2017 Toyota Sequoia

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz Senior Editor
June 14, 2017

Buying tip

The Sequoia is a tough sell for us; if you want to stay within the Toyota brand, consider the pricier, but dynamically excellent Land Cruiser or the more family-oriented Highlander—both of which are excellent choices.

features & specs

Limited 4WD
Limited 4WD FFV
Limited RWD
MPG
13 city / 17 hwy
MPG
13 city / 17 hwy
MPG
13 city / 17 hwy
MSRP
$57,575
MSRP
$57,575
MSRP
$54,350

The 2017 Toyota Sequoia hasn't kept up with the times, even for a body-on-frame SUV. Look closely at the competition.

The 2017 Toyota Sequoia is a blast from the past, a three-row, full-size SUV that is as traditional as it is capable. But it is also remarkably inefficient and it feels behind the times compared to its more modern competition. This outdated SUV scores a 5.2 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Sequoia is available with rear- or four-wheel drive and buyers have a choice between SR5, Limited, and Platinum trim levels. 

Rivals, particularly the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban (and its GMC Yukon and Yukon XL kissing cousins), have been redesigned more recently than the Sequoia, which is entering its 10th model years with few changes. Although it was highly competitive when it hit the market in late 2007, the competition has surpassed it in most ways. 

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Toyota Sequoia styling and performance 

The Sequoia revels 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 chunky design, the Sequoia's testosterone-tinged look appears cartoonishly musclebound to some. There's no disguising its truck roots, which may be an asset to minivan-averse buyers.

The cabin appointments of the Sequoia, predictably, feel like those of a full-size pickup in front—but with two more rows of roomy wagon grafted on behind. That means an instrument panel that's functional without looking too plain, but also designed for work use. Buyers have aa choice between dual captain's chairs to replace the second row bench, which reduces overall capacity to seven. Second and third rows can be folded forward to create a flat cargo floor. Like rivals, the third row is best for children, but it does feel roomier than most crossovers. 

Early on, you could choose from two different V-8 engines for the Sequoia, but Toyota has pared things down to just a 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Missing from the Sequoia's factory options list is any serious off-road hardware, or a dedicated four-wheeling model, though four-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels. Then again, Toyota does off-roading better with its 4Runner and Land Cruiser models, both of which offer three rows of seats as well. 

The Sequoia may share underpinnings with the previous-generation Tundra pickup truck, but it rides and handles better. A four-wheel independent suspension ensures good stability, but undulating terrain 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 range-topping Platinum's active variable air suspension system.

Toyota Sequoia quality, safety, and features

One place where the GM rivals really have the edge is inside. Hard plastics dominate the Sequoia's dashboard and it lacks some of the higher-end features seen in rivals like push-button start and numerous USB ports. One Toyota exclusive, however, is a power rear window integrated into the tailgate—a boon for hauling longer items. 

Given its age, it's not that surprising that the Sequoia doesn't offer automatic emergency braking. It also hasn't been comprehensively crash tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA. However, the expected front, side curtain, and seat-mounted side airbags are joined by standard knee airbags for the front passengers. 

The Sequoia's official EPA rating of 13 mpg city, 17 highway, 15 combined in rear-drive spec is well behind rivals. Ratings for the four-wheel drive Sequoia come in at just 13/17/14 mpg.

5

2017 Toyota Sequoia

Styling

The Sequoia has aged well outside, but its oversized interior shapes and controls are nothing to look at.

Big and brawny, the Sequoia's rounded-off body could be nothing other than a truck-based SUV. It's as big as they get within the Toyota lineup, and it casts a shadow nearly as wide as the crisp Chevrolet Suburban. 

No Sequoia is cheap and no Sequoia looks or feels up to its price point, which is why it scores just 5 for its styling inside and out. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Sequoia's design remains decidedly masculine—almost cartoonishly so—but its beefy front end has a tricky gravity unmatched in the crossover world.

A high belt line, tall hood, and imposing chrome grille add to the Sequoia's size and bulk, while its chromed mirrors, chunky door handles, rippled sheet metal and flared fenders all contribute to the musclebound madness. SR5s look a little plain, but Limiteds and especially Platinums dress things up with swankier wheels. 

Cabin appointments, predictably, feel like those of a decade-old full-size pickup from the front seats. The design and some of the materials are carried right over from the last Tundra pickup, with matte-metallic plastic trim flowing down from the gauge area and covering part of the center console. We find that center-dash treatment a little overstyled, but otherwise the chunky design, with simple large controls and displays, is functional without looking too plain. That said, some of the Sequoia's switchgear doesn't feel up to a sticker price that approaches $70,000 when fully equipped. 

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6

2017 Toyota Sequoia

Performance

A muscular V-8 helps the Sequoia accelerate with authority.

