Big Sequoia is improved, but has a couple Big issues …
Big, bold, beautiful?
It’s hard to argue beauty for any full-size SUV although the sparkling silver paint job on this motoring monster, the Toyota Sequoia, added some sparkle. But Sequoia, as its name implies, is big and the restyling for 2023 helps it fit into the attractive Toyota style mix, be it bold or just shapely.
Certainly this giant Platinum model that takes root mid-level in the Sequoia forest is much improved from its predecessor, yet has two major issues that might give one pause. More on those after this short commercial break!
Sequoia not only was restyled but a hybrid power system was added, something Toyota knows quite a bit about. And that leads to one of its substantial improvements, gas mileage. This 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 coupled with a mild hybrid system that helps power the body-on-frame truck to 18 mph, is a powerhouse, while being more efficient.
How much so?
Well, I had managed just 16.7 mpg in the previous generation Sequoia in nearly all highway driving. Here I got 18 mpg in a mix of city and highway, and actually saw 20 mpg in a highway stint. The EPA rates the hybrid at 19 mpg city and 22 highway. I know that’s still pathetic, but for a nearly 6,000-pound truck those numbers represent quite an improvement.
Note too that this powerplant generates 437 horsepower and a whopping 583 pound-feet of torque. That makes acceleration easy and almost spunky from a stop, plus Sequoia will tow up to 9,310 pounds, no small number, and up 2,200 pounds from earlier models.
Handling is decent here too as the truck is easy to maneuver and keep in its lane on a highway. I had this in particularly windy weather and it was simple to control, only mildly affected by our typhoonish spring winds.
Notably the Sequoia features three rows of seats, the third row powering down via buttons under the power hatch or on panels just inside the rear doors and next to the second row seats so one can reach them without crawling in back. Those second row seats also spring forward with the pull of a handle to allow easy access to row three.
But, and like all things Sequoia it’s a Big but, knee room and foot space is precious in the third row, even though those seats will slide 6 inches to and fro. Yet there’s a bigger issue.
The hybrid batteries and a new live axle rear suspension, creates enough rise under the rear floor that when lowered the third-row seats stick up about 6 inches higher than the small cargo deck behind them. Thus, no flat floor for carrying luggage, lumber, or bags of mulch or top soil.
Oh, Toyota has a fix, but it’s inelegant.
A shelf that can be fitted in several slotted positions helps level the entire cargo area, but the shelf is awkward to maneuver and has two flaps on the back intended to lay flush on the backs of the third-row seats. They do if those seats have been pulled all the way back, otherwise you find yourself fiddling with the levers under those seats after the shelf is in place. Frustrating!
Watch our video: (186) 2023 Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4WD Hybrid review by Mark Savage & Paul Daniel – YouTube
While whining, let me mention the other oversized problem, Sequoia’s vanity-cabinet-size rearview mirrors. These monsters seriously block side views as they extend out nearly a foot on either side of the cockpit, and that’s before a driver powers them out even further. This $290 option allows the mirrors to extend about 5 inches further, a useful feature when trailering, although Toyota includes a number of other trailering assists on Sequoia, such as Trailer Backup Guide and StraightPath Assist.
As a short driver I could barely see to the side at an intersection as the mirrors are so tall. I found myself boosting up with my legs to see over the mirrors. Dangerous for me, but a 6-foot something driver may be fine, especially if they have a long torso. For parking purposes the mirrors will power fold flat against the truck’s side.
But let’s return to the other improvements.
Gone is the old 6-speed automatic, replaced by a smooth 10-speed automatic tranny that helps create a bit of a luxury feel as it applies the power seamlessly. It also helps improve gas mileage.
The old truck had solid running boards, while this one adds power-retracting boards, a trend among high-priced SUVs. These cost $1,005. Why not just $1,000? That $5 seems petty on a luxury SUV. Note too that if this system ever fails you’ll likely need a step-ladder to climb aboard.
Standard now are heated and cooled front and second-row seats, plus a heated steering wheel. Wise move for a big luxury ute.
One should note that the Sequoia is based on the Tundra pickup platform, which is also used for the Lexus LX 600 SUV. Like all those it has multiple drive modes, with Comfort being the setting you’ll want 90% of the time. But Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ are here too. I laugh at the Sport settings for monster trucks, but they are here if you choose to use them.
