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2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone: Bigger Than A Life

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is a spacious SUV that shares its hybrid powertrain with the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck. Last redesigned in 2008, the Sequoia represents the largest passenger vehicle in the Toyota family and competes with other large three-row SUVs such as the Nissan Armada, Ford Expedition, and Chevy Tahoe. With a robust but relatively efficient powertrain and good value on the base SR5 model, the revamped Sequoia is a welcome update to the full-size segment.

The revamped eight-seater is built on a new platform shared with the Tundra. Enhancements include more torque, more power, more towing capacity, and greater efficiency, as well as more standard safety and convenience features and a new infotainment system. If you like the appearance of the Tundra pickup truck, then you’ll appreciate the related Sequoia.

Describing Toyota Sequoia attractive depends on your opinion on blockiness. From the front, the Sequoia mimics the Tundra with a broad mesh grille and LED running lights that split down the fender in an illuminated brace. Also shared with the Tundra, its big blocky fenders and chunky hood give it a powerful profile, while chrome window trim and roof rails give it an air of elegance around town. Wrap-around taillights hug the rear and an integrated roof spoiler smooths the rear end. Toyota made the doors open wider for easier access, but they eat into the window line in a way that doesn’t blend with the rear quarter windows. TRD Pro models show off their adventuring prowess with three orange safety lights in the grille, black 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, and dual TRD exhaust tips.

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Swift acceleration and composed handling grace the new Sequoia. It’s faster than you’d expect, and reaches 60 mph in the low six seconds. Its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 generates 437 hp and 583 lb-ft, and the engine noise feels much further removed from the cabin than the old V-8, giving the Sequoia a sense of refinement it lacked before. That’s especially true with the acoustic front glass doors of the Capstone grade, but giant side mirrors produce plenty of wind noise. A motor generator sits between the engine and 10-speed automatic transmission for low-speed EV driving below 18 mph. The transfer of power is mostly unnoticeable, although the transmission can shudder between low gears.

For passing moves at highway speeds, the 10-speed takes a moment to downshift as it powers out of its efficient overdrive gears. The lack of paddle shifters doesn’t help, though there is a manual mode on the gear selector. The hefty steering wheel is well-weighted, and for the most part the Sequoia does a good job balancing the muscle of a truck with the calm of an SUV.

Rear-wheel drive comes standard, while 4WD costs $3,000 more on all but the Sequoia TRD Pro, where it is standard. The Sequoia TRD Pro feels natural off-roading, with effortless climbs, balanced articulation, and a smooth quiet ride on the gravel surfaces preceding the technical portions. With a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, the Sequoia TRD doesn’t get the 1.1-inch lift given to Tundra TRD Pro models, but 2.5-inch Fox shocks with internal bypass make the off-roading even more effortless.

Three drive modes, Sport, Normal, and Eco alter the engine mapping, while three additional modes, Sport+, Comfort, and Tow/Haul, change damping on vehicles equipped with the adaptive variable suspension. Toyota discarded the independent rear suspension in favor of a solid rear axle and coil-over rear springs that enable the Sequoia to tow up to 9,520 lb. When towing a 7,500-lb boat and trailer the 10-speed finds and holds the right gear so the engine doesn’t strain. The recessed receiver has a cap that can be popped off by hand.

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia outlasts the full-size competition. Most rear-wheel-drive Sequoias have an EPA rating of 21 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined, and four-wheel drive costs it 2 mpg across the board. The Sequoia’s twin-turbo V-6 hybrid powertrain is a big improvement over the abysmal 15 mpg combined in the predecessor. The Ford Expedition’s twin-turbo V-6 gets 19 mpg combined, while the 2023 Chevy Tahoe has an 18 mpg combined rating with its base engine.

