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'07 Toyota Tundra - Tow Vehicle of the Year (Comparo test)

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'07 Toyota Tundra - Tow Vehicle of the Year (Comparo test)

Old 03-02-07, 06:16 PM
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Default '07 Toyota Tundra - Tow Vehicle of the Year (Comparo test)


Half-ton pickups are the most popular tow vehicle class. The category has been hot for a decade and is still steaming, for those who know how to compete in this smokin’ market. Every one of the five trucks in this year’s test has, at the very least, been updated since our last 1?2-ton roundup in 2004, but the entry of Toyota’s new Tundra — now a truly full-size pickup — and the completely redesigned GM product has set the class ablaze. Maximum tow ratings have continued to edge ever upward, and trailer boaters now enjoy an even wider array of models to fit their active lifestyles.

We decided to test four-wheel-drive (4WD), crew cab 1?2-tons, and we asked each of the five manufacturers to deliver a 2007 model set up (with engine, transmission, axle ratio and tire size) to attain the maximum tow rating available.

Gathered for this, our 25th annual Tow Vehicle of the Year trials, was a Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Mega Cab, Ford F-150 King Ranch Lariat SuperCrew, GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab SLT, Nissan Titan SE Crew Cab and Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5. Tow ratings (as delivered) ranged from 7650 to 10,300 pounds, and for test sleds we used a pair of 2007 Chaparral 256 SSi bowriders on Zieman triaxle trailers with dual disc brakes. Each weighed 6840 pounds, and had 520 pounds of tongue weight.

We measured towing and nontowing performance, braking, and fuel mileage, and our six judges also evaluated each truck in city traffic, hill climbing, highway cruising and a variety of other towing and nontowing situations.


Our test vehicle was equipped with the only engine available in the 1500 Mega Cab, a 5.7L Hemi V-8 that generates 345 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes with a five-speed OD automatic transmission, standard 3.73:1 axle gears and an optional, antispin rear differential. The Trailer Tow Group added the wiring harness, 750-amp battery and Class IV receiver. The test unit delivered was a two-wheel-drive model, the only one of the bunch.

The front end is a typical double A-arm-style IFS setup, instead of the live axle under the 4WD model. Underneath the tail is a live axle with longitudinal leaf springs and shocks. Large disc brakes (with four-wheel ABS), power rack-and-pinion steering, and LT265/70R17 tires on 17x8-inch chrome-clad wheels are all standard equipment on the 1500 Mega Cab.

The Dodge was the perfect example of how much axle gear (ring and pinion) ratio choice can influence maximum trailer weight ratings. Our truck was delivered with the standard 3.73:1 rear end, and was tagged with a 7650-pound tow rating. A couple hundred dollars extra would get you the optional 4.10 axle, along with better acceleration and hill climbing, plus 1000 pounds more trailer-towing capacity. The increase in fuel consumption as a result of the higher-numeric axle gear ratio should be minimal under normal driving conditions.


The F-150 SuperCrew is a gorgeous vehicle. It came to us equipped with the three-valve-per-cylinder Triton 5.4L V-8 that puts out 300 hp and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine features variable camshaft timing and is backed by a four-speed OD automatic. Front suspension duties are carried out by a double A-arm IFS arrangement; the rear suspension is a live axle with longitudinal leaf springs with shock absorbers set outboard of the springs. Steering is provided by a high-ratio power rack-and-pinion system directing P275/55R20 tires on 20-inch aluminum wheels. Large vented disc brakes front and rear are powered by vacuum-assist, four-wheel ABS.

Our test unit was delivered with the 3.73 axle in the optional limited-slip differential. This garnered the vehicle a tow rating of 9200 pounds — however, Ford notes in its publications to reduce the GCWR/maximum trailer weight rating by 500 pounds on models with 18- or 20-inch wheels. So, our test rig entered the fray with an 8700-pound tow rating.


This is a sweet truck. Our unit was powered by the reworked 6.0L V-8 VortecMAX that kicks out 367 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. The OHV powerplant features variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management. Its power is passed through the Super Duty four-speed OD automatic, and then on to the optional 3.73 axle. This truck had the beefy 9.5-inch rear axle that comes with the 6.0L and 6.2L engines. The rear suspension features semi-elliptical, variable-rate, two-stage leaf springs, and splayed-mount monotube shocks. Up front, the truck was equipped with a double A-arm IFS setup using coil-over monotube shocks. The P265/70R17 tires are mounted to 17x7.5-inch aluminum wheels, and are steered through a power-assisted, rack-and-pinion system. Power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are on all four corners.

