The Toyota Tundra Has Gone From Towing the Struggle Bus to Riding It

Oh, the Toyota Tundra. How the mighty have fallen. I’m not a hater, the Tundra is rad, and Toyota makes killer, reliable, tough, dependable, and all-around adventure-ready vehicles that make enthusiasts smile. However, kind of like Jeep Wranglers, Toyota’s line of trucks has fallen from this great height over the years, not by getting worse or cheaper, but by essentially remaining exactly the same. And, in the automotive world, the same, eventually won’t cut it. When once the Tundra ruled the full-size truck class, it now trails far behind its competitors. 

The Toyota Tundra was a game-changer

In order for something to fall behind, it has to have been ahead at some point. Well, it was. The Toyota Tundra debuted in 1999, according to Toyota Newsroom. This was the first Japanese truck built in America. The Tundra featured the most sophisticated powerplant of any truck in production. It was the first double-overhead-cam, 32-valve V8 in its segment. It was also the first V8 to get the EPA to issue a Low Emission Vehicle classification

What is the best year for the Tundra? 

The Toyota Tundra won MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year in 2000 and 2008. The Tundra didn’t change much at all from the first model until 2007. The result of this change was a massive success that culminated in the winning truck for the MotorTrend award.

The Toyota Tundra was two for two. The redesign featured a new look and a new 5.7-liter V8 that made 381 hp and 401 lb-ft. For reference, the first-gen version had a 4.7-liter V8 making only 281 lb-ft of torque. The 2007 Tundra maxed out at 10,600 lbs and got a combined 18 mpg. 

The 2011 Toyota Tundra , like this one that's parked on a dirt road, is one of the best Used Toyota Tundra model years
2011 Toyota Tundra | Toyota

RELATED: Why Did Consumer Reports Give the 2021 Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra the Same Score?

In 2012, a stock Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4×4 towed the Endeavor space shuttle across a bridge in Los Angeles for about five minutes. The out-of-this-world load weighed a total of 292,000 lbs. These were the days when the Toyota Tundra reigned supreme. It was killing the competition, getting press coverage left and right, and selling like hotcakes. Although not much changed other than an upgraded Sat Nav system and the Platinum trim option, the 2013 Tundra won the award for full-size Truck of the Year. Also, this was the year that first had the TRD Rock Warrior trim. 

Between then and now, the Toyota Tundra has seen some facelifts here and there and some added safety and tech features inside. The problem with the Tundra’s newest models is that almost nothing has changed as far as the engine, transmission, or any other mechanical parts in almost a decade.

Is the 2021 Toyota Tundra a good truck? 

By early-to-mid-2010s specifications, hell yeah! If we compare it to other modern competitors, the once golden boy of the truck world looks a little more like the cast-iron boy; it’s still tough and dependable, just not very modern or sophisticated. 

A photo of the Toyota Tundra outdoors.
Toyota Tundra | Toyota

What engine is in the 2021 Toyota Tundra?

The new Tundra has that same old 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 as the only motor option. It’s still a great, strong motor, but it’s outdated compared to the competitor’s V6 hybrids and smaller displacement turbocharged options. Car and Driver noted that the towing capacity hadn’t changed either. It is still sitting around the same at 10,200. 

One of the most glaring problems with the new Tundra is that as transmission technology has advanced with eight-, nine-, and even 10-speed automatic transmissions, the 2021 version has a lazy old six-speed transmission. 

The 2021 Toyota isn’t bad, it’s just old

I am not in the business of bashing Toyota. The Japanese automaker has made some of the coolest, toughest, and most believed automobiles the world has ever known. Toyota has continuously pushed the envelope and led the way on great designs. The reason the 2021 Tundra is catching so much heat is that it seems like it’s been forgotten about. Let’s hope for a truly all-new Tundra soon.