2016 Toyota Sequoia Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
June 27, 2016

Buying tip

Toyota's own Highlander is a better vehicle for carrying passengers; if you tow often and won't consider another brand, the Sequoia Limited is

The 2016 Toyota Sequoia is a big, thirsty SUV that's best for towing; it's outclassed for carrying passengers within its own family.

The 2016 Toyota Sequoia is rugged, old-school SUV at its heart. It excels at towing and carrying lots of people and cargo, but it's bulky and fuel-inefficient, too.

In those ways, it's less like its rivals than it sounds. Those competitors include full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition—even Toyota's own Highlander. All have a little more versatility inside while similar in size to the Sequoia—and each has been significantly redesigned in the past few years to improve gas mileage and passenger comfort.

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. Based on the last-generation Tundra pickup's tough design, the Sequoia has 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.

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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. The Sequoia isn't quite a luxury vehicle, but it's a thoughtful, well-built one. However, the third row is only good for kids or small adults, and it's tougher to get back there.

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 5.7-liter 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 all-wheel drive is widely available through the model line. It all makes sense when you see the much pricier Toyota Land Cruiser across the lot.

The Sequoia may share underpinnings with the previous-generation Tundra pickup truck, but 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 system in the Platinum model. Road and wind noise feel quite well sealed-away, too.

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. A rearview camera and Bluetooth are standard, while parking sensors are standard on the Platinum model.

From base and SR5 models, to the mid-level Limited trim, and up to the luxury-packed Platinum, the Sequoia spans more than $20,000, 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 adaptive cruise control; a DVD touchscreen navigation system; and a new Blu-ray rear entertainment system with a 9.0-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 search, Pandora, and others, providing access to entertainment or information through your smartphone's data connection.

The Sequoia's official EPA rating of 13 mpg city, 17 highway, 15 combined in rear-drive spec might not be so horrible considering its people- and gear-hauling capability. Ratings for the four-wheel drive Sequoia come in at 13/17/14 mpg.

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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

The Sequoia's sense of style isn't as crisp or confident as that of the big domestic SUVs.

It doesn't take much to realize that the 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.

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 sheet metal and flared fenders all contribute to the musclebound madness.

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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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

The Sequoia can pull heavy loads, and acceleration is strong.

There's only one engine available in the Toyota Sequoia, which is a 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque that 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 towing 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.

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.

The Sequoia shares its underpinnings with the last-generation 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.

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 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, Honda Pilot, or even the Toyota Highlander. 

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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

The Sequoia isn't as luxurious as the average GM SUV, but interior space is nearly as vast.

The Toyota Sequoia can seat up to eight passengers in comfort—especially those that ride in the first two rows. But some of today's car-based crossover SUVs best the Sequoia for interior comfort, space, and flexibility—among them, Toyota's own Highlander, which we think is a much more useful vehicles when families have the priority over towing.

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 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. However, the third row is only good for kids or small adults, and it's tougher to get back there. You're not left much leg room and the seating position is too low—although the second row slides forward (or back) 5.9 inches for easier access, or more leg room. Thanks to the long rear doors, it's pretty easy to enter and exit, as well as put child seats in the middle seats.

Both the second- and third-row seat backs 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 buttons carry over from the last generation of 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.

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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

The Toyota Sequoia lacks crash-test scores, but has a rearview camera and Bluetooth, with parking sensors and adaptive cruise control available.

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.

As of the 2016 model year, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the most recently updated Sequoia. The NHTSA assigns a a four-star rating for the Sequoia's rollover crash protection, but it's important to note that's a calculated score, not a crash test.

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.

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. A rearview camera is standard, while parking sensors are standard on the Platinum model.

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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Features

The Sequoia lags in some features, but smartphone connectivity and other infotainment features are included.

There's a vast price gap between the least- and most-expensive versions of the Toyota Sequoia SUV, but even base models come with a fair amount of luxury and convenience touches.

The Sequoia SR5 has power windows, locks, and mirrors; three-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; an eight-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD player with a USB port; tilt/telescoping steering; an eight-way power driver’s seat; a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio and climate controls; a rearview camera; and a towing package. Base models also get a new Entune smartphone connectivity kit that mirrors navigation functions driven by the phone—a low-cost alternative to built-in navigation. Siri EyesFree and Bluetooth also are included.

The next step on the features ladder comes in the Limited model. It's a much more luxurious offering, with leather upholstery; a standard power tailgate; a power-folding third-row seat; parking sensors; a JBL audio system; and 20-inch wheels.

Limited options include blind-spot monitors, memory driver seat and memory mirrors.

At the top of the lineup is the Sequoia Platinum, which adds adaptive cruise control; a touchscreen-driven, DVD-based navigation system; and a new Blu-ray rear entertainment system with a 9.0-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 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 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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2016 Toyota Sequoia

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is one of the Sequoia's biggest downfalls.

Drive the Sequoia alone to work every day and you might be the target of environmentalist scorn.

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 city, 17 highway, 15 combined when equipped with rear-wheel drive might not be so horrible. Ratings for the four-wheel drive Sequoia come in at 13/17/14 mpg.

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.

If you're having issues over the Sequoia's gas mileage, the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class can be ordered with a turbodiesel—but even the gas-powered GM SUVs and the turbocharged Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator post better ratings.

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Styling 7
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