2023 Toyota Sequoia

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2023 Toyota Sequoia First Drive Review: Big Size, Bigger Value

When Toyota last introduced a new Sequoia, the first iPhone had just been revealed and Microsoft just launched Windows Vista, so to say the 2023 Toyota Sequoia is long overdue would be an understatement. The new Sequoia arrives as the full-size non-premium SUV segment is currently dominated by the American automakers. Last year, General Motors delivered over a quarter million vehicles in this segment between its Chevrolet and GMC brands while Ford came in a distant second with around 82,000 units. Nissan put in a valiant effort to sell more than 22,000 units. Toyota could only muster just over 8,000 copies of its aging Sequoia. To put that in perspective, Jeep sold over 5,000 Wagoneers and it was only on sale for three full months.

After many years of minor updates, Toyota faces a tall order to compete with segment leaders like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition and newcomers like the Jeep Wagoneer and the Nissan Armada. By adopting updates from the Tundra pickup, including a new twin-turbocharged hybrid i-Force MAX engine with 437 horsepower, Toyota believes it can boost Sequoia sales to around 35,000 units per year.

CarBuzz flew out to Toyota's US headquarters outside Dallas, Texas to find out if the improvements to the 2023 Sequoia finally make it a competitive option in the full-size segment.

Is the 2023 Toyota Sequoia a good SUV?

  • Exterior Design 6 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 6 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 7 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 8 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 6 /10
  • Value For Money 6 /10
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2023 Toyota Sequoia Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
10-speed automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
10-speed automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
10-speed automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
10-speed automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
10-speed automatic
Four-Wheel Drive

See all Trims and Specs

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Exterior: Tundra Macho

Like previous models, this third-generation Sequoia is heavily based on the Tundra pickup truck, so the design language is similar. That's fine by us, as the new Tundra looks properly aggressive. The massive front grille changes depending on the trim level, with the flagship Capstone trim (pictured below) getting a blinged-out honeycomb pattern and lots of chrome elements. With massive two-tone 22-inch wheels, the Capstone exudes luxury and excess, bordering on Lexus levels. Buyers who want a more macho Sequoia can opt for one of the lower trims with either the TRD Sport or TRD Off-Road Packages, which give the SUV a darker, imposing vibe.

If you spend every weekend taking the family on an outdoor adventure, the Sequoia TRD Pro supplies the most aggressive styling with a Heritage-inspired "TOYOTA" grille, embedded TRD light bar, marker lights, black 18-inch TRD wheels, and a roof rack. In our opinion, the Sequoia TRD Pro is the most impressive model visually.

That being said, some of the lower trims still look fantastic in TRD Sport guise. Toyota's color palette contains some great options, including White, Wind Chill Pearl, Celestial Silver, Lunar Rock, Magnetic Gray, Blueprint, Army Green, Midnight Black, Smoked Mesquite, Supersonic Red, and the TRD-exclusive Solar Octane.

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Engine, Performance, Towing: All-Hybrid, All-Powerful

Every Sequoia regardless of trim uses the same powertrain, a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission with a motor-generator fitted within the bell housing. That means the Sequoia, even in base trim, is a hybrid. But don't think of this as an overgrown Prius; Toyota included the hybrid system to improve its capability. The i-Force Max setup provides 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque. That's more standard hp than any vehicle in this segment and more torque than any of its competitors period.

This drivetrain is so outstanding that you'll completely forget about Toyota's old V8. The V6 emits a soothing growl and the 10-speed automatic transmission delivers seamless shifts that are Lexus-like in their refinement. In terms of capability, the Sequoia can tow up to 9,520 pounds in 2WD SR5 configuration, which is just barely below what the Expedition and Wagoneer can pull. No fuel economy figures were available at the time of this writing, though we believe the Sequoia will be class-competitive. The Tundra hybrid, for reference, achieves 19/22/21 mpg city/highway/combined.

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Driving Impressions: Torque For Days

From behind the wheel, the Sequoia's familial connection to the Tundra is readily apparent. The two share a body-on-frame architecture that also underpins the Lexus LX and global Toyota Land Cruiser. This is not a small vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, but effortless steering and controlled body roll aid in making it feel less substantial and cumbersome. In fact, our limited time on the road left us thinking the Sequoia is now the most composed vehicle in the non-premium full-size segment. Road noise is slightly intrusive on lower trims, but the Capstone gets acoustic glass up front that brings down the decibels to a more acceptable level. All trims include a more modern multi-link rear suspension, which felt less bouncy than the Tundra due to having more weight over the rear end.

