2021 Toyota Tundra Review

2021 Toyota Tundra - It may be a dinosaur in age, but sticking to its truck bones work


The Toyota Tundra is a full-size truck that has been manufactured here in the US since 1999 and was a follow up to the Toyota T-100 (the first full size truck built by a Japanese manufacturer). Despite being 22 years old, the Tundra is only in its second generation which debuted at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show as a 2007 model. The Chicago Auto Show was also home to the Tundra's unveiling of a refreshed second-generation Tundra for the 2014 model year. For 2021, the Tundra continues to be powered by a 5.7L i-FORCE V8 engine that cranks out 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.  This engine has been around since it debuted in 2007 and has a proven track record for reliability.

While the base style and engine remains the same for the 2021 model year, the Tundra does offer some new colors and special editions. Lunar Rock is the official 2021 color across all TRD Pro trucks and SUVs and replaces 2020's Army Green which is now available in non-TRD Pro trims. Lunar Rock is a blend of gray, green and even some hints of blue with a flat pearl finish. Also new is a 2021 Trail Edition which emphasizes extra storage, convenience and style options that cater to those looking to take their Tundra on some adventures. The Tundra Trail is based on the SR5 Crew Max with the SR5 upgrade package and is available in both 2WD and 4WD.  Finally, the Tundra Nightshade Edition goes dark with a darkened chrome grille, black mirror caps and door handles, black leather, black exterior trim and wheels. The Nightshade edition is based off the more luxurious Limited grade of the Tundra.

The Tundra is offered in six trims known as SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, and TRD Pro.  The Tundra is also offered in three body styles: extended cab short bed, extended cab long bed and crew cab. The extended cab is called Double Cab and it is offered with either a 6.5- or 8.1-foot bed. Crew Cabs are called Crew Max and come only with a 5.5-foot bed. Pricing for the base 4x2 SR Double Cab starts at $33,675 and at the other end of the spectrum is the 4x4 TRD Pro CrewMax which starts at $53,050. With a $20,000 swing in prices, spend some time at www.Toyota.com to configure one to your liking. This review will focus on the Tundra TRD Pro.

Most full-size truck buyers are not overly concerned with fuel efficiency but its worth noting that the Tundra has a large 38-gallon fuel tank that offered up 516 miles when full. The Tundra has an EPA rating of 13 MPG city and 18 MPG highway which is on the lower end of the class.  It does run on regular grade fuel and over the course of a week of mostly suburban driving, I averaged 17 MPG.

The Tundra TRD Pro initially debuted in 2015 around the same time Ford introduced the SVT Raptor and RAM offered the 1500 Rebel.  The TRD Pro is an off-road ready package that caters to an enthusiast looking to do more than just take their truck to the job site or office. From a design perspective, the Tundra features the Toyota heritage-inspired grill found across the TRD Pro lineup that replaces the Toyota emblem with Toyota spelled out across the black grated grill. TRD Pro models are offered in three additional colors to the aforementioned Lunar Rock and include Super White, Magnetic Gray Metallic and Midnight Black Metallic for 2021. Every year, Toyota seems to offer an updated color pallet to the TRD Pro lineup as a way to maintain some exclusivity each model year.

While the Tundra is already a highly capable truck that offers up to 10,200 pounds of towing capacity and a maximum payload of 1,730 pounds, the TRD Pro takes it another level. One of the most prominent features are the 18" forged-aluminum BBS wheels. Not only do these five-spoke black wheels look good, but they also reduce mass by 3.35 lbs per wheel which enhance the overall ride quality and improves cornering response.  These wheels come wrapped in Michelin LTX A/T2 tires sized P275/65.  One of the first things many off-road enthusiasts will consider is swapping these out for something a little beefier like a 33" off-road tire.  As is, these tires ride smoothly on pavement. The Tundra feels grounded to the pavement compared to some other trucks that feel more upright and bouncier. It's more of a bulldog of trucks rather than a German Shepherd.  It is a heavy truck at 5,500 pounds which may contribute to that feeling. By no means is it as nimble as lighter trucks, but the Tundra did handle well enough on the highway.

