If you like your SUVs big, you're probably already a fan of the Toyota Sequoia.
After a week driving the 2011 Sequoia, I'm a big fan (despite a few reservations).
Even though everyone's concerned with fuel economy, and everyone seems to be downsizing, there's still room on the roads for a traditional body-on-frame SUV like Sequoia.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the 2011 Sequoia returns, basically unchanged from 2010. The first Sequoia was a 2001 model, and the second generation appeared in 2008.
Sequoia is Toyota's biggest SUV, with body-on-frame construction and robust carrying and towing capacities.
It shares some styling cues with the similarly-sized Tundra pickup truck. I think it looks like a overgrown Highlander, and I'd appreciate sharper features, with a little less of the organic roundness that reads as bloat. Just a matter of taste.
Sequoia comes in four flavors -- the base SR5 4.6, with a 4.6 liter V8 engine; SR5 5.7, with a 5.7 liter V8; Limited 5.7 and the top of the line Platinum 5.7. Each trim level can be ordered with 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. Base prices start at $39,850 and go up to $59,995. My test vehicle was the full-zoot Platinum 4-wheel drive with all the bells and whistles, and listed out at $61,295 as tested, with Toyota's 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty, 5-year/60,000 powertrain warranty and EPA estimated fuel economy of 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway.
Sequoia can seat up to eight passengers in three rows, depending on configuration. The second row can be ordered with a 60/40 split bench seat, or with a pair of captain's chairs. Third row seating is standard, and is okay for short stretches for adults, but better suited to kids.
Toyota SUVs fit me perfectly, and Sequoia was no exception. I own a 1994 Toyota 4Runner, and I measure the ergonomics of every SUV against that vehicle, because it's just perfect. Sequoia feels just right, too, and it has enough adjustment for a variety of sizes of driver. Some passengers complained about the climb into the cabin, but they were old and weak, or short and funny. Regular sized people will be fine.
The big 5.7 liter V8 in my Sequoia cranked out 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, plenty of power to rocket the 6,045 lb beast onto the freeway. In Platinum 4-Wheel drive trim, the Sequoia can tow up to 7,000 lbs, and haul a payload of up to 1,235 lbs. The EPA rates the Sequoia at 13 city/18 highway with 4 wheel drive and the 5.7; you can gain a few mpg by choosing 2 wheel drive and the 4.6, but why would you? I got about 13.7 mpg during my week with the Sequoia, which was mostly highway driving. That's about what I get in my 4Runner with its wheezy 3.0 liter V6, so I wasn't too disappointed.
If you need a full size SUV, there are still a few choices out there. The GM editions: Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe do better on fuel economy, but are a little less refined when it comes to some of the details. Nissan's Armada is worth considering, but I'd skip the Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator -- just a bit long in the tooth at this point.
If you don't need a full size SUV, all of the real action in the SUV market, and the real innovation, is really happening in the mid-size range. You'll be surprised how roomy a mid-size SUV or crossover can be, and how much money you can save by using a vehicle to its capacity rather than wasting unused potential.
Like the big trees that it's named after, the Sequoia stands strong, and will probably be around for a long time. If you need a full-sized SUV, and you're actually going to use it, you'll have a hard time finding a better new one than the 2011 Toyota Sequoia.