Mar 24, 2020 update to the Toyota Tundra project car

Project Tundra: A Buyer’s Guide

We’re always on the lookout for great tow vehicles. After all, several of our project cars aren’t road-legal, and several more aren’t road-worthy, so having competent tow vehicles in the GRM fleet is a high-priority.

But tow vehicles shouldn’t be penalty boxes, either. And while we’ve gone through the litany of vans, full-size SUVs and pickups, we were recently smitten by a particularly civilized towing option that’s also extremely competent in hauling a load. We’re talking about the second-generation Toyota Tundra, known by Toyota as the XK50 chassis.

And we’ll also start out this entry by saying we weren’t technically in the market for a new tow vehicle. Our C5 Corvette project was mostly being pulled around by a 2004 Chevy Silverado with a 5.3 LS and a tow package, and it was a functional–if a little rough around the edges—hauling rig.

Then Toyota dropped off a 2020 Tundra as a media loaner one week.

While its $60,000-plus price tag shocked us, rudimentary research showed us that the current Tundra has remained largely unchanged since its introduction as a 2007 model. It’s been through a few facelifts and trim level reorganizations, but it’s basically the same truck that’s carried over throughout the entire second generation.

So, within a few days of hanging out with the new version of the Tundra, we fell in love and bought an older version to haul around the Corvette. If you’re looking for a new-to-you pickup, here’s some Tundra shopping tips:

  • Throughout the second generation, Tundra have been available with three basic engine choices: a V6, a midsize V8 and the big daddy 5.7-liter V8. The midsize V8 was a 4.7-liter UZ-family variant for the 2007 through 2009 model years, with a 4.6-liter UR-family engine replacing it in the mid-weight V8 slot from 2010 on. The 5.7-liter has always been a UR-family, quad-cam V8 rated at 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • Trim levels and options are… numerous. Throughout the years, Toyota has switched up the names and option sets for the trim packages, but for the most part it breaks down like this: Tundra Grade is essentially the “base” model, although Tundra Grade trim levels can be optioned up fairly heavily. Tundra Grade models are available with all the engine choices and in all the body configurations, which include a Regular Cab (two door) with either a 6.6-foot or 8-foot bed, a Double Cab (four doors with the rear doors and seating area being somewhat smaller) with a 6.6-foot or 8-foot bed, and a Crew Max (four full-sized doors and large back seats) with a 5.6-foot.

  • For several years, there was a midrange trim level, sometimes called Base or SR5, that was typically available in fewer configurations (although the exact configurations changed from year to year), but were also heavily optionable.
  • Finally, the top-of-the-line Tundras were usually referred to by the Limited trim grade designation, and were usually V8-only models in Double Cab or Crew Cab configurations. The Limited trim featured all the bells and whistles like heated leather and lots of in-cab electronics like premium sound systems and backup cameras.
  • All that said, if you’re looking to tow, you’re really looking for a 5.7-liter model. The V6 models can tow up to around 5000 pounds, which is fine if all you’re doing is hauling around Miata shells. The midsize V8 models have towing capacity that ranges all over the place, from less than 7000 pounds for a Double Cab short-bed with no tow package, to almost 9000 pounds for a Regular Cab long-bed with a tow package. But all 5.7 models are rated to tow at least 10,000 pounds, with some rated up to 10,900 in certain configurations. Plus, all 5.7-liter Tundras are equipped with tow packages, which include larger brakes, a transmission cooler, brake controller, trans temp gauge and a more aggressive rear end ratio. 
  • Even though all XK50 Tundras are basically the same truck, there were a few interior and exterior facelifts throughout the years. In 2010 and again in 2014, there were sheet metal and interior changes. It’s hard to say that any particular era is better or worse than others, but the 2010 changes were a nice upgrade from the more utilitarian interiors of previous models. Some owners have reported that high-use interior items like grab handles, trim pieces and switches and knobs seem to be lasting longer on the newer models, but it’s hard to determine whether that’s from upgraded materials and design or simply from them being newer in general.

