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History of the Toyota Tundra

Written By John Linden

The Toyota Tundra is a pickup truck that has been in production in the United States since May 1999. Until this point, pickup trucks have been the primary domain of American automakers. The Tundra, however, is the first North American full-size pickup truck to be assembled and distributed by a Japanese manufacturer.

The Tundra had quite the impact. In 2000 and 2008 it was Motor Trend Magazine's Truck of the Year. It was also nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award.

Introduction to the Toyota Tundra

The first Toyota Tundra was unveiled as a 2,000 model in May 1999. The first wave of the Toyota Tundra had several commonalities with the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota T100, older generation Toyota trucks. For example, all three Toyota trucks sported 3.4-liter V6 engines.

The defining difference that separated the Tundra from the Tacoma and T100 is that the V6 was the top choice for the older generation trucks. However, it only served as the base engine for the Tundra. Later on, the Tundra would get a power boost when it was upgraded with a 4.7-liter V8. Before this point, V8s have never been used in Toyota trucks before.

Though the Tundra was beginning to create waves in the auto industry, it had a few initial hiccups along the way. The biggest road block concerned a controversy involving the name of the new truck line. The first models weren't known as "Tundra". They were actually called T150s.

The designation would have been fine if it weren't for the fact that it sounded far too similar to the Ford F-150, the market leader at the time. As a result, Ford filed a lawsuit. Backed into a corner, Toyota had no choice but to rename their new production choice. As a result, the name "Tundra" was born.

Though marginally larger than past Toyota truck models, the Tundra was still not viewed as "real" competition to the current domestic pickup truck selection. The competition viewed it as too "car-like". In other words, it wasn't big enough to cause any serious threat to the current North American truck market.

Despite this, the Tundra still outperformed the previous T100 by double in sales. This was likely due to its production capacity of 120,000. In fact, the initial launch of the Tundra saw the highest vehicle sales in the Japanese manufacturer's history. It was at this point that it was selected as the Best Full-Size Truck by Consumer Reports. The Tundra also received the 2000 Truck of the Year award by Motor Trends.

Moving Forward

In 2002, the Tundra received a few updates (for the 2003 model). A new step side bed was now available for on Access Cab models. The Tundra also received an upgrade to its grille. Toyota didn't stop there. In 2004, they added the Tundra Double Cab, a truck that added much more space to the cab, as the name implies.

The Tundra Double Cab was a crew cab that sported four rear-opening doors. The Toyota Sequoia inspired the interior and exterior of the Tundra Double Cab (more like copied). The bed was longer than competing Honda and Ford trucks at the time, giving it an advantage in that area. The Tundra Double Cab was bigger and had more to offer. On top of that, it also received an engine upgrade in 2005.

It sported a 4.0-liter V6 that could push out 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Toyota didn't forget about its pre-existing 4.7 V8. It received an upgrade with Toyota's VVT -i variable valve timing. This allowed the engine to push out 282 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.

Keep in mind that 2006 launches were rerated with lower numbers: 271 hp and 313 lb-ft of torque.

Further changes included an upgrade from 4-speed automatic to 5-speed. The 6-speed manual replaced the old 5-speed manual.

Still, with all of these upgrades, the Tundra still could not compare to what their competition had to offer, which consisted of the Big Three and Nissan. The Tundra only had a towing capacity of 6,900 lbs on its Double Cab model and 7,100 lbs on Regular Cab and Access Cab models that sported V8s.

When 2003 rolled around, Toyota timed the launch of their all-new T3 Special Edition with the launch of the Terminator 3 movie. In a sense, they used the movie as a way to indirectly promote their new launch.

The T3 Special Edition had a lot to offer: 17-inch rims, a blacked out grille and trim, limited interior trim, and a "T3" badge as the cherry on top of the cake. Regarding sales, 650 units were sold in the United States and 200 units were sold in Canada.


On February 2006, Toyota revealed its biggest, beefiest Tundra yet at the Chicago Auto Show. Its design was similar to that of the Toyota FTX along with the Toyota Tacoma. Toyota truly pushed the boundaries by making their newest truck beefier than ever. The new Tundra had an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission that paired well with its three engine choices:

The new 5.7-liter V8 that produced 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, the 4.7-liter 2UZ-FE V8 rated at 276 hp and 313 lb-ft of torque, as well as the previous 4.0-liter 1GR-FE V6 at 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.

The new Tundra had a payload capacity of 2,000 lbs and a towing capacity up to 10,000 lbs. This newest truck was a significant upgrade over all previous models, to say the very least. During its launch in January 2007, the configurations offered to the consumer were truly monstrous. In total there were 31 configurations that were made up of 2 transmissions, 3 cab configurations, 3 wheelbases, and 3-bed lengths.

The Access cab of the previous generation was now replaced by the latest Double Cab. Also, the brand new CrewMax replaced the Double Cab from the previous generation. Overall, the newest Tundra was built to compete with the likes of theDodge Ram Mega Cab.

Toyota wanted to make it loud and clear that they were muscling into the territory of the bigger truck manufacturers. Thus, they also included a deck rail system, extra large door handles, and head restraints; all features that accommodated construction workers perfectly, even while wearing a hard hat.

