- Alexander Mitich
2021 Toyota Tundra SR5 - Old (and Aging Quickly) Faithful
As of May 1999, the Toyota Tundra was the first full-size pickup truck for North America to be built by a Japanese manufacturer. The Tundra has received a few updates over the years, including a new look and even a list of modern safety equipment. But the reality is that it is the same pickup for more than a decade. For 2020, the Tundra now offers only one powertrain: a 5.7-liter V8. Last year, a 4.6-liter V8 was standard and the 5.7-liter optional, but Toyota has ditched the smaller engine for now. It is assembled in San Antonio, Texas, where production consolidated in 2008, and is the only full-size pickup made in Texas.
The 2020 Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup available in five trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, and TRD Pro. There are several body styles, with a regular double cab or the extra-large CrewMax and one of three bed lengths. Standard equipment on the SR includes an integrated trailer brake controller, tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, and a six-speaker sound system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The SR5 gives you an upgraded 8-inch infotainment interface and a few optional extras, like bucket seats, a tilt-and-tilt steering wheel, and a larger 38-gallon gas tank. The Limited is based on the SR5 with larger wheels, movable studs, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an upgraded power driver's seat, and an upgraded infotainment system with navigation. The Platinum comes with extras like a sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 12-speaker JBL sound system. The 1794 Edition differs from the Platinum by adding some unique interior and exterior styling elements. A TRD Off-Road package is available on SR5, Limited, and 1794 editions. For even better off-road performance, the TRD Pro model features a special suspension with larger aluminum Fox shocks, lighter BBS forged wheels and a front skid plate.
All models come with a 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, combined with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fortunately, the 5.7-liter V8 engine and standard 4.30 axle ratio give most Tundras a towing capacity of around 10,000 pounds. Additionally, the Tundra comes standard with an integrated electronic trailer brake controller.
The interior of the Tundra is functional but dated. The controls are large and well labeled, and the redundant buttons next to the touchscreen are helpful. The front seats on each model are roomy and comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom in the backseat of the CrewMax, and overall the Tundra has a good interior.
The materials and build quality are acceptable, and the leather appointments on the more expensive models are particularly attractive. The folding rear seats in double cabins and CrewMaxes also provide a good amount of protected storage for valuables.
The rear seat is huge, so you can fit most child seats without a problem. But it is poorly designed to carry large cargo items due to a considerable hump in the center of the floor. Forward visibility is good. However, there is a large blind spot on both shoulders, and the blind spot monitoring system does not always detect what is behind it. Lack of visibility also makes maneuvering in a parking spot challenging. The Tundra uses its space well. There is a massive center console large enough for multiple mid-size laptops. The door pockets are large and equipped for large beverage containers. The Tundra's maximum payload capacity is competitive, but the platform's loading height is high. You also can't get a fancy hatchback like on some of the newer trucks.
In technology it is far behind its rivals in Detroit. The base stereo has a low-powered six-speaker unit that doesn't make a lot of noise. But when you turn it up, it gets distorted easily. The audio and climate dials and buttons are large and easily accessible, and the instrument cluster features two conventional, readable dials for the speedometer and tachometer. The Entune touch screen interfaces are easy to use, with Bluetooth and smartphone services with features like the Bing search engine, Pandora radio, traffic and sports in real time.
It includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front knee airbags, front side airbags and side curtain airbags that cover both rows. A rear view camera is standard across the board, while parking sensors, blind spot monitoring system with cross traffic alert, are optional. It comes standard with features like adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and lane departure monitoring. Add forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. The package includes forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning, automatic high beam control and adapted cruise control. Some of these systems are too sensitive and annoying.
The 5.7-liter V8 has a lot of oomph. In the corners, the steering is vague and the large steering wheel does not return well to the center. The handling also feels shaky at times, especially on narrow roads. We like that Toyota offers the off-road ready TRD Pro version. But for routine driving, almost all full-size trucks are more agile, maneuverable, and modern. The Tundra isn't the fastest in the segment when it comes to horsepower, but it's still a champion towing, thanks to its prodigious torque and well-rated six-speed automatic transmission.
Users will find the V8 engine performance suitable for most short towing driving situations as it provides better fuel economy. The six-speed automatic transmission never looks for gears in drive and offers full manual control. Consistent, powerful braking is a Tundra's strength. The braking feeling is good, and our tests show that the truck's brakes are more than adequate. The light but precise steering makes it fairly easy to drive on a daily basis, although it feels larger and less comfortable than competitive pickups. While traversing broken pavement, the tundra feels more like a classic pickup, where a lot of small bumps can easily be felt in the cabin, with a significant amount of road noise inside. Its reliability is its strength, and that is what those who want to drive a Toyota Tundra are looking for.
The Tundra hasn't seen a completely new overhaul since 2007, which means the 2020 Tundra is lagging behind current segment leaders. The Tundra is certainly a reliable and capable truck, and the TRD lineup offers some off-road options, but overall, we recommend taking a closer look at one of the Tundra's more recently redesigned rivals, including the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500.
Old, faithful Tundra architecture
Power rear window
Old, dated Tundra architecture
Limited driver aids and infotainment compared to competitors
Engine: 5.7L V8
Drivetrain: RWD w/4WD
Power: 381 hp
Torque: 401 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Comb.): 13/17/14 MPG
Curb Weight: 5,640 lbs
Base Price: $34,025
Price as Tested: $46,420 (incl. dest.)