Full 2009 Toyota Tundra Review
What's New for 2009
A pair of special edition TRD packages (Sport and Rock Warrior) debut for the 2009 Toyota Tundra, and a flex-fuel version of the 5.7-liter V8 is now available on four-wheel-drive models.
The 2009 Toyota Tundra is essentially the same truck that made waves three years ago when it arrived on the scene as the first full-range, top-to-bottom overseas threat to the domestic truckmakers. With its robust chassis, wide range of body styles, available 381-horsepower V8, pleasant driving demeanor and distinctive interior, the Tundra set itself apart from the pack. The recently redesigned GM pickups were certainly viable challengers, but after living with both a Tundra and a Silverado in our long-term fleet over the past year, we ultimately determined that the Toyota was the better buy.
What a difference a year makes, or rather, what a difference two redesigned competitors make. After ruling the roost for its first couple years of production, the 2009 Toyota Tundra must now contend with the redesigned trucks from Dodge and Ford. Despite this onslaught, the Tundra sticks to its still-mighty guns for 2009, adding only a pair of limited-edition sport and off-road packages. The lineup of three stout engines, three bed lengths and three cab styles remains the same. Notably, the Tundra forgoes a traditional extended cab in favor of two crew-cab flavors: regular Double Cab and jumbo CrewMax. Now that Dodge's Mega Cab is discontinued, no other truck comes close to matching the Tundra CrewMax's rear-seat space.
During our long-term test of a Tundra Double Cab, it proved to be a capable workhorse that tackled all our towing, hauling and commuting needs without breaking a sweat. Its strapping 5.7-liter V8 and responsive six-speed automatic consistently impressed, and although the cabin evinced a few ergonomic missteps, it was generally durable, spacious and comfy. On the downside, the Tundra's wide haunches and expansive dashboard make it seem larger than some competitors from behind the wheel. Also, its rear suspension provides a significantly bouncier ride than the sophisticated coil-spring setup found in the new Dodge Ram.
The full-size-pickup segment is an embarrassment of riches these days. The new trucks from Dodge and Ford are impressive, but so are the GM full-sizers. In our most recent full-size truck comparison test, the Tundra was narrowed edged out of first place by the Ram. Nonetheless, the 2009 Toyota Tundra remains a well-built and thoroughly competent truck. Make sure it's on your to-drive list if you're shopping for one of these beasts of burden.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Toyota Tundra is a full-size, half-ton pickup truck available in three body styles: regular cab, Double Cab (crew cab) and CrewMax (really big crew cab). Regular and Double Cabs can be ordered with either a 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed, while the CrewMax comes only with a 5.5-foot bed. Trim levels include base Grade, midlevel SR5 and plush Limited. The regular cab is only available in Grade trim, while Double Cab and CrewMax styles are available in all flavors.
Standard Grade features include 18-inch steel wheels, a bed light, a 40/20/40-split cloth bench seat, manual accessories, a tilt steering wheel, dual-zone manual climate control and a six-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack (four speakers in regular cab). The SR5 adds cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, a console-mounted shifter, front bucket seats (the bench remains an option, returning the shifter to the steering column), a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a six-CD changer, keyless entry and rear heater ducts. Many of these options are available on the Grade. The SR5 CrewMax also includes a reclining and sliding rear seat and a power vertical-sliding rear window.
The Tundra Limited adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a bed rail system with adjustable tie-downs, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, automatic climate control, auto-dimming side mirrors, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker upgraded sound system with a subwoofer (12 speakers with CrewMax).
Other options include 20-inch wheels, driver memory functions, a navigation system, a back-up camera, a towing package and a sunroof (CrewMax only). The TRD Off-Road package available on the SR5 and Limited trims adds an off-road-tuned suspension, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, front tow hooks and a sliding rear window. The TRD Rock Warrior package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, a black cloth interior, foglamps and special exterior detailing and decals (available only on four-wheel-drive 5.7-liter Double Cab standard bed and CrewMax). The TRD Sport package includes 20-inch alloy wheels, a special shift knob and pedals, and unique detailing and decals (available only on two-wheel-drive 5.7-liter regular and Double Cab standard bed models).
Powertrains and Performance
Three engines are employed for duty underneath the Tundra's sculpted hood, and all versions of the Tundra can be equipped with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Standard on the 4x2 Tundra regular cab and standard bed 4x2 Double Cab is a 4.0-liter V6 good for 236 hp and 266 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. Optional on these models and standard on all other Tundras is a 4.7-liter V8 with 271 hp and 313 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with this V8 is 14/17/15 (13/16/15 with 4WD). Both these engines come standard with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Optional on all Tundras is a muscular 5.7-liter V8 that produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. This truck is seriously quick, as a Double Cab SR5 4x4 we tested went from zero to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds. Fuel economy is an estimated 13/17/15 mpg (14/18/16 with two-wheel drive). Properly equipped, the Tundra can tow between 10,100 and 10,800 pounds, depending on driveline and cab style.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard. In government crash testing, the 2009 Tundra scored four stars out of five in frontal impact tests for both driver and passenger. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset crash testing, the Tundra earned the highest possible "Good" rating. In side impact crash testing, a Tundra Double Cab also achieved a "Good" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Toyota Tundra has without a doubt the most stylish interior among full-size trucks. However, many of its audio controls are out of comfortable reach for the driver. Meanwhile, each gauge is housed in its own deep tunnel, resulting in less-than-stellar legibility. Materials quality is satisfactory for a full-size pickup, though the same can be said for the Tundra's rivals.
The regular cab offers comfortable seats as well as a generous amount of interior cargo space. In Double Cabs, the backseat is fully usable for adults, while the CrewMax offers the roomiest rear seat of any pickup truck. With a limolike 44.5 inches of rear legroom, even 6-footers can stretch out and cross their legs.
The 5.7-liter V8 makes the 2009 Toyota Tundra one of the quickest pickups on the road, and the engine's delivery is impressively smooth. Shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission are prompt, and the console shifter's precise action makes it easy to use the manual mode while tackling steep highway grades or off-road challenges. The light steering further complements the Tundra's easy-to-drive nature.
We were satisfied with the Tundra's ride quality a few years ago, but the new Dodge Ram's rear coil spring suspension and the Ford F-150's sturdier frame make the Tundra seem jiggly by comparison. During our long-term test, rear seat passengers often complained about the choppy ride. Braking distances are a few feet off the pace of competitors, but we've found the Tundra is very good at resisting fade after multiple stops.