Toyota’s Sequoia is a bit of an odd vehicle, not in terms of what it does but more in terms of how it manages to hang on in the marketplace. Some find it curious that Toyota would leave a vehicle on the market in a very large segment without a major change since 2008 (there have been minor changes along the way), however the Sequoia seems to have a loyal following and keeps it going with several trim levels available.
The big news for 2020 was a “TRD Pro” version which Toyota sent us an example of to check out last week. Being fans of Toyota in general and always interested in how one manufacturer manages to sell both one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the market as well as one of the least without alienating the opposing camp of buyers, we of course wanted to take a closer look.
Introduced back in 2000, the first generation Sequoia took aim at the large SUVs produced here in the United States. The Sequoia sort of took the space that the Land Cruiser had grown into at a much lower price point, thus allowing the Land Cruiser to go even more upmarket. It was generally competitive and first generation models are still frequent sights on the roads around here even though the most they ever sold in one year was just over 70,000 examples back in 2002.
After the second generation was introduced for 2008, again based in large part on the Tundra but with some differences to the frame and suspension, its best year was its first one, albeit curiously only selling just over 30,000 in that year. The second year just about halved that volume and since then it has never gotten close to even the 20,000 mark again, with last year’s sales almost dipping below 10,000.
Most manufacturers would call this a dud, but even the recent volume figures are more than twice what the Land Cruiser sells here (or about on par with the LC and Lexus LX combined I suppose), and presumably prices are still high enough to make it a resoundingly profitable vehicle to continue to build in Princeton, Indiana.
Sequoias are considered (after the Land Cruiser) to be one of the most durable vehicles sold today, and no wonder when the components and assembly processes have been perfected over the last 13 years. We all think of Toyota as a very volume-oriented maker, but there are several models that are anything but that, this one included. Until I did the research, I had figured the sales volumes were significantly higher.
It’s still a handsome brute on the outside though, and the TRD Pro package adds an even more butch look without verging into the semi-ridiculous as some others seem to. The basic lines are what you’d expect from a big SUV and result in massive interior space, but somehow it still manages to look modern while some of its competitors are now on their third generation since this one first saw the light of day and making changes just to have something new to show.
Interestingly, when introduced back in 2008 its length at 205″ placed it right in between its SWB competition from Ford and GM, as of the new model year though it’s the shortest by five inches. And just around a foot and half shorter than the LWB ones.
Opening the door of this one finished in Magnetic Gray Metallic lets some light fall on the completely black interior. Hopping up into the driver’s seat unveils a welcome change from thin and overly processed leather and substitutes such as Toyota’s Softex imitation in favor of leather that actually feels extremely thick, durable, and right for the job.
Finished with red stitching it’s a highlight of the cabin and the passenger’s perch is way off to your right across a thickly padded and very wide center console cover. If you’re a hand-holder get ready to stretch that arm wide. And just forget about that frowned-upon “stopping short” move of yours, it won’t work here.
Unfortunately the seats and center console cover (and the steering wheel too) represent the end of the softness up front. The dashboard is a very utilitarian affair finished in starkly hard black plastics with some silver-painted highlights and several different textures in adjoining trim pieces that could match better (and usually do in Toyota products). Of course one man’s hard plastics are another man’s durable product of choice.
For a rig that may well be used way off the beaten path or, perhaps even worse, beaten upon for years by ill-mannered children on the path to school, they will likely hold up well and be extremely simple to wipe down and keep clean. This one had almost 10,000 miles on it making it by some margin the most-travelled tester I’ve had to date, and judging by the paint scratches had seen some off-road duty, however nothing was out of place, loose, or rattled.
Still, it’s hard to find much charm here on the inside if we are being perfectly honest, the overwhelming blackness (besides the headliner) does it no favors, I suspect a regular trim Sequoia may have some warmer options.
What there is instead (and no, it doesn’t really have to be an either/or), are simple, easy to read gauges, big knobs and dials, buttons for many functions, and a regular console mounted shifter that doesn’t do anything special but move through a gated plate to select the desired gear and that can also be slotted to the side for some manual shift action or just to hold a particular gear, i.e. no rotary knob or folding handle or whatever. There are various reminders that there are still unselected options that could have been chosen with a number of button blanks scattered about, most obviously below the HVAC knobs for what presumably is a ventilated seat option.
