The Toyota Sequoia is a full-size SUV with three rows of seating, with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It’s traditional in that it’s based on a pickup truck, in this case the Tundra; its structure is body-on-frame, in no way a crossover.
Sequoia was a star when it came out in 2007, but it’s been a decade with few changes, which makes the 2017 Sequoia very dated compared to the competition, namely the redesigned GM models: Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.
It’s the cabin where the Sequoia feels most behind the times, with leftover plastic materials and lack of features like pushbutton start and USB ports. However only the Sequoia has a power rear window in the liftgate, a nice convenience.
The Sequoia uses the Tundra platform, but its ride is smoother and handling a bit better. There is just one engine, the trusty GM 5.7-liter, here making 381 horsepower 401 pound-feet of torque, mated to an old-school six-speed automatic. The Sequoia doesn’t offer any rugged offroad equipment, because the Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser cover that so well, and also have three rows of seating available.
With fuel mileage of 15 miles per gallon combined (14 mpg with 4wd), the Sequoia lags even farther behind the times. Its six-speed automatic is fine for transmission duties, maybe even better than some high-tech trannies like the Ford 10-speed, however the main reason for more gears nowadays is fuel mileage. The Sequoia may be bombproof simple, but it pays at the pump. The EPA rates it 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway for 15 combined.
The 4WD Chevy Tahoe gets 18 mpg combined, and uses a fuel tank of the same size, 26 gallons, so its range is about 468 miles compared to the Sequoia’s 364 miles.
The Sequoia hasn’t been crash-tested by the feds or insurance people. However one good point is the many airbags: two-stage front bags, knee bags and side bags in front, and roll-sensing side curtains for all three rows. Rearview camera is standard, but auto emergency braking isn’t available.
The Sequoia can tow a big boat, but compared to the Toyota Highlander crossover, it’s less people friendly.
There are three models: SR5 ($45,560), Limited ($54,350), and Platinum ($62,090). Four-wheel drive is optional ($3,225).
Standard equipment on the Sequoia SR5 includes a 6.1-inch screen for infotainment, eight-way power driver seat, and Bluetooth streaming audio. The Limited adds leather, power liftgate, a power folding third-row seat, parking sensors, JBL audio system, and 20-inch wheels. The Platinum adds adaptive cruise control, navigation, Blu-Ray rear entertainment system with a 9.0-inch screen, and air-conditioned front seats.
It’s a macho SUV, not gone smooth like the others. On the chunky Tundra platform, the Sequoia is rounded off but comes out muscle-bound, bulging with testosterone, almost cartoon-like, with ripped sheetmetal and flared fenders. It’s the biggest Toyota made, and nearly as wide as a Chevy Suburban.
The big chrome-plated plastic nose flaunts some tricky gravity to make it imposing. There’s a high belt line and tall hood, then back to the chrome, in the mirrors and door handles.
The SR5 looks plain and sane. The Limited and Platinum go hog wild with the chrome, including flashy wheels.
The Sequoia ranks last when it comes to cabin luxury among full-size SUVs. The front seat feels like you’re in the pickup truck that you’re in. The seats are wide and soft but it’s a steep climb to get there.
The instrument panel is functional but maybe overstyled, with big switchgear and displays designed to do work. Metallic matte trim runs from the dash to the center console. There are plenty of cupholders and there’s good storage for small things.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system relies heavily on a connected smartphone. It’s easy to use and its navigation is intuitive.
The second row is a standard bench with six inches of travel, to make more legroom or cargo room. It folds flat, along with the third row, to make a vast cargo space. The optional dual captain’s chairs are more comfortable, more about people than cargo.
The third row is roomier than some, but still cramped, so basically just for kids. Power folding is optional. The driver can press a button to roll down the rear window, like a station wagon from back in the ’60s.
The cabin materials might not be luxury, but the silence is. It’s as quiet as a Lexus, with road and wind noise seemingly miles away.
The Sequoia’s rumbling 5.7-liter V8 shows off its 381 horsepower by taking the truck’s massive weight and hurling it down the road fast: zero to sixty in just 6.7 seconds. Ninety percent of the engine’s 401 pound-feet of torque comes on at a low 2200 rpm, so it doesn’t waste a moment off the line–and that torque makes towing 7400 pounds easy. The Platinum comes with the load-leveling rear suspension, so it’s the best for towing.
Thanks to the stability of the car-like four-wheel independent suspension, the ride is good for a body-on-frame SUV, although it loses some composure on an undulating highway, and there is some head-toss on rough roads. The ride is even better with the active variable air suspension system on the Platinum.
Make no mistake, it maneuvers like a bus in parking lots, but its turning circle of 38 feet is fairly slim, which helps a lot.
The four-wheel-drive versions use A-TRAC traction control, to help in mud, snow and sand. The electronic two-speed transfer case uses a lockable Torsen limited-slip differential that splits power front and rear.
Sequoia brings off-road capability in a big, three-row SUV, as well as acceleration and torque for towing. Fuel mileage is not its strong point, and it’s a dated design.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.