Here’s another vehicle for which axle gear and option package choices are key. As provided, our test unit had a maximum tow rating of 8500

pounds — however, if it had been delivered with the optional NHT “maximum capacity trailering” suspension instead of the Z71 “offroad” suspension package, and the optional 4.10 axle, the vehicle would have been rated at 10,500 pounds. That’s a 2000-pound difference.


The Nissan Titan took top honors in our 2004 Tow Vehicle of the Year contest, and for good reason. This was, and still is, a potent competitor with brawny towing credentials. The truck is powered by the updated 5.6L DOHC, 32-valve Endurance V-8 that produces 317 hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque. It puts its power to the wheels through a gated five-speed automatic with a tow/haul mode.

Our test unit was blessed with the lower (higher numeric) of the two available axle ratios (2.94 and 3.36) that comes with the optional Offroad or Tow packages, both of which graced our test vehicle. The front suspension is a double A-arm design with a stabilizer bar; a solid axle with leaf springs supports the rear end. Front and rear are treated to Rancho offroad performance shocks. The front brakes are large vented discs, the rear also features large discs, and all four are augmented with ABS. Power assist rack-and-pinion steering engaged the 17x7.5-inch aluminum alloy wheels and P285/70R17 tires.

As delivered, the Titan was tow rated for 9400 pounds — again the result of being equipped with the proper option packages.


A long-awaited vehicle, this is the first true full-size Toyota pickup, and its dimensions tell the story. Our test unit was a Double Cab standard bed with a wheelbase of 145.7 inches and an overall length of 228.7 inches. (See specs for all five trucks in the chart.) A whopping 381 hp and 401 lb.-ft. of torque are produced by a new 5.7L i-FORCE DOHC 32-valve V-8 that features variable valve timing. The truck was also equipped with the new six-speed OD automatic.

The front-end setup consists of double A-arm IFS with coil springs; the rear end is a 10.5-inch solid axle (standard in the 5.7L V-8) with leaf springs and staggered shocks. The optional TRD offroad package beefed up the suspension a bit with high-performance Bilstein monotube shocks. The TRD package also netted the truck a set of 18-inch alloy wheels and P275/65R18 tires. A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system turns the front wheels. And the brake system is a power-assist four-wheel disc setup with ABS all the way around.

Our unit featured a 4.30 axle as part of the 5.7L V-8 Towing Package that — among other goodies — also nets you a frame-integrated receiver hitch, extendable towing mirrors and a transmission temperature gauge. As delivered, it was rated to tow 10,300 pounds, the highest in the group.


All of the trucks tested did a good job of holding up the boat’s 520 pounds of tongue weight. The Dodge Ram produced more sway and “light front end” moments than the others, however — more than one tester thought the boat pushed the Dodge around a bit. By comparison, the Toyota and Ford handled the load “tightly” and “securely,” as described by testers. The Nissan and GMC’s rear ends dropped more so than the others, but still supported the tongue weight without any noticeable handling quirks.


Huge roof supports, such as the C-pillar behind the rear seats of the Dodge Mega Cab, or the high sills and small windows in the rear of the Toyota Tundra, may obstruct your line of sight over the shoulder, but mirrors can make or break a vehicle in this category.

The Dodge offers rectangular flip-up mirrors (with a built-in, nonadjustable convex spot) that are tucked in horizontally for everyday use, then rotate into an outboard vertical position for towing. And while they don’t extend out as much as some of the others, all of the testers liked them. We wish we could say the same for the GMC’s mirrors — they were “sport” style, smallish, and didn’t offer good coverage for towing. The Ford, Nissan and Toyota all had large mirrors that provided excellent visibility for towing large boats. We favored the Nissan above all because its rectangular vertical mirrors were huge, extendable, and featured an adjustable convex spot. Ford’s mirrors were also good, but did’t extend. The extendable Toyota mirrors offered a nonadjustable convex spot, but were only fair in their coverage because of their more squarish shape.


The Dodge Ram received remarks such as “engine seemed strong, although towing acceleration was not as good as I had expected with all the hype about the Hemi,” and “decent towing power on flats and mild inclines, but not a great hill climber.” On steeper hills, the Dodge had trouble pulling the 6840-pound trailer boat any faster than 45 mph — but on flat stretches the Dodge would cruise at 55 mph without a lot of effort.