In the middle of dashboard is a touchscreen but not an overly large one (it measures 7″ and seems even smaller due to the viewing distance involved). As in other recent Toyota’s there are buttons along both sides of it to select various menu items but it’s well-integrated into the dashboard and unlikely to offend even the most technophobic amongst us. Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto are onboard as well.
The center console contains three cupholders which is a bit uncommon and there’s an interesting hidey-hole between them and the shifter that is accessed by popping a long and slim cover open using a latch. I have no idea what could fit in it besides maybe a paperback book inserted so that the spine could be read (“On The Road”, perhaps? Or “Into the Wild?”)
The second row in this case features captain’s chairs and was deemed to be quite comfortable by all that rode back there. Legroom is abundant as is head and shoulder room. Separate HVAC controls for the third zone, i.e. rear cabin, are on the back of the console and armrests fold down to make things all day comfortable.
The third row was similarly spacious (well, not quite as, but very good even for adults), partly due to Toyota’s decision to use an independent rear suspension underneath and can seat three abreast. The third row seats are power folding, split 60/40 and disappear completely into the floor when folded down. To get in them when they are up the obvious path is between the second row seats but as seen here either of the captain’s chairs easily fold up and out of the way as well.
Cargo room is decent even with the third row up and cavernous with it down. Lower the second row for even more room. The rear hatch is power operated but can be overridden for manual operation and contains the ever-beloved roll-down rear window activated by either a switch on the tailgate itself or another on the dashboard.
As old as the Sequoia is, progress waits for no one, and Toyota has done things to keep it up to date, with no need to ever pull a key or fob from one’s pocket for example, just grab a door handle and the door unlocks and then the engine starts at the push of a button.
The mighty 5.7l V-8 engine roars to life and settles down into what should be a quiet idle, however in this case the exhaust pulses noticeably through an optional TRD Performance Exhaust System. There’s no doubt a healthy V-8 sits ahead of the firewall and Toyota then comes back and acoustically manages some of the sound they just added by using sound-countering technology inside the cabin.
Producing 381hp @ 5,600rpm and 401lb-ft of torque @ 3,600rpm with 90% of that available at 2,200rpm, this DOHC engine is basically shared with the Land Cruiser and Tundra, although when installed in the Lexus LX570 it gains a total of two horsepower and two lb-ft of torque at the cost of ponying up for super unleaded, whereas here only regular is called for which seems a better bargain. I couldn’t find any specifications that explained an effect that the exhaust this one sported had on actual performance.
The Sequoia uses a 6-speed automatic transmission (as in the Tundra) and compared to the 8-speed in the Lexus from last week, shift quality was excellent here as well. Throttle tip-in was much more pronounced in the Sequoia, feeling generally eager to get up and go, although at higher elevations and on significant grades, downshifting a gear or two was usually called for and the power, while fairly abundant, could start to feel a bit strained with a very heavy load.
Of course that’s a distinct minority of use cases or circumstances where all those factors come into play at once and if the case, the Sequoia would likely just dig down and get the job done. As it is the powertrain seems well engineered and easily up to the tasks that will likely be thrown at it the other 364 days of the year.
The 4WD system consists of a lockable Torsen center differential along with a low range, seemingly making it well capable for all conditions. The low range is accessed via a rotating knob and the diff can be locked via a button. In this case the TRD Pro package adds Fox brand shocks all around that allow for an increase in wheel travel and have an internal bypass system to enable them to provide a comfortable on-road ride but then get progressively firmer through their stroke to prevent bottoming over rough off-road surfaces.
Wheels are forged BBS items with semi-aggressively treaded Michelin LTX A/T tires in 275/65-18 sizing which combined for a quite smooth ride and quiet overall; I do generally love the more off-road oriented trucks and SUVs for the overall cushiness that this type of equipment adds to pockmarked city streets, to say nothing of actual terrain. Of course handling suffers correspondingly but who is really looking to tackle Mulholland Drive in something this big anyway?
