Toyota's refined the base engine on the 2011 Tundra, but there's still little reason for most non-commercial buyers to opt for it over one of the truck's marvelous V-8 engines.
The newly revamped base engine on the 2011 Tundra is a 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6. With an updated variable valve-timing system, it's 34 horsepower stronger than in 2010--when it already provided plenty of oomph to move the Regular Cab with reasonable authority. Since it's designed mainly for work-truck use, it's saddled with lower towing and hauling capacity, which means recreational users will want one of the V-8s unless its 16/20-mpg fuel economy is a psychological must.
Last year, Toyota replaced the Tundra's 4.7-liter V-8 with a fresh 4.6-liter eight-cylinder. The engine's stronger and more fuel-efficient than the one it replaced, with EPA ratings of up to 15/20 mpg. At 310 hp and 327 pound-feet of torque, it's the equal of many other V-8s in the class, though the Ford F-150's new base six-cylinder engine almost equals its output, if not its velvety power delivery.
If lower fuel economy of 14/18 mpg is fine by you, the Tundra's 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 remains the top pick. With great all-around responsiveness and strong pulling power, it has mammoth torque available just off idle and plenty of passing power on the highway, even when towing.
Across the Tundra lineup, fuel economy lags some of the newest trucks like the F-150. While both V-8s sport a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, the V-6 still trods on with a five-speed automatic that costs it plenty in fuel economy, especially compared with the F-150's 17/23 mpg.
The Tundra's powertrain has some great companions in steering and braking. More so than other full-sizers, save for the newest F-150 and its electric steering, the Tundra feels light and precise behind the wheel, and doesn't give up much control to body roll. The brakes are among the best in the class, big and firm to the foot.
Four-wheel drive is available on every Tundra body style and powertrain combination. It's tough enough that Toyota encourages off-road use with special off-roading packages, while it doesn't disturb the Tundra's somewhat choppy ride quality any more than necessary. The Tundra does a fair job of smoothing out the road ahead in plusher versions laden with lots of passengers, but like most trucks, the lightest rear-drive Tundra without any cargo in the bed can send harsh impacts into the cabin.