2019 Toyota Sequoia Review

2019 Toyota Sequoia - Sturdy Sequoia tackles family and work loads


Toyota's big, bold full-size Sequoia Sport Utility Vehicle swallows all that life throws its way. Fold down standard second and third-row seating and an impressive 120 cubic feet of cargo room awaits; one of the segment's largest able to welcome items up to 11 feet long.

Riding on a durable, second-generation, body-on-frame truck platform, this five-door hatch design is built to carry oodles of cargo and assorted passengers with standard rear-wheel drive, or optional (and recommended) all-wheel drive capable of taming Chicagoland's four seasons.

Sequoia represents one of Toyota's largest SUVs; only the long-running full-size-PLUS Land Cruiser measures slightly more in length.

Japan's largest automaker debuted Sequoia in the 2001 model year and for 2019 rides on a second-generation platform introduced back in the 2008 model year.  While fine wines age to perfection as the clock ticks, automotive platforms face time sensitivity issues. Eleven years represents a long slog between major redos, although Sequoia's ruggedly handsome exterior appears ageless.  Changes from 2018 remain minimal.  Assembly takes place next door in the Hoosier State down near Princeton, Indiana.

One way of adding pizzazz to an existing, if aging platform; punch up visuals and tweak performance traits. Toyota has an answer, namely TRD.

The TRD designation reflects 'Toyota Racing Development.'   Think of TRD as an in-house tuning division upgrading existing vehicles with factory-built and specified parts largely gleaned via race track competition (NASCAR, etc.).   No need to shop for aftermarket boosts that may void manufacturer warranties.

The TRD tuning designate breaks down into three branches; TRD Sport, TRD off-road and TRD Pro. Consider TRD Sport the on-road choice while TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro play in the off-road universe.

Toyota debuted the Sequoia TRD Sport trim in the 2018 model year.  It's one of four available 2019 model year trims joining SR5, Limited and Platinum. Sequoia TRD Sport trim comes well equipped with scant few available stand-along extras and one factory option package.

Sequoia TRD Sport adds blacked out wheel accents onboard 20-inch tires, a unique 'dark' front grille flanked by bejeweled, LED (light emitting diode) lighting and specially-tuned TRD Blistein-brand shock absorbers and anti-sway bars.

Darkened up-front grille and wheels team with a goth-like Midnight black exterior hue channeling music legend Johnny Cash's 'Man in Black' persona.  It's one of seven available outside colors. From other angles, the Midnight Sequoia TRD Sport could pass for a stealth Law Enforcement cruiser minus mars lights and screeching audio siren. 

This past February during the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota debuted a 2020 model year Sequoia TRD Pro, upping Sequoia's TRD ante.

Our Sequoia 4 x 4 TRD Sport tester included a $54,640 starting price. With a $3,810 Premium option package, the bottom line reached $59,944 after adding $199 for all-weather floor liners and $1,295 destination charge. 

Sneaking in under 60 Grand, Sequoia TRD Sport pricing ranks very competitive against similar competition; the trade-off being many competitors (Ford's recently tested full-size Expedition for one) ride on newer platforms. The lowest-priced Sequoia, a SR5 rear-drive starts at $49,050 while a 2019 Ford Expedition checks in just above $52,000.

The Premium option package added 10-way power drive seat, handy power reclining 70-30 split third row seating,  upgraded stereo, rearview mirror with digital compass, black leather trim seats and two bucket seats in row two (seven-seat total). Eight-passenger seating (a bench-style second row) comes standard in TRD Sport when passing on the option package.

The sole powertrain returning for an encore performance, a well tested 381 horsepower naturally-aspirated (non turbo charged) 5.7-litre V-8 moving this nearly 6,000-pound beast impressively, working in tandem with a standard six-speed automatic transmission delivering 401 lbs.-feet of low-end torque.

At 13 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg highway when opting for all-wheel drive (18 mpg highway with rear-drive), Sequoia trails most large sport utility vehicles in the fuel mileage challenge.

Toyota, the market leader in gas/electric hybrid sales, has yet to incorporate electrified hybrid technology under hood of Sequoia.  In fairness, though, few automakers have yet to offer all-electric, plug-in hybrid electric or gas-electric hybrid within full-sized, high-volume truck-based SUV parameters.

A recently tested Ford Expedition traded in its conventional V-8 engine five years ago in favor of a turbocharged V-6 pumping up fuel mileage while maintaining an impressive towing capacity (9,300 pound of towing vs Sequoia's 7,400 pounds).

Grab handles molded into inside A-pillars are a great assist when entering Sequoia's first row as ground clearance measures in at 10 inches.  Stationary lower running boards extend out and position  parallel to side doors.  The easily interpreted dashboard and center console continue with a hard plastic shell rather than soft-touch materials.

Auxiliary and USP plug ports locate on the dash below the comparatively diminutive 6.1-inch but user-friendly high-resolution, multi-function screen, but Sequoia circa 2019 hasn't yet received the memo concerning Apple CarPlay and Android Auto popularity.  These multimedia interfaces allowing hassle-free Smartphone interaction with the in-dash screen.  However, at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota Group VP Jack Hollis promised all Sequoias in 2020 will include Apple CarPlay compatibility as well as push-button start.

Row three's generous proportions allow three adults ample head and even leg room without compromising comfort of middle row occupants. Mid-size five-door crossovers can only envy this much space. Access to row three gets aided by inside B-pillar grab handles, outside running boards and second-row bucket seats that manually slide along a floor track once the back rest tilts forward.  When exiting, a smartly-positioned foot-operated lever gives third-row passengers the ability to push row-two buckets forward harnessing their own leg strength; a great design.

A nice, commanding touch still envouge in after a dozen years, an adjustable, drop-down concave mirror near ceiling map lights allowing drivers to observe ("Yes Kids, Dad DOES have eyes in the back of his head") nefarious activities unfolding in the back rows.

A workman-like instrument panel gets anchored by two large circular analog gauges and four inside quarter gauges. A small, center bi-colored digital window offers a half-dozen or so panel selections opted-in via a button on the four-spoke mechanically tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.

The TRD Sport boasts tri-zone temperature zones; two in front, one covering the two back rows.  Four, industrial-sized brushed aluminum tactile dials monitor various functions while push plates inside dials order up air conditioning, defrosters and other commands.

A dashboard dial left of HVAC dials allows drivers to move from two-wheel drive to all-wheel drive by a simple twist of the orb.

Upper Limited and Platinum trims enjoy a power lift hatch standard; be nice if TRD Sport joined the club as manually operating the rather large, heavy back door becomes an additional chore as chronological aging marches forward.

At a Glance

Price as tested: $59,944

Engine:  5.7-liter V-8

Horsepower:  381

Wheelbase:   122 inches

Overall Length:  205.1 inches

Overall height: 74.6 inches

Fuel Economy:  13 mpg city/ 17 mpg highway

Curb weight:  5,945 pounds

Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles

Built: Tahara, Japan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.