2023 Toyota Sequoia

PHOENIX — The Toyota Sequoia has been around for over 20 years as an alternative to the Ford Expedition and the Chevrolet Tahoe. For 2023, the third-generation Sequoia has received a complete redo, well past its freshness date — the first time in the last 15 model years.

The outgoing Sequoia was big, bland and frumpy. The 2023, while still large, is muscular rather than lumpy, like it has spent a considerable amount of time at the gym pumping iron and spewing cardio workouts. The styling is bold with a distinguished grille, attractive lighting, chiseled wheel arches, and strong DNA cues from its Tundra pickup sibling. And that's not a bad thing.

Sequoia is built on the same platform as the Tundra pickup and Lexus LX600 SUV. But perhaps the most significant new feature is the powertrain. While the old Sequoia used a 5.7-liter V8 that was long on power and durability with massive amounts of towing, hauling, and reliability, it was outdated and is now gone in favor of a new hybridized twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6 engine. Toyota calls it the i-FORCE MAX, that makes 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is a motor generator, which can be used to add power as well as improve fuel economy.

Sequoia can be had in either rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive configurations with maximum towing capacity ranging by vehicle weight from the range-topping Capstone trim of 8,980 pounds up to 9,520 pounds for the lighter two-wheel-drive SR5 trim with Limited, Platinum and off-road-oriented TRD Pro in between. For towing, Toyota offers an extra cost Tow Tech Package that includes a backup guide and Straight Path Assist. It’s standard on TRD Pro and Capstone models.

Also, a first for Sequoia is Drive Mode Select that offers Eco, Normal, and Sport as standard; and when equipped with air suspension adds Comfort, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom modes too. The various modes adjust, among other things, how the gas and electric parts of the hybrid system collaborate.

With five different trim level offerings for 2023, Toyota has done a better job of distinguishing the difference between them with unique aesthetic treatments for the various model offerings. Sequoia features an independent front suspension and adopts a new rack-mounted electronic power steering system for improved steering feel. A modern multi-link rear suspension is employed out back to offer a smooth ride and create opportunity to add the available Load-Leveling Rear Height Control Air Suspension and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) for those looking to tow regularly.

Three-row seating is now standard across the lineup with a range of seating configurations. Depending on the grade, second-row passengers get bench seating or captain’s chairs, both which recline for passenger comfort or fold down/tumble forward when larger cargo space is needed. The second-row seating isn’t as roomy as competitors and while the third-row can slide forward up to six-inches upping cargo space to 22 cubic feet, it does so at the expense of third-row legroom, which is already tight and at a premium. Further, the seat doesn’t fold flat into the floor when you flop it down to increase cargo space to 49 cubic feet.

Further updating the Sequoia is new technology with up to a 14-inch touchscreen, 360-degree camera, and power folding, extending, and retracting tow mirrors. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is the new Toyota infotainment system with better voice control and real-time Google data; dual simultaneous Bluetooth phone connections are possible, too.

For testing purposes, Toyota supplied us with the eye-catching Capstone trim that gets everything the Platinum grade gets plus its own unique chrome accents, standard chrome 22-inch wheels, standard power running boards, mood lighting, and a premium cabin.

The Capstone-exclusive interior is a black-and-white color combination of perforated semi-aniline leather-trimmed seats. Authentic open-pore American Walnut veneer trims the passenger-side dash and door panels. Acoustic glass in the front doors add to the exterior sound deadening for an enhanced quieter cabin.

Driving the new Sequoia, the first thing we noticed is how much we liked the new twin-turbo V6 engine. By any measure it’s far superior to the outgoing V8 engine we actually liked. The power band is excellent, meaning at any speed we felt there was ample additional power for passing, towing or in mountainous driving. Toyota did a fantastic job with this engine when it comes to performance. Plus, this is a great vehicle to drive — on a different level compared to the Tahoe or Expedition — and much more like driving a car than an SUV. Still, like its competitors the Sequoia is a tall, large, hefty vehicle so you do not have the sporty handling around curves and corners.

All trims get Toyota Safety System 2.5, with blind-spot warnings, rear cross traffic alerts, and front/rear parking assist with automatic braking. There's also Adaptive cruise control and lane-tracing assist, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, and emergency steering assist.

Overall, there’s much to like about the new Sequoia — a marked improvement over the outgoing Sequoia. Technology, engine performance, drive quality, and updated interior make the 2023 Sequoia a far superior vehicle. But even with all this goodness there are a few disappointments starting with fuel economy where the best we were able to squeeze out is 16.8 mpg compared to an EPA rating of 20 mpg during our weeklong of testing. We were also disappointed with some cheap plastic parts especially on the center console and in the third-row seat area whose seats don’t fold flat onto the floor.

Still, the new Sequoia with its numerous improvements thrusts it closer to worthy competitors in its segment. Toyota loyalists will be more than pleased with the new effort and we suggest those in the market for a big SUV should find it worth considering when shopping.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $59,365 - $75,365
Price as Tested: $81,720
Engine/Transmission: 437-hp, 3.4-L hybridized twin-turbocharged V-6 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive.
EPA Fuel Economy: 19/22/20 mpg – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Up to 8

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The 2023 Toyota Sequoia has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of this writing.

Where Built: San Antonio, Texas

Competes With:
Chevrolet Tahoe
Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Nissan Armada

New styling, engine and tech are huge improvements
“Bad A_ _ Toyota Trucks” in Morse code on windshield
Rear liftgate glass opens separately

Small third-row seat
Dismal fuel economy
Some cheap plastic trim pieces

— Jim Prueter