There’s also a Crawl Control feature to alloy off-roaders to engage when navigating rocks and rough terrain. Think of it as off-road cruise control.
Additionally the test truck added a load-leveling rear air suspension for $1,045. That will help when towing, but ride while fairly well damped is bouncy as with most pickups and large SUVs. So hit a large crater and the Sequoia sucks it up pretty well, but over uneven roads there’s bounce like in a baby buggy.
I probably should have mentioned that AWD came on the tester at about a $3,000 premium. You wouldn’t be off-roading without it.
Sequoia’s interior has been modernized, meaning the tiny info screen has been replaced by a 14-inch mega-screen. That seems a bit much, but the good news, it’s an easy to use touchscreen, so no awkward touchpad on the console. Plus Toyota delivers a large volume knob and the big screen shows the 360-camera images in fine detail.
Because a $499 dash cam was added here the screen switches to a front view every time the vehicle stops, which seems unnecessary. I can plainly see out the front. It would have helped if the camera looked to the sides to make up for those blasted protruding side mirrors.
The dash also is button happy with a plethora of toggles and buttons for everything from climate controls to the heated and cooled seats (I like that), plus copious trailering and ride height adjustments. By my count there are 11 buttons on the dash left of the steering wheel, 12 toggles on the stack and 11 more buttons below the toggles. A few more buttons grace the thick leather steering wheel’s hub too.
Another new addition, a wireless charger in the console’s front is welcome. The console itself being trimmed in black gloss finish is often very reflective. The cupholders include a cover and the giant storage box/armrest between the front seats offers multiple layers for storage.
Overhead are giant sunroofs, one occasionally generated mild wind noise. Inside, the black leather seats are fairly flat and along with the doors and dash include blue trim piping. The test truck also added a 10-inch color HUD for $600.
Standard, as it seems on all Toyotas now, is its fine suite of safety equipment, everything from smart cruise control to pre-collision warnings and pedestrian detection. Excellent!
A look at pricing shows the Sequoia jumped $8,000 from the earlier models, maybe a bit more than one might expect despite all the improvements made for 2023. Still, large SUVs are now mostly in the $60,000 to $100,000 range and the base Sequoia SR5 with rear-drive and just an 8-inch info screen starts at $59,960. A Limited starts at $69,300 and adds more features while the tested Platinum lists at $75,560 with 4WD. A rear-drive model is $3,000 cheaper.
A TRD Pro model is sportier and equipped more for off-roading with 4WD standard as is a roof rack to carry your kayaks, etc. It lists at $77,660.
The top-end Capstone model starts at $79,895, which is almost where the test truck settled, at $79,379. A quick check online shows a monthly loan payment of $1,297 with $8,000 down, no trade-in and a loan rate of 3.19%.
That was nearly my mortgage payment for 20 year, and for that I got a shower and kitchen sink. Don’t fret though, this powerful Sequoia will easily pull a trailer big enough to include both.
FAST STATS: 2023 Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4WD (Hybrid)
Hits: Massive truck with three-row seating, improved gas mileage with hybrid, excellent power and AWD. Huge info screen, heated wheel and heat/cool front and rear seats, 360-degree camera, big sunroof, wireless charging, power running boards, hatch and power-down third row seats. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and good safety systems.
Misses: Massive mirrors seriously block side views, cargo area not flat initially with third row seats down, awkward panel adjustment to help remedy that, bouncy truck ride, uncomfy third row, a lot of dash buttons and toggles, and if power running boards ever fail you’ll need a stepladder to climb aboard.
Made in: San Antonio, Texas
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6/hybrid, 437 hp/583 torque
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 5,855 lbs.
Wheelbase: 122 in.
Length: 208.1 in.
Tow: 9,310 lbs.
MPG: 18.0 (tested)
Base Price: $75,495 (includes delivery)
10-in. color HUD display, $600
Power extending mirrors w/convex spotter mirror and light, $290
Load-leveling rear air suspension, $1,045
Power running boards, $1,005
Dash cam, $499
Ball mount, $87
Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $358
Test vehicle: $79,379
Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage