2015 Toyota Sequoia Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 6, 2015

The 2015 Toyota Sequoia has room for the entire family and can tow a boat with ease, but its a challenge to maneuver for daily driving, and it's thirsty, too.

The 2015 Toyota Sequoia is rugged, old-school SUV at its heart—specifically, one that offers excellent family practicality and towing capabilities. The Sequoia seems to revel in its machismo while many of its key rivals have been smoothed out a bit in their design in recent years. Those competitors include full-size SUVs from GM and Ford, as well as Toyota's own Highlander, each of which seem to have a little more versatility inside while similar in size on the outside.

In the past, you could choose from two different V-8 engines for the Sequoia, but Toyota recently discontinued the smaller-displacement (4.6-liter) choice. It's really for the better, as most Sequoia shoppers are towing-minded (tow ratings range up to 7,400 pounds). With 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, the remaining V-8 is a powerhouse. But missing from the Sequoia's factory options list is any serious off-road hardware, or a dedicated off-road model, 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.

But while the Sequoia may share underpinnings with the Tundra pickup truck, it rides and handles rather 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. Ride quality is good for a body-on-frame truck, thanks to the independent rear suspension--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.

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Using the the Tundra pickup's tough design, towing process, and macho appearance for a utility vehicle gives the Sequoia a testosterone-tinged look that can appear cartoonishly musclebound to some. If nothing else, it beats the anonymous styling of most minivans--and no crossover can ever hope to rival its tall and truck-based front end.

The cabin appointments of the Sequoia, predictably, feel like those of a high-end full-size pickup in front, with two more rows of roomy wagon grafted on behind. That means an instrument panel that's functional without looking too plain. For seating, you can specify dual captain's chairs to replace a second-row bench, though 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.

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 the mid-$40,000 range up to the mid-$60,000 range. 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 search, Pandora, and others, providing access to entertainment or information through your smartphone's data connection.

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

The Toyota Sequoia exaggerated styling doesn't have the confidence of GM's big SUVs.

It doesn't take much to realize that the 2015 Toyota Sequoia is a big, brawny, truck-based SUV. It's larger than virtually anything else on the road today, unless you're looking at the crisply styled new GMC Yukon or Chevy Suburban, or Ford's Expedition.

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.

The design is decidedly masculine–almost cartoonishly so–but its beefy front end has a truck-like gravity that no crossover can match, while its styling remains more handsome than softer minivan alternatives. The high beltline, tall hood, and imposing chrome grille add to the size and bulk, while its chromed mirrors, chunky door handles, rippled sheetmetal and flared fenders all contribute to the musclebound madness. Thanks to the long rear doors, it's pretty easy to enter and exit, as well as put child seats in the middle seats.

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

Handling is typical for a large SUV, but the Sequoia's drivetrain is smooth, and it's a capable puller.

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. 

There's only one engine available in the 2015 Toyota Sequoia–a 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque–which works well for shoppers who have towing in mind. That V-8 rumbles to life with some serious engine sounds, and nearly all of its torque–90 percent, in fact–is delivered at  2,200 rpm. That assists with the Sequoia's towing ability, especially in Tow/Haul mode, where it can pull up to 7,400 pounds.

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.

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

Vast interior space puts the Sequoia on the big-SUV map, though the interior's not quite as luxe as a Tahoe or Yukon.

The 2015 Toyota Sequoia offers comfortable seating for as many as eight passengers, along with upscale interior appointments. However, some of today's large crossovers beat the Sequoia for interior flexibility and overall space–including its Toyota Highlander stablemate, which may look smaller from the outside, but can feel just as large inside.

In the first two rows, the Sequoia has no problem accommodating even taller adults, and the second row in particular has long doors that make getting in and out easier--although it does require 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.

Build quality and panel gaps, like on most Toyotas, are near the top 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--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.

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.

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

Airbags, stability control, and Bluetooth are on the menu, but the Toyota Sequoia lacks crash-test scores.

It's been a while since the agencies that evaluate vehicle safety have crash-tested the Sequoia, but its long list of standard safety features–as well as its sheer mass–should help protect passengers in the event of an emergency.

Stability and traction control systems are included, as well as anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Four-wheel-drive 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.

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Features

Even with its Entune smartphone connectivity kit, the Sequoia's not trimmed to the lavish lengths of the domestic SUVs.

Between its base version and the best-equipped one, the 2015 Sequoia can add as much as $20,000 in options to the price tag.

Even the base SR5 comes well equipped, 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 an Entune-equipped multimedia system that provides access to apps for Bing search, 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. We'd note the Sequoia is missing most other off-road upgrades (look to the Land Cruiser to see why).

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2015 Toyota Sequoia

Fuel Economy

The Sequoia only seems fuel-conscious if you're downsizing from a Land Cruiser.

It's no surprise that the Sequoia misses a few of the marks in terms of fuel efficiency; it's hard to expect much from a full-sized SUV with a big V-8 engine.

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 17 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, the Mercedes-Benz’s GL Class can be ordered with a clean diesel.

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