First things first: this is a huge vehicle.
The biggest SUV in Toyota’s lineup, the Sequoia is 5,210 millimetres long, 2,030 wide and 1,955 high. It has a wheelbase of 3,100 mm and weighs in at 2,707 kilograms, before extras. To put these numbers into context, Toyota’s own full-size Tundra pickup is 5,820 mm long, with a 3,700-mm wheelbase and the same width. The Chevrolet Suburban, a close competitor, is a little longer overall, but narrower, slightly shorter and slightly lighter. You get the picture: the Sequoia is a big ’un, with a big appetite to match.
A few more specs. Power is delivered by a 5.7-litre V-8 that delivers 381 horsepower and more than 400 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also found in the Tundra pickup and it’s mated to a six-speed automatic only, with a part-time 4WD arrangement. You can actually drive the Sequoia in 2WD and getting into 4WD is just a matter of turning a rotary dial mounted front and centre on the dashboard. You can choose from high or low range, and the two-speed transfer case has a Torsen differential. Despite its luxury trappings and getting-up-there price tag, the Sequoia has a full complement of off-road necessities, such as a locking centre differential, skid-plate protectors and a limited-slip rear differential.
But clambering up side hills and bouncing over hill and dale isn’t really the Sequoia’s forté. Yes, it can take you off-road – to a point, but this is really a tow vehicle. A really comfortable tow vehicle. It has a specific tow mode, which will readjust the transmission’s shift points if you’re pulling something particularly heavy or need to get up a steep hill and its tow capacity is 3,200 kilograms. A trailer sway control and transmission cooler are standard equipment.
The Sequoia seats seven adults in comfort and my tester, the Platinum edition, has room for eight courtesy of a middle row jump-seat in the very back. And, with all the seats folded flat, there’s 3,400 litres of storage room – that’s comparable to some minivans. Honda’s Odyssey minivan, for example, is good for 4,200 litres.
This one is loaded with goodies and extras. Heated front seats, leather upholstery, power tilt/telescoping steering, back-up camera and parking alert system. My tester also came with ventilated front seats, power folding rear seatbacks, wood-grain trim, voice-activated navi system, “dynamic laser cruise control” and Toyota’s “smart stop technology.” This latter item, in Toyota’s own words, “automatically cuts engine power and allows the brakes to take precedence over the accelerator when both pedals are pressed at the same time.”
Behind the wheel, all is serene. Think of a limo with 4WD, a high road stance and extra ground clearance. Like most Toyota products these days, assembly quality on the Sequoia is first-rate, with little in the way of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). Don’t expect to do any corner-carving here, but this is a highway cruiser par excellence, with a firm stable ride and all kinds of reserve power. My tester also had three suspension settings – Sport, Normal, and Comfort – that allow you to regulate ride firmness. I found “Comfort” to be far too squishy – like a 1958 Buick, but Sport and Normal work well enough.
Fuel economy – if it matters in this market – is predictably high. Combined rating for the Sequoia is 14.8 litres/100 km, which is considerably thirstier than the Highlander, for example, and about on par with Nissan’s Armada. Chevrolet’s Tahoe is actually better in town, as is the Ford Explorer Sport.
Which leads me to the Sequoia’s raison d’etre. I have never understood this market. Big luxury SUVs are pointless. Too big, heavy and expensive for serious bush-whacking, they’re also a square peg in a round hole when it comes to city duty. Parking in a crowded mall can be an adventure and fuel economy is atrocious – among the worst in the industry. If you need room to carry people around, most minivans will do the job nicely – and are comfortable and well-appointed, to boot. I’m not singling out the Sequoia here – all of these leviathans are guilty – even the hybrid models.
And if you’re purchasing one purely for towing purposes, this is a lot of money to spend on a haul vehicle – after the dust settles, my tester was just a titch less than $71,000.
Yet people buy these things. Ford revealed recently that its Explorer model has better sales than ever, and this market overall is healthy and thriving.
2013 Toyota Sequoia Platinum
Base Price: $67,140; as tested: $70,910
Engine: 5.7-litre V-8
Horsepower/torque: 381 hp/401 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 17.2 city; 11.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives:Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, Nissan Armada, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Expedition, Porsche Cayenne