Car Reviews First Tests

2017 Toyota Sequoia 4×4 Platinum First Test: Size Matters

A Big Reminder Why We Love Big SUVs

A Big Reminder Why We Love Big SUVs

Can I tell you something? I really like Toyota’s big SUVs. The Land Cruiser, first and foremost, has been my favorite for generations now. Is there a better SUV? Not really. Even if I’m wrong, so what? I love the thing. I’m not alone in my thinking, either. Corner a Toyota employee long enough and they’ll eventually admit that sure, while they only sell about 3,000 of the $86K USD off roaders per year, we can all rest sound in the knowledge that the Land Cruiser is seen as the heart of soul of the company’s efforts in North America. Meaning that the big cruiser is important to them as a company, and despite the low sales, it’s not going away. Nor is its mechanical twin, the Lexus LX.

However the Lexus GX might be. Known in other parts of the world as the Toyota Prado, you can best think of the GX as Land Cruiser Junior. Sales of the GX are indeed slow, and Lexus feels the need (sadly) to have a more conventional 3-row uni-body luxury SUV to compete with the high-dollar and high-volume Audi Q7s and Mercedes-Benz GLSs of the world. Instead of the Prado, Toyota has been selling us American types the 4Runner for over 30 years. Fun fact: 5.2 percent of all vehicles in the world with over 200,000 miles (322,000 km) on them are 4Runners. Back to it: all of the above SUVs are wicked good on dirt and rocks and mud and all that stuff. As a result, I like all of them. It should come as no surprise then, that I also totally dig the 2017 Sequoia.

2017 Toyota Sequoia 4x4 Platinum front three quarters

Yup, the biggest Toyota, fittingly named after the world’s biggest tree—redwoods are taller but Sequoiadendron giganteum are the largest living things on earth—the Sequoia is the only SUV that contains all the vowels. Think about it. The Sequoia might as well contain all the consonants, too, because it is truly massive, tipping the scales at 6,081 pounds (2,758 kg). For a little perspective, the last Chevrolet Tahoe we tested, a 2015 4WD LTZ model, weighed in at 5,744 pounds (2,605 kg). We also happened to weigh a same vintage Chevy Suburban 4WD LTZ and the longer American undercut the bulging Japanese people hauler by 129 pounds (58 kg), coming in at 5,952 pounds (2,700 kg). We also weighed the suburban-based, mack daddy Cadillac Escalade ESV: 6,027 pounds (2,734 kg). The regular length Escalade weighs 5,870 pounds (2,662 kg). You should know that the Tahoe has a 116-inch wheelbase, whereas the Suburban sports 130-inches between the wheel centers. The body-on-frame Sequoia neatly splits the difference with a 122-inch wheelbase. I just want you to understand, the Sequoia is big.

Luckily, Toyota outfitted their big girl with a proper engine, the family 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8, which for Sequoia duty makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. All that power is enough to muscle the Sequoia to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The quarter-mile happens in 15.2 seconds at 91 mph (146 km/h). That’s quick enough to smoke the 5.3-liter, 355 hp Chevys, with the Tahoe needing 7 seconds and the Suburban requiring 7.3 to hit 60 mph. Same story in the quarter-mile, with the Tahoe taking 15.4 seconds at 90.6 mph (145.8 km/h), and the big Suburban needing 15.7 seconds and only trapping at 88.6 miles per hour (142.6 km/h). The Cadillacs meanwhile, with their beefier 6.2-liter V-8s that crank out 420 hp, are a bit quicker. The short wheelbase Escalade hits 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and does the quarter-mile in 14.6 at 97.0 mph (156 km/h). The ESV ‘Slade hits 60 mph even more quickly, 6.1 seconds, and dusts off the quarter in 14.6 seconds at 95.2 mph (153.2 km/h). A couple more for you: the 5,879 pound (2,667 kg), 390 hp 5.6-liter V-8 powered Nissan Armada hits 60 mph in 6.3 seconds before finishing the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds at 94.0 mph (151 km/h). The Ford Expedition EL weighs a kingly (or is that King Ranchy?) 6,319 pounds (2,866 km), produces 365 hp from a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, hits 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and runs out the quarter-mile in 15.1 at 90.3 mph (145.3 km/h).

