2018 Toyota Sequoia is showing signs of aging
While it's been updated twice and still has a lot to be admired, the full-size SUV is cruising into anonymity
Back in 2001, when Toyota first introduced this full-size SUV, Sequoia probably felt like a good name, a strong name. This truck was, after all, nearly as huge and sturdy as those giant redwoods of Yosemite National Park.
Unfortunately, in 2018, the Sequoia feels nearly as ancient as those trees. It has been updated, once in 2008 and again for this model year, but it is still essentially the same truck it was originally: an eight-seat SUV based on the Tundra pickup truck. It came out the same year as Jay Z's the Blueprint and the Strokes' Is This It, but has not aged as well as either. The Sequoia is the oldest big SUV on the market.
All of which is not to say Toyota's biggest ' ute is unworthy of attention. It can seat eight people, has a huge cargo capacity and will perform reasonably well off-road. Could it be a poor(er) man's Range Rover? Despite its age, the 2018 Sequoia still has a lot going for it, especially now Toyota Safety Sense is standard equipment. This suite of technologies includes collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assistance and radar-based adaptive cruise control. It might not sound like a big deal, but these systems are proven to prevent collisions.
On a long and dull drive along Highway 401 to Detroit for the motor show, the radar cruise worked well even in less-than-ideal conditions. Toyota's lane-departure warning system wasn't buzzing and beeping incessantly, as other systems do. So far, so good, Sequoia.
But the road trip made plain this SUVs shortcomings. Chief among them was the alarming rate at which the fuel needle would rush toward empty. I thought naively that gas-guzzling SUVs had died off. Apparently not. Officially rated at 18.4 L/100 km in the city and 13.8 highway, I managed slightly better on the highway but never below 20 L/100 driving downtown, even in two-wheel drive mode. By comparison, the Chevy Suburban is significantly more efficient at 15.4 city and 10.8 highway.
In its defence, the Toyota's 5.7-litre V8 produces 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, enough to push around 2,707 kg of truck plus up to 3,220 kg of trailer. It could tow a fairly large hippopotamus. But then, look at the competition. The more frugal Suburban has a smaller engine (5.3-litres) with less torque (383) and yet it can tow heavier loads (3,402 kg). The Toyota's only excuse is age. It was a top-of-the-class contender when it was new, but not any more.
How much longer can the Sequoia survive? Sales were up slightly last year in Canada, according to data from GoodCarBadCar, but it was the second-worst selling model among its peers. If you're after a budget Range Rover alternative, look to Chevy or GMC instead. The 2018 updates to the Sequoia are nice, especially when it comes to safety features, but they only manage to keep it from falling further behind the competition.
- Base price: $59,850 (base); ($63,762 as tested)
- Engine: 5.7-litre V8
- Transmissions: 6-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 18.4 city, 13.8 highway
- Drive: Switchable rear or all-wheel drive
- Alternatives: Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada
The front end received a facelift for 2018. Its new grille blends into a pair of LED headlights. It looks tough and utilitarian more than it does modern. The Sequoia is so large, at 5.2 metres long, it stuck out of my small-ish driveway – something to keep in mind if you have a cramped parking space.
Sitting in the driver's seat, there's surprisingly little headroom for such a massive truck. The central infotainment screen looks minuscule relative to the gigantic dashboard. Small cups of coffee disappear into the cavernous cup-holders.
A TRD Sport trim was a surprising new addition for 2018. It adds Bilstein dampers, sway bar, and blacked-out 20-inch wheels that should improve ride and handling, however our test car didn't have this option. In standard trim, the ride is better than you'd expect from a body-on-frame truck, thanks to the Sequoia's double-wishbone independent suspension at all four corners.
Off-road chops come courtesy of switchable four-wheel drive, manually-lockable Torsen limited-slip differential and two-speed transfer case. Front and rear clearance sonar is an option that should help you avoid grounding this behemoth. Toyota Safety Sense P is standard on all 2018's, and is an excellent addition.
Even with the third row in place there's still room for at least four carry-on suitcases in the trunk. Behind the second row, there's 1,885 litres of space. Short of a cargo van, you won't find many vehicles that will carry more than this.
Utilitarian, but showing its age and bad on gas. Get a good deal.