Driving Impressions – October 2013

A Big Choice for a Small Niche
2013 Toyota Sequoia Limited 4×4

By Greg Cavanuagh

Sequoia Gallup JourneyThere’s no hiding the fact that this large, expensive SUV is not for everyone.  In fact, I’ll argue that it’s a pretty small segment of the American car-buying public that actually needs the size and capabilities of the Sequoia.  Rated at 13/17/14 mpg combined with an as-tested price of $58K, the sheer cost of ownership is enough to put this out of the reach of most plebeians.  At least Toyota recognized this and named it appropriately.  So we have to analyze the Sequoia from that point of view, otherwise it just can’t be justified.

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty.  If you need to haul people and their luggage, you’re better off with a minivan.  If you need to haul people and bulky cargo or gear, you’re better off with a 4-door truck.  If you can’t bear to drive either of those, you can probably get away with a 3-row CUV.  However, if you need to tow and haul people and their luggage and sometimes your in-laws too . . . especially in rugged, rural and harsh environments, the traditional body-on-frame SUVs are the ticket.  Fortunately, when it comes to these behemoths, the Sequoia is one of the best.

Riding on the same chassis as the much loved Tundra, the Sequoia is certainly blessed with some good bones.  Just like its cousin, the first and second rows are enormous and the width makes for plenty of shoulder room, even three abreast in the second row.   As is the trend with full-size trucks, the center armrest can swallow the contents of an entire cooler, or as Toyota designed it, your filing cabinet, as it’s designed to use hanging file folders.  This Limited tester’s leather, moon roof, JBL Synthesis infotainment/navigation system, heated seats and pretty much all other manner of loadedness simply adds to the experience, although at this price point, I did find it odd there was no rear DVD entertainment system.   The third row benefits from the second row’s enormous legroom by sliding forward when needed.  While this makes ingress and egress into the third row less painful, it really benefits the third-row passengers in the long run.  With three seat belts in the third row, the Sequoia is technically an eight-passenger vehicle.  Seven passengers (two in the third row), however, is the winning combination and yields the “way back” not as a punishment, but business class, as the rear seats can recline, have their own AC vents, cup holders and sunshades.  Behind the third row the Sequoia is not particularly big, but power-folding seats improve versatility.  Large enough to hold one full size suitcase on its side and maybe a lightly packed second standing up, you’re going to be hard pressed to take a large family to the airport.

Sequoia Gallup JourneyGiven the chassis and drivetrain sharing with the Tundra, both the Sequoia’s ride and power are decidedly truck-like.   Using Toyota’s i-Force 5.7-liter V8 and 6-speed automatic the Sequoia moves much easier than something weighing 6,000 lbs should (mind you, that’s 3 tons!).   The 5.7 is a modern V8 using DOHCs, variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust and 4 valves per cylinder to make a stout 381 hp @ 5600 rpm, and an even more impressive 401 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.  Towing is rated at 7,200 lbs and I see the 5.7 having very few complaints when saddled with the weight.   As mentioned, you’re going to pay at the pump for this power.  I averaged just 11 mpg in my time with the Sequoia, though that number would likely improve as the engine breaks in a bit.   I’d love to see the Sequoia get a clean diesel under the hood as it would provide wonderful low-end shove and take a little of the guilt off at the pump.

The Sequoia represents an interesting part of the segment.  Compared with its competition, such as the Yukon, the numbers are quite similar.  When looking at price, things get a little blurred.   Keep in mind that this Limited tester is not the highest end Sequoia, the Platinum steps the luxury up further.  Toyota’s luxury division however is Lexus, and Lexus builds a high-end version of this very SUV, the LX570, that starts at $81,000!  Toyota also builds the Land Cruiser, which is actually a touch smaller than the Sequoia but more expensive and offers the cache of the nameplate.    So compared with the LX570 the Sequoia represents quite the bargain, saving a Pruis C’s worth of cash on the side.  But one has to recognize that at $58K as tested, the Sequoia is by no means the “entry level” vehicle to entice new buyers into the market. The fact is, these large SUVs are just plain expensive.  When you factor in the Toyota’s reputation for durability and reliability and the Sequoia’s shared underpinnings, if you’re in the market for a large SUV you’re fully aware of the prices.  With that being said, the Toyota is a very competitive vehicle for that particular buyer and more than capable in all but the most unique of circumstances.

** Please jump over to my YouTube channel, Gallup Journey Test Drives, to see more images and video of the Sequoia. **
***A big thanks to Jim at Amigo Toyota for the test drive, even at the last minute!  Stop by and see them.***

SPECIFICATIONS
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 8-passenger, 5-door SUV
PRICE AS TESTED: $58,000 (base price: $56,285)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 346 cu in, 5663cc
Power (SAE net): 381 bhp @ 5600 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 401 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 122.0 in Length: 205.1 in
Width: 79.9 in Height: 74.6 in
Curb weight: 6100 lb
EPA Fuel Economy: 13/17/14 combined.

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