Reviewers made comments such as, “good power, but bogged a little on hills,” and “good flatland performance, but when pulling hills, the truck stays in second gear at 3000 rpm and begins losing steam” when towing with the Ford F-150. Nontowing performance was aggressive, with strong midrange punch, although the engine was deemed a “tad noisy” and “not as smooth as some others.”

“Very punchy,” was typical of the nontowing comments our testers made about the GMC Sierra. “It would jump to near 90 mph with barely a sweat,” wrote one judge. Towing performance was generally well regarded, too. Another tester noted, “towing power seemed strong and consistent. It accelerates well and holds its own on the hills.” But the panel’s consensus was that hill climbs were not its forte.

“Nissan’s 5.6L Endurance V-8 rocks!” was one tester’s enthusiastic remark about the Titan. It offered excellent off-the-line and midrange acceleration, along with plenty of power while towing. Its nontowing performance was equally spry. Another judge commented that it was “very smooth and powerful while towing.” Yet another opined, “pulled hills like it was hauling a much smaller boat.”

The Toyota received notes that included, “no problemo... mucho torque” and “on steep hills, it hardly knows the boat is behind it.” A linear progression of power was one of the things we liked most, but the engine was considered noisy during hard acceleration or downshifts. During nontowing drives, the new i-FORCE 5.7L V-8 jumped when we stepped on the gas, even at highway speeds.


The Toyota was equipped with a six-speed auto with a “slap-stick” manual shift feature. This was especially welcome when towing on hills, as the transmission could be locked into any gear without concern of upshifting. It worked great for controlling downhill speed, as well. Even when left in the “Drive” position, the tranny didn’t gear hunt (that is, once its logic had settled on a gear choice). The new six-speed also had the widest overall range of gear ratios of any vehicle in this test, and featured a Tow/Haul mode.

The Nissan offered a five-speed auto tranny with a “gated” shifter that allowed it to be used in much the same way as the Toyota tranny. It also came with a Tow/Haul mode. It could be manually shifted to select exactly the right gear for the situation and avoid gear hunting. Comments such as “seamlessly went through gears to 70 mph” and “smooth shifts, easy-to-find gears” described its even-tempered performance. Downhill speed could also be controlled through manual gear selection, with no worries that it would upshift unintentionally.

Gear hunting was a common thread when reading through the test comments on the Dodge transmission. It shifted loudly and roughly when under a load, and the top three gears were all bound into the Drive position — which means that you can’t man-ually choose between fourth and third gear. A button on the end of the column-mount shifter toggles through OD lockout and Tow/Haul mode, but the OD lockout button only closes out fifth gear.

Our Ford had a four-speed OD auto tranny. Operation was smooth during towing and nontowing exercises, with little or no gear hunting. One tester commented, “too bad the engine power on hills couldn’t do the tranny justice.” As an aside, we have lots of experience with this package, and believe the 20-inch wheels hampered our test unit’s hill-climbing performance.

The GMC Sierra also came equipped with a four-speed OD auto tranny with a Tow/Haul mode and OD lockout. Testers liked the GM powertrain and remarked that it was “smooth” in all nontowing situations, but “not as seamless as the Nissan or Toyota.” It was also noted that it “holds gears on hills, but wants to stay in second on steep climbs.”


Our GMC test unit received relatively high marks in this category, earning comments such as, “carlike,” “stable and smooth” and “firmly in control.” But when it came to towing, the notes changed to “a little bouncy” and “lots of road feel, but never out of control.”

The Dodge Ram didn’t fare as well. The suspension was deemed “soft” nontowing, but one judge noted that jolts from freeway expansion joints “made yodeling easy.” Towing behavior was not favored either, gathering comments such as, “wallows” and “the rear end kicks out to the side after potholes or railroad tracks.”

Comments such as “excellent handling and control while towing” and “hugs the road” described the Ford

F-150’s towing behavior. Its nontowing ride and handling characteristics were smooth and carlike, its towing performance solid and comfortable.

The Nissan’s nontowing ride was “very smooth,” as one panelist noted. Its towing behavior was no different, and earned accolades such as, “comfortable and confident” and “kept the trailer in control.” During induced sway tests, however, the Nissan was subject to a little tail wagging, probably due to its comparatively short wheelbase.

The testers liked our Toyota Tundra, too. Common themes in the test notes were comments such as, “easy to forget you’re towing” and “controls the tow well — no sway.” In fact, two testers commented that in some ways it felt like a 3?4-ton pickup. Its nontowing ride and handling seemed “taut and offered good control,” although it was not thought to be as smooth as some of the others.


