2021 Toyota Tundra

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2021 Toyota Tundra Test Drive Review: Old Dog, Old Tricks

With only two generations since the Toyota Tundra first came to market in 1999, it's fair to say that the full-size pickup is a standout ambassador for Toyota's legendary reliability and prominence in the US truck market. Some might see its age as a downside compared to newer trucks like the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 that dominate the sales charts, but the Tundra remains a reliable workhorse and a capable off-road truck in TRD Pro guise. Propelled by a 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, the Tundra can be had in either 4x2 or 4x4 form and is able to tow up to 10,200 lbs. Its lazy transmission, choppy ride quality, and outdated interior work against its redeeming qualities, but the Tundra pickup still has a place in the market. Ahead of a full redesign for 2022, Toyota invited us to test drive the outgoing pickup. Does the Tundra wear its years with pride, or is it simply an old dog incapable of running with the puppies?

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 7 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 7 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 7 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 8 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 8 /10
  • Value For Money 7 /10
7.8
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2021 Toyota Tundra Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Tundra?

With a new third-generation Tundra on the way for 2022, the 2021 model doesn't receive any notable updates. Instead, there's a new Trail Special Edition trim, of which only 5000 will be produced, and a new Nightshade Edition package for the Limited trim. The Trail Special Edition, discernable by its chrome grille and unique blacked-out badging, is based on the SR5 CrewMax trim-line but with the contents of the SR5 Upgrade Package which include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, front-seat power lumbar adjustment, front center console, three cup holders, and a larger fuel tank. A darkened grille, black side-view mirrors, black door handles, and blacked-out wheels make up the bulk of the changes for the Nightshade package on the Limited. A few paint changes are also in store with Army Green swapped for Lunar Rock on the TRD Pro and Wind Chill Pearl added to the palette for the Limited, 1794 Edition, and Platinum derivatives.

Pros and Cons

  • Strapping 5.7-liter V8 engine
  • Industry-leading dependability
  • Full smartphone integration as standard
  • Legitimate trail-ready equipment options
  • Affordable pricing and high resale value
  • Less than ideal on-road handling characteristics
  • Poor gas mileage
  • Cabin quality and layout could be better
  • Rivals tow more

Best Deals on 2021 Toyota Tundra

2021 Toyota Tundra Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SR
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$34,125
SR5
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,815
Limited
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$42,840
Platinum
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$49,345
1794 Edition
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$49,345
See All 2021 Toyota Tundra Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

Unsurprisingly, the Tundra's ride isn't particularly refined as the suspension is tuned for heavy hauling and rough terrain rather than smooth cruising. Rough roads and bumps are transmitted, although far from jarring bones, through the excellent and roomy seats. The TRD Pro's suspension brings a softer ride quality, which smooths out dirt tracks beautifully while reducing body roll on a twisting paved road. The unbeaten path is undoubtedly the TRD Pro's natural element, but the suspension upgrade also makes it the most refined Tundra model on-road.

On the pavement, the brakes inspire confidence, even when fully laden, to bring the truck to a stop smoothly, and quickly if need be. The overly light steering isn't ideal for on-road driving, but the payoff is when you need to turn the Tundra around in tight spots or pull off some intricate trailer maneuvering.

Getting the TRD Pro off the paved road, the slow spooling engine pays off with gobs of torque available to get the hefty truck up significant inclines. The long-wheelbase doesn't make the Tundra TRD Pro the ideal off-roader, but it can take a big payload into challenging and unwelcoming territory. You can put grippy tires on any truck, but it's the Tundra's TRD suspension setup and all-wheel-drive system that makes sure those tires can do their jobs.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Toyota Tundra a good Pickup Truck?

The Toyota Tundra is an ideal workhorse, delivering on capability, a good deal of versatility, and industry-leading dependability. It's also nowhere near as expensive as some rivals can be when you start piling on the options. In TRD Pro guise, it's a really poised off-roader boasting robust bodywork and a slew of worthwhile updates to its mechanicals that not only make it capable off the beaten track but better on the tarmac, too. The cabin is spacious - but then again, no one really builds a cramped interior in this corner of the market - but it's dated, littered with buttons, and lacks the ergonomic finesse of newer trucks. Tundras are for those Toyota-truck die-hards that are looking for something practical and unyielding and are uninterested in the extravagance of modern tech and luxury. Sure, the infotainment is of a decent standard and Toyota saw fit to include a whole host of advanced safety features, but when you look at what rivals are doing, it's clear the Tundra is part of a bygone era. Competitors, such as the Ford F150 or Ram 1500, are a lot newer and offer plenty more overall. They're more sophisticated trucks in a similar price bracket and are signs that next year's Tundra overhaul can't come soon enough.

Check out other Toyota Tundra Styles

2021 Toyota Tundra Comparisons

Toyota Tacoma Toyota
Nissan Titan CarBuzz

2021 Toyota Tundra vs Toyota Tacoma

If you require a more compact utility vehicle and are a Toyota devotee, then the Tacoma is a suitable alternative to consider. Similar in style, this midsize truck downsizes the capability with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or a 3.5L V6, both with far less power than the 5.7L V8 in the Tundra. That's why the Tacoma can only tow up to 6,800 lbs compared to the more than 10,000 the Tundra tows. However, while it has less power and much less space, it's more adept off-road because of its shorter wheelbase and more compact overall dimensions. Equipment levels are much the same, but the Tacoma is up to $10,00 cheaper on a trim-for-trim basis. Truck shoppers are a very specific type and will likely know their exact needs. Ultimately, if you need to tow large things the Tundra is the better vehicle, but if you need an adventure truck that will get to trickier spots up a mountain, the Tacoma is the better of the two.

See Toyota Tacoma Review

2021 Toyota Tundra vs Nissan Titan

The Tundra and the Titan share many similarities, ranging from their performance figures to their outdated characters. Both the full-size trucks feature only a single large capacity V8 engine, though the Titan has an extra 19 hp over the Tundra's 381-hp output. The Titan's nine-speed automatic transmission is newer and quicker than the Tundra's six-speed auto, however, giving it the edge in the way the powertrain behaves on the road. Despite that extra power and more refined transmission, the Tundra is still capable of towing significantly more than the Titan's 9,370-pound cap. The Toyota has more cab and bed configurations, offering versatility and superior hauling capabilities. The Nissan sports a slightly classier cabin but ultimately, the Tundra is the more capable, more dependable truck and gets similar specs in terms of features and safety tech. It's the truck we'd go for, considering how much more the base Titan costs in comparison to the entry-level Tundra.

See Nissan Titan Review

2021 Toyota Tundra Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Toyota Tundra:

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