As for handling, well, the less said the better. I’ll be brief: the Sequoia completed our figure 8 test in 29.1 seconds. Not surprising considering its heft and the fact that at most it can pull 0.73 gs laterally. The Tahoe figure 8s in 28.3 seconds, a significant difference. We use a Chevrolet Tahoe every time we film an episode of Ignition and/or Head 2 Head, and I can tell you that the entire crew is typically impressed with the handling prowess of those big old boats. The Suburban can run the figure 8 in 28.4 seconds, whereas the two Cadillacs were good for 28.1 and 27.9 seconds, respectively. And no, I have no idea why the ESV was two tenths of a second quicker than the shorty Caddy. The Sequoia stops from 60 miles per hour in 130 feet. The Tahoe needs 121 feet, the Suburban 126 feet, the regular Escalade needed 129 and the ESV required only 119 feet. So, while the Sequoia is back of the braking pack, at least it’s comparable.

Above are the numbers, and they tell part of the story. However I drove this Sequoia from Escalante, Utah in the dead of winter to Las Vegas, Nevada before heading home to Los Angeles, and I think that’s the more important part. Allow me to tell you that she is one of the finest road tripping machines I’ve driven in some time. First of all, the front seats are massive. Like, quite possibly the largest thrones in the industry. I’m not really sure how to fact check that last assertion, but I point it out because the seatbacks were particularly, noticeably huge and comfortable on such a long trip. The ride was also excellent, and when combined with those big front seats made the Sequoia as good as anything I’ve road done more than one thousand miles (1,609 km) in. One road trip gripe (of a few) is the lousy infotainment system. We all found it so frustrating to program that we stopped bothering and just relied on our (vastly superior) phones and iPads to navigate. Without naming names, I’ve been told Toyota is aware that their infotainment system is among the worst in the business. They simply don’t care. Smart phone it is then. Besides, even if the Sequoia had Apple Car Play (it doesn’t) you still can’t run Google Maps or Waze. So, might as well use your phone.

My other big road trip gripe is the cruise control. I’ve long been a believer that every car has a speed it’s most comfortable going. To keep it in the Toyota family, the new Lexus IS 200t is happiest at 85mph (137 km/h). Go figure. The Sequoia, with it’s big, angry-sounding V-8 loves to go about 70 mph (113 km/h). And, you know, hey, that’s a fine speed. Unless you’re in Utah, where the speed limit is 80 mph (129 km/h). OK, so, you set the radar cruise control at 85 mph (137 km/h), kick back, relax, and before you know it, your watching your speed fall. Huh? Well, the first problem is, as my director Anthony Esposito pointed out, “There’s no BMW mode.” Meaning, even when assigned to the closest setting, you’re still what feels like 500 feet from the car in front of you. I want to be on someone’s bumper. Why? With a gap that large, people are always jumping in front of you, leading to the second problem. When the radar sees a car come across the Sequoia’s bow, it deactivates the cruise control! The exclamation point is there because of how infuriating it is. I spoke with a Toyota engineer about making their cruise control work better and was told something to the effect of, “Powertrain and electronics are separate departments.” Great!

All that said, my gripes with the Sequoia (pitiful fuel economy—13.6 miles per gallon (17.3 L/100km) observed on the freeway uphill, 13.7 mpg (17.2 L/100km) downhill) are few, while the things I enjoyed about it are many. Starting with that lovely V-8, which will soon be replaced by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, how many full-size SUVs can you think of that sound so good? Basically, only the 6.2-liter versions of GM’s big boys make such sweet music. Did I mention how nice, materials-wise, the interior is? Look, not many people are going to actually need a body-on-frame, 3-row SUV with low gears. However, should you find yourself embroiled in a cross-country road trip with a few of your closest coworkers, all their stuff, plus scads of camera gear, atop a 9,000 foot mountain pass in the middle of a blizzard, I highly recommend the Toyota Sequoia. Like all the other large Toyota SUVs I’ve driven, I was disappointed when it came time to hand the keys back, while simultaneously hatching a plan to somehow get them back. Long live real trucks, long live the giants.

2017 Toyota Sequoia 4×4 Platinum
BASE PRICE $66,310
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 6-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 5.7L/381-hp/401-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 6,081 lb (50/50%)
WHEELBASE 122.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 205.1 x 79.9 x 74.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.2 sec @ 91.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 130 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.1 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 259/198 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.33 lb/mile