2011 Toyota Sequoia Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 14, 2011

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia offers good towing ability, powerful V-8 engines, and a macho, over-the-top look, though in most other respects its hard to make a practical case.

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia is based on the mammoth Toyota Tundra pickup and takes on other big body-on-frame SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, and Nissan Armada. Built for hauling a full load of people and addressing heavy trailer-towing needs, the Sequoia sacrifices some handling and maneuverability—and a lot of fuel—for the sake of hauling.

To some, it might be a little hard to take the design seriously. The Sequoia looks like it's on steroids from the outside, and almost cartoonishly musclebound with its huge, imposing chrome grille, tall hood and flanks, and details like its flared fenders, chunky door handles, chromed mirrors, and rippled sheetmetal. Inside, it's more of the same—either macho, overwrought, or 'generously functional.'

Between the two V-8 engines that are offered, a 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 and five-speed automatic, or a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 and six-speed auto (both with either rear- or four-wheel drive), it makes sense to go with the larger one. The fuel economy difference is negligible, and the 5.7-liter's much greater torque output makes sense for what this truck's intended: towing. When properly equipped, tow ratings range up to 7,400 pounds. And the Sequoia handles like a smaller truck, even though there's plenty of excess body motion and nosedive.

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There's nothing to gripe about with respect to seating space in the 2011 Toyota Sequoia; the first two rows are roomy and the seats are proportioned generously, for larger Americans. The only complaint is that in those front perches, slim frivers might not find any side support. The third row is only for smaller adults, as is typical in this class, and those who ride back there have to be willing to contort a bit for entry and exit.

Most of the interior design and controls carry over from the big Tundra pickup, which isn't necessarily a good thing, as the Tundra has been criticized for being too plasticky. While the interior is well designed, upholstery and trim looks and feels a bit cheap, and ride quality isn't impressive.

All Sequoia models include keyless entry, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with leather trim, cruise control, an overhead console, and an eight-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio, auxiliary and USB ports, and Bluetooth streaming audio capability. Bluetooth is also included in all models. All four-wheel-drive Sequoias come with skid plates and upgraded roll-sensing side-curtain airbags.

2011 Sequoia Platinum models add a power hatch, heated mirrors, a rear-seat DVD system, a premium JBL sound system, a nav system with XM NavTraffic, perforated heated and ventilated captain's chairs, and real wood trim.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia is big and burly, to the point of being overstyled. Can it be taken seriously?

From the outside, the 2011 Toyota Sequoia looks like it's on steroids. It's almost cartoonishly musclebound with its huge, imposing chrome grille, tall hood and flanks, and details like its flared fenders, chunky door handles, chromed mirrors, and rippled sheetmetal. The Sequoia is as big as rivals like the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, or Nissan Armada, and it's as if Toyota is struggling to look even bigger with this design.

Inside, a matte-metallic plastic trim flows down from the gauge area and covers part of the center console, which some might find a bit odd or overwrought. That aside, the dash is very functional, with a very wide, multicompartment center console and chunky design incorporating simple, large controls and displays.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia is a well-rounded performer—if you can look past its thirst.

If you want the Sequoia, you'll have no choice but to get a big gasoline V-8 engine. And between the two that are available, a 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 and five-speed automatic, or a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 and six-speed auto (both with either rear- or four-wheel drive), it makes sense to go with the larger one. The fuel economy difference is negligible, and the 5.7-liter's much greater torque output makes sense for what this truck's intended: towing. When properly equipped, tow ratings range up to 7,400 pounds.

For those who don't mind these figures and need a big ute for towing, the Sequoia drives with the best of them; either powertrain is quite smooth and responsive. And it's very quick with the larger engine—dashing to 60 in a rather perverse 6.7 seconds, according to at least one trusted source. You'll never forget you're behind the wheel of a three-ton truck, though—you won't enjoy the Sequoia in any way on a tight, curvy road, and there's plenty of excess body motion and nosedive during braking. The turning radius is a sedanlike 39 feet, which helps it maneuver quite well at low speed. Brakes are big and strong, but as is common among larger utes, pedal feel can be mushy and imprecise.

