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Dated Night: 2019 Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport Review

Driving a new Sequoia is like stepping back in time a decade.

Aaron GoldwriterThe Manufacturerphotograapher

It's one of the things they never tell you in automotive journalism school: Whenever anyone has a big event, they count on the car writer to bring the big car. The latest Big Event was our friend Jason's wedding in Dallas. And since Texas is now Toyota country, there was only one vehicle to bring, that being the mother of the company's family haulers, the Sequoia.

If my long weekend with Toyota's full-size SUV taught me anything, it's that my perception of the Sequoia as smaller than the domestics is wrong, wrong, wrong. I docked the Sequoia next to a Chevrolet Tahoe and was surprised at how the Toyota measured up. A later look at the specs revealed the Toyota to be 1.1 inches longer, 0.2 inch taller, and just 0.5 inch narrower, on a half-foot-longer wheelbase. I also parked it next to a Suburban, and while the 'Burban is a foot and a half longer, with boots on the ground, the difference looks like less.

Naturally, all this bulk translates to plenty of room for wedding guests or whatever other humans are handy. The first and third rows are as generous as you might imagine, although the use of a console-mounted transmission selector, as opposed to the Chevy's column shifter, contributes to a perception there's less space inside. The third row will accommodate adults better than the Suburban's, and our test vehicle had a motorized seat-folding mechanism that made it easy to transition from max-people mode to hauling around more luggage.

All in all, the Toyota Sequoia was the perfect vehicle for our wedding guests. But for the driver or potential owner? Not so much.

Attending Jason's wedding brought me back to my own nuptials in 2005—and you know what also brought me back to the mid-2000s? The Sequoia. The Sequoia as we know it was introduced in 2007 as a 2008 model, and it hasn't changed since. Even when the closely-related Tundra got a revised interior in 2014, the Sequoia stayed the same.

It's not a bad interior, mind you, but elements like the zig-zaggy shifter and its comically large handle, the tiny stereo display, and the fact that there are three cigarette-lighter power ports but only one USB port make it seem badly dated. Quality of switchgear has always been a Toyota strong point, but the entire industry has upped its game over the last decade, and the Sequoia's big HVAC knobs and the plastics on the dash and center console now look and feel surprisingly cheap.

To its credit, the Sequoia wasn't completely devoid of the latest tech: I was pleased to find adaptive cruise control (especially in Dallas, where every trip seems to be a boring highway slog), along with lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking. But pushbutton ignition, which Toyota helped pioneer in the early 2000s? Nope, that's missing—the Sequoia has an old-fashioned key.

The Sequoia is powered by Toyota's 5.7 liter 32-valve V-8, and while its 381 horsepower is impressive, you can tell the Sequoia's three-ton curb weight is bearing down hard, not just from the noise-to-acceleration ratio but from the way the engine sucks down unleaded. (An mpg figure in the low teens made me glad to be in Texas, where gas prices are among the cheapest in the country.) The four-wheel-drive is of the part-time variety, complete with a two-speed transfer case; there's no full-time all-wheel-drive system available, let alone an automatic 4WD mode.

The Sequoia's ride is soft and somewhat busy and the handling imprecise. I'd call it trucklike, but even full-size trucks comport themselves a bit better nowadays. To be fair, the unit I was driving was the TRD Sport, the off-road-ready version of the Sequoia. Its suspension employs Bilstien shocks and TRD Sport anti-roll bars, and it also has black wheels and a lot of TRD badging. There's also the mother of all skid plates protecting the Sequoia's chin, though this apparently comes standard on the less expensive SR5 model as well. (A more off-road-ready TRD Pro model is coming for 2020.) The plusher Limited and Platinum models will be a wee bit more composed.

The Sequoia I drove listed for just under $61,000, and this for the second-least-expensive trim. Fully loaded, a Sequoia can reach $69K. To be fair, that's a few grand cheaper than a top-of-the-line Ford Expedition—but considering how much more modern the Ford is, there's no question in my mind which is the better buy. And GM's big rigs will soon be completely redesigned, too.

The Sequoia is, of course, a Toyota, which means it's engineered to last forever; with any luck, Jason's marriage will do the same. But is that a good enough reason to live with an outdated vehicle? I don't think so. The Sequoia was a great wedding taxi, but let's hope Toyota has a modernized version by the time the next wedding nuptials roll around. Come to think of it, Toyota had better get cracking—our friend Eric's last wedding was six years ago, which means he's about due for another one.

2019 Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport Specifications

BASE PRICE $60,872 (as tested)
ENGINE 5.7L DOHC 32-valve V8; 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 13/17 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 205.1 x 79.9 x 74.6 in
WHEELBASE 122.0 in
WEIGHT 5,945 lb
0-60 MPH 6.6 sec