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2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone: Larger Than A Life

Image Source: Everyonephoto Studio @ Shutterstock

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is a full-size SUV that shares its hybrid powertrain with the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck. Last redesigned in 2008, the Sequoia represents the largest passenger vehicle in the Toyota family and competes with other large three-row SUVs such as the Nissan Armada, Ford Expedition, and Chevy Tahoe. With a strong but relatively efficient powertrain and good value on the base SR5 model, the redesigned Sequoia is a welcome update to the full-size segment.

The redesigned eight-seater rides on a new platform shared with the Tundra. Enhancements include more torque, more power, more towing capacity, and greater efficiency, as well as more standard safety and convenience features and a new infotainment system. If you like the look of the Tundra pickup truck, then you’ll appreciate the related Sequoia.

Calling Toyota Sequoia good-looking depends on your take on blockiness. From the front, the Sequoia channels the Tundra with a broad mesh grille and LED running lights that split down the fender in an illuminated brace. Also shared with the Tundra, its big blocky fenders and chunky hood give it a muscular profile, while chrome window trim and roof rails give it an air of sophistication around town. Wrap-around taillights hug the rear and an integrated roof spoiler smooths the rear end. Toyota made the doors open wider for easier access, but they eat into the window line in a way that doesn’t harmonize with the rear quarter windows. TRD Pro models flex their adventuring prowess with three orange safety lights in the grille, black 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, and dual TRD exhaust tips.

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Brisk acceleration and calm handling grace the new Sequoia. It’s quicker than you’d expect, and hits 60 mph in the low six seconds. Its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes 437 hp and 583 lb-ft, and the engine noise feels much further removed from the cabin than the old V-8, giving the Sequoia a sense of refinement it lacked before. That’s especially true with the acoustic front glass doors of the Capstone grade, but giant side mirrors thrum up plenty of wind noise. A motor generator sits between the engine and 10-speed automatic transmission for low-speed EV driving below 18 mph. The transfer of power is mostly unnoticeable, although the transmission can shudder between low gears.

For passing moves at highway speeds, the 10-speed takes a tick to downshift as it powers out of its efficient overdrive gears. The lack of paddle shifters doesn’t help, though there is a manual mode on the gear selector. The hefty steering wheel is well-weighted, and for the most part the Sequoia does a good job balancing the muscle of a truck with the calm of an SUV.

Rear-wheel drive comes standard, while 4WD costs $3,000 more on all but the Sequoia TRD Pro, where it is standard. The Sequoia TRD Pro feels natural off-roading, with effortless climbs, balanced articulation, and a smooth quiet ride on the gravel surfaces preceding the technical portions. With a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, the Sequoia TRD doesn’t get the 1.1-inch lift given to Tundra TRD Pro models, but 2.5-inch Fox shocks with internal bypass make the off-roading even more effortless.

Three drive modes, Sport, Normal, and Eco alter the engine mapping, while three additional modes, Sport+, Comfort, and Tow/Haul, change damping on vehicles equipped with the adaptive variable suspension. Toyota ditched the independent rear suspension in favor of a solid rear axle and coil-over rear springs that enable the Sequoia to tow up to 9,520 lb. When towing a 7,500-lb boat and trailer the 10-speed finds and holds the right gear so the engine doesn’t strain. The recessed receiver has a cap that can be popped off by hand.

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia outlasts the full-size competition. Most rear-wheel-drive Sequoias have an EPA rating of 21 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined, and four-wheel drive costs it 2 mpg across the board. The Sequoia’s twin-turbo V-6 hybrid powertrain is a big improvement over the abysmal 15 mpg combined in the predecessor. The Ford Expedition’s twin-turbo V-6 gets 19 mpg combined, while the 2023 Chevy Tahoe has an 18 mpg combined rating with its base engine.

