Auto review: Toyota Sequoia benefits from Tundra's best assets
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is a gas-electric hybrid, one of four hybrid-only models now sold by Toyota.
It’s been 14 years since Toyota offered a new Toyota Sequoia. Given its long life with little change, you can be forgiven if you forgot the model even existed. But with the Land Cruiser leaving the American market, the Sequoia now takes on its role as Toyota’s largest and most capable SUV in its U.S. lineup.
Thankfully, it’s been completely redesigned for 2023, and as before, its mechanicals are borrowed from the full-size Toyota Tundra pickup. Of course, the Sequoia’s lack of change resulted from the Tundra’s lack of change in the Tundra, being as they share mechanicals. Once a new Tundra debuted, it was only a matter of time until a new Sequoia arrived.
Given that Toyota had nearly a decade-and-a-half to come up with the next one, you’d be right in assuming that they were going to do something different for the new model, and they have. The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is a gas-electric hybrid, one of four hybrid-only models now sold by Toyota.
It uses the same iForce Max hybrid powertrain that’s used in the Tundra: a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 paired with an electric motor and 10-speed automatic transmission producing 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is a $3,000 extra. Towing is rated at 9,520 pounds.
It wears a face that takes its cues from the Tundra pickup, lending it a far more modern appearance than the previous model. But you’ll notice detail differences among the different trim levels, which start with the entry-level SR5 and ascend through Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro and Capstone. As you might expect, the Capstone gets a chrome-accented grille as it’s the most lavish trim level. It also has exclusive lighting, chrome-plated mirrors, power running boards and 22-inch dark chrome alloy wheels, while the TRD Pro, being the off-road champ, gets additional underbody protection and a sizeable light bar.
When it comes to size, the Sequoia’s wheelbase remains unchanged. It’s three inches lengthier than before at 208 inches long, 79.6 inches wide, 77.7 inches tall with 8.6 inches of ground clearance for most models.
And while sizable, it’s not as large as its Detroit competitors.
Load the Sequoia’s three rows and there’s less than 12 cubic feet of cargo space. Then there’s the second row, which gets less than 40 inches of legroom; it just feels tight for such a big vehicle. You’ll also find headroom to be tight as well. Nevertheless, it’s designed to carry seven or eight people depending on whether you opt for the second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs. Thoughtfully, the third row slides fore or aft by up to 6 inches to give you flexibility for carrying people or cargo.
As is common, trim levels are very opulent for a mainstream vehicle, with the capstone benefiting from semi-aniline leather with contrast stitching, American walnut veneer and heated and ventilated front and rear seats. The truck’s generous width allows for a wide center console with plenty of space for any number of items, and its unusual design delivers a lot of flexibility for stashing stuff.
The supportive seats are wide and flat and face a horizontal instrument panel that accentuates its already considerable width. It’s accentuated by a massive 14-inch touchscreen, with lesser models getting an 8-inch unit. Toyota’s new infotainment interface, designed in America, boasts a clear, logical design that’s a refreshing change from its previously cumbersome design. It comes with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Toyota Connected Services with voice commands.
When it comes time to drive, you’ll find the Sequoia is up to the task with an independent double-wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar and twin-tube shock absorbers and a multi-link rear suspension with coil springs and outboard-mounted twin-tube shock absorbers. An adaptive variable suspension and a load-leveling rear air suspension are optional. TRD models get suspension upgrades including Fox shocks, a front skid pate and 18-inch wheels with 33-inch tires.
When you hit the road, you’ll find that the Sequoia is really, really wide, although it’s no different in this regard from its domestic competitors from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Jeep. But the Sequoia’s light steering makes herding it into a lane a constant chore. In contrast, the engine proves to be a pleasant surprise here, with the instant torque of the hybrid helping to alleviate any turbo lag from the V6. And thoughtfully, engineers made this sound like a lusty V8, even though it has two cylinders missing. That said, you’ll never miss them; there’s more than enough power to make quick work of any driving chore.
The all-wheel-drive test vehicle’s EPA rating of 19 mg city, 22 mpg highway, may not sound so impressive, but it is for this segment. Opt for rear-wheel drive, and you’ll get an even more amazing 21 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. By comparison, the old model returned 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway.
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is a huge improvement from the outgoing model, although it’s not at the head of its class. Still, it’s good enough to meet most Toyota buyers’ expectations, as the company hopes to triple sales with its fresh face and all-new platform. That should be no problem.
2023 Toyota Sequoia
- Base price: $58,300
- Engine: 3.5-liter twin turbocharged six-cylinder gas/electric hybrid
- Horsepower/Torque: 437/583 pound-feet
- EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 19/22 mpg (AWD); 21/24 (RWD)
- Length/Width/Height: 208.1/79.6/77.7inches
- Ground clearance: 8.4-9.1 inches
- Payload: 1,375-1,730
- Cargo capacity: 11.5-86.9 cubic feet
- Towing capacity: 9,520 pounds
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