  • Trouble spots on 5.7-liter Tundras include… uh… not much. In all of our research, we couldn’t really come up with consistent reports of things to look for. Tundra trouble spots appear to largely track with general maintenance and condition of the vehicles. Pre-2009 models reported more rust issues than later trucks, but, again, age could be the biggest factor here. Anecdotally, we’ve talked to a few Tundra owners who have replaced starters at between 150,000 and 180,000 miles, but, jeez, if something needs a starter at that mileage, can it really even be called a trouble spot?
  • Other reports we’ve heard include interior trim issues (on pre-2010 trucks), front window regulators and switches, and faulty air injection pumps. But, again, we have to stress that none of these complaints appear in such high numbers that we’d really even call them trouble spots. These were simply the only specific issues that appeared more than once in our research.
  • If there is a catch on the 5.7-liter trucks, though, it’s fuel economy. The big V8 absolutely loves gasoline and just can’t get enough of the stuff. Expect 15 mpg in regular use and 10-12 towing and hope cheap gas stays around for a while.
  • In addition to the numerous configurations possible from the Toyota catalog, there were also several regional “port packages:” Let’s call them option kits installed at the port of entry or regional distributor level for sale in those geographic areas. These were typically upgrades to well-equipped Tundra Grade models that included appearance kits, wheel and tire upgrades, interior trim packages, and badging. So if you’re shopping for a Tundra and find one that seems to carry a designation that doesn’t seem familiar, a quick Google search can usually clear up things. For example, Southeast Toyota dealers got an XSP package that included BBS wheels and some carbon fiber interior trim, Gulf States Toyota dealers got a TSS package, and we’ve heard of other regions getting specific packages as well, although documentation on the overall package is tricky to come by. Usually a search for your specific package nets relatable results.
  • In addition to spending a lot on gas, plan to spend a lot on the truck as well. Used Tundras regularly trade hands for 15-20% more than similarly equipped and similar year trucks from the Big 3. So there’s definitely a premium to be paid, but the tradeoff is in the typically higher quality ratings and potentially lower maintenance costs of the Toyota vs. the Ford, Chevy or Chrysler products. And once you’re ready to move on, Tundras appear to be holding their value as well or better than their American counterparts, meaning less of a hit from depreciation, even if you’re taking that hit on initial purchase price. Plan on spending $10,000 or more for a 2007-’09 5.7-liter truck with age-appropriate mileage, which is probably well over 100,000. In the $15,000 range, you’re looking at 2010-’13 trucks in the 100,000-mile range in good condition, and later trucks with fewer miles can easily top $20,000-$25,000.
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docwyte
docwyte UberDork
3/24/20 9:48 a.m.

My friend has a crew cab with the short bed, lifted and larger wheels/tires.  I borrowed it for a week and got 11mpg with it in mixed driving.  It truly got abysmal fuel mileage as that was with it totally unloaded and not towing anything.  If you can average 15mpg in one of these things you're doing really, really well.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/24/20 9:50 a.m.

Y our story should be corrected 

 

no crewmax comes with bed larger than 5.5 feet 

 

air injection pump failure is the biggest problem with the tundra 

 

 

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
3/24/20 10:05 a.m.
docwyte said:

My friend has a crew cab with the short bed, lifted and larger wheels/tires.  I borrowed it for a week and got 11mpg with it in mixed driving.  It truly got abysmal fuel mileage as that was with it totally unloaded and not towing anything.  If you can average 15mpg in one of these things you're doing really, really well.

that's the problem, lifted with larger rims and tyres. Lifted means less aerodynamic and the larger rim and tyre package needs more power to get it rolling. I get 13mpg out of my 2003 disco, which has full time four wheel drive, dreadful aero, heavy weight, and an engine that was designed in the 50s. The Stock Tundra, even with the 5.7, should do better than that.

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo SuperDork
3/24/20 12:59 p.m.

I saw one the other day - short box (regular short box) short cab 5.7.  I bet that lil rig scoots!

My 2015 Land Cruiser is kissing cousins with one of these and I gotta say - its great.  380/400 silky smooth naturally aspirated V8.  Pass anything but a gas station.  

Opti
Opti Dork
3/24/20 1:28 p.m.

I forget how old this platform is. You mentioned the 04 Chevy you were using as a tow truck before, and that reminded me this platform goes back to 2007, Meanwhile the GM twins have been through 3 generations since then.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/24/20 1:28 p.m.
docwyte said:

My friend has a crew cab with the short bed, lifted and larger wheels/tires.  I borrowed it for a week and got 11mpg with it in mixed driving.  It truly got abysmal fuel mileage as that was with it totally unloaded and not towing anything.  If you can average 15mpg in one of these things you're doing really, really well.

