With the news of just a double cab version of the 2020 Tundra TRD PRO being offered, we can now set our sights on the more probable introduction of a new 2021 Toyota Tundra coming soon. Here are our top expectations based on interviews with Toyota engineers.
The Toyota Tundra has been a stable truck offering for the company returning on average 10,000 sales a month. Considering it is now the oldest full-size pickup on the market, it is actually pretty notable on how it is maintaining a consistent seller.
A consistent seller is one thing, a true challenger in the half-ton market is another. While Toyota openly admits challenging Ford, GM or Ram isn’t a target for them, they do plan to improve sales above and beyond the 10k a month especially with new production capacity coming soon.
This means, we should expect to see some significant changes to the Tundra to be more competitive.
In the above video interview from our trip to Japan, it is easy to surmise Toyota is planning on improving their powertrain options in the Tundra beyond the 5.7L V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission.
What will be the new powertrain? First, it is very likely the 5.7L V8 isn’t going anywhere since Chief Engineer Mike Sweers, and key decision maker on the pickup, explains they still want to offer a powerful engine for customers who need the torque.
Second, it is really hard to improve fuel economy in a full-size pickup without making another powertrain option besides the V8. Sweers is no real fan of turbocharged engines and battery electric vehicles. This leads to only one real choice left and that is a hybrid powertrain likely borrowed from Lexus.
Third, the 6-speed automatic will likely be swapped out for an 8-speed allowing for better fuel economy for the V8 and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota already offers this transmission in the large Land Cruiser. While the Land Cruiser’s transmission was setup to improve the off-the-line towing performance, we would suspect the Tundra would be for fuel economy since the 410 lbs-ft of torque from the V8 already performs well when towing for a full-size pickup.
What about a diesel or heavy-duty offering? Still no.
Another obvious place for changes will come for exterior and interior styling.
Sweers mentions his customers love the exterior styling of the current-gen Tundra, so we wouldn’t expect a radically new exterior, however, we could see a new grille and a functional air vent to help with engine cooling under load. This would make sense with a new 8-speed setup for fuel economy, the powertrain will likely create more heat and better airflow into the engine bay is a simple way to disperse that heat.
Inside the cabin, the Tundra will likely see a host of changes to the instrument panel with larger driver-information screens and a larger infotainment screen option also makes sense with the current competition heading that direction (see: Ram 1500’s massive screen).
Toyota designers will also likely take another look at the materials for the Limited and 1794 to bring up them up to par with competitors who are putting increasingly more expensive and luxurious materials inside the cabin.
We don’t expect Toyota to switch the rear seats back to the slide and recline, however, we do hope they make changes to the amount of storage options in the rear with new storage bins or hooks on the backside of the seats for grocery bag or other bag holders.
What about new technology like towing assist systems, cell-phone apps, trailer back up assist? Probably not a lot. Here’s why.
The simple truth is Sweers has long questioned the reasoning behind these systems. He sees many of them as creating a solution to a non-existent problem. This is especially the case with Ford’s trailer back-up assist.
This doesn’t mean new technology like Chevy’s towing apps with the ability to keep track of your trailer’s maintenance and tires as well as checking your lights shouldn’t be a high possibility. Those are really smart innovations and Sweers is likely going to sit back and cherry pick the best ones for his pickup.
Finally, with the arrival of Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa in other 2020 Toyota TRD PRO models, we can expect to see all Toyota Tundra models getting access to these in the future. We would also hope to see push-button start replacing the key for all models moving forward.
While our list of expectations will dose the flames on some Toyota fans, it is really more about practical, conservative upgrades for the 2021 Toyota Tundra. If our bet is right, you will see it unveiled at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show and on dealers lots in the fall of 2020.