2021 Toyota Tundra: Powerful truck option reaches end of an era ahead of redesign Featured

Posted On Friday, 16 April 2021 21:58 Written by
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The 2021 model year is the final hurrah for the current version of the Tundra, which will be revamped for 2022. The 2021 model year is the final hurrah for the current version of the Tundra, which will be revamped for 2022. Photo courtesy of Toyota

Trucks are not the first vehicles people think of when Toyota is mentioned, but they have a long-standing place in its history. The mid-size Tacoma truck has been in production since 1995 and remains very popular today. And the full-size Tundra began its run in 1999.

Overall sales numbers for the Tundra are far behind the domestic trio of the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and RAM 1500, but a loyal fan base keeps the model holding down its spot as the top non-domestic full-size truck with more than 100,000 sold annually.

While the Tundra has not been fully redesigned since 2007 (it got a slight refresh in 2014, and a brand new model is expected for 2022), its longevity comes from a few key factors: Its powerful V8, Toyota reliability, and strong tech features. There were also a couple new editions announced for 2021 with new styling: The Trail and Nightshade models.

The Trail edition gets features including: 18-inch dark gray wheels with Michelin all-terrain tires, lockable bed storage boxes, spray-on bed liner, black exterior badging, chrome front grill, black fabric trim seats with unique tan stitching, and all weather floor liners.

I recently spent some time in a Tundra, and I’m back with a full report.


With a decade-plus on its resume, this iteration of the 2021 Tundra is not going to be as physically striking as its more-updated competition.

I will say this: While not as modern, the exterior of the Tundra holds up well, with a tall, bold and rugged look like a truck should have. 18-inch wheels are standard, and halogen lights with LED daytime running lights are included, along with halogen fog lights. Running boards on the side of the vehicle are very helpful to help people get in and out. They only cost a few hundred dollars to add, and are worth the expense.

Inside, the materials are pretty basic, but the vehicle is quite versatile. The rear seating can be folded down in various configurations (40/20/40) to fit your storage and passenger needs.

The rear seating is also very roomy in terms of legroom and headroom, among the most space you'll find inside any truck. So all passengers will be very comfortable.

Overall though, the styling is clearly outdated in the Tundra compared to its competition, so it makes sense that a new look is coming for 2022.


One positive about the Tundra is that it boasts standard V8 power … and not all trucks can claim that. This 5.7-liter, V8 engine really gets you moving, no matter the situation.

Numbers on the engine are 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque, and it is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

There’s decent towing ability, as well as off-roading capability if you choose the lifted TRD Pro model. Towing numbers max out at 10,200 pounds, and payload tops out at 1,730 pounds.

The off-road friendly TRD model of the Tundra is also many thousands of dollars more affordable than comparable vehicles from rivals, including the Ford Raptor.

The bad part about the Tundra being so powerful is weak fuel mileage … but more on that later. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Tundra, and four-wheel drive is optional.

With such a large vehicle, the ride in the Tundra will not be completely smooth, especially on the highway. It can get a bit bouncy.  But the experience is not terrible and when you do need its power and capabilities, you'll easily forgive this inconvenience.

Of course, as with any large truck, you need to be careful where you are driving. It’s not a good fit for tight paths or driving between pillars to go to the ATM.


The infotainment system in the Tundra, like the overall design, is a bit dated with dials and controls that have not been changed in years. They are, however, very easy to use by both voice and touch controls, so if it's not a major issue to me (though I am curious what the new look will be in 2022).

The voice recognition system is extremely reliable. Whether you are trying to call somebody from your phone connected via Bluetooth, tune to radio stations by name or genre, get directions to where you need to go, or find a place of interest such as a certain type of restaurant, it understands you on the first attempt almost every single time. This limits your need to use the physical buttons.

On the tech front, all Tundras feature: an 8-inch Audio Plus touch screen, hands-free Bluetooth for phone and music streaming, USB media and charge ports, three months free trial of satellite radio, compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for phone mirroring, and more. A Wi-Fi connection is also offered.

Moving on to the safety features of the Tundra, it’s a contender for best in class in this area.

First, the integrated backup camera is very helpful for maneuvering in tight situations, especially with a large vehicle like this. Government safety ratings are very high (all four or five stars), so you and your passengers can feel safe.

The Tundra’s standard safety features include: Adaptive cruise control, lane departure
warning, and automatic high-beam headlights, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. The Tundra also features brake assist, traction control and vehicle stability control, as well as trailer brake control and trailer sway control.

Another optional package is called the convenience package, and for less than $1,000 you get: Front and rear parking assist sonar, blind spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert.


The official numbers for fuel mileage on the Tundra are 13 city/17 highway/14 combined; My real-life numbers were closer to 10 mpg. So not very good, to be kind. Expect that number to grow with the 2022 model, but if you pick up the 2021 option you can expect to fill up more often than with other trucks.


The 2021 Tundra i tested was priced just under $49,000; and its base price starts about $34K. No truck can be called inexpensive these days, but it’s clear that a decked-out Tundra will run you significantly less than a decked-out F-150, Silverado or Ram.

And even when prices align with some of the competition, you’re usually getting more features for the money with the Tundra option.

Factor in that Toyota longevity and reliability, and price is really on the Tundra’s side.


It’s safe to say the Tundra will never top the U.S. truck sales charts (its 100K+ sales count for 2020 compared to a 780K count for the F-150, as a reference).

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its place in the ecosystem of trucks. The arrival of a new model presents Toyota loyalists a choice: Grab a 2021 Tundra at a discount, or wait for the new 2022 model. Either way, you’re going to have a strong vehicle sitting in your driveway that offers plenty of power and capability.

Off-road enthusiasts who don’t wish to splurge on a Raptor may also find a more wallet-friendly alternative with the Tundra TRD Pro model.


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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Toyota Tundra 
  • Price as tested: $48,970 (starts at $34K) 
  • Best feature: Powerful V8 engine, safety features, affordability 
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Truck buyers seeking a powerful truck with strong safety features and Toyota reliability
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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