Like its predecessor, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia lacks crash-test data. But the first new model in 15 years might warrant scrutiny from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. With a curb weight exceeding 6,000 lb with four-wheel drive, the new Sequoia should hold up well in the event of a crash. Fortunately, Toyota equips it with driver-assist features designed to avoid or mitigate crashes. Standard safety tech includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitors, and front and rear park assist. It also has a standard surround-view camera system.
On the dash, most Sequoias will have a 14.0-inch touchscreen, but the 8.0-inch touchscreen on the base SR5 better integrates the dash lines. Vents flank either screen like ears. The Sequoia has a band of climate buttons and a lower band for towing and drive modes, so the touchscreen is only for multimedia, navigation, and deeper settings.

Toyota enhances the Sequoia in top Capstone grades with walnut trim and leather hides, but the SR5 feels more authentic with durable plastic and metallic trim and cloth seats. The front seats on the Sequoia come with power adjustments and seat heaters, so getting and staying comfortable is never an issue. But the seats in back and the cargo area might require a bit more planning. Comfy front seats, roomy enough rears, and the ability to fit at least four adults and a couple kids mean the Sequoia excels with space.

Bench seats come standard in both rear rows to seat up to eight. Captain’s chairs can be swapped out for the second-row bench to seat seven. In either configuration, the second-row seats don’t slide forward, but the third-row seats slide about 5.5 inches fore and aft. Only kids will fit in the wayback and even that comes with a caveat. With the third-row seats slid forward to optimize cargo room, any human with legs will not fit. With the seats in the rearmost position, toe room, head room, and cargo room get squeezed down to just 11.5 cubic feet. That’s smaller than the trunks of some compact sedans.

The 60/40-split third-row seats don’t fold flat into the floor due to the hybrid battery, which was placed there instead of higher traffic areas under the second row. Toyota utilizes a tiered removable cargo shelf that can be set in three positions to keep things neat. At its highest, it creates a storage shelf accessible by lifting the glass on the split tailgate. With the third row folded down, cargo space expands to 49.0 cubic feet. Flatten the second row and the Sequoia can hold 86.9 cubic feet behind the front seats.

Cargo room and third-row space is better in GM’s full-size SUVs. Unlike many rivals, Toyota doesn’t have a pushbutton release to tumble the second row forward. From the back, third-row passengers pull a strap mounted at the base of the seat, which may be challenging for grade schoolers. Twin USB-C and USB-A ports as well as cup holder armrests over the wheel wells add some convenience for those in the wayback. Standard power reclining and folding also ease the pain. Comfort will be lacking, however.

Good standard features make the Sequoia SR5 our recommended pick. Toyota sells the 2023 Sequoia in SR5, Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro, and a new range-topping Capstone trim first introduced this year on the Tundra pickup truck. Toyota provides a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty with 2 years or 25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance. Hybrid components are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

AllSequoias are equipped with a panoramic roof, power and warmed front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless smartphone compatibility, a 14.0-inch touchscreen on all models except the base SR5, and a surround-view camera system. The standard characteristics, excellent infotainment system, and optional TRD Pro kits add one point each to an 8 here.

Despite the 8.0-inch touchscreen on the base SR5 potentially seeming small according to the standards of modern trucks and screens, it performs its duties effectively and includes the same infotainment system. Crafted in North America, the infotainment system corrects all the flaws of its outdated precursor, and the voice commands using “Hey, Toyota” are exceptional. Priced at $62,795, the SR5 with 4WD feels more genuine to the Sequoia experience without any air of pretension. The only absent feature is a heated steering wheel, but it’s available as an option. Although there are less expensive full-size SUVs, they don’t come close when considering all the standard features.

The Capstone version with 4WD comes with a price tag of $79,795. Along with 22-inch chrome wheels, other luxurious touches include power running boards, black-and-white leather upholstery, American Walnut wood dash trim, and LED mood lighting. The 2022 Chevy Tahoe High Country and 2022 Ford Expedition Platinum are priced similarly but exude a more opulent feel.
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia makes no concessions as it fulfills its mission of transporting people and their possessions with decent off-road capabilities. Now presented in an entirely new, more polished package, the Sequoia stands as a strong contender in the large SUV segment. Irrespective of the trim, it still embodies the exemplary Toyota qualities of sophistication and dependability, traits that are unmatched by any of its rivals.

Image Source: Everyonephoto Studio @ Shutterstock

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