The Takeaway: Toyota’s 2023 Sequoia has been completely revamped for its third generation. It now shares quite a few bits with the Tundra, but that’s not really surprising —or bad—as both are built on the same production line in San Antonio, Texas. First and foremost, the SUV that’s named after a big tree now has the same twin-turbocharged I-Force Max Hybrid powertrain as the Tundra. Along with the new engine, the updated interior makes the Sequoia a genuine contender in its segment. We flew down to Plano, Texas, for Toyota’s annual HQ Confidential media drive to log some time behind the wheel.
- The new solid rear axle setup adds off-road capability while staying buttery smooth on the road.
- The Sequoia is available exclusively with the same I-Force Max Hybrid powertrain from Tundra—ditching the V8 that plagued the previous model.
- The TRD Off-Road package (a first for Sequoia) allows you to add the off-road accoutrement from the TRD Pro to SR5 and Limited models.
- Base price: $58,300 ($76,900 as tested)
- Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 hybrid
- Horsepower: 437
- Torque: 583 lb-ft
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: 4×2 or 4×4
- Fuel economy: TBD (we measured 20 mpg on the highway)
- Towing capacity: 9,000 lb
What You Should Know
Befitting a car named after a massive tree, the Sequoia is a sizeable brute with quite a presence. It remains a rugged go-anywhere vehicle that can do just about anything. And it is. Traditionally, it has followed the way of the Tundra in terms of looks and even mechanical underpinnings. The 2023 vehicle is no exception.
The exterior of the Sequoia features the same angular aesthetic as the Tundra; if you were none the wiser, you’d think it could very well be a Tundra with a bed cover. The biggest differentiating factor is the air dam below the front bumper on non-TRD Pro models. The first row of the interior is much the same story, with nearly identical switchgear and infotainment. However, the second row now gets available captain’s chairs, behind which sits an electric-folding third row.
The pricing structure is where the Sequoia really differentiates itself from the Tundra. While the lineup follows largely the same structure, with a base SR5 and a range-topping Capstone, the Sequoia is slightly more expensive. See below for the full breakdown.
- SR5 4X2: $58,300
- SR5 4×4: $61,300
- Limited 4X2: $64,700
- Limited 4X4: $67,700
- Platinum 4X2: $70,900
- Platinum 4X4: $73,900
- TRD Pro 4X4: $76,900
- Capstone 4X2: $75,300
- Capstone 4X4: $78,300
Smooth and Poised On The Road
For 2023, Toyota ditched the previous independent rear suspension from the second-gen Sequoia and instead went for a solid rear axle—making it one of the only body-on-frame SUVs in its segment with such a solid rear axle. Many enthusiasts assumed this would make the vehicle as rough as old bolts on the road. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Sequoia’s suspension is buttery smooth. Driving it on the road feels a bit like powder skiing; the body rolls around a little bit, but once the tires bite, direction changes feel sharp.
Toyota purists can rejoice as the 5.7-liter V8 from the previous generation—which suffered from transmission and water pump failure and oil leaks (among many other issues)—is gone and replaced with the same I-Force Max hybrid under the hood of the Tundra. Though here, all trim levels come standard with the hybrid, unlike the Tundra. Putting out 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque, the Sequoia can boogie when you put your foot down. Toyota has yet to announce fuel economy numbers, but I measured 20 miles per gallon cruising down roughly 50 miles of pockmarked country roads and highways during a test drive near Toyota’s HQ in Plano, Texas.
TRD DNA: Off-Road Savant
On the road, the Sequoia is now a worthy competitor for vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe. However, the Sequoia takes the cake when it comes to off-road ability. With access to the whole range at Toyota’s HQ in Plano, I was able to have a go in the TRD Pro variant—Toyota’s creme-de-la-creme of off-road trims.
Being a TRD Pro, the vehicle arrives with all of the off-road goodies you could imagine for such a rough and tumble machine. This includes TRD-tuned Fox off-road suspension, 1⁄4-inch-thick skid plates, a rear locking differential, and multi-terrain select along with crawl and descent control. In terms of aesthetic modifications, the Sequoia follows the way of the Tundra; it gets burlier TRD Pro wheels (made by BBS) along with camouflaged spats around the fenders and more aggro styling throughout.
The high points of the TRD Pro are the Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires and the Fox suspension. And that’s not all that surprising. When it comes to off-roading, suspension and tires are some of the best modifications to start with. Unfortunately, the off-road track that Toyota had designed for us had transformed into a primordial swamp following a hefty rainstorm the day before the drive. But that was no obstacle for the Sequoia, which tackled all of it. This is no trophy truck, but its Fox shocks tackled the jumps and other obstacles with no issues.
It’s obvious that any TRD Pro vehicle is designed to perform off-road. However, I can’t go without mentioning the elephant in the room: the lack of any recovery points near the front bumper. While I’d wager that the majority of TRD Pro owners will never take them off-road (a shame, really), the decision to omit these doesn’t make sense for enthusiasts. Regardless, I’m willing to bet there will be a number of after-market solutions to rectify the issue; there was no shortage of Toyota Tundras with burly bumpers (featuring recovery points) at this year’s Overland Expo West.
An Eye-Catching Interior (With an Electric Third Row)
The cockpit of the Sequoia felt familiar after spending quite a few hours behind the wheel of the new Tundra. By familiar, I actually mean that both areas are nearly identical. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, I couldn’t miss the all-new 14-inch infotainment screen—standard on the pictured TRD Pro model but optional on the trim levels below it. Spoiler alert: The base 8-inch screen is a bit of a disappointment.
As infotainment systems go, the optional 14-inch screen in the Sequoia is one of the best I’ve used. Having been in front of quite a few infotainment screens in my time, it simply felt like there were just acres of screen real estate. Toyota’s development team also did a fantastic job implementing its much-improved navigation and operating systems. Every inch of space was also laid out well, and the user interface actually made sense; the minimalist design makes it easy to quickly get to the screen you want without taking your eyes off the road for an extended period of time. Still, I often default to Apple CarPlay, and that experience was equally great with so much screen space to work with.
The rest of the TRD Pro interior is expectedly brash—the available red softex seats and upholstery are the reddest things I’ve seen in a long while. Just like any TRD Pro vehicle, it’s also plastered with TRD logos to remind you that you’re in a top-of-the-line SUV. Having said that, all trim levels come with a clever, electrically adjustable third row. Along with folding up and down, both seats can move forward and backward to allow for either more cargo or more legroom.
I’m happy to report that the relationship between Tundra and Sequoia remains largely unchanged going into the next generation. Having said that, the latter is still much more family-friendly, with a clever third-row seating and cargo solution. Despite the vehicle’s target market, it somehow remains equally as capable as a Tundra when it comes to off-road capability and on-road comfort. At the end of the day, it provides all things for all buyers. And that’s why it has such a rock-solid reputation in the full-size SUV segment.
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