New & Used Toyota Sequoia: In Depth
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The Toyota Sequoia is a strong alternative to off-road-focussed big utes like the Toyota Land Cruiser, but not quite up to the gold standard set by the new Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, and the GMC Yukon SUVs, or even the updated Ford Expedition.
The Sequoia is a full-size SUV that shares a truck chassis with the Tundra pickup. With an architecture like that, the Sequoia can carry up to eight passengers and tow many thousands of pounds.
See our full review of the 2015 Toyota Sequoia for more information, specs, and pricing.
The Sequoia first reached showrooms in the 2001 model year, shortly after the full-size Toyota Tundra pickup was introduced. From day one, the Sequoia has offered V-8 engines with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. At launch, the base engine was a 240-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 backed by a four-speed automatic transmission, but 2005–2007 models got a stronger, 282-hp (or 273-hp) version, paired with a five-speed automatic, that was also a bit smoother and not any less efficient.
Those first-generation Sequoia models weren't exactly the pinnacle of refinement—they had more road, engine, and wind noise than some might expect in a full-size truck—and they weren't as spacious inside as rival Ford and Chevy models, but they proved themselves to be sturdy, reliable trucks. SR5 and Limited models added more luxury features, and a series of improvements phased in with the stronger engine in 2005 made the Sequoia much more appealing overall. Toyota was also a safety trendsetter in offering standard electronic stability control on all these vehicles.
The current Sequoia was new in the 2008 model year, coinciding with a new version of the Tundra pickup truck on which it's based. Powertrains were accordingly borrowed from the Tundra. The Sequoia launched with an available 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic that made it a viable, even superior, choice for those who towed compared to the contemporary light-duty trucks from Detroit. Base models got a 276-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 and five-speed automatic. Fuel economy wasn't that much different between the two engines though—it ranged from an EPA-rated 13/16 mpg to 13/18.
All Sequoias come with three rows of seating, with the middle row offering a choice of a bench or two captain's chairs. The Sequoia's highway ride in particular has been much improved and the cabin is quieter, with interior appointments now close to rivaling those of the more expensive Land Cruiser. Base, Limited, and Platinum models are available, with the Platinum getting a lot of extras, including heated and ventilated seats, heated mirrors, DVD entertainment, a nav system with XM NavTraffic, JBL sound, and real wood trim.
Little has changed on the Sequoia since 2008. While the Tundra on which it's based has seen exterior and interior improvements, the SUV has been left out, and both have had their powertrain options shrink instead of grow or mature. The Sequoia has sizable cargo room thanks to its independent suspension design in back, but its massive size means it's not fun to drive, and poor visibility makes things difficult when it comes time to park. It's still a solid choice for those who want to tow, but it's not an efficient vehicle when there's no load to carry.
Toyota has mostly just added to standard and available features in recent years in the absence of more meaningful changes. On 2010 models, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a USB port, and an auxiliary port were added to the standard-equipment list. The 2012 Sequoia got standard trailer-sway control and blind-spot monitoring systems. Toyota has also been pushing its Entune infotainment systems through most of the lineup, and a new Blu-Ray rear-entertainment system was added to top trims. In 2013, Toyota dropped the smaller V-8, leaving only the 5.7-liter engine. There were no changes to the Sequoia for the 2015 model year.
With a new Tundra expected within a few years, Toyota is likely to either offer a new Sequoia or cut the model altogether. Toyota is soon to move its headquarters to Texas, the home state of everything big, so it would be appropriate for it to continue offering a true three-row, full-size SUV, and perhaps one larger than ever.