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TOUGHENED UP: Toyota Tundra gets brawny new styling, upgraded accommodations

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In its first major redesign since 2007 – a lifetime in the highly competitive pickup truck world – Toyota has given a thorough going-over to its full-size Tundra.

Both inside and out, the changes are dramatic, with an aggressive, oversized grille treatment and more chiseled styling. Soft contours have given away to sharper edges, giving the new truck a tougher demeanor.

The interior redo is just as extensive. Materials are improved (although the dash is still largely formed from hard plastics). Deeply tunneled gauges have been replaced with a full set of more traditional – and more aesthetically pleasing – round, metallic-rimmed meters. All the ancillary controls, such as those for audio and climate control, have shifted closer to the driver. A backup camera is standard across the board, a necessity in a vehicle this size.

The CrewMax cabin is near-gargantuan, with oodles of space for front and rear passengers and storage spots for their stuff. Burly workmen would have no problem with front and rear legroom, or headroom for that matter. You probably wouldn’t want guys sporting tool belts sliding into the leather upholstery like that in our Limited-model truck, although it seems tough enough to take the abuse. But our high-end tester isn’t really a work-site vehicle; it seems more attuned to civilian duty such as off-road explorations and trailer or boat hauling.

Power is all-important in a pickup truck, and our Tundra delivered a healthy dose via the top of three engine options, a 5.7-liter, quad-cam V-8 aptly named I-Force. Paired with a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission, this smooth drivetrain metes out plenty of brawn, although it lags behind its American competitors in fuel economy.

tundraintOur 4×4 tester sported the optional TRD (unfortunate acronym, that) off-road package, at an unheard-of bargain price of $100, consisting of 18″ alloy wheels and tires, Bilstein shocks, engine and gas tank skid plates, and rear side privacy glass.

Those heavy-duty shocks undoubtedly contributed to our Tundra’s bouncy ride. At more than 5,800 pounds, the truck feels heavy on the road, a sensation accentuated by numb steering.

The Tundra redesign brings Toyota’s big bruiser closer to its domestic adversaries. But none of them is standing still, and sales figures will tell the story of the public’s preferences.

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