2013 Toyota Sequoia Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 11, 2012

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia promises--and delivers--traditional truck toughness, packing macho style and a big V-8, as well as space for up to eight; but it's mighty thirsty to be a everyday family vehicle.

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia sets its sights squarely at what used to be one of the hearts of the market for GM and Ford; as a traditional full-size SUV, it's based on the same underpinnings as the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup, extending the Tundra's macho look and towing prowess into a vehicle that can also carry a big family in comfort.

Take even a brief look at the Sequoia, and you'll know what it is: a full-size SUV, and a brawny truck. The testosterone-tinged look of the Sequoia may appear somewhat cartoonishly musclebound for some, though it beats the almost anonymous styling of most minivans, and has a high, serious-truck look from the front that no crossover can rival. Cabin appointments, predictably, feel like those of a high-end full-size pickup from the front seats, grafted with two more rows of roomy wagon, and the instrument panel is functional without looking too plain.

Previously you could choose from two different V-8 engines for the Sequoia, but for 2013 Toyota has discontinued the smaller-displacement (4.6-liter) choice. And it's really for the better, as most Sequoia shoppers are towing-minded (tow ratings range up to 7,400 pounds), and with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, the V-8 is a powerhouse. The Sequoia shares its underpinnings with the Tundra pickup truck, but it rides and handles somewhat better. A four-wheel independent suspension helps keep the Sequoia stable through corners for the most part, although rough patches--whether pavement patches or gravel-road washboards--can upset its composure.

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The 2013 Toyota Sequoia isn't only a truck. With seating for eight and interior appointments that can look and feel quite upscale, this is a vehicle that can also work for the family--provided you don't expect quite the same level of space-efficiency, versatility, and comfort of some of crossover utility vehicle designs--including Toyota's own Highlander, which is quite a bit smaller on the outside but can feels nearly as large (or more so) inside. Dual captain's chairs are offered in place of a bench in the second row if you want, but it reduces the capacity to seven. Both the second- and third-row seatbacks can be folded forward to a flat cargo floor, with the second row split in three portions (40/20/40) and the third row in two (60/40). Storage space is ample once the third-row seats are folded in place, which is made easy thanks to a power-folding option.

Ride quality is good for a body-on-frame truck, thanks to the independent rear suspension system--with the ride even a step more composed with the active variable air suspension (AVS) system in the Platinum model. Road and wind noise feel quite well sealed-away, too.

From base and SR5 models, to the mid-level Limited trim, and up to the luxury-packed Platinum, the Sequoia spans more than $20k, running from around $43k up to about $64k--and that's before adding any of the various official dealer-installed accessories. At the top of the lineup is the Sequoia Platinum, which adds Dynamic Laser Cruiser Control, a DVD touch-screen navigation system, and a new Blu-Ray rear entertainment system with a 9-inch LCD screen and two sets of wireless headphones. A 12-way adjustable power driver’s seat, heated second-row seats, and the load-leveling air suspension with three driver-selectable modes are also all included.

Standard on the Platinum grade and available on SR5 and Limited is a new Entune multimedia system that provides access to apps for Bing seatch, Pandora, and others, providing access to entertainment or information through your smartphone's data connection.

Missing, rather oddly, from the Sequoia's factory options list is serious off-road hardware, or a dedicated off-road model (even though 4WD is widely available through the model line). It all makes sense when you see the much pricier Toyota Land Cruiser across the lot.
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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

With its imposing, on-steroids look, the 2013 Toyota Sequoia may be a little too cartoonishly manly and macho for some.

Take even a brief look at the 2013 Toyota Sequoia, and you'll know what it is: a full-size SUV, and a brawny truck. It's about as big as they come, and not for the fainthearted.

