Second albums are always hard, many a band have fallen flat on their sophomore record. Toyota’s second-generation Sequoia-the-sequel (part deux?) debuted with a strong performance on the
album sales charts back in 2008. However, from literally every model year forward sales dropped significantly, the 2021 model only made it to 8,070 driveways across the country. There’s a new one though, and it’s not even in showrooms yet, but I’ve been driving it! Let’s see if this 2023 Sequoia earns it’s Platinum status. (That’s the end of the music references, probably)
2023 Toyota Sequoia Overview
Before we get into the new Sequoia, let’s keep rolling with that history lesson. The first generation (XK30/XK40) lasted a modest seven model years (2001-2007) which is pretty short in Toyota-time. Styling was consistent with its platform-mate Tundra, and the overall shape and look actually reminds me of a 4-Runner of the era. The Sequoia has always come across as a little rough-and-rugged, and that’s a good thing. For the price you got V8 power, however some buyers were likely put off by the utilitarian interior and truck-like ride.
The second generation (XK60) arrived for the 2008 model year with a new curvier design and a new fully boxed frame. That meant an independent rear suspension with double wishbones with coil springs. So, some of that truckiness was gone for the sequel. But then if the Sequoia was a band, it proceeded to go on tour to support their second album for…fourteen years. By the end, it was playing retirement homes and small town potato festivals for the 2022 model year. Time for a reboot.
Mercifully a new Tundra means a new Sequoia, and the third generation (XK80) for the 2023 model year is here! My neighbors ask me about the various loaners each week and I tried (unsuccessfully) not to say “bro, this ain’t even out yet” (I said it). It’s up on the Toyota website though, so you can configure your 3rd gen Sequoia via one of five trim levels. While OEMs typically send us the top spec version, I was excited to see this mid-spec Platinum show up on loan-swap day to replace the Audi A8 L I had been driving.
A base SR5 will set you back just over $58,000, while the top spec Capstone is just over $75,000. No matter which one you choose, your Sequoia will come with a turbo V6 engine mated to a hybrid system. The “i-Force Max” puts out a stout 437 horsepower and stouter 583 lb-ft of torque. This is the optional engine from the Tundra, and it’s a banger. More on that in a bit. 4WD is not standard and will cost another $2,000. Also more on that coming up as well.
I don’t have a window sticker for the Sequoia (not out yet and all, you know how we do!) but a quick trip through the configurator should do the trick. This tester had Celestial Silver Metallic paint (no charge) and another $2,900 in option packages, which maxes out the Platinum at an estimated $78,500 (ish) with delivery, processing, etc.
Not an inexpensive proposition, let’s delve into the details a bit and see if this album is worth listening to.
2023 Sequoia Inside & Out
Things start out pretty solid, the Sequoia is a good looking thing on the outside. As someone pointed out on social media, the wheels look a bit small for the size of the vehicle, and the black arches don’t help. Funny considering it’s a 265/60R20 tire, but that’s where we are these days. The Sequoia feels massive, and parked next to my wife’s GL 450 it looked the part of an imposing full-size SUV. It’s tall, it’s wide, it’s beefy. Still, I really like the overall design elements, while they are a tad busy (like most new cars) there are some interesting details.
The lines running from the headlights and taillights inward take a steep dive making an interesting beltline. Lighting and overall feel is similar to the Tundra, but the Sequoia mercifully makes due with a smaller trapezoidal grille in lieu of the big unit on the Tundra. That wasn’t intended to be innuendo, I’m just trying to diversify my wording.
So, it’s a good looking SUV, let’s move on to the interior.
Like the Tundra, it’s vastly improved over the outgoing model. The interior is basically identical to the Toyota’s biggest truck, at least up front. I actually forgot which vehicle I was in at one point and went searching for the rear-window slider button. Actually, the Sequoia should have a power rear window, make a note of that Toyota. The whole packaging is quite comfortable, I did two 2.5-hour stints in it with consistent comfort and plenty of space. As you can see above, it’ll fit a handle of Tito’s in the center console (don’t want people jacking your vodka) and the clever center console will easily hold your chicky nuggies.