I reset the fuel economy gauge on my 2010 when I got in in early December, and so far I'm averaging exactly 15, which includes a couple no-tow road trips, one short towing trip on mostly 55mph roads, and around town work. I'll say that even getting that it's not easy, and it;s only there at the oment because I just got back from an unladen road trip. These are great trucks, but they have a taste for the juice.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/24/20 1:30 p.m.
93gsxturbo said:

I saw one the other day - short box (regular short box) short cab 5.7.  I bet that lil rig scoots!

My 2015 Land Cruiser is kissing cousins with one of these and I gotta say - its great.  380/400 silky smooth naturally aspirated V8.  Pass anything but a gas station.  

0-60 on the lightest configurations of 5.7 trucks was just a tick over 6 seconds, and 1/4 mile was like 14.6. That's gettin' it for a big rig like these.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/24/20 1:33 p.m.
Opti said:

I forget how old this platform is. 

https://jalopnik.com/details-of-six-new-toyota-models-including-next-gen-86-1842473009

 

Then comes the all new 4Runner and Sequoia coming in 2022 based on the all new 2021 Tundra that will ride on the all new TNGA-F chassis. These will get a TwinTurbo Hybrid V6 and NO MORE V8.

Then a new 2024 Tacoma. 

Lexus is killing off V8 models under the $90k price point and an all new TwinTurbo V8 will debut in the 2022 LC-F. 

The LS and ES are getting a 2022 refresh and the GS if being killed off and replaced with a Lexus version of the new RWD Toyota Mirai sedan. The all new IS is coming for 2021.

An all new NX is coming on the new TNGA-K platform with a new 14in Touchscreen and 5 different powertrains. 

An all new RX is coming in 2023 and the GX is being replaced in 2023 with a new model. 

The LX is going to be insane with a TT V6 hybrid in 2022 and will compete with the Bentayga with a TT V8Land. The Landcruiser on the other hand will be turned into a stripped out off roader and lose any sort of luxury focus in favor of hardcore off roading.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/24/20 1:53 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

 

no crewmax comes with bed larger than 5.5 feet 

 

 

Nice catch. That's what I get for writing buyer's guides at midnight on a Saturday.

Fixed.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/24/20 1:58 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thanks! 
I have a tacoma 4 door 01 and bought a 18 tacoma with 6.5 bed 

 

I really need a crewmax with a 8 feet or 6.5 bed, but toyota sadly doesn't do it . To me the 5.5ft is unuseable for my needs . Hope toyota listens to us long time customers and gives the crewmax a bigger bed for the new generation that is coming. 

 

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed UltraDork
3/24/20 4:13 p.m.
mad_machine said:
docwyte said:

My friend has a crew cab with the short bed, lifted and larger wheels/tires.  I borrowed it for a week and got 11mpg with it in mixed driving.  It truly got abysmal fuel mileage as that was with it totally unloaded and not towing anything.  If you can average 15mpg in one of these things you're doing really, really well.

that's the problem, lifted with larger rims and tyres. Lifted means less aerodynamic and the larger rim and tyre package needs more power to get it rolling. I get 13mpg out of my 2003 disco, which has full time four wheel drive, dreadful aero, heavy weight, and an engine that was designed in the 50s. The Stock Tundra, even with the 5.7, should do better than that.

This exactly.  I had a Jeep Cherokee XJ with 33" tires/rims and a 3" lift. Stock 6 cylinder engine. I managed 10-12 mpg in the very best of conditions. In the snow with AWD engaged it did 8-9 mpg!  I had a friend who at the same time drove a Chevy Box van and pulled a loaded trailer for work. It had a SBC 350 and still did 11-12 mpg. We use to laugh about how absurd that picture was. He is still driving his, (almost a million miles on the basic original structure) mine is long gone. 

Schmidlap
Schmidlap HalfDork
3/24/20 4:35 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
93gsxturbo said:

I saw one the other day - short box (regular short box) short cab 5.7.  I bet that lil rig scoots!

0-60 on the lightest configurations of 5.7 trucks was just a tick over 6 seconds, and 1/4 mile was like 14.6. That's gettin' it for a big rig like these.

Toyota/TRD used to offer a supercharger kit for the 5.7L V8 that boosted it 500hp/550lb-ft, as well as performance exhaust, big brakes, lowering springs and upgraded anti-roll bars to turn the truck into a Lightning or SRT10 competitor, but I think most of those got cancelled.  They estimated 0-60 in the mid 4s and quarter mile in the mid 13s after throwing all the parts at it. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/24/20 4:47 p.m.

