Can you believe that the Toyota Sequoia is in its 13th model year? If you climb inside and drive it for 10 minutes, you can! The lifecycle for a vehicle is normally 7 to 9 years. After 3 or 4 years, it gets a refresh for the styling, the interior or electronics — sometimes all the above. After 7, 8, maybe 9 years, it’s time for a fresh take top to bottom.
Electronics, build quality, interior material choices and safety systems have evolved rapidly over the last decade. The Sequoia is little changed as a 2020 model since it debuted when George W. Bush was still in office.
Does that put its age in context for you?
Sequoia is a large vehicle, larger than you expect a Toyota to be. It is not so much the length, but rather the height — and most especially the width — that throw you. More so with this TRD Pro package with a slight lift and larger tires.
When I climbed up into the cabin my first reaction, not knowing the price yet, was, “oh my god is this horrific!”
The amount and the quality of the hard plastics immediately greeting you would be objectionable in a $30k vehicle today. In the Sequoia’s competitive class, it’s completely unacceptable, let alone when you take into account the $67,078 price tag.
Glance over to the infotainment system, Toyota claims it to be a 7-inch screen. It felt like looking at an iPhone 4 after using an iPhone X for a couple of years. The backup camera in the system made 360p look like 4k. You get the point, the head unit was right out of 2010, and this is a 2020 model.
OK, it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which makes it so you don’t immediately need to order a replacement from Crutchfield. But only just.
On the inside
The second row of the Sequoia was large. I think someone 6 foot, 5 inches could sit behind a driver of the same size with no issues. This test vehicle did come with captain’s chairs for the second row, which I personally do not like. Now my use case is different than most with my two Irish Wolfhounds. When you lower the second row along with the third row to put the dogs in, there is a large gap in the floor where they can not lie or use. It may also be an issue if you make frequent trips to your local big box hardware store to load up on items.
Because the Sequoia sits so high, and the load floor for the cargo area is even higher, it was not the best for loading and unloading the dogs. Having to lift a 60 pound, five-month-old puppy in and out, not enjoyable. Our adult Wolfhound, you had to lift his back end up (he’s about 150 pounds) and jumping out, it’s a long way for a large dog onto a hard surface.
Keep your gas card handy
Push the starter button, and you are rewarded with one of the best parts of the Sequoia: the 5.7-liter, 381-horsepower V-8 under the hood. Add the optional TRD Performance Exhaust System ($1,050), and it sounds quite good.
Coming to the Sequoia directly after having spent a week in the Hyundai Venue, it was nice to have more than adequate power at my beck and call. Driving on the road and on the highway you will always have adequate thrust available. Add to that the bark of the V-8, it was fun. That said, you may want to pass on the optional exhaust system. Yes, for the week I drove the Sequoia, it was nice, but I can see how, when living with it long term, the volume and tone could wear on you.
Given the larger tires and the FOX shocks the Sequoia ate up the poor quality roads around Metro Detroit with aplomb. The highway ride was fine, though larger tires, and not the slipperiest of shapes did generate some wind noise about 70 mph.
One thing you notice pretty quickly in the Toyota Sequoia is just how quickly it drinks fuel. The EPA rates it at 13 MPG city/17 MPG highway/14 MPG combined. I saw more like 11-12 MPG in the city and 16 MPG on the highway. Spending the first few days driving in mostly stop and go traffic, I used half a tank of gas in about 110 miles. Your monthly car payment and your monthly fuel bill might be equal depending on how much you drive.
Just how Pro is it?
Being that this was the TRD Pro model with FOX shocks and Michelin LTX A/T2’s tires, my intention was to take this to the newly opened off-road park about half an hour north of me. Like most of the 2020s, those plans didn’t work out, and maybe that was for the best. On the day I was going to go, we got our first proper snow of the fall/winter. Honestly, I didn’t feel like going out to a place I’d never been, in a vehicle whose capabilities I didn’t know, with minimal recovery gear, in the cold and snow.
Turns out that may have been a very good decision. Two days later when I went to shoot photos of the Sequoia, much of the snow had melted and the ground had turned soft and muddy.
The Sequoia almost got stuck just driving on the grass!
The Michelin tires packed up with mud straight away, and with (a) no way to lock the rear or front diff, (b) no option to select low range and (c) very old traction control, it took a minute and a VERY careful right foot to drive back onto the pavement.
Out in the desert, I’m sure the Toyota Sequoia would be fine, though I do question the choice of Michelin for tires. There are several very good brand choices out there, but for off-road tires, Michelin is not your third or even fourth choice out there.
The bottom line
In many ways, I liked the Toyota Sequoia because it is such a throwback. Big thirsty V8, proper full-frame SUV, but it is way overpriced at this trim level and way out of date compared to what else is available on sale today.
For the same or less money you can head on over to a Lexus dealer and get a new GX460. The interior will be far nicer, it has a better four-wheel-drive system, the downside being you have air suspension versus real shocks and springs. You’d have a better badge, with a better dealer experience, just change out the wheels and tires and you are good to go.
At near $70,000 you could even buy a CPO Land Cruiser which is better in every single way than the Sequoia. In fact, I’d say paying a sticker price of $86,000 for a Land Cruiser vs $67,000 for this Sequoia would be money very well spent. The resale value alone on the Land Cruiser would make it worth it, let alone a much better interior and far better four-wheel-drive system.
I do hope that Toyota will build a new Sequoia when the new Tundra arrives for 2022 (hopefully). With Toyota announcing it won’t be bringing the Land Cruiser over after 2021, the brand needs a good real SUV above the Highlander. Given that they only sell 11,000-13,000 units a year in the U.S. though, that is a pretty tough business case when the Highlander sells over 200,000 units a year.