The infotainment system is the same as the new Tundra as well, and everything was smooth for the most part. As I parsed through the screens I set about locking in my SiriusXM stations (all stand-up comedy and 80s, 90s music if you were curious). As I was deleting whatever the last reviewer set, the system would ask me if I wanted to undo a change. No I don’t, stop asking. Still, for a full-size SUV the front seat room and comfort levels were spot on.
In the second row, you’ll get a set of captain’s chairs in the center (which means it seats seven vs. eight in some other trims) with a floor-mounted console in the middle. You’ll get 39.2 inches of 2nd row legroom, which is actually…down slightly from the 40.9 inches in the 2022 model. The third row is on a slider, so you get between 28.1 – 33.7 inches of space in the back-back row. Which is…also down from the 35.3 inches in the 2022 Sequoia. Jeez.
The full size Sequoia has a range of 11.5 – 22.3 cubic feet of space behind the 3rd row. Sort of. That’s in line with the 18.9 cu. ft. of the 2022 model, but the space behind the 2nd row (49 cu. ft.) and the max space with seats “folded” (86.9 cu. ft.) are still significantly behind the outgoing 2022 model (66.6 cu. ft. and 120.1 cu. ft. respectively). But it’s not just numbers, there are some strange packaging choices that had me really befuddled.
As you can see in the photos above, there is a little shelf with a default position on the load floor. Pull the little tabs and you can remove it and place it in one of three slots. Slot one makes it level with the raised floor (which I assume is hybrid powertrain related), slot two (mostly) aligns it with the folded seats, and slot three is, well, I’m not sure. The shelf isn’t especially load bearing, but might work for some light groceries.
It’s that confusing layout, and lack of configurability/stowability, that let the Sequoia down as a hauler. Just about every SUV I’ve tested recently at this price point has a fully flat folding 3rd row. As you can see, the 3rd row is very much still there, sitting the better part of a foot up in the air. At least the seats fold and come back up via a power function. Those looking for a flat load floor for Home Depot runs are going to be disappointed, which is too bad in such a large vehicle. The differences in interior space compared to the 3rd generation Sequoia are surprising, though the new version is three inches longer, but also three inches shorter than the outgoing 2022.
2023 Sequoia On The Road
OK, so there are some issues with how the interior is configured, but I gotta say the engine is a real banger! I think that’s “good” or “impressive” in Brit-speak, I should verify that. With the aforementioned 437 horses and 583 torques available, the Sequoia has no problem getting up and moving. Plus, it sounds really good! Even when you are not in sport mode, it makes some really good noises. I haven’t been that surprised at the audio track of a non-sporting SUV in some time. Whether you are merging, passing, or just want to hoon it a little, the Sequoia feels quick for it size. Plus, the 21/24/22 (city, highw…you get it) estimates for mpg are solid and should help with fuel costs a little on a long drive.
Despite the power, the 2023 model still feels massive compared to almost every other vehicle. It sits high and feels very wide in almost any driving situation, especially with the wide towing mirrors. However, it has a pretty impressive turning radius. In front of my house it was able to do an easy three-point turn with cars parked on the other side.
Annoyances were minor, I had to turn the automatic camera system off because it clicked on every time I slowed down in traffic driving through DC. Oh, and the retracting side steps nailed me immediately in the shins the very first time I opened the door. Thankfully I learned from my mistake, though having to give passengers a heads up was reminiscent of driving a Shelby Cobra replica with hot side-pipes.
So, this all begs the question, what is the Sequoia? It is big and beefy, so is it an off-roader? Well, this one isn’t, since it needs full-time 4WD. Even the 2023 Sequoia TRD Pro has the more basic part-time unit instead of Toyota’s “Multimode” 4WD system. So it’s more of a family hauler. But, if it’s more of a family hauler, it need a better interior setup. The lack of creative seat configurations would likely be a deal breaker for my family. Even with the 3rd row folded, we would have to balance the hockey bag up on top of the non-flat seat configuration.
Personally, I’d go for a TRD Pro Sequoia with all the options and blazing orange paint over this Platinum. It’s slightly more expensive, and likely represents a much more interesting option just from a “damn that’s got some personality” perspective. However, it would still struggle with my “overland” goals of sleeping in the vehicle vs. setting up a tent.
The 2023 Sequoia is a very good full-size SUV, and subjectively better than the outgoing model. However, with all the creativity demonstrated in the midsize and minivan segments, it’s unfortunate to see it let down by a few key interior packaging choices.