We’ve been pondering lately about which pickup truck we’d recommend if we were asked since this year is arguably the best for truck manufacturing. This is because more manufacturers than ever before are creating a multitude of new models, some of which are all-new, while others have been around for decades. We here have been enticed by the battle between the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 vs 2021 Toyota Tundra, and this is because it’s a common comparison, but these vehicles aren’t as similar as people may initially think. One of these trucks offers a substantial amount of choice, and one costs less than the competitor. Both of which are the same vehicle.
Trims and Availability
The 2021 Silverado can be purchased with a starting MSRP of $29,300 for the base model called Work Truck. This is then followed up by seven additional trim levels, bringing the total to eight. The base model can be equipped with one of several available powertrains, and compared to other vehicles within its price range, it contains a generous supply of standard features. Moving over to the 2021 Tundra and there’s a starting MSRP of $34,025 for the SR, the base trim Tundra. This is not a slight price increase but a rather substantial one. After SR, there are four more trim levels to select from, and this brings the total number of trim levels to five, which is three less than the Silverado.
Giving Customers Choices
What’s the most important thing that a truck can do? This isn’t just one answer, but the ability to tow massive amounts of cargo is usually at the top of the list. Buying a pickup truck is indeed different from any other vehicle class, and purchasing a model that’s low in raw performance will be noticeable to the driver, especially over time. To rectify this, you’ll want to buy a pickup truck that not only performs well today but also won’t fall behind in the years to come. The engine inside of the Tundra is not inherently bad – it’s a highly capable V8. But when we compare it to the Silverado and its five different engines, that is when the Tundra quickly begins to falter.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the Tundra, and that’s because offering one engine type results in the base model sporting more power than the base Silverado. Inside of the 2021 Tundra is a 5.7L V8 that comes paired with a basic 6-speed automatic transmission. It performs well enough, but its fuel efficiency is nothing short of abysmal, with EPA-estimated ratings of 13 MPG city and 17 MPG highway. You can also expect this V8 engine to give your Tundra 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque with a maximum towing capacity of 10,200 lbs. As we said, this isn’t necessarily subpar, but this is as far as the Tundra will let you go in regards to power.
The base engine inside of the Silverado 1500 is a 4.3L V6, also paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. As we said, this is a lesser engine than the 5.7L V8, and it produces 285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. Of course, with this being a smaller engine, it fares better in regards to fuel efficiency with EPA-estimated ratings of 16 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Despite being a smaller and less capable V6 engine, it still supports a maximum towing capacity of 7,900 lbs.
It Doesn’t Stop There
Before we discuss the first of the two available V8 engines for the Silverado, let’s talk about the available turbocharged 2.7L 4-cylinder engine that comes paired alongside a smoother 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine provides more power than the base configuration, lending itself to a higher towing capacity of 9,300 lbs, and it garners better fuel ratings of 20 MPG city and 23 MPG highway. This then leads us directly to the Silverado 1500’s first available V8, a 5.3L design that can be paired with a couple of different transmissions, including a 6-speed, 8-speed, and 10-speed automatic transmission. Your 5.3L V8 will create 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, and this will remain the same regardless of which transmission you have. EPA-estimated ratings for this engine will differ on the transmission you have paired with it, but the best will get 15 MPG city and 22 MPG highway.
Lastly, there are two more engines to discuss for the Silverado. The first of these two top-end engines is a turbo diesel 3.0L I-6 that produces 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is more than the Tundra’s engine. Because this engine both runs on diesel fuel and is a turbocharged engine, it gives you incredible EPA-estimated ratings of 23 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The Tundra doesn’t offer a powertrain configuration that can compete with this amount of efficiency. Towing capacity for this engine caps out at 9,500 lbs, which is slightly less than the Tundra’s V8.
Fortunately for the Silverado, there’s one more engine to talk about, and this one can dethrone the Tundra from the towing performance that we’ve discussed thus far. This last configuration for the Silverado sees a 6.2L V8 engine paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Purchasing a Silverado with this engine will give you far more power than the Tundra at 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Even with this 10% increase in horsepower and 15% increase in torque output, this engine still manages to be more fuel-efficient than the 2021 Tundra’s offering, earning ratings of 16 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Perhaps most importantly, after combining this engine with any necessary trailering packages, the Silverado can then tow 13,300 lbs, which is 30% more than the Tundra.
Proper Trucking Starts Here
It’s an easy call for us. The 2021 Silverado is a far better purchase than the 2021 Tundra, and this is best summarized with value-to-performance. For a vehicle that has an outrageously high starting price against its competitor, the Tundra feels rather hollow in comparison. This is partly due to Toyota’s decision to keep one powertrain configuration for the Tundra in a market where they could achieve much more if they choose to. Sure, finding a 2021 Silverado that can outperform the Tundra may cost you slightly more, but you’ll be toting more performance and a massively superior towing capacity.
If you’re stuck between these two trucks, we believe the Silverado will be the better fit. Only time will tell, but we believe that a 2021 Silverado will hold up much better over the next five years than the 2021 Tundra. What we’d like to see Toyota do next is to either drop the price of the Tundra or offer some slight variation with the available engines. Adding diesel or turbocharged options, similar to what is available inside of the Silverado, would go a long way towards making the Tundra a better choice. This year’s winner is the Silverado, and it wins by a long shot. Maybe next year will be different, but there’s no contest here as far as we’re concerned.