Largely unchanged since 2007, the 2021 Toyota Tundra has the dubious distinction of being the oldest new vehicle on sale in the United States. This is astounding, especially in light of the fierce competition within the full-size pickup class.
Every Tundra competitor has been redesigned recently, while this model now enters its 14th year since its last full overhaul. Updates over that time have helped, but pale in comparison to innovations and improvements brought forward by rivals from Ford, General Motors (Chevy/GMC) and Ram.
Toyota’s full-size pickup still has brawny styling, excellent reliability, the wonderfully spacious CrewMax cab and — unusual for a full-size pickup — standard accident avoidance technology. However, a dated interior, jittery ride, subpar fuel economy and a general lack of innovation count against it.
Even its TRD Pro model, with compelling off-road capability, comes at an eye-watering price compared with other companies’ all-terrain offerings.
Sure, the Tundra will get the job done. But pickups are capable of much more these days. And buyers should expect more from a new truck than what the Tundra offers, especially with regard to fuel efficiency.
What’s New for 2021?
Two limited-run packages make their debut. Toyota will be making 5,000 of each. The Trail Special Edition, based on the SR5 CrewMax with the SR5 Upgrade package, comes with 18-inch alloy wheels wearing Michelin all-terrain tires. A spray-in bed liner is also part of the deal, along with lockable bed storage. The driver’s-side storage is insulated, so it be used as a cooler. Exterior colors are Army Green, Cement, black, and white. The Nightshade Special Edition is based on the Limited trim in CrexMax or Double Cab forms. Both editions are eligible for all-wheel drive.
Other changes are related to paint choices. Voodoo Blue is discontinued and Lunar Rock replaces Army Green with the TRD Pro version. Wind Chill Pearl is now available with Limited, 1794 and Platinum trim levels as part of a package that includes running boards and a spray-in bed liner. See the 2021 Toyota Tundra models for sale near you
What We Like
- Excellent reliability
- Accident avoidance tech is standard in every trim
- Exceptional back seat space
- Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration
What We Don’t
- Aging mechanicals and interior design
- Subpar fuel economy
- Transmission has only six gears
- Some controls require an uncomfortable reach
- TRD Pro variant is expensive
All 2021 Tundras come with a 5.7-liter V8 generating 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, and linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard. The optional part-time 4-wheel drive (4WD) system has an electronically controlled transfer case with a low range.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rear-drive Tundra achieves 13 miles per gallon in city driving, 17 miles per gallon on the highway, and 15 mpg in combined driving. Opting for 4WD makes no difference. These figures are considerably worse than the Tundra’s main rivals.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Toyota Tundra comes in a wide range of trim levels, including basic SR and SR5, mid-level Limited, off-road-oriented TRD Pro, plus the upscale Platinum and 1794 Edition.
Three different bed lengths and two different cab configurations are available: a 4-door extended cab (Double Cab) and a larger 4-door crew cab (CrewMax).
Where it’s optional, 4-wheel drive is an extra $3,050.
The Tundra SR ($35,270) with rear-wheel drive and the Double Cab, has a long list of standard equipment including 18-in steel wheels, integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway warning, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, windshield wiper de-icer, damped tailgate, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, rearview camera, USB port, Bluetooth, and an 8-in touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility. A 40/20/40 split/foldong front bench is standard, allowing for six-occupant seating.
SR5 ($36,960) adds chrome accents, variable intermittent wipers, fog lights, HD/satellite radio and a sliding rear window on the CrewMax. The TRD Sport package — exclusive to the SR5 — adds 20-in wheels, sport-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, front/rear anti-roll bars, and sporty styling elements.
Limited ($43,985) brings 20-in alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, and additional speakers (seven in the Double Cab, nine for the CrewMax). A center console (which replaces the front bench seat and thus reduces seating capacity from six to five) is optional in lesser trims, but standard in the Limited.
A TRD Off-Road package is available on the SR5, Limited and 1794 models, adding all-terrain tires on 18-in wheels, trail-tuned Bilstein shocks, skid plates, tow hooks, LED headlights/fog lights, off-road mats, and special styling elements.
The new-for-2021 Tundra Trail Special Edition ($43,385) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels wearing Michelin all-terrain tires. A spray-in bed liner is also part of the deal, along with lockable bed storage. The driver’s-side storage is insulated, so it be used as a cooler. Exterior colors are Army Green, Cement, black, and white.
The Nightshade Special Edition ($44,985) has 20-inch alloy wheels with a black finish, black side mirror housings, badging, exhaust tip and doors handles. Plus a darkened chrome grille and black leather seating surfaces. Color choices are Midnight Black Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Super White (double cab) or Wind Chill Pearl (CrewMax).
