Off-road enthusiasts require more out of their vehicles. Fortunately, manufacturers have been paying attention, and there are more off-road options available today than ever before. For those of you picking and choosing which model and options seem like they’re worth investing in for off-road purposes, we have a treat for you here today. On the GMC front, there’s the AT4 trim of the Sierra 1500, and on the Toyota front, we have the TRD Pro trim for the Tundra. In an off-road comparison of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 vs 2021 Toyota Tundra, there are some striking differences between the way these two approach the enthusiast activity.
Which Truck Has More Power for Off-Road Performance?
In order to send your vehicle over the hills and across the rivers, far removed from paved roads and concrete streets, you need a certain level of power and performance. Off-road adventure requires plenty of torque for crawling over obstacles and lots of horsepower to maintain speed on dirt roads or sandy dunes. Obviously, this leads to the question of how well the powertrains for the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 and 2021 Toyota Tundra perform for off-road performance? Well, there’s really no competition here as one gives you more bang for your buck than the other.
The Tundra TRD Pro only has one powertrain option. Heck, the 2021 Toyota Tundra as a whole only has one powertrain option. The engine in question is a 5.7-liter V8 that generates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Unfortunately, there is no special tuning for the TRD trim, so if you wanted (or needed) extra off-the-line low-end torque for uphill treks or rock climbing, you’re fresh out of luck. What you see is what you get and nothing more.
The GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 takes its off-road performance more seriously. Most trims of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 come standard with either a 4.3-liter V6 or a 2.7-liter Turbo. However, the AT4 is instead offered with three more capable powertrains, including a turbocharged 3.0-liter Duramax diesel engine and a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8. The 3.0-liter Duramax nets you 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque for those who need that extra tug, pull, and boost on those difficult-to-scale rocks. Alternatively, you can opt for more horsepower with the 6.2-liter V8 that delivers 420 horses and 460 pound-feet of torque. Either way, you’re getting better overall horsepower or torque from the GMC Sierra AT4 than the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
Which Has the Better Off-Road Features?
Even though the 2021 Toyota Tundra seemed to come up short in all kinds of ways in the power department, Toyota did compensate for that with the suspension capabilities. With this off-road truck, you get specially tuned FOX shocks featuring four-corner 46-mm monotube struts with rear piggyback reservoirs. The shock absorbers have been paired with 18-inch forged BBS wheels wearing all-terrain tires. This should help reduce slippage and provide better traction during off-road adventures. The suspension also contains dual-rate coil springs in the front of the truck and dual-rate leaf springs in the rear. Skid plates are also standard, of course.
The GMC Sierra AT4 is working with a lot more muscle, so it utilizes a 2-speed Autotrac transfer case for maximum performance, as well as a 10-speed automatic transmission. All of this power is stabilized via Rancho shock absorbers and a standard 2-inch lift-kit for additional ground clearance. So the Sierra 1500 AT4 is designed to take a lot of off-road punishment. You can also trek through all sorts of rough terrain thanks to available 20-inch mud-terrain Wrangler Territory tires. The dual-outlet exhaust is also integrated into the bumper, so you’re getting the most out of the air intake and compression ratios generated by the 3.0-liter Duramax or the 6.2-liter V8.
Hill descent control also comes standard on the Sierra 1500 AT4, along with an available performance-ready air intake system. Skid plates are also standard, just like the Tundra. The Sierra AT4 also has an electronic stability and traction control system in the form of StabiliTrak. Additionally, the Sierra automatically has hill start assist and trailer sway control installed, along with brake assistance, wheel-slip detection, and emergency maneuver assistance.
The TRD Pro comes with an automatic limited-slip differential and the A-TRAC (active traction control) system. While it offers great use of its transfer case and torque transfer, it doesn’t have the hill assist, hill climb, or hill hold functionality and only comes with a 6-speed instead of a 10-speed transmission. This might reduce the appeal some off-road enthusiasts have when it comes to how the Tundra utilizes its torque and how responsive the suspension may be to certain off-road situations.
What About Off-Road Towing and Utility?
Off-road enthusiasts do more than just jump dunes, tear through mud, and turnover rocks with their tires. There’s also the whole culture of using off-road trucks for towing and trailering. Other times the trucks may be used for carrying tools, outdoor gear, or even other vehicles like ATVs, bikes, or motorcycles. When it comes to towing and payload, both vehicles will net you very similar results, with a slight edge going to the Sierra.
The 2021 Tundra TRD Pro nets you a maximum tow rating of 9,900 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,630 pounds. This means you could easily store an ATV or a pair of dirt bikes in the back without any problems. You also have the advantage of an optional power tailgate function for easy loading in and loading out of equipment, if you so desire. The tow hooks make it easy to pull obstacles from your path during your outdoor adventures or when setting up camp during a weekend vacation.
The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 also comes with dual red tow hooks, so it’s off-road-ready from the get-go. The max towing capacity is also noticeably higher, coming in at up to 11,800 pounds with the 6.2L V8. Finally, the Sierra 1500 can handle up to 2,150 pounds of payload. So you get a 520-pound advantage worth of payload capacity over the Tundra TRD. This means you can store plenty of extra gear in the back compared to the Tundra.
The Better Off-Road Champion
You’ll find a smattering of reviews from enthusiasts and critics alike, championing one or both trucks as being off-road capable. The thing is, you have to take into consideration a number of factors when it comes to off-road capabilities. It’s not just what’s available as a feature from the outset. For instance – the MSRP, the longevity of the truck, the quality of the parts, the costs for repairs, and everything else in between.
Off-roading can be an expensive and costly hobby, depending on how you use the truck and how often you use the truck for off-road purposes. Most of the feedback for both the Tundra and the Sierra is quite positive, but that still doesn’t really address which of the two is the better off-road performer. Well, if we’re going simply by the capabilities, the Sierra 1500 AT4 definitely sees an advantage over the Tundra TRD. Not only does it offer similar suspension and features, but GMC’s truck is far more powerful and offers many more options.
On the pricing front, both the Tundra TRD and Sierra AT4 are very similar, with the AT4 being just slightly more than the Tundra. But then again, you get a lot more performance heft out of Sierra. On paper, it seems quite obvious that the AT4 seems like the better off-road champion, and it’s hard to deny.