2021 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Review: Farewell, We’re Ready for the New Tundra

Toyota Tundra Full Overview

Age is just a number, right? Well, not in the automotive world. In an industry that’s reinventing itself faster than ever, the 14-year-old Toyota Tundra stands as one of the oldest vehicles on sale. First released in 2007—with a major face-lift in 2014—the current Tundra is without a doubt on its last leg. But a new one is right around the corner, so we thought we’d take one last look at a 2021 Tundra TRD Pro to see if the new truck could learn anything from its predecessor.

Interior Improvements Required

The interior is a perfect example of the way things used to be done. The industry, especially full-size trucks, has moved away from a setup like the Tundra’s. A single, 8.0-inch touchscreen sits in the middle of the dashboard, and a set of huge analog dials is housed in the gauge cluster.

These days, everything is dominated by customizable displays and vast, tablet-like touchscreens. There’s also a move toward luxury—a trend we don’t necessarily mind when it comes to trucks, vehicles that have to play the roles of workhorse, daily driver, and occasional off-roader.

We expect the next Tundra to vastly improve on interior tech and to bring a load of higher-quality materials to key touchpoints. But there is one feature we want Toyota to keep: its physical primary controls. The huge knobs for the HVAC controls, the buttons for fan speed, and the knobs for tuning the radio and controlling the volume are simple and easy to use without taking your eyes off the road or work gloves off your hands. For that reason, they’re far more intuitive than the capacitive buttons that are found in so many new cars in 2021. Sometimes the old ways are the best, and this area is no exception.

A Powertrain Rethink

One part of the current Tundra we don’t mind biting the dust is the 5.7-liter V-8 engine that serves as its sole engine option. Its 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque is middling in 2021. Plus, peak torque doesn’t arrive until 3,600 rpm, and that means the Tundra doesn’t have any real get up and go until you stick your right foot into the carpet, shortly after which the transmission will upshift early leaving you in a low-down, powerless part of the rev range.

And although trucks aren’t noted for their efficiency, the Tundra’s 13/17 mpg city/highway doesn’t cut the mustard in the face of something like a Ford F-150 hybrid that can get up to 25/26 mpg city/highway. The ability to choose between efficiency and outright power is why Ford, Chevy, and Ram all offer a plethora of powertrain options in their full-size pickups. We don’t expect Toyota to exactly follow the blueprint set by the domestic trucks, but we would like to see more than just one engine option for the upcoming Tundra.

Rumor has it a massaged version of the 3.4-liter turbocharged V-6 in the Lexus LS500 will take the V-8’s place under the hood in two states of tune, but take that with a grain of salt. Toyota is still keeping the full powertrain details under wraps, but it did promise more power than the V-8 for the new truck’s standard powertrain and an optional one that will “blow you away.

More Off-Road Ability

Off-roaders are better than ever. Electronically detachable anti-roll bars, multiple locking differentials, and neat software gadgets like hill descent control and trail cameras are available on a wide variety of trucks and SUVs in 2021. All this kit and more all make the great outdoors significantly more accessible for drivers of all skill levels.

The Tundra TRD Pro, which is supposed to be the most off-road-ready version of the Tundra, doesn’t have any of the aforementioned features. There is the option to select between 4WD and 2WD along with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, but when we took the Tundra off-road, it struggled to keep up with its smaller, newer, and better-prepared sibling, the Tacoma.

It’s worth noting that the Tacoma we brought along was a TRD Off-Road spec version, but it ran a much more suitable set of tires for our day in the dirt. We would have liked the option for tires more aggressive than the Michelin LTX A/T 2s our test truck wore. The Michelins are a decent compromise if you never plan to drive on anything but the pavement or dirt roads, but should you want to go any further afield, more suitable rubber is a must.

Not to mention the other off-road-specific tech that we’d like to see in the next Tundra. It’s not that every Tundra needs the extra kit, but if you’re going to call something a “Pro,” it should be loaded up with the very best a manufacturer can offer.

More Towing and Hauling Capability

The current Tundra comes standard with a towing package. As nice as that is, it doesn’t change the fact that the Tundra can’t tow or haul as much as its domestic rivals. Max tow and haul ratings for the Tundra are 10,100 and 1,730 pounds, respectively. The Ford F-150, with the 400-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, can tow up to 14,000 pounds. Not only that, but every F-150, regardless of powertrain, can haul at least 110 pounds more than the Tundra, and its max-haul rating is 3,250 pounds.

It doesn’t need to deliver a class-leader with the new Tundra, but Toyota definitely needs to up its game in the towing and hauling departments. The new turbocharged V-6 should help it deliver the goods in that regard, and we hope it’s a more serious competitor in this space. The new powertrain’s extra power and torque will no doubt help with that.

It’s About Time

The new Tundra is a long time coming, and we’re hoping the new truck is finally a credible alternative to those from Ford, Ram, and Chevy. If you want to know more about the Tundra the minute we do, keep your eyes on this space. The new truck is coming, and soon.

Editor’s note: A big thank you to Curtis from Rosamond, California, for coming to our aid when we received a flat tire while off-roading.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Toyota Tundra 4×4 TRD Pro
BASE PRICE $54,995
PRICE AS TESTED $55,818
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 5.7L/381-hp/401-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,933 lb (56/44%)
WHEELBASE 145.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 228.9 x 79.9 x 77.2 in
0-60 MPH 6.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.2 sec @ 90.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 127 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.70 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.1 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 13/17/14 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 259/198 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.33 lb/mile

(With Inputs from motortrend)

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