Our test fleet recently grew by two, and this is an introduction to our latest acquisition. We ordered a new Tundra from Toyota Motor Corp., using its bitchen website, www.toyota.com, and plan to flog this thing for a year, while testing as many bolt-on mods as possible. Along the way, we'll review parts that make the 5.7L V-8 run harder, slap on new suspension pieces that'll make it look and handle better, and try out a few new products that will create an extremely user-friendly fullsize truck.

We've put a few thousand miles on the Toyota so far and tested a new air intake from Airaid. Look for that story elsewhere in this issue. Here are our initial driving impressions, as well as two artist renderings to give you guys some ideas for modifying your own Tundra and what it could look like with a bit of hard work and some cold, hard cash.

Our Truck
The MSRP for our 4x2 Double Cab Tundra was $35,490. The sum netted us a truck with a 10,600-pound tow capacity and 1,665-pound payload. Those figures stem from the 381hp, 401 lb-ft of torque, DOHC 32-valve V-8, and six-speed automatic transmission. The tranny features a sequential shift option for banging through gears between stoplights or holding the perfect gear when climbing a hill. A tow package with seven-pin connector and pre-wired trailer brake connector, tranny cooler, 150-amp alternator, Class Three hitch receiver, and 4.30 rear differential gearing is standard. The chassis is fully boxed up front, a reinforced "C" design under the cab, and an open "C" design beneath the bed. The frame design, combined with a coilover shock, A-arm front suspension, and live axle, multi-leaf spring rear suspension give this truck a smooth, car-like ride. Our truck rides on 20-inch alloy wheels and P275/55R20 Bridgestone Dueler rubber, which is a $920 add-on.

Inside the cab, we opted for leathertrimmed bucket seating, with a center console up front and a folding bench seat in the rear. The Toyota comes with dual-zone climate controls, and we opted for the JBL in-dash CD-changer and a 10-speaker sound system with powered subwoofer. The sound system with steering wheel controls and in-dash navigation system with back-upcamera added $1,650 to the price tag. All of the controls and accessories are powered in the Tundra, including the heated side mirrors and auto-dimming rearview mirror. There were a couple additional items that Toyota dinged us for, including a front license plate bracket at $13 and daytime running lamps for $40. Those charges struck us as odd. We also added all-weather floor mats, which cost $99 more. The total sticker price for our truck was $38,647, which is not cheap, but after sliding behind the wheel for a few weeks, we quickly gained an appreciation for the truck and its capabilities, which makes the price tag easier to swallow.

Behind The Wheel
This is a big truck, not only in size but also in ride height. A 3-inch lift up front is all that's required to slap a set of 35-inch off-road tires under the front end, so as you'd expect, getting in and out of the truck is a bit of a chore, even for our 6-foot 1-inch testdriver. Once inside, though, this truck feels like home. The power adjustable leather seating is extremely comfortable, even on long road trips. There are a ton of places to store your cargo inside the cab. The center console is large enough to fit a laptop inside, and you can place two drink containers in each door panel pocket and four more in the console. The overhead console offers room for several pairs of sunglasses and garagedoor remote controls.

Toyota did an excellent job of placing all of the controls within easy reach of the driver, and once you've tried the steering wheel audio controls, you'll never want to reach for the head unit again. You will become lazy like we did. The dual-zone climate controls work perfectly for fussy passengers. Some of our drivers weren't keen on the multicolor dash paneling, but the fit and finish was very nice. Our only real gripe inside the cab was that some of the out of-sight areas where the fitment of the leather seat upholstery wasn't as clean as the rest of the interior was. Everyone agreed that there was plenty of legroom at both ends of the cab.

On The Road
Turn the key, and the 5.7L engine immediately comes to life and settles into a smooth 700-rpm idle. The engine has tons of torque and pulls hard when you mash the go pedal. We found ourselves cruising above the speed limit without really trying, so we had to pay attention to keep ourselves from getting pulled over. With a trailer in tow and the tow/haul button engaged, the six-speed transmission reacted accordingly, staying in the low gears longer to get the train up to speed, without having to mash the gas pedal, excessively.

The window sticker stated that we'd get between 13 and 19 miles per gallon in the city and 17 to 23 mpg on the highway. We found that with a light right foot we could achieve 14 to 15 mpg around town and 16 to 19 on the highway. Any time we got happy with the long pedal on the right, those numbers suffered. With a 3,000-pound trailer in tow, it was common to get 13.5 to 15 mpg on the highway.

When not concerned about saving fuel, this truck flat-out accelerated hard and hauled ass. Our truck weighs 5,360 pounds and ran the quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds at 92 mph. It also accelerated from zero to 60 mph in less than 6.3 seconds. It's a spirited ride with a tight turning radius, smooth steering, and a comfortable ride that in most situations feels more like a car and less like a truck. Over uneven or rough sections of road, we were quickly reminded that we were driving a truck as the rear end bucked without a load in the 6-1/2-foot-long bed.

The Tundra came standard with big 13.9-inch disc brakes and vented rotors, both front and rear. These brakes work great, thanks to an electronic brake force distribution system and anti-lock system on all four wheels. The safety quotient is also maximized with a traction control system, vehicle stability control system, and automatic limited-slip rear differential. No matter what type of surface you happen to be driving on, the Tundra comes prepared with electronic wizardry and thoughtful engineering to move this truck safely across it.

The onboard audio and navigation system featured a touch screen, which made operating it fairly simple. The navigation portion received its prompts from a GPS satellite but relied on a CD to provide the mapping and point-of-interest software. The software was so detailed that it even showed us a fast-food company logo anywhere a franchise was located on the map. From ATMs to gas stations, we were never out of touch with service. The JBL audio system rocked hard, and we were able to crank it up with minimal distortion at the loudest levels. This is a fine example of the growing trend of auto manufacturers putting high-end systems in new trucks that satisfy the end user enough that adding aftermarket equipment is no longer a necessity. A little more oomph in the sub bass department is all we recommend adding to this already great system.

With 3,100 miles driving, hauling, and towing under our belts, we have a good idea of what our Tundra is capable of. The next step will be to see what the aftermarket has to offer to take our truck to the next level. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, where we tear into the suspension and see how we can make this truck work and look even better.

Lifted: Our friend R.J. Silva of Eye Kandy Designs gave us some killer visuals of what a new Tundra could look like, depending on your mood. He kept it basic for the lifted version of the Toyota by leaving the body in stock form but also adding some choice aftermarket parts. The bed received a SnugTop Super Sport shell, while the grille was filled with an E&G Classics stainless steel mesh insert. R.J. also color-matched the lower valance and then lifted the truck about 8 inches with coilover shocks over 22-inch American Racing ATX wheels and Toyo Open Country MTs. The brakes are cross-drilled units from TRD. The truck looks like a do-it-all urban commando vehicle without the military paintjob.

Lowered: For the lowered version of our Tundra, we let R.J. go a bit crazy by shaving the body and adding a custom paintjob. The body lost the door handles, emblems, and antenna, and then received a sweet two-tone paintjob with a simple graphic element to separate the two colors. R.J. also color-matched the stock mirrors, bumper, and lower valance. An interesting mod to the front end is the deletion of the tread area at the top of the grille, which is used to grab onto when you slam the hood shut. The grille is plastic, so modifying your own grille shell to look like the rendering is going to be tough, especially if you want to maintain the chrome finish. Other mods include a 4/6 drop, 22-inch Bonspeed Laguna wheels with painted spokes, and BFGoodrich g-Force T/A tires.

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