Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's not just Raw Horsepower that gets the job done.

By: T.J. Houghton

The all new Toyota Tundra is a very impressive truck. Motor Trends truck of the year as well as many other well deserved awards. Prior to actual launch of the Tundra I was able to visit Toyota’s truck plant in Indiana. We saw raw materials being delivered to the facility as well as all aspects of assembly all the way to watching finished Tundra’s being started up and driven off of the assembly line. (I understand that starting and driving a vehicle off of the assembly line may not be standard practice with other manufacturers.) I came away with a profound appreciation and respect for Toyota’s commitment to building high quality vehicles.
In addition to touring the manufacturing plant I was also able to spend time at the Toyota proving grounds and drive the trucks offered by Ford, Chevy, and Nissan for comparison. Toyota spoke to us in a very frank and humble manor. Their opinion was that this may be the last chance they have to really get into the full size truck market. Yes, the quality has always been great but Toyota has never had a truck that they could actually call “Full Sized”. The T100 was available in regular cab only. The first generation Tundra was often referred to as a 7/8th sized truck. Almost, but not quite there.

Enter the All new Tundra…
Knowing that this could be the last chance to get into the full size truck business Toyota purposely over -built the Tundra for the half ton market. What does this mean to you? Simple. You get to reap the benefits of a truck that out performs any of the half ton trucks on the market today.

When are brakes not just brakes?
One of the many things that impressed me is the design of the brakes. Yes, they are bigger and stronger than everyone else’s but it goes much deeper. The braking system on the Tundra is the part of an integral system that Toyota calls: Star Safety System™ - Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) + Traction Control (TRAC), 4-wheel disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, as well as being a key ingredient of Toyota’s auto limited slip differential that gives up to 15% better traction than the competition’s plain limited slip differentials.

Let’s discuss this a little further. The front brakes on the Tundra are a four piston “Fixed Caliper” design. This is a design used in racing. It provides more stopping power with a quicker reaction time. Plus, in comparison to most of the competition, all four of the Tundra’s brakes can be operated independently. This is very important. Once you can control each brake individually it opens up all kinds of possibilities, specifically the Star Safety System and Auto LSD referred to in the previous paragraph. Here is a great video showing Tundra's LSD and 6-speed tranny whoopin' up on an F-150.

First is Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). (Do not try this at home.) My son and I ride motorcycles on the weekends. We loaded up the Tundra with our bikes and gear and headed to one our favorite places. On the way it began to rain heavily. Being the optimists that we are, we continued in hopes that it would clear up by the time we arrived so that we would still be able to ride. The rain kept coming and the dips in the road began to gather rain. Soon the water was nearly crossing the entire road. We hit one to these rather large puddles and the truck shuttered slightly, then settled down and we plowed through with water flying everywhere. My son Tyler looked at me and said, “Dad, did you do that?” I said no then looked at the dash and noticed a light shaped like a car with squiggly lines flashing. My truck was smart enough to know what I was trying to do and applied the brakes individually in a manner that had the best chance at keeping us on our intended path! Wow… If anyone reading this knows my wife please DO NOT tell her about the next part… After a short description to Tyler of what just happened we began to look for bigger puddles! Soon we found a large enough volume of water that when hit, the truck backed out of the throttle (another part of VSC) and began to apply the brakes. We literally felt the truck hunting for pavement. Water was flying everywhere and Tyler and I were grinning from ear to ear. Once all of the wheels were back in contact with the road the engine began to pick up speed and off we went! I love this truck!
The next really practical application of Toyota’s brake technology is in their auto limited slip differential. Anyone my age or older can remember when all cars were rear wheel drive as opposed to the front wheel drives on most cars today. I have seen more than my share of cars on the side of the road with one of the back wheels in the ditch. The car would be stuck, with the wheel in the ditch spinning wildly. These cars had open differentials. That means that the power follows the path of least resistance or simpler put the power goes to the wheels with the least traction.

Enter Toyota Brake Technology…
What would happen if you could independently control each brake and knowing that, you took an open differential, applied the brakes to the wheel that is spinning? Right! Toyota’s Auto Limited Slip Differential. What exactly does this mean? It means that the Tundra is smart enough to know that when one of the back wheels is spinning faster than the other there is a low traction situation. It will apply the brakes to the wheel that is spinning. This in turn sends the power to the wheel that has the traction. It means that I personally witnessed and drove a two wheel drive Tundra through places and obstacles at the Tundra proving grounds that other makes could only pass through in four wheel drive! (Sometimes barely) I love this truck!

Are Tundra’s brakes better than the competition’s?


For more information on Toyota’s Star Safety System and Auto LSD go to .

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