Other features include traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, an electronic automatic limited-slip differential (Auto LSD), brake assist, tailgate assist, anti-lock brakes, and vehicle stability control.

Though the new Tundra had much to offer to the working man, the Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck (amongst similar trucks offered by various manufacturers) were still a cheaper option.


The 2008 Tundra model offered an additional 13 variations. At that point, the total number of model variants was 44. The 2008 model also offered all-new "Tundra Grade" trim which fits below the SR5 trim.


In 2009, all Tundra's equipped with the 5.7-liter V8 (in select regions) now came standard with E85 fuel capability. Furthermore, Toyota added a new package (the TRD Rock Warrior package). They also updated their TRD Sports package. The price of the 2009 Tundra increased thus making them more expensive than the 2008 lineup, but only marginally.


2010 also saw the addition of the all-new 4.6-liter V8 and a 6-speed automatic. The final update to 2010 models was the addition of knee airbags, which received five stars by the NHTSA frontal crash test.

Special editions and option Packages

Rock Warrior Package

2009 was the first year that the all-new Rock Warrior Package was introduced to the public. This new package was themed for off-road driving. The package only offered 4x4 Tundras with either the CrewMax Cab or Double Cab variants. This package had much to offer. It came with LT285/70R-17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, 17" TRD forged aluminum wheels, Bilstein shocks, pedal covers and matching grille and front bumper.

When it comes to the color scheme, the Rock Warrior Package is only offered in Super White and Black. As 2011 rolled around, more changes were introduced. These included TRD Rock Warrior graphics and manual sliding rear windows.

Platinum Package

In 2010 the CrewMax Tundra received an exclusive offer known as the Platinum Package. The interior was upgraded wood grain trim, a DVD navigation system (with backup monitor), satellite radio, door sill protectors and a JBL sound system. Options included embroidered headrests, perforated leather trim, and power controls. The exterior was upgraded a power-operated moon roof, 20" aluminum wheels, and a chrome front bumper.

2014 - Present

The 2014 Tundra made a showing on February 7, 2013, at the Chicago Auto Show with an all-new design. New features included a new tailgate design, enhanced front and rear fenders, a larger grille, and redesigned tail lights. There were also upgrades to the interior. These included a backup camera, Bluetooth functionality, a 3.5-inch screen that displays information about the vehicle, updated ergonomics, updated gauges, new seats, updated controls, an all-new dashboard and improved materials.

The same engines were used from the 2010 update - the 4.0L V6, the 4.6L V8, and the 5.7L V8. This time around, the 4.0L V6 was superior to its 2010 counterpart due to its 34 hp increase. Overall it was rated at 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque.

The body was stripped of all sheet metal except for the doors and the cab. Furthermore, the tailgate was outfitted with a spoiler, and the hood was raised to change the look of the vehicle.

The improvements didn't stop there. The feel of the steering was improved because the steering rack was re-valved. Furthermore, the 2014 Tundra provided a smoother ride than older models due to a retuned suspension.

The 2014 Tundra line up also included the 1794, a luxury model. Overall, 2014 Tundras are available in five trim levels: Limited, Platinum, SR, SR5, and 1794.

In 2015, the 4.0 L V6 was discontinued, but it was the same year that the TRD PRO model was introduced to the market. The TRD PRO was said to be the superior choice for the off-road enthusiasts.

Safety Features

The Toyota Tundra is equipped with rollover sensing side curtain airbags (for both front and back seats), traction control, vehicle stability control, brake assist, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, dual front airbags, and front row side torso airbags. Knee airbags became standard for the driver and front passenger in 2010 Tundra models.

The IIHS picked the Toyota Tundra for the Top Safety Pick award due to its superior safety features. It even beat out the newly redesigned 2009 Ford F-150. Tests revealed how truly safe the Tundra was.

It received the maximum score for rear crash protection, the highest score for in the side impact crash test, and a good score for frontal offset crash test. Overall, the Tundra still beat out all other competitors with its safety ratings.

Sales Figures

Toyota's manufacturing facility in Princeton, Indiana has the capability of producing 130,000 units a year, flooding the market with so many trucks that after being in business for over a decade, they have captured 17% of the full-size half-ton market.

2,000 was a good sales year for the Tundra. Where the Toyota T100 pickup sold around 50,000 units, the Tundra sold 107,798 units. Just five years later Toyota had a total of 126,529 Tundras sold.

Toyota's second manufacturing facility located in San Antonio Texas added to the overall capacity of units that Toyota could produce in a year. Taking both of its US-based plants into consideration, Toyota estimated that they would be able to move over 200,000 Tundras in 2007. Unfortunately, the company missed the mark and were incapable of hitting their 2007 sales figures. They were outcompeted by all of their competition, being outsold by Chevrolet, GMC, and Ford.

In total, most Tundra sales are generated by the 5.7 L variants of the vehicle (around 70 to 80%). Though the standard cab isn't selling as well as Toyota would like, the Crew Max is selling very well.

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In Post image credit: BBlanck / Pixabay