The fact every full-size Toyota Sequoia comes equipped to haul 3,175 kilograms – that’s 31/2 U.S. tons – is a big part, but not all, of what you need to know about this relatively late arrival to a breed of vehicle struggling to retain relevance.
Another key element, to quote Toyota marketers, is that, “There’s nothing like the Sequoia to make a big impression.”
Toyota still, in other words, has faith there are customers out there who “need” a full-size vehicle to tow heavy stuff, or venture off-road, with up to eight people aboard.
But who still wants to park a full-size, luxuriously equipped vehicle such as the Sequoia in their driveway, simply because they enjoy driving it, and enjoy the prestige they feel doing so provides? And who can afford the payments, and the price of keeping its 100-litre fuel tank topped up?
Full-size SUVs may not be selling in the numbers they were in their heyday but the Sequoia is still being moved out in numbers, and presumably at profit levels, that warrant Toyota retaining it in its North American lineup.
At least for the time being. The rumour mill has indicated it may be discontinued, but Toyota Canada isn’t saying.
The original 2001 model was spun off from Toyota’s first foray into the full-size pickup truck market, the Tundra of a couple of years earlier and, after a slow-ish start, saw sales ramp up to the 60,000-plus level in North America by mid-decade. They had declined to less than 15,000 continent-wide last year.
Toyota Canada sold 714 in 2012, and 405 in the first half of 2013. With the base SR5 starting at $51,890, the Limited reviewed here going for $58,960, and a Platinum listed at $67,140, that’s a not-to-be-sniffed-at potential $45-million or so (if it can match last year’s numbers) to add to 2013’s overall sales tally.
And as the Sequoia is still based on the latest Tundra, rather than being a stand-alone design, production costs are presumably reasonable while it sells at a premium price. And Toyota hasn’t spent a huge amount updating it since the second generation arrived for 2008.
The big change (versus the pickup Tundra) that came with that generational change was an independent rear suspension, to improve on-road ride and handling to levels more suitable to its more luxury-oriented role.
But the Sequoia is a truck-based sport utility vehicle rather than one of those namby-pamby crossovers, with a sturdy boxed steel chassis underneath, with double-wishbone suspension front and back (plus a trailer sway-control system) and bash-plates to protect dangly bits from off-road hazards.
And the fully-teched-out, 5.7-litre i-Force V-8 under the hood produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. All ancillaries – battery, starter motor, alternator – are heavy-duty items.
It’s mated to a six-speed, electronically controlled transmission, with oil cooler, which sends power to either just the rear wheels, or to all four, through an on-demand system with automatic disconnecting differential, central differential lock and auto-limited-slip rear differential.
Fire this V-8 up and it sounds potent enough to serve as the starter-motor for a nuclear power station. And it acts that way too, propelling this 5,210-mm-long 2,714-kg vehicle with authority, whether from a standing start, or for passing or merging.
What it doesn’t do is treat a litre of fuel with respect while doing this, slurping liquefied hydrocarbons at a rated number of 17.2 litres/100 km city and 11.9 highway. My recorded fuel economy after a week of highway and semi-rural driving was 14.8 litres/100 km. It was indicating an average of 13.9 litres/100 km on the highway.
I didn’t try towing, but with the grunt available, it likely does that effectively. I also didn’t take it on any off-road adventures, although its equipment suggests it would be an accomplished boonie-basher.
On a city street or at the mall, it’s not any more difficult to manoeuvre or park than, say, a Dodge Grand Caravan. At reasonable speeds, it handles a back road’s curves without drama, although its mass and high centre of gravity become noticeable when you want to change direction rapidly. The spring rates required to cope with that weight, and the tasks it is capable of, mean the ride is firm, and can toss you around, but it takes a nasty bump to produce any really negative effect on passenger comfort.
A Sequoia can slot eight into its interior, in decreasing degrees of comfort the further rearward they are seated. There’s only grocery-bag room behind the third-row seat, but there’s 1,890 litres abaft the bench-like second row and, with all stowed, 3,400 litres of space is available, which is only 672 litres less than the Dodge van.
It’s a high step up into the Sequoia’s driver’s seat, with its wide base and soft-ish thigh bolsters, but not much upper body support. The climb is made easier by the running boards, and the A-pillar-mounted grab handle, and the view from this altitude is awesome, stretching out over an icefield-sized (the tester was alpine white) hood.
The black over grey interior was trimmed in leather, highlighted with silver and wood-grain, including the steering wheel. The dash layout looks cluttered, but puts controls for all the things you need to interact within reach. A little bit of noise is noticeable at speed. It has a luxury truck look and feel versus a luxury car look and feel, not unexpected given its shared provenance.
It’s well equipped with three-zone climate control, power seats, a JBL audio system, a power rear lift-gate and options such as navigation and rear-compartment DVD screens are available.
2013 Toyota Sequoia 4WD Limited
Type: Full-size SUV
Base Price: $58,960; as tested, $62,730
Engine: 5.7-litre, DOHC, 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: Nissan Armada, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, Infiniti QX56, Land Rover LR4, Lexus GX460
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