The testosterone-tinged look of the Sequoia may appear somewhat cartoonishly musclebound for some, though it beats the almost anonymous styling of most minivans, and has a high, serious-truck look from the front that no crossover can rival. The imposing chrome grille, tall hood, and high beltline add to the impression of size and bulk, while flared fenders, chunky door handles, chromed mirrors, and rippled sheetmetal all contribute to the muscle-bound madness. Rear doors are quite long, and they open wide for ingress and egress, as well as to get child seats in a little more easily.

Countering the impression--only a little bit--is that the Sequoia's sheetmetal details and trim have just a touch of softness. Compared with competitors like the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, or Nissan Armada in terms of styling, it's understandably one of the most aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of 0.36.

Cabin appointments, predictably, feel like those of a high-end full-size pickup from the front seats. The design and some of the materials are carried right over from the Tundra pickup, with matte-metallic plastic trim flowing down from the gauge area and covering part of the center console. Some may find that center-dash treatment a little overstyled, but otherwise the chunky design, with simple large controls and displays, is very functional without looking too plain.

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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

For those who plan to tow frequently, the 2013 Sequoia is a great choice.

Previously you could choose from two different V-8 engines for the Sequoia, but for 2013 Toyota has discontinued the smaller-displacement choice. And it's really for the better, as most Sequoia shoppers are towing-minded (tow ratings range up to 7,400 pounds), and the big 5.7-liter V-8 maximizes that ability without being that much thirstier.

With 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, the V-8 is a powerhouse, and it sounds just as commanding as its output figures, with a rumbling character. Most of its torque, up to 90 percent in fact, is delivered at just 2,200 rpm, and to make towing easier and safer, the Sequoia offers a Tow/Haul mode that modifies transmission shift points to boost performance. Trailer Sway Control is also included and allows the stability control system to potentially counteract (and warn the driver of) the effects of trailer sway.

And when the load's a little lighter, this is an SUV that can really move; 0-60 mph acceleration can be as quick as 6.7 seconds--better than most other vehicles of this size and capability.

The Sequoia shares its underpinnings with the Tundra pickup truck, but it rides and handles somewhat better. A four-wheel independent suspension helps keep the Sequoia stable through corners for the most part, although rough patches--whether pavement patches or gravel-road washboards--can upset its composure. This is by no means a maneuverable, city-friendly vehicle, but among large SUVs its 38-foot turning circle is commendable.

Four-wheel drive 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. With 4WD, there's also a special A-TRAC active traction control that may provide additional help in limited-traction situations.

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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

The Sequoia isn't quite as space-efficient as large crossovers; materials and switchgear could be better for the price, too.

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia isn't only a truck. With seating for eight and interior appointments that can look and feel quite upscale, this is a vehicle that can also work for the family--provided you don't expect quite the same level of space-efficiency, versatility, and comfort of some of crossover utility vehicle designs--including Toyota's own Highlander, which is quite a bit smaller on the outside but can feels nearly as large (or more so) inside.

In the first two rows adults will have no problem accommodating even taller adults, and the second row in particular has long doors that make getting in and out easier--although the Sequoia requires a step up. Separately, dual captain's chairs are offered in back, reducing the capacity to seven. Front seats are wide and soft, and they don't provide much if any side support--although we don't anticipate you'll be doing around corners quickly.

The third row is only good for kids or small adults, and it's tougher to get back there--you're not left much legroom and the seating position is too low--although the second row slides forward (or back) 5.9 inches for easier access, or more legroom.

Both the second- and third-row seatbacks can be folded forward to a flat cargo floor, with the second row split in three portions (40/20/40) and the third row in two (60/40). Storage space is ample once the third-row seats are folded in place, which is made easy thanks to a power-folding option. A power tailgate is also included on Limited and Platinum grades, and the rear tailgate glass can be operated separately.

The Sequoia isn't quite a luxury vehicle, but it's a thoughtful, well-built one, with plenty of amenities such as cupholders and small bins, and--for families with young kids--materials that are easy to keep clean. Although some of the materials and switchgear carry straight over from the Sequoia, feeling a little cheap here in what's, for the most part, a more expensive vehicle.

