Big, brawny and butch, the Sequoia may be Japanese, but with seven seats and plenty of cargo room behind the third row it's definitely geared for American tastes. Matter of fact, aside from a short stint in Mexico, the Sequoia has only been sold in the US and Canada. It's even built over here, at Toyota's truck plant in Indiana. How well does it work on the open road? Read on. $33,805 base, $51,724 as tested, EPA fuel economy estimates 15 MPG city, 18 MPG highway.
First Glance: All is right with the world
I am writing this review from the passenger seat of the Sequoia. We are heading home to Los Angeles after a visit with my folks in Arizona. The movie on the rear-seat DVD player ended a while ago, and my older son Robert is asleep in one of the two second-row captain's chairs, his cache of toys stowed away in the cavernous center console between the seats. His little brother Andrew and Barkley the dog are curled up in the back row. Thanks to the Sequoia's length, all of our luggage is secured safely behind the third-row seat; no need to encroach on the kids' or dog's space.
My wife Robin is at the wheel and the Sequoia is quietly humming along at ten above the speed limit. The Scissor Sisters are on the stereo, and I am a happy man. All is peaceful, all is right with the world, and much of my contentment is drawn from the 5300-plus-pounds of Japanese iron beneath my butt, cradling me along in leather-lined and climate-controlled comfort. The Sequoia has turned out to be a perfect car for this trip. I am not a fan of big SUVs like this, but I have become quite fond of the Sequoia. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
In the Driver's Seat: Huge helping of gadgets makes for odd ergonomics
Toyota has literally stuffed the Sequoia with every option that will fit, and there ain't no room left.Photo © Aaron Gold
The Sequoia is now in its 7th year, and a host of improvements over its lifespan have taken its toll on the interior. There simply isn't any room left for additional buttons and switches, which accounts for some of the slightly odd arrangements: Seat heater switches are lined up on one side of the center console, power-mirror switches on the other. The 4-wheel-drive and differential lock buttons are next to the clock, while the button that toggles the transmission's low range between 1st and 2nd gear right by the climate controls. It seems odd that the 10-speaker JBL stereo has only a single CD player. Why no changer? Because the only place left to put one would be in the car next to us. The DVD player for the rear-seat entertainment system inhabits the center console, and the navigation system's DVD reader (along with the single audio CD player) takes up the space behind the nav system's screen, which electrically pivots out of the way. Toyota has literally stuffed the Sequoia with every option that will fit, and there ain't no room left.
I spent a couple of hours watching movies with the kids in the second row, and found it quite comfortable (The Sequoia's 110v power outlet and audio/video input jacks mean we could have brought along a Playstation, but we thought DVDs were enough of a diversion). Perched now in the heated and power-adjustable front passenger seat, which comes standard in the top-of-the-line Limited model we're driving, I can forgive a lot -- like the big plastic boxy thing that hangs down in the passenger's footwell. What is that, anyway?
On the Road: Perfect powertrain choice, but expensive to fuel
The Sequoia is more-or-less based on the Tundra pickup (the previous generation, not the new 2007 model) and shares its 4.7 liter V8 and 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine's 273 horsepower and 314 lb-ft of torque are a perfect match for this SUV: loaded up as we are, the big Sequoia has had no problems with freeway merges or the steep hills on the road between Cali and AZ. EPA estimates for this four-wheel-drive version are a dismal 15 city/18 highway, so I suppose I should be pleased with our 15.8 MPG average considering our full load and 80 MPH-or-so cruising speed. A smaller car-based seven-seat CUV would get better mileage, but wouldn't allow us the luxury of seven full seats and
adequate cargo room behind the third row.
Both Robin and I are amazed at the way the Sequoia drives. For a truck-based SUV, its ride is unusually smooth and settled, and the steering is as precise as any car. The road to the folks' house has one curve marked for 25 MPH -- a figure I'd guess is artificially lowered, owing to the fact that the road leads into a retirement community -- but I sailed through it at 45 MPH with no hint of body lean, tire squeal or any sort of drama. Had I pressed harder, the Sequoia's standard electronic stability control system might have stepped in. For 2007 the Sequoia gets standard torso airbags for the front seats and side-curtain airbags for the two rows -- but they don't extend to the third row, where Andrew and Barkley are currently riding.
Journey's End: Very big -- and a bigger one's on the way
Toyota is expected to replace Sequoia in 2008.Photo © Aaron Gold
Just a couple more hours to go and we'll be home. Tomorrow I'll take the photos that will accompany this article, and the day after that I'll return the Sequoia to Toyota, much more impressed than I expected to be.
Were I purchasing a big SUV, the Sequoia would be top of my list. But would I purchase a vehicle this big? The extra space has come in handy on our trip, but for day-to-day use I'd gladly trade some of the space for better fuel economy. Toyota's own seven-seat Highlander, capable of MPG in the mid-twenties with the four-cylinder powerplant, would make a much more practical daily driver. Had we a need for the Sequoia's 6,500-lb towing capacity (6,200 for the 4x4) or its off-road abilities it'd be a different story, but we don't. And then there's the price tag -- well over $51k for this loaded-to-the-brim example. We couldn't swing the car payment, let alone the fuel bills for the 13 MPG in-town average we saw in the days leading up to our trip.
Though no official announcement has been made at the time of writing, Toyota is expected to replace the Sequoia with a new, bigger model for 2008; it will be based on the recently-introduced 2007 Tundra pickup. I'm sure the new Sequoia will be every bit as talented as the current truck -- but will it be too big? We'll have to wait and see.