Country.
At least that’s what the Ford people
would have truck buyers believe in their TV ads. I don’t think Ford ever counted on Toyota building a truck assembly line in San Antonio…nor did they ever dream Toyota’s truck line would challenge Ford’s heritage as the first choice among pickup truck owners. Bob Dylan once sang “the times, they are a-changin,’” and but I doubt he’d ever seen a Toyota truck when he wrote that line.

The new 2007 Toyota Tundra is the challenger.
The contender.
It could very well emerge as the gold-standard for full-size pickup trucks when the dust settles, because this is not your father’s Cowboy Cadillac.

Tundra must be an Indian word for “head turner.” It has versatile usages in everyday conversation, for example:
“Tundra truck around, I want to go back.”

If nothing else, the new Tundra is a head-turner.
And a neck-snapper, too.
The 5.7-Litre V-8 has plenty of torque, and lots of sizzle from a standi
ng stop.
The fuel gauge does quiver each time you test the off-the-line performance, but no one’s buying this truck for its outstanding fuel economy (which is nothing to sneer at: 15-to-18-mpg from an
engine this large in a truck this nice is something you can swallow.)

During the few days I drove the Texas Edition Double-cab, people stopped to ask about the truck. Older guys, who had been thinking about getting another truck again…and young bucks, hankering for their first, serious truck.
It inspires the imagination to ask, ‘what if?’

Growing up in the city, most folks would think there’s not much need for a truck (present neighbors excepted; this is, after all, Texas.) But even in the ‘burbs, there’s always an errand to run, a chore to be done that can be accomplished a little easier when you’ve got a truck.

“Handy as a pocket on a shirt,” as my Dad used to say.
Our first truck was a 1969 Datsun. I think it might have had a 1.2-litre engine; it had a four-speed manual transmission, and no A/C, and I know he paid $1,200. for it, cash, brand new. I rode home
with him from the dealership, and it smelled of fresh paint and epoxy sealant, and that oily new-engine odor. It fit in our garage with what seemed like yards to spare on all sides, dwarfed by the family sedan (a '56 Chevy 4-door).

I learned to drive (and how to shift a manual transmission) on that truck.
So did one of my brothers.
My little truck was notorious around campus: it was one of the few vehicles on campus that a team of 8 strapping high school flat-bellies could lift from its parking space and place strategically atop a speed bump (effectively blocking a key connecting lane between parking lots, and guaranteeing a summons to the principal’s office.)

By the time I graduated high school and was commuting to the University of Houston, I’d “tricked-out” the Datsun with wide tires, aluminum rims, and a kickin’ 8-track secreted in the glove box. (Hey, we’re talking mid-70’s here…)

My first, new truck was a 1978 Plymouth (built by Mitsubishi, the people who brought you WW-II.) It was metallic black, with a yellow-orange-red striping package, and tricked out in the showroom with chrome rims, wide tires, a roll bar and a sunroof.

I once lost a pet boa constrictor in that truck.
Drove all the way from Houston to Tulsa, not knowing if the serpent was here or there, dead or alive. I pulled into a gas station when I arrived in Tulsa and raised the hood to find my pet coiled comfortably atop the air cleaner housing.

So even though I now drive a two-seater rag top that barely has room for two day’s worth of clothing and a computer case, I have a keen appreciation for a fine truck.
The Tundra is one, fine truck.

And, like a well-designed shirt, it has numerous pockets of ingenuity: the built-in cargo tie-down tracks were perfect for hauling-in my lawn mower for servicing. If you work out of your vehicle, like many do, there are compartments large enough for clip boards and a set of hanging files, if necessary. I’m pleased I can plug my iPod into the aux-input of the JBL sound system.

The rear view mirrors are more than ample, and telescope on their arms for trips involving towing boats and trailors. A truck this large has plenty of blind spots; Toyota thoughtfully integrated convex mirrors into the side rear-views to compensate.

There are reams of statistics and numbers and specifications on the Toyota Tundra, which comes in three basic configurations. I won’t repeall that here. Go get your own Tundra brochure if you must.

The bottom line is how a vehicle drives and feels and looks.
TheTundra looks great, especially with 20-inch rims.
It runs great, and stops on a dime with giant, four-wheel disc brakes.
The interior is fit for a king...or a crew of four of the king's workers and their gear.

The Toyota Tundra is destined to be a great truck.
In Texas, that’s saying something.

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