Standing amidst off-road nameplates as iconic as “Land Cruiser,” “Tacoma” and “4Runner,” the Toyota Sequoia has always been easy to forget. But with the Land Cruiser off the American market, the Sequoia is getting ready to step up and shine as the rugged, off-road-ready full-size SUV of Toyota’s lineup. The third-generation Sequoia shows its strength from every angle, backing it up with a 437-hp twin-turbo hybrid powertrain, fully boxed frame, available part-time 4WD with transfer case, and plenty of room for the family and their favorite toys.
Toyota started sharing the new Sequoia’s story last September when it introduced the all-new Tundra full-size pickup and the i-Force Max hybrid powertrain that serves both vehicles. Using an electric motor-generator installed in the bell housing between the twin-turbo V6 and 10-speed automatic transmission, the hybrid drive digs deep for up to 437 hp and 583 lb-ft (790 Nm) of torque while promising better efficiency than the outgoing 381-hp 5.7-liter V8’s 13/17/15-mpg (city/highway/combined) figures. Toyota does not yet have fuel economy estimates to share.
The powertrain isn’t the only thing the Sequoia shares with the new Tundra, borrowing body-on-frame architecture from both Toyota’s biggest pickup and the new global Land Cruiser/Lexus LX, with the goal of creating a ride that’s stout enough for off-road adventure but comfortable enough for everyday commuting. New techniques like the latest in laser welding contribute to a frame that adds rigidity while also increasing highway comfort.
Furthering the ride improvements are a new rack-mounted electronic power steering system, independent front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. Buyers can add a load-leveling height-control rear air suspension system and adaptive variable suspension optionally.
Over top the bones, Toyota designers have done a nice job leaving behind the flabby, outdated frump-machine look of old, chiseling out a rugged, ready-for-anything design. They eliminate the fat lip front bumper, curvy wheel arches and softer hood lines that just screamed “Boy Scout Mom!!” in favor of a harder-edged profile that draws closer to that of the latest Land Cruiser. The roof is a near-flat platform, and the profile gets sturdier with flat-topped accentuation at the fenders and arches. Comparing the third- and second-generation Sequoias feels analogous to looking at before/after photos of someone who channeled all their pandemic energy into dieting and fitness.
“Our primary design goal for Sequoia was to create a sophisticated, yet tough and active lifestyle SUV that looks capable of handling a diversity of big adventure needs,” explained Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s Calty design studio. “That holds true whether it’s a night out on the town with friends, towing a boat to the lake with family or taking a more extreme off-road adventure.”
For those “more extreme adventures,” Toyota offers the TRD Pro trim as well as an available TRD Off-Road package for the SR5 and Limited 4×4 trims. Either choice brings in a selectable locking rear differential, Crawl control, Multi-Terrain Select system and Downhill Assist Control. The TRD Pro comes with TRD-tuned Fox internal bypass shocks, whereas the TRD Off-Road package includes TRD-tuned Bilstein monotube shocks.
When hitching up cargo behind the bumper, the new Sequoia brings 9,000 lb (4,080 kg) of towing capacity, a healthy 22-percent boost over the current model’s 7,400 lb (3,355 kg). An available Tow Tech Package makes pulling the load easier on the driver, adding features like trailer back-up assistance. Power-folding, retractable tow mirrors are also on offer for the first time on a Sequoia.
Inside the new Sequoia lineup, Toyota looks to extend full-size SUV comfort all the way to the oft-forgotten third-row passengers. The new adjustable cargo shelf and sliding rear row allow the rearmost passengers to gain some extra legroom, with 6 inches (15 cm) of adjustment. The third row also has a reclining seat back, as does the second-row bench or captain’s chairs. Both the second and third rows can fold flat to open up more cargo space.
Up front, Toyota has put an available 14-in infotainment touchscreen (8-in standard) at the helm of the Toyota Audio Multimedia system, which includes voice control, dual smartphone Bluetooth connectivity, and cloud-based native navigation with real-time updates. Drivers can tune the ride through multiple drive modes, selecting from eco, normal and sport modes as standard, adding comfort, sport+ and custom options by way of the available load-leveling and adaptive suspension packages.
All Sequoia models include a standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 package with a pedestrian-detecting pre-collision system enhanced to better recognize road hazards during all conditions. Toyota says the system can pick out a pedestrian in low light, a cyclist during the day, and a pedestrian or oncoming vehicle during turns at intersections. When necessary, automatic braking and emergency steering help the driver respond in time. Other driver-assist features include dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure assist, road sign assist and automatic high beams.
Toyota will launch the new Sequoia as a 2023 model in US summer 2022. The SUV will be available in 2WD and 4WD and five trim levels: SR5, Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro and the new Capstone. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.