by Greg Wilson March 19, 2004 Calgary, Alberta - Toyota may be best-known for its reliable cars, particularly the Camry and Corolla models, but the company is expanding rapidly in the light truck segment. They now have five truck offerings: RAV4, 4Runner, Sequoia, Tacoma and Tundra (six if you count the Sienna minivan). The Tundra Double Cab (crew cab) pickup is the only all-new model for 2004, but there have been significant changes to the RAV4, Highlander and 4Runner as well. Toyota RAV4 As reported recently in Haney Louka's Test-Drive of the new RAV4, the 2004 model now has the bigger 2.4 litre, DOHC, 16-valve four cylinder engine that cranks out 161 horses and 165 lb-ft. of torque compared to 148 horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque for the 2003 model. This makes the RAV4 more responsive and pleasing to drive in typical commuting environments, and helps bring it up to par with competing models. Though the RAV4 has an all-wheel-drive system without a Low Range, the RAV4's short wheelbase, decent ground clearance, and shorter turning circle make this a very capable off-road SUV. And though it's a small SUV - smaller than some of its competitors - it makes terrific use of space. In particular, the very low cargo loading floor adds space and makes loading easier. Other changes for 2004 include subtle exterior styling revisions: a new front bumper, grille, fog lamps, headlights and taillamps. As well, additional standard features now include variable intermittent wipers, power mirrors and an AM/FM CD 4 speaker stereo with MP3 player. An updated Chili Special Edition option package includes 16-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, hood scoop, two tone fabric sport seats, "Chili” floor mats, and a 200 watt Panasonic audio system that includes MP3 player and remote control. Toyota 4Runner Redesigned last year, the 4Runner receives a new third row seat for 2004, but it's available on the V8 models only. The 4Runner's split third-row seats can be folded up to the side walls (just like the old Previa) or removed entirely from the vehicle. Again, the legroom in the third row seat of the 4Runner is tight, and it's best used for children. V6 4Runners have a 4.0-litre, DOHC 24-valve V6 engine with variable valve timing that produces 245 horsepower and 283 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. V8 models have the 4.7-litre, 32-valve DOHC V8, similar to the engine in the Tundra and Sequoia. This engine produces less horsepower, 235, but more torque: 320 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. V6 4Runners feature a 4-speed automatic transmission and a part time/full-time 4WD system. V8 4Runners are equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission with "Uphill and Downhill Shift Logic" which helps the transmission stay in the appropriate gear while climbing or descending a grade. V8 4Runners also have a full-time 4-wheel drive with a centre differential that can be locked. Under normal driving conditions, torque is split 40 per cent front, 60 per cent rear, but if slippage occurs, the system will direct more power to the axle with the most grip. Of all Toyota trucks, 4Runners are the best for heavy-duty off-road use. As well as traction control and stability control, 4Runners offer "Hill-start Assist Control" which uses the brakes to prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards or slipping sideways when starting on an uphill slope. As well, 4Runners feature "Downhill Assist Control" which uses the brakes to maintain a downhill speed between 5 and 7 km/h when going down a very steep hill. I tried this feature while descending a steep, snow-covered incline and found that it works very well. You can leave the transmission in Drive and take your foot off the brake while descending an extremely steep decline. You can even steer a bit. Don't put your foot on the brake or the system will disengage. The Downhill Assist Control disengages as you begin to level out and accelerate away. This system takes the place of a separate Low Range gear, and it's only disadvantage seems to be that it is noisy. Because of the 4Runners heavy duty suspension and truck frame, its ride is stiffer and less comfortable than the Highlander. But I guess that's the price you pay for its excellent off-road abilities. Toyota Tundra The new Tundra Double Cab is a significant new model in the full-size truck market where four-door crew cabs are taking an increasingly bigger slice of the pickup market. Available in 4X2 and 4X4 models, the Tundra Double Cab has generous headroom and legroom for three adults in the rear seat, and a 24 degree rear seatback angle that's more comfortable than upright seatbacks found in some pickups. The rear doors are wide, allowing easy entry, but the step-up height is high - like most pickups. Standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks fold and tumble so the rear area can be used for storage. The Tundra Double Cab is 330 mm (13 inches) longer than the Regular Cab - most of that increase is in the wheelbase which has grown 310 mm (12 inches). The Double Cab is about 105 mm (4 inches taller and the rear track is 62 mm (2.5 inches) wider. While the cabin is longer, the Double Cab's bed length is shorter than the Regular Cab's and Access Cab models. However, it's still over 6 feet long. The Double Cab's bed length of 1887 mm (74.3 in.) compares to the Regular Cab's bed length of 2494 mm (98.2 in.) and the Access Cab's bed length of 1934 mm (76.1 in.). As well, the Double Cab's bed depth of 526 mm (20.7 in.) is higher by about 3.5 inches. The Tundra Double Cab has a unique vertical power sliding rear window with rear defroster. It's about four times larger than the open area of the manual sliding rear window in the Regular and Access Cabs. The Tundra Double Cab also has four power windows that wind down to the window ledge and a power sliding moonroof. All Tundras, except the Regular Cab, come with the 4.7 litre 32-valve, double overhead camshaft V8 engine that produces 240 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 315 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. A 4 speed automatic is standard, and Tundra Double Cab 4X4 models also include the Automatic Disconnecting Differential (ADD) for shift-on-the-fly, part-time 4WD. In an off-road course set up near Canmore, Alberta, the Tundra Double Cab's torquey engine and low range gear made steep ascents and descents an easy proposition, even in the snow. The driver has great visibility forward and to the rear, and the Tundra offers a well-damped ride over ruts and bumps. There's plenty of ground clearance, but its extended wheelbase makes it more difficult to traverse sudden dips and hills, and its protruding rear end sometimes catches the ground when exiting a dip. An offroad package is available for the 4X4 model and includes Bilstein shock absorbers; aluminum alloy wheels with raised white letter tires and wheel locks; fog lamps; exterior temperature display and compass; colour-keyed fender flares; power moonroof and TRD decals. On the highway, the Tundra Double Cab is an easy vehicle to drive, with good highway stability, and a quiet cabin - probably the quietest in this class next to the new F-150. The Tundra Double Cab's long wheelbase makes for a pleasant ride on the freeway. Of course, it would be a bear to park with a length of 230 inches! The 2004 Tundra 4X2 Double Cab has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $35,640. The 4X4 Double Cabs start at $39,200, and the luxurious Limited version is priced at $46,900. The offroad package for the 4X4 model with carries an MSRP of $42,175.