2009 Toyota Sequoia Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 17, 2009

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia is a good interpretation of a full-size SUV, but it’s just not in sync with the times.

To compile a Full Review covering the 2009 Toyota Sequoia, TheCarConnection.com researched a wide range of road tests. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have also driven the 2009 Toyota Sequoia and include their own impressions to help you make the most informed decision.

Based on the super-sized Toyota Tundra pickup, the 2009 Toyota Sequoia has little choice but to be extra large. Launched in 2008 as an all-new vehicle, the Sequoia eclipses the vehicle it replaced and is now playing in the same leagues as the Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, and Nissan Armada.

The behemoth from Toyota comes standard with a 4.7-liter V-8 and five-speed automatic that gets 14/17 mpg when outfitted with rear-wheel drive and only 13/16 mpg with four-wheel drive. An optional 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8, with its more efficient six-speed automatic, gets 14/19 mpg with two-wheel drive and 13/18 mpg with four-wheel-drive. The fuel economy numbers are a little better than those of the Expedition, Suburban, and Armada by a mile or so, but in the days of fluctuating fuel prices and the “greening” of everything, they seem a bit out of touch with reality.

The interior of the 2009 Toyota Sequioa was designed for large Americans, and the available room is tremendous. Both the front and second row of seats can handle adults easily, and the third-row seating has reasonable space for the post-teen ages. With the power-folding option, expanding the already generous rear cargo area is a breeze.

Review continues below

Most of the interior design and controls carry over from the Tundra, and it isn’t necessarily a good thing. The finishes are less rich-looking than before, too, though plenty of features—from navigation systems to satellite radio—are offered.

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia comes with standard rear-wheel drive; four-wheel drive and an adjustable suspension are optional. The 4WD models have a knob-operated electronic two-speed transfer case containing a lockable Torsen limited-slip differential that transmits power to front and rear axles and can be locked with the push of a button.

The new, fully independent suspension has an available Active Variable (rear air) Suspension (AVS) package that has settings for comfort, normal, and sport modes.
The Sequoia drives small despite its larger tires and wheels (18-inch alloys standard, 20-inchers optional). The turning radius is a sedan-like 39 feet, and handling is surprisingly capable for a vehicle of its size, but the Sequoia’s height and sheer size, paired with tough outward visibility, make it cumbersome to maneuver. Steering is light but reasonably precise, and braking is solid and powerful even when towing a heavy load.

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia offers all the luxurious features and options you come to expect from a large SUV; from copious cup holders and storage to available middle-row captain's chairs, premium audio, DVD rear entertainment, and a reclining/power folding 60/40 split third-row bench.

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia gets a five-star rating for driver-side front-impact protection, along with four stars for the front passenger, from NHTSA, and it comes with all the expected safety equipment, including electronic stability control, side, and side-curtain airbags.

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2009 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia motto seems to be “bigger is better,” but not everyone agrees.

The Toyota Sequoia muscled its way into the 2008 model year with a new body and a new look. It seems to have stayed on the same cycle, as not much has changed for 2009.

The Tundra pickup donates its platform for the big SUV from Toyota; 2009’s version shares many of the Tundra’s styling cues, and ForbesAutos calls those details “brawny” and “imposing.” They add, “With its enormous chrome-clad prow, the Sequoia mimics the macho, don’t-mess-with-Texas look of the Tundra pickup.” It seems that size matters in the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com; many open with comments on the Sequoia’s tremendous size. ForbesAutos says, “everything is big on this truck, from the headlamps and side mirrors to the exterior grab handles and interior switches.”

Interior styling for the 2009 Toyota Sequoia carries over from the Tundra, and it’s a source of controversy. Cars.com calls it “with its recessed gauges and sweeping silver-colored trim stretching from the instrument cluster down to the center console gear selector.” ForbesAutos feels that “you have to stretch to reach the stereo controls.” While Edmunds finds a “triumph of ergonomics, storage bins, and family-friendly conveniences” in the Toyota, 2009’s Sequoia has an “overwrought dash with questionable ergonomics,” according to Motor Trend.

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2009 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia has great performance and the appetite that goes with it.  

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia may be a beast, but she can get up and hustle with a powerful V-8 under the hood. Size and power still equate to thirsty, though.

The ‘09 Sequoia offers two engines: a standard 4.7-liter V-8 keeps the price tag down, but the larger and more powerful 5.7-liter version actually gets better fuel economy and is necessary for getting the most performance out of the big SUV.

The optional engine in the 2009 Toyota Sequoia is a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that pumps out 381 hp and provides 401 pound-feet of torque. This very capable engine gives the Sequoia surprising acceleration numbers, as well as plenty of towing power for boat owners. Motor Trend raves about the on-road performance of the Toyota; 2009’s Sequoia “can push passengers into their seatbacks with what seems like enough energy to recline to the floor.” Car and Driver also praises the Sequoia’s “monster motor” and its “surprisingly tight 39-foot turning circle.” Edmunds says the big engine and six-speed automatic can push the sport-ute to 60 mph “in 6.7 seconds.” Speaking to the transmission, Edmunds finds that it “is always on its game with gear selection, even when towing.”

Edmunds confirms the availability of a smaller engine in the Toyota; 2009’s base engine is a “4.7-liter V8, which is rated at 276 horsepower and 314 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard with this engine.”