Maybe to make a 90 degree turn and muscle up the hillside covered in brush, but not otherwise. However when making that presumed 90 degree turn the driver will note the extremely tight turning circle paired with very light steering, I was able to make one-fingered U-turns on streets I never would have thought I’d be able to even if prepared to off-road it over a curb or two (no need though for such uncouth thuggery, tread lightly, folks).
Cruising down the freeway is a relaxed affair with the exhaust on this one being a bit droney, which might get old fast on a long trip or even frequent shorter trips. Passengers will be perfectly aware of any throttle adjustment that is made at any time. However it’s well suited to its mission in this particular trim level I suppose, likely a non-TRD Sequoia with a standard exhaust would be as quiet as anything else this large and isolated from the road.
The view out the windows was magnificent with good visibility in all directions and over both shoulders, however should something untoward occur, this Toyota is also equipped with Toyota Safety Sense – P, consisting of a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Monitoring, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beams.
The audio equipment provided as standard is a JBL system with 14 speakers, a subwoofer, and an amplifier, same as in the top of the line Platinum trim level. As expected it did the job just fine, and helped to drown out the exhaust note when desired. Overall the Sequoia provides a very comfortable way to get somewhere, if at times when looking around the inside it seems more industrial or delivery grade than expected these days. Keep your hands to yourself (or on the wheel) and your eyes on the road and all is well.
My week was somewhat shorter-traveled than most ending up just shy of 300 miles. Of that, perhaps 100 were on the freeway with the balance around town and local highways with some light off-roading (more of the unpaved road variety, not really off-road as such) and the Sequoia returned an overall average of 15.7mpg, not too heavily loaded with a total of three people for about half of the time at most.
Seeing as how it’s rated at 13city, 17highway, with a 14average that seems legit (if a trifle concerning for a modern vehicle, but consider it’s a bit of an outlier in capability). The rumor is that the next Sequoia will feature a turbocharged V6 which, at least on paper, should significantly improve on those numbers. Like it or not, the days of big V8s seem to be more and more numbered as a greater percentage of the population becomes less concerned about the price of gasoline but more cognizant of the effects of using more of it.
As is the custom with whatever Toyota badges with the TRD Pro moniker, brightwork is replaced by black, all vehicles should come with a tubular roof rack that looks this good, the wheels look great, there is additional skid plate protection underneath and of course the old-style TOYOTA badge on the front is the icing on the cake, a touch of marketing genius from someone at HQ.
Paint colors are limited to this Gray, as well as White, Black, and the sublime Army Green that I was secretly hoping this one would be cloaked in. There’s also a TRD Sport trim level that has some similar items but isn’t as off-road oriented with larger wheels and different shocks. And of course Sequoia comes in normal everyday trim levels as well, with the show starting at right around $50,000.
The 2020 Sequoia TRD Pro, however, starts a bit higher at $64,030 which does deliver it very well equipped. The only options on this rig were the aforementioned exhaust (which I personally would skip, not being a fan of any droning) for $1,050, a cargo cover for $245, and Carpeted Floor Mats with sill protectors for $379.
I’m not sure where exactly those carpeted mats ended up as this one came to me with the standard TRD Pro badged heavy rubber floor mats. The “Delivery, Processing, and Handling Fee” was $1,325 for a grand total of $67,029.
It’s not a small number but it’s a capable rig that might be perfect for a family of four or five, all of their camping gear and the ability to tow up to 7,100 pounds of off-road trailer or perhaps a boat to some very out of the way places in this country. And, perhaps most importantly, to do so with virtually zero concern about not making it back to civilization.
The TRD Pro version will likely be a pretty rare sight on and off the road but I predict will end up holding a lot of its value going forward. For those that can use the capability and are looking for something that actually is tough and durable inside and out rather than just faking it (meaning both man and machine, let’s be honest here), this could be just the ticket.
Another big Thank You to Toyota for letting us add a few more trail pinstripes to their rig and including a tank of gas as well.