Back on the subject of truck sensibilities, a towing-friendly adjustable suspension is optional. 4WD models have a knob-operated electronic two-speed transfer case containing a Torsen limited-slip differential that transmits power to front and rear axles and can be locked with the push of a button.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the Sequoia is vast and seating is comfortable for the first two rows; but materials, ride, and refinement could use some improvement.

There's nothing to gripe about with respect to seating space in the 2011 Toyota Sequoia; the first two rows are roomy and the seats are proportioned generously, for larger Americans. The only complaint is that in those front perches, slim frivers might not find any side support. The third row is only for smaller adults, as is typical in this class, and those who ride back there have to be willing to contort a bit for entry and exit.

There isn't a lot of cargo space behind the third row, so you'll be folding the third row quite a bit; and the power-folding option makes expanding it a breeze.

Most of the interior design and controls carry over from the big Tundra pickup, which isn't necessarily a good thing, as the Tundra has been criticized for being too plasticky. Upholstery isn't a standout either in a class where interior appointments often parallel those of luxury vehicles, but there are copious cup holders and many small bins. Ride quality isn't top-notch either here; the suspension can soak up minor blemishes and major issues like railroad tracks but seems to get the jitters about choppy pavement surfaces. As with some other trucks of this type, the situation probably improves with a load of passengers.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia has all the expected safety equipment, but otherwise it lacks the assurance of safety ratings.

There isn't a lot of information to go on regarding the safety of the 2011 Toyota Sequoia, as neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have crash-tested and rated it.

Under former federal tests, the 2010 and earlier model got a five-star rating for driver-side front-impact protection, along with four stars for the front passenger from NHTSA.

That said, its safety equipment is as extensive as any other full-size SUV, including electronic stability control, side, and side curtain airbags.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Features

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia comes well-equipped, but there's nothing close to the choice of features and options available from Chevy and Ford.

There are three Sequoia model grades: SR5, Limited, and Platinum. While SR5 models are oriented toward cost-conscious users who need strong towing rig, Limited and Platinum models pile on luxury content.

All Sequoia models include keyless entry, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with leather trim, cruise control, an overhead console, and an eight-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio, auxiliary and USB ports, and Bluetooth streaming audio capability. Bluetooth is also included in all models. All four-wheel-drive Sequoias come with skid plates and upgraded roll-sensing side-curtain airbags.

2011 Sequoia Platinum models add a power hatch, heated mirrors, a rear-seat DVD system, a premium JBL sound system, a nav system with XM NavTraffic, perforated heated and ventilated captain's chairs, and real wood trim.

Available features include middle-row captain's chairs, premium audio, DVD rear entertainment, and a reclining/power folding 60/40 split third-row bench.

Missing, rather oddly, from the Sequoia's factory options list is serious off-road hardware, or a dedicated off-road model. It all makes sense when you see the Toyota Land Cruiser across the lot. Ah, the upsell.

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2011 Toyota Sequoia

Fuel Economy

Toyota might have a very green reputation with its Prius, but its Sequoia SUV is one of the thirstiest gas guzzlers for 2011.

The 2011 Toyota Sequoia is a huge, body-on-frame truck, and its burly V-8 engines are hardly fuel-efficient.

The Sequoia's fuel economy ratings, of as little as 12 mpg in the city and 17 highway, land this big SUV a spot right up among the top CO2 emitters among all light vehicles—and one of the least-green models on the market.

At best, the Sequoia gets 14 in the city, and 20 on the highway. If you're environmentally motivated, you could do a lot better—for instance, with a vehicle like GM's full-size hybrid SUVs, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid, or with the Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec diesel.

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Styling 7.0
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