Never mind the march of hybrids, the fear of global warming, and the push for a 35-mpg standard, big is still in. Acknowledging that fact, Toyota is making the biggest product it sells–the Sequoia full-size SUV–a size larger for 2008.
The Sequoia’s resemblance to the Tundra pickup is intentional–from the B-pillar forward, the Sequoia is a Tundra. Donor parts include a control-arm front suspension, an optional 5.7-liter V-8, and a six-speed automatic. Exclusive to the Sequoia are a stouter, fully boxed frame, an independent rear suspension with optional air-spring load leveling, and available variable damping. A stretched wheelbase and rear doors that open wider improve access to the back seats and increase leg and shoulder room. Cargo capacity actually suffers a bit, in part because the third row can no longer be jettisoned. To compensate, both benches and the front passenger seat fold flat.
Upping power from 273 hp to 381 hp does wonders for the Sequoia’s alacrity, and a tighter turning circle improves maneuverability. Thanks mainly to the six-speed automatic’s tall top gear, highway mileage with the new 5.7-liter is 1 or 2 mpg better than last year’s 4.7-liter V-8-powered Sequoia.
Alas, there’s no BMW temperament hidden under the Sequoia’s size-48L jacket. The seats are soft, the power steering is calibrated to preempt soccer-mom complaints, and the brake pedal feels like a Nerf ball. That’s a shame, because the massive four-piston front calipers squeezing 13.9-inch ventilated rotors look as if they were engineered by Brembo.
Perhaps the way to regard the Sequoia isn’t as a grander SUV but rather as an alternative to a motorhome, with space for eight family members and every convenience but beds.