My Toyota dealer doesn't sell the TRD SC. I bought the Magnuson SC ($7k) for my 200 series LC. Installed  and flashed at Toyota dealer. Almost 75 k miles on it, no issues. 
 

most people suspect the TRD SC was a magnuson all along. 
 

 

https://youtu.be/o07fmEi5GMM

wake74
wake74 New Reader
3/24/20 6:21 p.m.

I'd second going for the larger 5.7.  I've got the 4.7 V8 in the '07.   Unloaded, it's plenty of engine, and even enough engine for towing the flats, but if you get into the hills at all, be prepared for a slow run up the hills.  Gas mileage is abysmal towing, and range with the small tank towing, means, you never have to worry about holding it in until you need gas.  BUT, I certainly wouldn't trade this thing for an 13 year old domestic.  It's 13 years old, has 110k miles, and regularly shocks people that its really that old.  Mine's a pretty low frills 4.7 SR5 2WD model.  Not a lot of gadgets to go bad though.  I did install an aftermarket Android head unit, mainly to get the back-up camera.  I also have the TRD rear sway (makes a huge difference), run a WDH, and installed a set of the cheap aftermarket GM Style tow mirrors.  Really helps with the 8.5' wide trailer.  Photo is from RRR pre tow mirrors.

 

 

 

 

 

Sonic
Sonic UltraDork
3/24/20 6:40 p.m.

This is a good detailed buyers guide that actually gives info to interested people.  This is much better than the fluff piece "buyers guide" about the Viper in the last issue that had almost no info in it that most basic enthusiasts don't already know and the only advice was the standard "buy the best one you can afford".  

christinaylam
christinaylam New Reader
3/24/20 9:35 p.m.
wake74 said:

I'd second going for the larger 5.7.  I've got the 4.7 V8 in the '07.   Unloaded, it's plenty of engine, and even enough engine for towing the flats, but if you get into the hills at all, be prepared for a slow run up the hills.  Gas mileage is abysmal towing, and range with the small tank towing, means, you never have to worry about holding it in until you need gas.  BUT, I certainly wouldn't trade this thing for an 13 year old domestic.  It's 13 years old, has 110k miles, and regularly shocks people that its really that old.  Mine's a pretty low frills 4.7 SR5 2WD model.  Not a lot of gadgets to go bad though.  I did install an aftermarket Android head unit, mainly to get the back-up camera.  I also have the TRD rear sway (makes a huge difference), run a WDH, and installed a set of the cheap aftermarket GM Style tow mirrors.  Really helps with the 8.5' wide trailer.  Photo is from RRR pre tow mirrors.

 

 

 

 

 

Truck twinsies! Same color and mods too, and it used to tow around an E36. I always say that this truck is a great zombie apocalypse vehicle. I have been eyeing the larger tank, but so far the frequent stops aren't too bad to get up and walk around. It's not fancy but I'll take it any day over an old F150. Best workhorse in the fleet! 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
3/25/20 9:11 a.m.

My dad bought a 2008 SR5 4wd Double Cab brand new, and it's still going as strong as ever 150k+ miles later. He has the 5.7 as well. The early trucks did have a few quirks: his had a cam actuator recall early on, and was repaired before it hit 1000 miles. The rear axles on these also had an issue: bearings would wear early (he had that repaired at the dealer) and his had an issue when we replaced the rear brakes for the first time with axle tube clearance due to a parts revision with the rotors. Toyota wanted to drop the axle to clearance the tubes (not covered under warranty at that point), so we ended up clearancing them with a BFH. laugh Other than that, it's been great. We also had to change the water pump and the wiper motor. Other than that stuff, it's been just regular maintenance. Interior has held up well, except the aux input for the radio which went wonky about 5 years ago.

When these were new, they outclassed everything else the Big 3 were building. Today, they are a bit long in the tooth, but still remain competitive. I wouldn't think twice about picking one up.

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
3/25/20 10:49 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:
Opti said:

I forget how old this platform is. 

https://jalopnik.com/details-of-six-new-toyota-models-including-next-gen-86-1842473009

 

Then comes the all new 4Runner and Sequoia coming in 2022 based on the all new 2021 Tundra that will ride on the all new TNGA-F chassis. These will get a TwinTurbo Hybrid V6 and NO MORE V8.