Build quality and panel gaps, like on most Toyotas, are near the top-end of the class. Our only gripe is that many of the dials and switchgear carry over from the Tundra pickup, which may be fine for a workhorse but feel a little cheap in the Sequoia. The matte-metallic plastic trim on most of the dash may not sit well with everyone, but items like the heated seats, steering wheel controls, and power tilt/slide moonroof help make up for this.

Ride quality is good for a body-on-frame truck, thanks to the independent rear suspension system--with the ride even a step more composed with the active variable air suspension (AVS) system in the Platinum model. Road and wind noise feel quite well sealed-away, too. That said, if towing and off-road ability aren't priorities, you're simply going to get a more composed on-the-road experience with a model like the Ford Flex, Chevrolet Traverse, or even the Highlander.

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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia includes an impressive list of safety feature--including more airbags than is typical in this class.

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia gives the impression of a safe and secure vehicle. Admittedly, that's more a natural extension of its sheer size and mass than of objective safety factors. But even when it comes to those, the Sequoia offers a lot.

Stability and traction control systems are included, as well as anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. 4WD versions of the Sequoia get a special A-TRAC version of the traction control intended to help in low-traction situations.

Among larger traditional SUVs, the Sequoia is a standout for airbag protection. It includes not only dual stage advanced front air bags, seat-mounted side airbags for the driver and front passenger, and roll-sensing side curtain airbags for all three seating rows, but also driver and front passenger knee bags.

Neither the federal government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash-tested the Sequoia.

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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Features

he 2012 Toyota Sequoia offers a lot of standard features, even in base trim; and advanced infotainment is available on most models.

From base and SR5 models, to the mid-level Limited trim, and up to the luxury-packed Platinum, the Sequoia spans more than $20k, running from around $43k up to about $64k--and that's before adding any of the various official dealer-installed accessories.

All come well-equipped, including the base SR5, which comes with automatic tri-zone air conditioning, an eight-speaker stereo, a towing package, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio and climate controls.

On the Limited you get an equipment set that rivals many luxury vehicles, with parking sensors, a power rear liftgate, a power folding third-row seat, and 20-inch alloy wheels, all included, as well as JBL Synthesis sound and Bluetooth audio streaming. And the rearview mirror has a built-in backup monitor (without having to add the navigation system); a map light, auto-dimming feature, and compass are built into it, too.

At the top of the lineup is the Sequoia Platinum, which adds Dynamic Laser Cruiser Control, a DVD touch-screen navigation system, and a new Blu-Ray rear entertainment system with a 9-inch LCD screen and two sets of wireless headphones. A 12-way adjustable power driver’s seat, heated second-row seats, and the load-leveling air suspension with three driver-selectable modes are also all included.

Standard on the Platinum grade and available on SR5 and Limited is a new Entune multimedia system that provides access to apps for Bing seatch, Pandora, and others, providing access to entertainment or information through your smartphone's data connection.

Even at the top of the range there are quite a few dealer- or port-installed upgrades--including examples like remote engine start, upgraded TRD brakes, and a front skid plate. Although the Sequoia is missing most other off-road upgrades (look to the Land Cruiser to see why).

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2013 Toyota Sequoia

Fuel Economy

If fuel economy is one of your main concerns, you should forget about the 2013 Toyota Sequoia.

The 2013 Toyota Sequoia weighs nearly 6,000 and is powered by a huge V-8 engine. So it's not all that much of a surprise that this big rig is a guzzler.

But it's worth considering that the Sequoia can carry up to eight and tow up to 7,400 pounds. If you're using the Sequoia's full capabilities, then its official EPA rating of 13 mpg in the city and either 17 or 18 mpg on the highway might not be so horrible. Drive the Sequoia empty to work every day, though, and you might be the target of environmentalist scorn. 

If you're having issues over the Sequoia's gas mileage, GM's full-size SUVs, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Sierra, do offer a hybrid option, and Mercedes-Benz’s GL Class can be ordered with a clean diesel.

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