Toyota Sequoia — Now with off-road chops

By Jim Meachen

(June 3, 2020) It's hard to imagine a nameplate going more than 10 years without a major change. But there's a sport utility vehicle on the market that's in the 13th year of its second generation — the 2020 Toyota Sequoia. The full-sized Sequoia has been employing the same body-on-frame design and same 5.7-liter V-8 engine paired with the same six-speed automatic transmission since 2008. Little has been done to alter the Sequoia's exterior appearance and the cabin layout is showing its age.

But the "old bones" Sequoia is still a favorite of people who need a robust vehicle for towing and hauling passengers and large amounts of cargo. Sales of the Sequoia were modest in its first two years of its redesign in 2008 and 2009 with 30,000 and 16,000 respectively. In 2018 and 2019 sales were holding steady between 10,000 and 11,000 a year. Without the expense of designing and building an all-new new truck, even at those modest sales levels the Sequoia is probably one of Toyota's most profitable endeavors.

This is not to say that Toyota hasn't kept its old reliable people mover devoid of the latest in modern technology. Buyers of the 2020 model can expect up-date-safety and infotainment technology including Toyota's Safety Sense-P system that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard. And Toyota has added a seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility.

The biggest news for 2020 — Toyota has added the off-road-oriented TRD trim level featuring a chassis fortified by Fox aluminum-bodied internal bypass shocks, standard Multi-Mode 4WD, and proven off-road equipment specially designed or selected by Toyota Racing Development engineers. The Sequoia is the latest in a line of TRD Pro vehicles that also includes Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner, providing Toyota with the unique position of offering a complete lineup of next-level off-road trucks and SUVs.

The Sequoia comes in five trim levels — SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Pro, Limited and Platinum.  All trims are outfitted with the long-running 5.7-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  The engine makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, adequate to move the big three-ton beast in an expeditious manner measured at 6.6-seconds from 0-to-60. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is a $3,215 upgrade except on the TRD models where it comes as part of the off-road package. The Sequoia can seat up the eight passengers — the third row can actually accommodate adult-sized people — and seven with captain's chairs in the second row.

We found the Sequoia reasonably quick in city driving providing plenty of power for merging and passing with smooth shifts from the six-speed transmission. Stellar handling and on-road composure are not part of the Sequoia equation, although the truck's light steering made negotiating tight spaces a breeze. And towing capacity is a very useful 7,400 pounds.

Where the big engine really shows its age is with its anemic gas mileage, even for a truck its size, measured at 13 mpg city, 17 highway and 15 combined on regular gas in rear-wheel drive. It's rated at 13/17/14 in four-wheel drive. Even with a big tank that holds 26.4 gallons, gas station stops seem to come along rather quickly.

There Sequoia's old bones really show through in the interior where — despite the many upgrades — the layout is straight out of the last-decade playbook. There's a lot of cheap-looking plastics and the controls are dated. On the other hand, knobs are big and functional. And you will get proper tuning and volume control knobs for the audio system. Additionally, there are a lot of storage areas and passenger space is ample. And there is ample luggage space behind the third-row seat measured at 18.9 cubic feet. With all seats folded cargo space increases to 120 cubic feet.

The Sequoia is rather pricey compared to other vehicles in the segment including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, starting at $51,305 including destination charge. But the base SR5 Sequoia comes with considerable standard equipment. Prices rise through the trim levels to the 4WD Platinum that goes out the door for $70,570. Our TDR Pro 4WD test vehicle carried a bottom line of $66,129 with two low-cost options. A couple of big-ticket items that we didn't have, but might be popular with customers, are a rear-seat entertainment system and an upgraded JBL audio system. Car-buying web site says "true market value" for a vehicle similar to our tester is $62,013.

The Sequoia comes with a standard three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD


Base price: $51,305; as driven, $66,129
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 381 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 foot-pounds @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 122 inches
Length: 205.1 inches
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Towing capacity: 7,400 pounds
Luggage capacity: 18.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 120.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 13 city, 17 highway, 14 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds
Also consider: Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada

The Good
• Large cargo area
• Useable third row seating
• Now with off-road capability

The Bad
• Outdated architecture

The Ugly
• Poor fuel economy