As for fuel economy, Forbes Autos points out that the smaller V-8 gets “13 miles per gallon city/16 mpg highway” in the Toyota; 2009’s optional 5.7-liter V-8 gets “13 mpg city/18 mpg highway.”

The handling characteristics of the 2009 Toyota Sequoia earns kudos from most reviewers. ConsumerGuide takes care to point out that the “Sequoia is composed in most every routine maneuver, with the bonus of a usefully tight turning radius and outstanding brake control.” Car and Driver reports, “Although the Sequoia won’t send you in search of twisty roads, you won’t necessarily have to avoid them.” However, they also observe that “the ride isn’t quite as smooth as we expected…[and] feels downright jiggly on rough roads.” Motor Trend says the Sequoia is “poised,” but has “light and numb steering.”

All trim levels of the Sequoia feature large disc brakes and a brake-assist system that help slow the car’s 6,000-plus pounds when those red lights are fast approaching—although Automobile thinks the pedal feels like a “Nerf ball.” Four-wheel drive is an option with either powertrain in the Toyota Sequoia; 2009’s system allows drivers to “lock the center differential in both 4 Hi and 4 Lo, thereby providing greater flexibility when driving in snowy conditions,” Edmunds notes.

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2009 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia has the room and quality to double as a high-end apartment in Tokyo.

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia could be considered a small apartment in cities like New York and London, with high-quality furnishings to boot.

Size is the killer application of this Toyota; 2009’s Sequoia has “adult-adequate” third-row seats, ConsumerGuide says, and “enormous door openings aid entry and exit.” Cars.com also likes the third row: “The flat-folding third row's backrest reclines, and the seat can have power operation.” ForbesAutos remarks it’s "notably more spacious and easier to access than GM’s similarly sized Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon, as well as Ford’s Expedition.”

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia has some upscale interior pieces that reviewers across the Web noted. Road & Track gushes about the “yards upon yards of rich feeling (and smelling) high-quality leather” in the Toyota; 2009’s interior is “a triumph of ergonomics, storage bins and family-friendly conveniences,” Edmunds reports. ForbesAutos says, “the driving position is upright, visibility is excellent, the seats are a bit soft but still supportive.” That said, Edmunds does find fault with “inconsistent gaps and color mismatches among a couple parts and panels.”

Comfort in the new 2009 Toyota Sequoia is also nothing to worry about. The car’s cavernous dimensions make finding storage space a breeze. Motor Trend “found the Toyota very roomy and comfortable,” and Autoblog notes that “there’s storage all over the place for the second- and third-row passengers.” Cars.com says, “The Sequoia can seat up to eight people in its three rows of seats,” and “The second row slides out of the way when you lift a lever, which makes it easy to get to the third-row seats.” ForbesAutos reports that the second row “slides fore and aft to allow maximum legroom in the second row when the third row is unoccupied.” Automobile jokes that it’s “an alternative to a motorhome, with space for eight family members and every convenience but beds.”

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2009 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia has a plethora of safety equipment standard—great crash-test scores, too.

Size is generally associated with safety, and in the 2009 Toyota Sequoia, you would expect to be well protected in an accident. Those expectations are met in this Toyota; 2009’s Sequoia gets good crash-test ratings and an excellent assortment of safety features.

The engineers and experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) find strength in the latest SUV from Toyota; 2009’s Sequoia scores a perfect five stars for protecting the driver in front impacts, and passenger ratings come in at a respectable four stars. One worry in such a large car is the risk of rollover, but NHTSA gives the Sequoia four stars here as well—quite an accomplishment for a car so tall.

Car and Driver says that when it comes to safety, “the Sequoia delivers, starting with standard electronic stability control and roll-sensing side curtain airbags for all three rows.” Cars.com also points to the rest of the standard equipment on the Toyota; 2009’s Sequoia SUV has standard “antilock brakes with brake assist...and an electronic stability system with traction control.”

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2009 Toyota Sequoia

Features

The 2009 Toyota Sequoia can be outfitted as richly as you like, but to get the best optional gadgets, you have to go for the top-level trim.

Most vehicles that have three trim levels usually start out with a bare-bones model. The 2009 Toyota Sequoia bucks that trend with features that appear on every car coming off the production line. The only major drawback, TheCarConnection.com observes, is that instead of allowing for complete customization, the Toyota 2009 Sequoia is offered in three trim levels, within which options are limited.

All three versions sport standard three-zone climate control, luxurious leather seats, and six-disc CD changer. Cars.com adds that standard features on the base Sequoia include “tri-zone automatic air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, a CD stereo, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and cruise control." Options on this version include “a navigation system with…a backup camera, a DVD entertainment system…climate-controlled front seats, heated second-row seats, a power lift gate and a sunroof.”

In the Limited and Platinum trim levels of the 2009 Toyota Sequoia, buyers will find that the Limited includes additional leather and a 14-speaker JBL sound system capable of filling the entire cabin with high-quality audio. At the very top of the range lies the Toyota 2009 Sequoia Platinum, which ForbesAutos says “adds all-out luxury amenities, such as 20-inch alloy wheels” and “a navigation system with back-up camera.”

Rounding out the list of options and features in the 2009 Sequoia is a controllable air suspension and a moonroof with full tilt and slide functionality.

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