Then a new 2024 Tacoma. 

Lexus is killing off V8 models under the $90k price point and an all new TwinTurbo V8 will debut in the 2022 LC-F. 

The LS and ES are getting a 2022 refresh and the GS if being killed off and replaced with a Lexus version of the new RWD Toyota Mirai sedan. The all new IS is coming for 2021.

An all new NX is coming on the new TNGA-K platform with a new 14in Touchscreen and 5 different powertrains. 

An all new RX is coming in 2023 and the GX is being replaced in 2023 with a new model. 

The LX is going to be insane with a TT V6 hybrid in 2022 and will compete with the Bentayga with a TT V8Land. The Landcruiser on the other hand will be turned into a stripped out off roader and lose any sort of luxury focus in favor of hardcore off roading.

I can't wait for the GS Fs with the V8 to drop down a bit more in price. Even with the torque converter auto, it's a blast to drive and that V8 sounds amazing. It's a shame they are killing those off.

 

I've got a 01 Sequoia which is what? The Tundra with 3rd row seating? Anyways the 2UZ 4.7 in that gets me 12MPGs towing or driving no matter what. It is lifted, with 33inch tires, and a big ole roof rack. Averaging 77mph from Norfolk, VA to Los Angeles, CA, to Tacoma, WA last summer and doing my own math with fill ups/mileage - I averaged 12.9. I just think it's the nature of the beast. The UZ and UR V8s sound glorious and are rock solid. Outside of timing belts on the older UZs these Sequoia/Tundra platforms are hard to beat. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/25/20 11:17 a.m.
DirtyBird222 said:
mr2s2000elise said:

 
 
I can't wait for the GS Fs with the V8 to drop down a bit more in price. Even with the torque converter auto, it's a blast to drive and that V8 sounds amazing. It's a shame they are killing those off.

 

 

Guess I will be competing with you! my plan is to get one for a DD. As much as I hate the gimpomatic, since I will never buy a M3/m5, this is the best scenario for me.Want a molten lava orange or Superman blue - with blood red interior . The yamaha v8 is glorious

 

 

the TTV8 in the LCF will be glorious with 650HP. Really hoping wife sells her RCF for a TTV8 LCF vert when it comes out 

PeterAK
PeterAK Dork
3/25/20 9:51 p.m.

I drive a 2010 Sequoia, same 5.7 engine and drivetrain.  Great truck.  You can look up all work performed by Toyota dealers on any Toyota if you have the vin:  https://www.toyota.com/owners/my-vehicle/service-history

I'm the second owner and have 135k on mine.  The only thing it has needed other than maintenance and wear items is a recharge for the AC.  That's it.  My rear shocks are going to get replaced this summer as one is leaking and they are a bit squishy, but I've hauled a lot with this truck.

My financial planner totalled his 2008 Tundra when it had 215k on it, and had made it that far with minimal repairs.

Great trucks.  Looking forward to reading about your experience with one, JG.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
3/26/20 1:14 p.m.

Unpopular opinion: Tundra Double cab LOOOONG bed is a bad ass look. I'm sure they're like driving a bridge, but I like it.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise Dork
3/26/20 1:30 p.m.
Mazdax605 said:

Unpopular opinion: Tundra Double cab LOOOONG bed is a bad ass look. I'm sure they're like driving a bridge, but I like it.

Didn't know it was unpopular. However, that is my favorite Tundra, the one you mentioned.. 8 feet double cab.  I would have bought that, instad of our Tacoma, but I need more interior space of a full size doors. Hopefully the new Tundra will follow the American trucks, and allow us to have the 4 Crew/King doors, and big bed.  I really also hope that the new Tundra offers a Dually option like the American brands.

 

amg_rx7
amg_rx7 SuperDork
4/2/20 10:05 p.m.

You missed a couple of problem areas:

1. Water pumps tend to go rather frequently. They will leak out of the weap hole or sometimes gasket. Labor to replace is nuts because of all the stuff that needs to be removed. $1k repair at the dealer

2. Air injection pump and system failures. Also very expensive.

3. Cam tower oil leak - also expensive but not super common

 

#1 bit me. It is the best tow vehicle I have owned though. Between the 400 torx, 380 hp and 6 speed transmission, it tows better than my 2000 F250 7.3 diesel and smells much better.

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