Is it new? Nope. Toyota’s huge 2019 Sequoia SUV is virtually unchanged since way back in 2008, though it did receive a facelift and some welcome interior upgrades for the 2018 model year. Is it advanced? Not really. The 32-valve, 5.7-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic have been around forever, though the Sequoia now features a comprehensive suite of active safety equipment as standard across the model range. Then what? Well, the Sequoia is big. And comfortable. And built like a brick courthouse. Don’t call it “old.” Call it “experienced.”
I recently flew from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a family reunion, where I drove a Sequoia Limited 4WD over a week ferrying people, hauling a birthday cake, leisurely driving to the lake, and spending multiple afternoons simply crawling around the University of Michigan campus—my alma mater—which seems to change every time I visit. Oh, and I had all seven seats filled almost every time I headed out.
The Sequoia is old school, all right. You start it not with a modern pushbutton but with a conventional key (you can lock and unlock the vehicle with a fob, though). And despite 2018’s new grille and cockpit upgrades, the big Toyota still looks like it was designed more than a decade ago—which it was. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, the interior is a standout in terms of room, accessibility, and user-friendliness. Big rotary dials operate the climate-control system and select 2WD or 4Hi/4Lo modes without a hint of fuss (the Sequoia is also available in rear-drive only). Hard switches dot the dash to operate such features as traction control, the locking limited-slip center diff, the side mirrors, and more. The primary gauges are big, simple, and easy to read. The central touchscreen is on the small size, but it responds crisply and has welcome hard buttons surrounding the display for directly accessing various submenus. Also on board is Toyota’s Safety Sense P-Suite, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, auto high beams, dynamic radar-operated adaptive cruise, and lane-departure alerts. (P-Suite is now standard on all Sequoia models.)
This is gloriously comfortable rig. The driver sits up high—it takes a conscious effort to step up and in—and the seats are huge and accommodating. The standard Limited seats eight, but my test example came equipped was the optional second-row captain’s chairs (just $300), and these proved as welcoming as the front. A central module allows second-row passengers to fine-tune the climate control and charge their devices. Many times I had three people (usually kids) seated in the third row—including one of those long drives to the lake—and nobody ever complained. A decidedly luxurious touch: The rear seats can be folded flat automatically using switches just inside the power tailgate. Given how many times during the week I had to reconfigure the Sequoia for different missions, this quickly became one of my favorite features. When the rear seats are flat the rear cargo area is enormous; it swallows almost 67 cubic feet in that configuration.
The V-8 enjoys its regular-unleaded fuel—it’s rated at just 13 mpg in the city—but with 381 horses it moves the Sequoia’s three-plus tons smoothly and with respectable quiet. Even fully loaded with passengers I never felt the engine strain, although admittedly you’d be hard-pressed to find a flatter landscape than southeastern Michigan’s. In Limited 4WD trim, the powertrain is capable of towing up to 7,100 pounds, while configurations can handle as much as 7,400. Ride quality is composed and pliant. The Sequoia may lack the more direct steering feel and sharper suspension reflexes of newer SUVs, but once you’re attuned to its relaxed responses (including a softish brake pedal) it’s easy to keep the big bear rolling along right where you want it.
My vehicle wore only a few options: the aforementioned captain’s chairs, carpeted floor mats ($374), and a convenience package ($1,250) with power-memory driver’s seat, power side mirrors, and upgraded Entune infotainment with nav and premium JBL audio. The standard gear is plenty comprehensive: three-zone climate control, power-folding side mirrors, leather seating, blind-spot monitoring, tilt/slide moonroof, and lots more. The total tab was just under $64K.
Using it as it was intended to be used—loaded with people and gear—the Sequoia shrugs off its age and continues to deliver (add the seven-people-per-mile factor and even the fuel economy doesn’t seem so bad). Above all, you can’t help but appreciate how well put-together it is. You just know it’s up to whatever you’re going to throw at it, and a full 10 inches of ground clearance also means most off-road hurdles are no issue. I had a darn-near perfect week driving the giant Toyota—right up until the next-to-last day, when a merging semi on the freeway kicked a stone up into the right-front window (it sounded like a rifle shot) and left a couple small flecks in the glass. Damn! Or maybe I should’ve expected as much for an old chip off the block.
2019 Toyota Sequoia Limited Specifications
|BASE PRICE||$61,715/$63,638 (base/as-tested)|
|ENGINE||5.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8; 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 8-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/17 city/highway mpg|
|L x W x H||205.1 x 79.9 x 74.6 in|
|WEIGHT||6,100 lb (est)|
|0–60 MPH||6.6 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||115 mph|