The Tundra TRD Pro ($50,370) has model-specific styling, BBS forged alloy wheels, Fox internal-bypass off-road shock absorbers, sunroof, and Army Green exterior paintwork. It loses the leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control, all of which are mind-boggling omissions in a truck costing over $50,000. Available as a crew cab or with an extended cab version.
Platinum CrewMax ($50,490) receives extra chrome touches, LED running/accent lights, sunroof, upgraded leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, driver’s-side memory settings, and a 12-speaker JBL sound system (optional in Limited CrewMax).
A Safety & Convenience package consisting of front/rear parking sensors and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard in the Platinum model, but optional in the SR5 and Limited versions.
The CrewMax-only 1794 Edition ($50,490) is a Platinum model with Texas ranch-inspired interior and exterior trim accents.
Some features offered as standard at upper trim levels are available in lower trims, often as part of an options package.
Unusual among full-size pickups, the Tundra has standard active safety features such as forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, trailer sway control, rearview camera and six airbags (front, front side, side curtain) are also standard.
In crash testing carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Tundra received four out of five stars for overall and frontal crash protection as well as five stars for side protection. The double cab scored three stars for rollover risk; the CrewMax took a 4-star score.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Tundra Double Cab the best possible rating of Good in all crash tests except for the small overlap front test, where it received a second-best Acceptable score.
Interestingly, the CrewMax received a second-worst Marginal score in that test, along with an Acceptable score in the roof strength test. Both got the best possible score of Superior for their forward crash prevention systems.
Behind the Wheel
Compared with the smooth-riding Ford F-150 and the even smoother Ram 1500, the Tundra is firm and jittery when the bed is empty. Its handling and overall driving experience aren’t as refined either, another indication that the Tundra has gone a decade without a complete redesign while its competitors were all fully redesigned in the last few years.
The Tundra’s standard front seat configuration is a 3-person bench. Fancier Tundras have front bucket seats with escalating levels of luxury and powered adjustability. Those seated on the 60/40 split-folding rear bench of the 4-door Double Cab will find it to be one of most spacious extended cabs.
The CrewMax could make 7-footers feel at home with its extended legroom and reclining seatback. Every CrewMax’s back seat slides forward and back, but the Double Cab’s is fixed by default with an optional sliding function.
The Tundra comes with one of three bed lengths: 66.7 inches (CrewMax only), 78.7 inches (standard on double cab) or 97.6 inches (optional with the Double Cab). The CrewMax’s extra passenger space does mean having to live with the shortest bed of the bunch.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Ram 1500 — The Ram 1500 is seriously impressive, with a superior ride, luxurious interior and class-leading features. Anyone interested in the Tundra TRD Pro should check out a Ram Rebel.
2021 Ford F-150 — Constant updates keep the F-150 as competitive as always. It has strong fuel economy, an excellent array of engines and impressive refinement.
2021 Nissan Titan/Titan XD — Not up to the high standards of the American-branded trucks (although it’s built in Canton, Mississippi), but still worth considering in terms of warranty and equipment. The Titan XD splits the difference between a conventional half-ton pickup and a three-quarter-ton truck.
Used Toyota Tundra — If the price of a new Tundra is intimidating, consider a used example. Since this vehicle has been around largely unchanged since 2007, there should be plenty on the market. The Tundra’s strong reliability may also give it an advantage over other used trucks. Check out Toyota’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Questions You May Ask
Is Toyota going to redesign the Tundra?
Not for this year. There are rumors of an all-new Tundra for 2022, perhaps even with a hybrid powertrain. But Toyota has not confirmed this. The Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 are all newer designs with more features, engine choices and configurations.
How good is the 2021 Toyota Tundra?
The Tundra has a well-deserved reputation for longevity and reliability. If buyers can work within the limitations of its 10,200-pound tow rating and 1,730-pound payload, the Tundra should never let them down.
Does the 2021 Toyota Tundra offer a diesel?
No, but it sure could use one. Or maybe a turbocharged V6. Buyers looking for a diesel should check out the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, as well as the Nissan Titan XD.
Where is the 2021 Toyota Tundra built?
At Toyota’s plant in San Antonio, Texas. It was designed at the CALTY design and research center in Newport Beach, California. According to Toyota, 73.5 percent of the parts needed to assemble the Tundra are also sourced in the United States, including the engine (Alabama) and transmission (North Carolina).
The Tundra’s fancier trim levels and the TRD Pro aren’t good value when compared with the competition, especially the luxury trims of the F-150 and the Ram.
The Tundra is a decent deal in lower trim levels as a reliable, well-equipped work truck without the latest frills.
The inclusion of standard active safety features and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay help its case, but there are better alternatives for most buyers, especially given the Tundra’s ancient and thirsty powertrain. Find a Toyota Tundra for sale