Toyota Sequoia gets a new TRD PRO trim level for 2020

By Jim Prueter

(August 12, 2020) Most people can anchor their understanding of time travel thanks to the 1985 Robert Zemeckis movie Back to the Future. The movie stared Michael J. Fox as the teenager Marty McFly who accidentally travels back in time in a DeLorean time machine thanks to the eccentric scientist Emmit “Doc” Brown played by Christopher Lloyd.

I recently tested the 2020 Toyota Sequoia that reminded me of that movie in the sense that the current-generation Sequoia is relatively unchanged since it was introduced back in 2008. The original Sequoia was launched in 2001, so even traveling back in time some 13 years the Sequoia would be instantly recognized as
2020 model.

While Doc Brown’s
DeLorean time machine wasn’t the most complicated piece of technology, that pretty much sums up the current Sequoia. To be fair, over the years there’s been minor upgrades, but remains almost entirely unchanged.  For 2020, Toyota has decided to give the huge, eight-passenger Sequoia it’s rough and tough off-road “TRD Pro” suffix for the first time.

Never a huge seller, the Sequoia, based on the brand’s Tundra pickup truck, has sold a mere 2,500 units during the first six-months of 2020. Head to head competitors like Chevrolet sold over 36,000 Tahoe, Ford sold 32,000 and Dodge 30,000 of its Durango. That illustrates how poorly the Sequoia doing.

In addition to the “TRD Pro” trim for 2020, the Sequoia gets a new seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa however, the Entune infotainment system is outdated and is fussy to operate.

The TRD Pro’s standard Multi-Mode 4WD system uses a lockable Torsen limited-slip center differential and a two-speed transfer case with low range. Low range can be engaged on the fly via a rotary knob, and the driver can lock the center differential with the push of a button.

The TRD Pro trim adds the 2.5-inch off-road Fox internal bypass shocks and Fox piggyback monotube shocks with bottom-out control.

Our TRD came equipped with the $1,050 optional TRD cat-back Performance exhaust. It delivers a muscular sound from the standard 5.7-liter 381-hp V8 that droned on and quickly became an annoyance drowning out conversations in the cabin. The big V8 is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission that’s outdated and outclassed as compared to the Durango’s eight-speed and Chevy and Ford’s ten-speed transmissions. Fuel mileage ratings are extremely low and the best we could average was a dismal 15.2-mpg during our weeklong testing on a fairly equal blend of city, highway and some off-road driving. Towing capacity is rated at 7,100 pounds.

Outside, the Sequoia is huge,  Double Whopper with Cheese size of an SUV. It’s long, wide and high and our TRD Pro departs little in appearance from the standard trim levels. It loses all the regular chrome bits on the exterior in favor of a new black grille with the Toyota lettering, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, and TRD Pro logos on the front door and rear liftgate. Also included is a TRD front skid plate, cast aluminum running boards and a roof rack to enhance functionality.

Our TRD Pro was painted Super White and other exterior color choices included Midnight Black Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic and an exclusive Army Green.

Inside, the TRD Pro accommodates a maximum of seven people with the standard second-row captain’s chairs. Up front there’s Black TRD Pro leather-trimmed seats with red contrast “TRD Pro” stitched into the front headrests.

Room inside is accommodating with of plenty of leg, hip and headroom including the third-row where kids won’t feel cramped on long trips. If you need more cargo room just flip a switch and the third-row powers flat to reveal over 66 cubic feet of cargo space. Drop the second row and it increases to 120 cubic feet. But seats are mostly flat with little extra comfort and support but the second and third row seats do recline. Front seats are heated but not ventilated.

The cabin is the same as it was 13 years ago and is the oldest interior design in its class. There’s no shortage of out-of-style hard plastic throughout. In fact, the entire dash is hard plastic as is the center console and most of the door trim. The only things soft are the center console armrest and door armrests and even at that padding is minimal.

There’s a moon roof but it’s much smaller than what competitors offer. The Sequoia’s is old school small and only covers the front seats. Operational switchgear is well past its freshness date and the overall look is staid with design, materials and functionality outdated, frumpy and showing its age.

What we did like is that our TRD Pro is decidedly more off-road capable than anything in its class. It isn’t in the same class as the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Ford Raptor when it comes to off-roading but it does get the job done through rough terrain that includes steep inclines and deep rutted, boulder strewn trails. We did find the standard running boards took some of the brunt in breakover angles enough to interfere with off-road performance.

On the road, the Sequoia delivers impressive power and acceleration that never feels as though it is out of breath, even for this behemoth-sized vehicle. Highway passing is easily executed as is climbing mountain hills. It felt quite easy to drive and mostly composed however, its handling felt a bit awkward and clumsy compared to the Ford Expedition we recently tested. The ride was generally smooth, the cabin especially noisy at all speeds given the cat-back exhaust, visibility excellent however.

Safety wise, all trim levels of the Sequoia comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense P, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with sway warning system, automatic high-beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

Overall, we rate the Sequoia at the bottom of its competitor segment with newer and newly updated rivals that look and feel more modern, contemporary and better in almost every way. However, there are rumors that a completely new Tundra from which the Sequoia is derived, is on the way and could arrive next year as a 2022. That hasn’t been confirmed and there is no mention of a Sequoia derivative based on the Tundra if it does. Meanwhile, it’s back to the future for the out-of-date Sequoia.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $64,030
Price as Tested: $67,029
Engine/Transmission: 5.7-liter, 318-hp V-8 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission combines for 401 lb. Ft of torque
Fuel Economy: 13/17/14 mpg City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 7

Where Built: Princeton, Indiana

Crash Test Results: The Sequoia has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Competes With:
Chevrolet Tahoe
Chevrolet Suburban
Dodge Durango
Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Nissan Armada

Fab Features:
Three rows of roomy seating
Rear liftgate window rolls down
Immense cargo capacity
Best off-road capability in its class