Beyond the tires, the Tundra TRD Pro adds in a TRD-tuned FOX suspension which are key to the off-road capabilities of the Tundra. The FOX suspension is top notch and widely respected in the off-roading community. The TRD-tuned springs coil themselves around heavy-duty FOX shocks which help control the front wheels' extra 1.5 inches of travel and an extra 2 inches in the rear. These shock absorbers dampen movement and are designed to reduce the obstacles on road surfaces. And when combined with the springs they support the weight of the truck to smooth out the ride. Without them, the truck would bounce significantly when travelling over road imperfections. The suspension allows for the tires to stay grounded providing significant flex when crawling over rocks and hill climbs. The FOX shocks are designed to spend many hours driving off-road without fading, overheating, or blowing. With the Tundra TRD Pro's marriage to FOX Shocks, it is a truck that will provide impressive performance in high speed sand dirt driving, slow-speed rock crawling, or navigating pot holes and snow on the streets of Chicago. And as an added security measure, Toyota also includes an aluminum skid plate that is 1/4 inch thick to protect the underside of the Tundra as you take the truck off the pavement.

Finally, Toyota also includes a tuned dual exhaust, Rigid Industries fog lights, and leather-trimmed seating on all Tundra TRD Pro models. The dual-exhaust features black chrome exhaust tips and enhances the looks as they point out to the sides of the truck. The exhaust note has an impressive growl that generates from the V8 that compliments the tough looks of the truck. Like the FOX suspension, Rigid Industries is well known in the off-roading community for providing some of the best lighting. Often, you'll see off-road trucks and SUVs with Rigid LED light bars across the roof or front bumpers to maximize light when overlanding in the woods. The Rigid Industries LED fog lights on the Tundra TRD Pro are a perfect fit into the bumper and pack a level of brightness that comes in handy both off-road and during dark winter nights.

Inside, the Tundra TRD Pro is dressed in leather-trimmed seats branded with the TRD Pro logo across the backs of the front two seats.  Red contrast stitching accents in the seats, dash, and armrests bring a little added sport to the inside. Also different from the standard Tundras is a TRD shift knob, TRD Pro branded floormats and badging on the center-console. Aside from the TRD Pro flair, the rest of the inside remains as it has since 2014. Toyota did update the infotainment package for 2020 which integrates with Android Auto, Apple Car Play, and Amazon Alexa. Despite its age, the cabin of the Tundra still feels modern and current with an industrial sheik vibe.  There's something admirable about sticking to the basic needs in a truck like the Tundra. The 7 or 8-inch infotainment screen is embedded into the dash flanked by brush silver accent materials. The entire vibe has a modern industrial feel to it and the materials in the TRD Pro work really well.  The availability of a large moonroof and power rear window will give you a bit of an open-air feeling.

There is a lot of room inside the Tundra for both the driver and passengers. Front passengers are treated to comfortable leather seats with plenty of support. The seats in the back are also well bolstered and easily accommodate a car seat. To aid in cargo utility, the rear seats fold up to offer a more versatile floor space for cargo. The Tundra has an overall height of 77.2" and sits 10.6" off the ground creating a bit of a challenge to climb into the Tundra TRD Pro for the driver. The truck does not come with side steps nor is it equipped with a grab handle to pull yourself in so I found myself grabbing the steering wheel as a support to get into the truck. A variety of side steps are available on the Tundra starting with classic black running boards starting at $550 up to off-road ready Predator Steps for $749.

In regards to safety features, the Tundra comes equipped with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P).  Features such as pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control all work together to give Tundra owners some peace of mind. The lane-departure alert system works almost too well as it frequently went off even on its lowest sensitivity setting. Fortunately, if you'd prefer those alerts off, it's a quick push of the button. Beyond the TSS-P features, the Tundra also comes equipped with a standard backup camera, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, star safety system, and eight airbags.

The 2021 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro continues to be a compelling option in the full-size truck segment. Despite its age, the Tundra continues to stay relevant with safety and technology updates while proving the theory that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. The TRD Pro comes ready for the trails with highly capable off-road bones that all come together in a near perfect package. Trucks continue to be hot and the Tundra TRD Pro faces competition from the big three with the Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss, Ford F-150 Raptor or RAM 1500 Rebel. Each of these trucks takes a different approach to the off-road game but Toyota has been generating a pretty loyal following of the TRD Pro lineup. The Tundra TRD Pro is worth a second look for those wanting a truck that has a reliable reputation, handles the pavement well and can take you over some rocks on a overlanding expedition.

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.