Toyota Sequoia buyers need make only one decision in regards to performance: rear- or four-wheel drive. That's because there's only one engine available in this big SUV, a 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque.

The Sequoia can really move, and its ride and handling are good for such a bulky vehicle, which helps it score a 6 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

That V-8 rumbles to life with some seriously guttural 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 it helps an unladen SUV accelerate to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds. That's near the top of its class. 

Four-wheel drive variants feature a knob-operated electronic two-speed transfer case containing a Torsen limited-slip differential that apportions power between the front and rear axles and can be locked for more serious use with the push of a button. With 4WD, there's also a special A-TRAC active traction control that to reduce wheel slip in deep snow or on a dirt trail.

The Sequoia shares its underpinnings with the last-generation Tundra pickup truck, but it rides and handles somewhat better thanks to its four-wheel independent suspension. That more carlike design keeps the Sequoia stable through corners for the most part, although rougher roads can upset its composure with some side-to-side head toss. This is by no means a maneuverable, city-friendly vehicle, but among large SUVs its 38-foot turning circle is commendable.

Ride quality on more even pavement is good for a body-on-frame truck, thanks again 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, to, giving the Sequoia an almost Lexus-hush cabin. If only its trimming was as plush. 

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4

2017 Toyota Sequoia

Comfort & Quality

Though there's good room for passengers in the first two rows, the Sequoia's interior pales in comparison to rivals.

Like other full-size SUVs with separate ladder frames, the Toyota Sequoia forces some compromises in the name of toughness. Yes, the Sequoia can tow a big boat, but its third row is cramped and, frankly, its materials selection would raise an eyebrow at half of its sticker prices.

Because of this, we give the Sequoia a 4 for its comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Toyota's own Highlander, which we think is a much more useful vehicle when families have the priority over towing, may make more sense for most buyers.

But if it's a Sequoia you're after, the first two rows are the place to be. It's a big step up to climb aboard, but the front seats are wide and soft and the rear outboard positions offer good leg room. Dual captain's chairs are optional and provide even more comfort. The second row also slides forward or backward almost 6 inches for more leg or more cargo room.

Row three is predictably tight, but a power-folding mechanism is optional. 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, even though its price might suggest otherwise. There are good bones—plenty of cupholders and good small item storage. The flip side to the hard plastics found throughout the Sequoia's cabin is that at least they'll be easy to clean when family life...happens. The buttons and dials on the dash are largely carried over from the last Tundra, which wasn't exactly class-leading more than a decade ago, although at least they're functional and well-marked.

But if it's a luxurious cabin you're after, the Sequoia is at the bottom of its class. 

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2017 Toyota Sequoia

Safety

We don't much full crash test data on the Sequoia, but its lack of automatic emergency braking is a concern.

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the current Toyota Sequoia, which makes it impossible for us to assign a rating.

However, it lags behind some rivals by not offering automatic emergency braking, although the Sequoia's standard safety features are competitive. 

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.

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. And the IIHS has not yet tested it. 

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.

Automatic emergency braking is an important feature for a family vehicle, and while it is standard for 2017 on the Toyota Highlander, it is not even available on the Sequoia. 

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7

2017 Toyota Sequoia

Features

Though there aren't many especially high tech features, the Sequoia comes well-equipped at the entry level.

A $20,000 gap exists between the least- and most-expensive variants of the 2017 Toyota Sequoia, although that's not all that unusual among big, three-row SUVs. 

The Sequoia reveals its age by lacking certain optional features we've come to expect on big SUVs, but its base configuration is competitively equipped and actually represents a decent value, earning it a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The SR5 anchors the lineup and includes as standard a 6.1-inch infotainment system, a rearview camera, an eight-way power driver's seat, and Bluetooth streaming audio. 

The next step on the features ladder is the Limited model. It's a 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. Blind spot monitors and a memory driver's seat are optional. 

Topping the lineup is the Platinum, which adds adaptive cruise control, navigation, a Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system with a 9.0-inch screen, and air conditioned front seats. Platinums are also the towing champions thanks to their load-leveling rear suspensions.

Toyota's Entune infotainment system relies heavily on a connected smartphone, but it is easy to operate and offers one of the more intuitive navigation interfaces on the market. 

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4

2017 Toyota Sequoia

Fuel Economy

At 14 mpg combined, the Sequoia is well off the mark of more modern rivals.

You may want to buy a Prius with your Toyota Sequoia if using less fuel is your goal.

With its thirsty V-8 and average 6-speed automatic transmission, this big SUV is among the least efficient vehicles on the market, which earns it a subpar 4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

But it is worth considering that the Sequoia can carry up to eight and tug 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 an even less impressive 13/17/14 mpg.

By contrast, a four-wheel drive Chevrolet Tahoe rates at 18 mpg—given that both SUVs have roughly 26 gallon fuel tanks, the Chevy can go about 100 more miles on each fill up. 

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5.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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