Some testers did not care for the gauge layout of the Toyota, particularly the “tunnels” or plastic tubes/rings in which the smaller instruments are nestled, but others offered comments such as, “simple, intuitive and easy to reach and use.” The seats are supportive and comfortable, and most testers loved the muscular body styling. But more than one was unhappy with the high rear windowsills and small rear windows of our Double Cab model.

The GMC offers excellent instrumentation and layout, but the icons on switches and buttons are too small to easily see, and the low placement of many controls doesn’t help. We did especially like the digital scrolling readout that included great info, including transmission temperature and estimated fuel consumption. Seating accommodations are cushy, and all agreed that the Sierra’s smartly styled body is a welcome relief from the “boxy” look of some of the trucks.

The Nissan provided easy-to-see instrumentation, and controls that are well marked and big enough to grab on to. Overall, it’s a well-designed cockpit with great seats. However, to some it seemed a little unsophisticated. Body styling with the hard-lined Titan is a love/hate thing. We couldn’t agree; you decide.

Ford’s F-150 King Ranch interior is akin to being in a Western movie while you drive. The saddle leather-style seats are warm and comfy, and look like something you would have in your ranch house. Instrumentation is basic and easy to read; and controls are simple and straightforward. It’s the “less is more” philosophy, and it works. The exterior has a brawny, tough look. It’s a bit boxy for some, but handsome nonetheless.

The Dodge Ram Mega Cab, of course, offers the roomiest cab in the group. The seats are good, but not great — more support and less stuffing would be our suggestion. The main instruments are large and easy to read, but the overall dash styling is somewhat dated in comparison to the rest of the group. Most judges deemed its sheet metal stylish, although some thought its looks were tame compared to the other trucks.


We spent nearly two weeks with these five trucks: All had bright spots — some more than others. We recorded raw performance characteristics both towing and nontowing, and also made subjective evaluations in everything from engine/tranny performance to ergonomics and styling. When the dust finally settled, the points were tallied and the truck that shined brightest in Trailer Boats’ 25th Annual Tow Vehicle of the Year shoot-out was the...

...2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5 4WD powered by the 5.7L i-FORCE V-8.

Congratulations to Toyota for creating an outstanding product right off the drawing board. Completely redesigned this year, the Tundra took top honors in critical categories such as overall engine and transmission performance, and towing ride and handling. It also scored best in fit, finish and styling, and is, by far, the most significant new product to hit the 1?2-ton pickup market since the Titan’s 2004 debut.

It was also the quickest in nontowing acceleration, had the second-most-rapid towing acceleration, and boasted the greatest gross combined weight rating. The 2007 Toyota Tundra is a now officially a member of the full-size truck club, with all the brawny power, easy operation and good looks that active trailer boaters want from a tow vehicle. Well done!
Good to see a test from a source that knows what they are talking about when it comes to Trucks unlike the C&D article (and a few others).

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Old 03-02-07, 06:33 PM
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Very refreshing indeed, to see a comparison from people who know what they are talking about. Can't wait for the comparos from Truck Trend and 4 Wheeler Magazine.
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Old 03-02-07, 09:19 PM
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Only 10 more months til we find out Motor Trend's Truck of the Year...
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Old 03-03-07, 02:18 AM
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Great comparo. Hopefully domestic truck buyers will eventually see the light too.
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Old 03-03-07, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by PhilipMSPT View Post
Only 10 more months til we find out Motor Trend's Truck of the Year...
I don't see how the Tundra could lose. It should be a slam-dunk.
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Old 03-03-07, 09:27 AM
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Great read. Looks like Toyota has put together a winning combination. Now if only they would offer a 3/4 and 1 Ton version and offer a torquey turbo diesel. Would it be "moving forward" to think of a high torque, high efficiency Hybrid Synergy Drive System? hmmmmm.
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Old 03-03-07, 09:39 AM
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Looks like a very well done comparison and congrats to Toyota!!

The effort Toyota put into the new Tundra reminds me of the LS - seems like they REALLY sweated a lot of details and the work paid off.

When our F-150 needs replacing, if we still need a truck we will definitely look at the Tundra, as well as the latest F-150 at that time, which no doubt will be better than the current one. Having said that we've been VERY happy with our '04 F-150 FX4. Comfortable, not a single creak, squeak or rattle, powerful and tows our horse trailer with horse (or full of junk when we moved ) easily.
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