Like its predecessor, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia lacks crash-test data. But the first new model in 15 years might warrant scrutiny from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. With a curb weight exceeding 6,000 lb with four-wheel drive, the new Sequoia should hold up well in the event of a crash. Fortunately, Toyota equips it with driver-assist features designed to avoid or mitigate crashes. Standard safety tech includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitors, and front and rear park assist. It also has a standard surround-view camera system.
On the dash, most Sequoias will have a 14.0-inch touchscreen, but the 8.0-inch touchscreen on the base SR5 better integrates the dash lines. Vents flank either screen like ears. The Sequoia has a band of climate buttons and a lower band for towing and drive modes, so the touchscreen is only for multimedia, navigation, and deeper settings.

Toyota gussies up the Sequoia in top Capstone grades with walnut trim and leather hides, but the SR5 feels more authentic with durable plastic and metallic trim and cloth seats. The front seats on the Sequoia come with power adjustments and seat heaters, so getting and staying comfortable is never an issue. But the seats in back and the cargo area might require a bit more planning. Comfy front seats, roomy enough rears, and the ability to fit at least four adults and a couple kids mean the Sequoia excels with space.

Bench seats come standard in both rear rows to seat up to eight. Captain’s chairs can be swapped out for the second-row bench to seat seven. In either configuration, the second-row seats don’t slide forward, but the third-row seats slide about 5.5 inches fore and aft. Only kids will fit in the wayback and even that comes with a caveat. With the third-row seats slid forward to optimize cargo room, any human with legs will not fit. With the seats in the rearmost position, toe room, head room, and cargo room get squeezed down to just 11.5 cubic feet. That’s smaller than the trunks of some compact sedans.

The 60/40-split third-row seats don’t fold flat into the floor due to the hybrid battery, which was placed there instead of higher traffic areas under the second row. Toyota utilizes a tiered removable cargo shelf that can be set in three positions to keep things neat. At its highest, it creates a storage shelf accessible by lifting the glass on the split tailgate. With the third row folded down, cargo space expands to 49.0 cubic feet. Flatten the second row and the Sequoia can hold 86.9 cubic feet behind the front seats.

Cargo room and third-row space is better in GM’s full-size SUVs. Unlike many rivals, Toyota doesn’t have a pushbutton release to tumble the second row forward. From the back, third-row passengers pull a strap mounted at the base of the seat, which may be challenging for grade schoolers. Twin USB-C and USB-A ports as well as cup holder armrests over the wheel wells add some convenience for those in the wayback. Standard power reclining and folding also ease the pain. Comfort will be lacking, however.

Good standard features make the Sequoia SR5 our recommended pick. Toyota sells the 2023 Sequoia in SR5, Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro, and a new range-topping Capstone trim first introduced this year on the Tundra pickup truck. Toyota provides a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty with 2 years or 25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance. Hybrid components are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

All Sequoias come with a sunroof, power and heated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless smartphone compatibility, a 14.0-inch touchscreen on all but the base SR5, and a surround-view camera system. The standard features, good infotainment system, and optional TRD Pro packages earn the Sequoia a point each to an 8 here.

Even though the 8.0-inch touchscreen on the base SR5 might be small by new truck and new screen standards, it does the job just fine and has the same infotainment system. Designed in North America, the infotainment system rights all the wrongs of its outdated predecessor and the “Hey, Toyota” voice commands are excellent. Free of pretension, the $62,795 SR5 with 4WD feels more authentic to the Sequoia experience. The only thing missing is a heated steering wheel, but it’s an option. There are cheaper full-size SUVs, but not when all the standard features are factored in.

The Capstone trim with 4WD costs $79,795. In addition to 22-inch chrome wheels, other fancy finishes include power running boards, black-and-white leather upholstery, American Walnut wood dash trim, and LED mood lighting. The 2022 Chevy Tahoe High Country and 2022 Ford Expedition Platinum cost as much but feel more luxurious.
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia makes no apologies since it does its mission of hauling people and their belongings with decent off-road chops. Now in an all-new, more refined package, the Sequoia is a formidable player and contender in the large SUV class. Regardless of trim, it still has the best Toyota attributes of refinement and reliability, which can’t be found on any of its competitors.

Image Source: Everyonephoto Studio @ Shutterstock

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