Safety is a mixed bag. We applaud Toyota for taking the lead in supplying automatic emergency braking as standard equipment on the 2021 Toyota Tundra. Some competitors don't even offer this feature. Add in the standard automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control, and the Tundra should win the segment on standard driver assist safety tech alone.
But safety goes beyond the features that help mitigate an accident. Indeed, how the Tundra holds up in a crash is telling. Unfortunately, the NHTSA only awards a four-star overall safety rating, including three stars for rollover.
The Tundra’s aged design is a contributing factor here. The current model rolled out in 2008 and has only undergone light changes since. Competing models from the domestics and Nissan are far newer.
Big burly V8. Like Nissan, Toyota offers just one engine choice with the Tundra. Last year, the automaker dropped its standard 4.6-liter V8, making the 5.7-liter V8 the only choice. This engine develops 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. While not the strongest in the segment, it’s the right fit here.
The only thing that seems out of place is the transmission. This one is a six-speed automatic and that’s two to four few cogs fewer than every competitor. That translates into less-than-ideal fuel economy, not that any large pickup truck powered by a big V8 does great. The Tundra trails the competition with an EPA-estimated 13 miles per gallon city, 17 mpg highway, and 15 combined.
Towing capacity reaches 10,200 pounds and payload of up to 1,730 pounds is possible. Both numbers are very good. Taking the TRD Pro off-roading is a blast. It just won’t keep up with models from Ford and Ram.
Styling that once was. When the current-generation Tundra rolled out in 2008, we applauded Toyota for its muscular visage and handsome interior. Immediately, it made the Tundra a formidable competitor to the domestics. We expected great things, but not much has changed since.
In 2014, Toyota tweaked the Tundra, assigning separate grille designs to each trim. Since then, the Tundra lost its single cab and two of its three engines. Yet, its overall styling remains the same, even as the domestics move forward with newer and more modern vehicles. Put the current Ram 1500 next to the Tundra and the differences are evident. One shows its age, while the other has a fresh layout.
Inside, the Tundra’s cabin is huge. It was one of the largest available early on, but the domestics have caught up. We’re not complaining – simply, Toyota lost one of the few advantages it held early on. Otherwise, the cabin looks dated, reflecting a design that was conceived 15 years ago.
Decent creature comforts. The basic SR trim comes with full power accessories, a 7-inch touchscreen, six audio speakers, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, and three USB charge ports. Its infotainment system is good, but not great.
Move up to the SR5 and that’s where a crew cab option comes in. You’ll also gain an 8-inch touchscreen, nine speakers (seven in the double cab), HD radio, and satellite radio. Further up the trim steps the Tundra gains a 12-speaker audio system and navigation.
There aren’t many options available. Competing models offer a better work truck experience with wireless charging available. The Tundra does include wi-fi connectivity, so that’s a positive point we like.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is the better of the brand's two trucks and might be enough to satisfy some pickup shoppers. If you need a large truck, the Tundra is clearly a few steps behind the competition.
On the other hand, when fully loaded, you’ll pay thousands of dollars less than the best models from Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram.
Check prices for the 2021 Toyota Tundra »