After 15 years, the Toyota Tundra is set for a new model.
The Toyota Tundra was the first large pickup truck from a Japanese make, hitting the market in 2000. Seven years later an even larger model took its place, putting the Tundra shoulder-to-shoulder with the best pickups from the domestic manufacturers. Since then, we’ve seen only one refresh, otherwise, the Tundra remains the same. But a new model is on the way, giving us one last chance to examine the outgoing generation.
The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup truck with room for five or six. Available in six trims, this model costs from $34,025 to $49,245, plus a $1,550 freight charge. The Tundra comes with standard rear-wheel drive or available four-wheel drive. Depending on the trim, a DoubleCab or CrewMax quad cab is available, sometimes both.
For 2021, the Tundra gains new Trail and Nightshade editions, which are trim packages. There are no other changes as Toyota prepares a new model.
The SR trim kicks things off, but this one is a work truck and typically not easily found on dealer lots. Beginning with the SR5 trim, shoppers will also find Limited, TRD Pro, Platinum, and 1794 Edition trims. The latter one is western-themed. Like every Tundra trim, unique grilles set them apart.
Toyota no longer offers a regular cab model. Instead, most trims come with a DoubleCab with three-quarter rear doors or a CrewMax cab with four equally large doors. The DoubleCab comes with a standard 6.5-foot or available 8-foot bed. The CrewMax has a 5.5-foot bed only, which essentially rules this body style out for people needing maximum bed capacity.
The Tundra is muscular, from its bold front fascia to its wide hood. Upright roof pillars, a high beltline, and various 18- and 20-inch wheel choices add to the look. From the rear, an easy drop-down tailgate supplies access to the truck bed.
Inside, space varies depending on the cab style. Both feature very comfortable front bucket seats that are designed for the tallest and largest amongst us. The DoubleCab offers a standard split-bench front seat, enabling six to ride inside. We’d choose the buckets over the bench seat if room for six isn’t necessary.
The rear seat wins it for the Tundra, especially for the CrewMax with its exceptional legroom. Three burly guys can sit side by side without encroaching on each other’s space. Choose the DoubleCab and the legroom shrinks accordingly. At least with this style, Toyota adds a storage compartment under the rear seats.
Safety and Technology
We’ve referenced the Tundra’s age enough. Where it shines, even outperforms most competitors is through its standard driver-assist tech features. Here, Toyota has kept up on the changes and has typically led the way in the segment.
In particular, the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite is included. Here, the Tundra comes with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with sway warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Also available is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors.
Beginning with the SR trim, the Tundra has a 6-speaker audio system. Bundled with this are satellite radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Connect, and smartphone compatibility. Most models, though, have either a 7- or 9-speaker audio system and Alexa compatibility. HD Radio and navigation are also available.
In a segment where domestic competitors offer three or four gas engines plus a turbo-diesel, the lone engine for the Tundra seems odd. But narrow sales have caused Toyota to drop an earlier V6 and a smaller V8 to align with market demand. At least what remains is a sold entry.
Under the hood of every 2021 Tundra is a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Power routes to the wheels with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine reminds us of Detroit’s best V8s as it starts with a powerful whoosh and helps this big truck move forward with ease.
The 6-speed transmission seems dated in this day of 9- and 10-speed units. But to its credit, it works seamlessly and flawlessly. You should know that your fuel economy will return just 14 or 15 mpg, but at least you can run the Tundra on regular-grade gasoline. All models come with a Class-IV receiver and a trailer brake controller. The Tundra has the maximum payload and trailering capabilities of 1,730 and 10,200 pounds, respectively.
Models equipped with four-wheel drive can be taken anywhere. The TRD Pro model is especially capable here with its all-terrain tires, FOX suspension system, and aluminum skid plate. The only challenge is finding a trail wide enough to accompany the Tundra, otherwise, the midsize Tacoma is the preferred off-roader.
Should you consider the current-generation Tundra in its final year or wait for the new one? We’ll know within a few months what the third-generation Tundra is about, although we believe a turbocharged V6 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission are included. If you don’t have a preference, look for strong discounts on the 2021s over the coming months as dealers clear their lots in anticipation of what’s to come.
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