As we alluded to earlier, the Sequoia's drivetrain is creamily smooth, with only the occasional awkward shift during deceleration. Mash the throttle, and the Sequoia can easily spin the rear tires in slippery circumstances thanks to 583 lb-ft of twist. The transmission delivers timely downshifts when necessary, only rarely getting buried in top gear. It's safe to say the Sequoia is among the most civilized full-size SUVs.

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When the road ends, the Sequoia impresses with its available TRD Pro trim level. This model adds a front skid plate, Fox internal bypass shocks, a locking rear differential, and a TRD exhaust that delivers a more noticeable growl. Toyota had an off-road course where we could put the Sequoia through its paces, tackling obstacles that few owners are likely to attempt. We only entered four-wheel-low in one section that involved heavily wheel articulation, though that was at Toyota's behest, and we believe the Sequoia would have been just fine in four-high.

The Sequoia has never been the most strictly capable TRD Pro model in the lineup; that honor would likely go to the 4Runner or Tacoma due to their smaller dimensions. That being said, if you have a large family that you love to take on camping or hiking trips, the Sequoia TRD Pro should prove to be a competent companion.

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Interior: Feature Strong, Space Challenged

When we last drove a Sequoia, we lamented how much plain plastic filled the cabin and how tiny the infotainment screen was. This new model is an entirely different story. Even the base SR5 model feels like a quality item with standard eight-way power fabric seats or optional SofTex leatherette. The SR5 comes standard with an eight-inch touchscreen featuring eight speakers and wireless CarPlay/Android Auto. We'd opt for the larger 14-inch screen, which comes standard on all other trim levels. This is the same screen used in the Tundra, and it's vastly better than what the Sequoia had previously and what many competitors provide you with.

In terms of materials, the Sequoia ranges from utilitarian to outright luxurious. We've be perfectly fine with the heated and ventilated SofTex seats in the Limited, though the genuine leather in the Platinum and Semi-aniline leather in the Capstone are far more impressive. The Capstone adds open-pore American Walnut trim that takes the Sequoia to Lexus-level decadence.

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Though the Sequoia is a massive vehicle with a sizable footprint, the interior space is slightly hampered by the body-on-frame design and the positioning of the hybrid battery under the rear seats. For starters, the second row is smaller than some competitors and does not slide forward or backward. Getting into the third row, which is also a bit snug, requires a tumble-forward movement that would not work with a child seat in place. This issue is less noticeable in models with the second-row captain's chairs.

The Sequoia's third row does not fold flat into the floor due to the hybrid battery positioning, meaning Toyota had to get clever in the cargo area. This SUV features a new Adjustable Cargo Shelf System that can be adjusted to create multi-tiered storage. Though this system feels like a solution to a problem that Toyota itself created, we think it could prove useful to families. The Sequoia also gets a class-exclusive sliding third row, though we see less utility here because we could only get comfortable with it all the way back. As for cargo volume, it ranges from 11.5 cubic feet to 86.9 with all the seats folded.

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Verdict, Trims, & Pricing: Packing In The Value

The 2023 Sequoia starts at $58,300 for the base SR5 trim with 4x4 adding $3,000 to the price. That's significantly more than the American competitors (minus the Wagoneer) and around $10,000 more than the Nissan Armada, though the Sequoia has more power and standard features. Even as you climb up the trim ladder, Toyota's value proposition stays consistent because the Sequoia offers more equipment without the need for pricey packages.

We think the Limited is the most compelling option, starting at a reasonable $64,700 and adding premium features like ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, surround-view camera, and an available panoramic moonroof. The Platinum feels like a premium step with heated and ventilated rear captain's chairs, real leather, a 14-speaker JBL audio system, and a standard panoramic roof, but it starts to get pricey at $70,900.

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If you're willing to spend that much on a Sequoia, we'd suggest spending a bit more to get the ultra-luxurious Capstone ($75,300) or the off-road capable TRD Pro ($76,900), which is the only trim to include 4x4 standard.

The Sequoia's strengths include a potent hybrid powertrain, comfortable on-road manners, strong capability, and impressive technology. Its weaknesses only exist when compared to other full-size SUVs, which boast more passenger and cargo space. If those areas are less of a concern for you, the Sequoia could be a great fit. Toyota's improvements to this new Sequoia create a night and day difference compared to the old model. If you've been waiting to upgrade, now is the time.

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