The masculine and rugged Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV is old school, based on the previous-generation Tundra pickup truck, and not easily mistaken for a crossover. It’s muscular and well built, not a luxury vehicle but thoughtful, with road noise kept out of the cabin. It uses the same 5.7-liter V8 as the much more expensive and same-sized Toyota Land Cruiser, and does have available four-wheel drive (for winter weather), but it doesn’t have the Land Cruiser’s offroad capability. The powerful engine makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, and can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds, right quick for such a big SUV.
The Sequoia rides well for a body-on-frame vehicle, and its handling is decent. The four-wheel independent suspension keeps it stable in corners, although rough spots can upset its composure; that’s improved in the Platinum model with active variable air suspension. It has a third row, but like all of them it’s only realistic for kids. It can tow up to 7400 pounds.
Competition for Sequoia is fierce, including Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, and even the Toyota Highlander. Those SUVs have been more recently redesigned, and offer better cabin versatility, comfort, and fuel mileage. The thirsty Sequoia gets an EPA-rated 13/17/15 miles per gallon City/Highway/Combined with rear-wheel drive, and one less combined mpg with four-wheel drive.
The latest Sequoia hasn’t been crash tested, but it has a long list of safety features, including standard rearview camera.
Toyota Land Cruiser SR5 comes with rear-wheel drive ($43,325) or four-wheel drive ($48,500). Land Cruiser Limited ($54,115) is available with four-wheel drive ($57,340). Land Cruiser Platinum ($61,885) and 4WD ($65,080) have adaptive cruise control, DVD touchscreen navigation, 12-way power driver’s seat, heated second-row seats, load-leveling air suspension with three modes, Entune multimedia system with smartphone apps for Pandora and others, and a new Blu-ray rear entertainment system with a 9.0-inch LCD screen.
The Sequoia is bigger than almost anything on the road, except maybe the Chevy Suburban. Its beefy front end puts it out of the stylistic range of any crossover, yet its overall styling is more handsome than a minivan. It’s got a high beltline, tall hood, rippled sheetmetal, flared fenders, and giant chrome grille. Chrome mirrors and chunky door handles complete the look.
Sequoia looks like a Tundra pickup inside, with the cabin design and materials that feel a little cheap, plastic trim in matte metallic running from the gauges to the center console. At least it’s easy to keep clean. The instrument panel is chunky with big controls and displays, but simple and functional. There’s a high standard of workmanship, seen in the slim seams and panel gaps, typically Toyota. The heated seats, steering wheel control, and sliding moonroof are appropriate touches.
Passengers in the first two rows will be comfortable, but some crossovers offer more comfort, space and flexibility, including the Toyota Highlander, which we believe is a better choice than the Sequoia for a family that doesn’t tow a boat or caravan. The front seats are wide and soft, with little side support. Long rear doors make it easy to get in and out of the back seat, although it’s a tall step. Lots of cupholders and bins.
Two captain’s chairs are available for the rear instead of the three-person (40-20-40) bench seat. With the bench, a flat cargo floor can be created by folding the second row and third (60-40) rows. With just the third row folded, there’s tons of cargo space. The third row has optional power folding. The Limited and Platinum models have a power liftgate.
The third row only seriously works for kids, both climbing back there and staying back there. Low seat and not much legroom, although the second row slides forward to help.
The 5.7-liter V8 seriously rumbles, and 90 percent of its 401 foot-pounds of torque are available at 2200 rpm. That makes it a tractor, a beautiful monster for towing. We’ll stop short of saying it’s maneuverable or friendly in the city, but we will commend the Sequoia for its tight 38-foot turning circle, and for the lack of road noise in the cabin.
Its ride is good for a truck thanks to the independent rear suspension. The Platinum’s active variable air suspension is more composed. Without that, we’d say the Highlander, or the Ford Flex or Honda Pilot are more composed than the Sequoia, though they are not in the same size class.
Four-wheel-drive models have a two-speed transfer case with Torsen limited-slip differential that splits the power between the front and rear wheels as needed. There’s also A-TRAC active traction control.
If you want an eight-passenger body-on-frame SUV, because a crossover is too soft for your needs, then the Sequoia is a good choice. Especially when you compare it to the Toyota Land Cruiser, with the same chassis and powertrain at twice the price.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Sam Moses contributed to this report.