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2009 Toyota Tundra ReviewThe Good
The 2009 Toyota Tundra has power, looks, and reliability on its side.The Bad
Poor gas mileage, issues with some interior materials, and a too-large dashboard are among the downsides of the ’09 Tundra.
The CarGurus View
The 2009 Toyota Tundra pickup is sizable and powerful enough to handle all kinds of heavy work. It’s also a capable off-road vehicle as well. But the Tundra is not a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge, and that remains a big factor in the U.S. market.
At a Glance
Introduced in 1999 to replace the unpopular T-100, the Toyota Tundra, once the runt of the litter, at least in the U.S. market, is, today, all grown up. The 2009 Toyota Tundra reflects all that the venerable Japanese automaker has learned about competing in the U.S. truck market. Brawn, performance, and utility, as well as larger cabs and more cargo-friendly beds, have replaced the pint-size design of the first Tundra.
The ’09 Tundra is available in three trim levels, the base Tundra Grade, SR5, and the top-shelf Limited. The base Toyota Grade trims are available in one of three cab configurations - Regular Cab, Double Cab, and the roomy CrewMax. SR5 and Limited trims are available only with the Double Cab or CrewMax. Additionally, all three trim levels offer a choice of three wheelbases, 126.8 inches for Regular Cab trims, 145.7 inches for long beds, and 164.6 inches for the Double Cab long-bed trims.
For ’09, Tundra Regular Cab and Double Cab trims are offered with either a 6.5-foot short bed or an 8-foot long bed. The CrewMax is available only with a 5.5-foot bed. Finally, all trims are offered in either rear-wheel-drive (RWD) or shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive (4WD) modes.
Three engines are offered for the 2009 Tundra, beginning with the standard 4.0-liter DOHC V6 in the RWD, Regular, and Double Cab Tundra Grade and SR5 trims. The V6 puts out 236 hp at 5,200 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The EPA estimates a tepid 15/19 mpg with the 4.0-liter V6.
Standard for both the Tundra Grade and SR5 4WD trims, and optional for RWD, is a 4.7-liter DOHC V8 that grinds out 276 hp at 5,400 rpm and 313 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. EPA estimates for the 4.7-liter V8 are a budget-straining 14/17 in RWD trims, and 13/16 in 4WD trims.
Both of these engines are mated with a five-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift logic.
The top-of-the-line ’09 Tundra Limited comes equipped with a standard 5.7-liter, DOHC i-Force V8 that pounds out 381 hp at 5,600 rpm and a ground-grabbing 401 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, the 5.7-liter V8 will haul close to 2,000 pounds and tow some 10,500 pounds. That’s some serious power. However, the 5.7-liter V8 also uses some serious gas, with the EPA estimating 14/18 for the RWD, and 13/17 for the 4WD trims.
Professional reviewers find the two V8s to be potent powerplants, with excellent acceleration. The 5.7-liter is, obviously, by far the stronger of the two and the pick of the litter for serious hauling and towing. Strangely enough, a few reviewers feel that neither V8 is particularly adept when tasked to merge or pass on the open highway.
Ride & Handling
The 2009 Toyota Tundra rides on a front double-wishbone, independent suspension with a front stabilizer bar and coil-over spring shock absorbers. A solid live-axle rear supports load-leveling leaf springs and staggered shocks, mounted outside of the springs for added stability. As well, Tundra’s 4WD trims come with a standard rear limited-slip differential.
The ’09 Tundra rolls on standard 18-inch wheels, with 20-inch wheels available as an option for the ’09 Tundra Limited trims.
The optional Toyota Racing Division (TRD) Off-Road Package offers such suspension tweaks as off-road tuning, Bilstein gas-filled shocks, and 17-inch off-road tires.
Most professional reviewers find the ’09 Tundra weighty enough and wide enough to tame most road surfaces. Reviewers did note, however, that the available 20-inch wheels on the Limited trims are uncommonly bouncy on uneven pavement; such was not noticed with the 18-inch wheels. Like most empty pickups, the Tundra has that annoying rear-wheel jitter in hard turns on rough roads. Also, professional reviewers find steering issues and corner lean to be less than ideal with the available 20-inch wheels when compared to the standard 18-inchers.
Cabin & Comfort
Virtually all reviewers note that the 2009 Tundra has an extra-large dashboard. Though gauges are noted to be large and easy to read, some audio and climate controls are a stretch for the driver to reach. Interior materials, plastics, especially, are cited by reviewers as sub-par, and as detracting from the overall refinement of the cabin.
Storage is ample in all Tundra’s cab configurations, with the Double and CrewMax configurations being progressively roomier with correspondingly increased cabin storage space.
Standard comfort and convenience features for the base Tundra Grade include six-passenger seating (in Double Cab and CrewMax), tilt-wheel steering, dual-zone air-conditioning, a heavy-duty tow hitch with seven-pin wiring harness, and a single-CD player, with MP3-playback capability and four speakers. The midlevel Tundra SR5 adds such standard features as a tachometer and outside temperature display, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted buttons, power windows and doors, heated power exterior mirrors, and a 6-CD/MP3 player with six speakers.
The ’09 Tundra Limited trim offers such standard comfort and convenience features as a ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, multi-level front seat heating, front power lumbar supports, reclining rear seats, power-retracting, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, a universal garage door opener, and memorized front seat/mirror settings.
Three TRD Packages are offered with the ’09 Toyota Tundra, including Sport, Off-Road, and Rock Warrior. Each offers upgraded exterior paint and chrome, as well as unique wheels and badges.
Additional options for the Tundra Grade trim include upgraded audio, cruise control, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a sliding rear window, and power accessories. For the SR5 and Limited trims, further options include a DVD-based navigation system, JBL premium audio with 440 watts of sound, a power moonroof, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and Bluetooth hands-free communication technology.
Standard safety features with the 2009 Toyota Tundra Regular Cab trims include four-wheel disc ABS, with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist, traction control, stability control, dual front side-mounted airbags, front head airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and child-seat anchors.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the ’09 Tundra four stars for frontal impact testing and three and four stars for rollover testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Tundra its best rating of Good across the board.
What Owners Think
Owners have their issues with the 2009 Tundra, with gas mileage, lackadaisical quality, and some ride and handling complaints topping the list. The fact that the Toyota Tundra isn’t a Ford or a Chevy also disappoints a few owners – though why they didn’t buy a Ford or Chevy seems a mystery. Many owners, in agreement with some professional reviews, mention the oversize dashboard in the ’09 Tundra, as well as substandard plastic surfaces in the cabin.
Owners did find much to laud about the ’09 Tundra, including its styling, excellent visibility to the front and sides, its V8 power, reliability, and quiet comfortable ride. Many owners found the ride in the Tundra to be better than adequate – apparently, a matter of debate - with its tight turning radius helpful in close quarters.
Though there are exceptions, most owners feel they made a wise decision in purchasing the ’09 Toyota Tundra, with one affirming a yearning to just “get in it and drive.”
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
What's your take on the 2009 Toyota Tundra?
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