2023 Toyota Sequoia Review

2023 Toyota Sequoia - Toyota delivers third-generation Sequoia


It’s BIG, less thirsty and all-new for the 2023 model year.

Toyota’s full-size Sequoia Sport Utility Vehicle welcomes aboard a major third-generation redesign in the 2023 model year with an all-new gas-electric hybrid propulsion opportunity under hood.

Make no mistake, Sequoia’s rugged body-on-frame, truck-like design can go off-road when needed and tow weekends toys while accommodating families with growing teenagers. Sequoia now boasts a 9,000-pound maximum towing capacity, more than 20 percent better than Gen Two.  Many five-door competitors look chiseled, but build from the ground up with a uni-body, car-like design intended primarily for on-road travel.

Sequoia’s first-generation debuted in 2000 with a second generation arriving in the 2008 model year. It’s been an unusually long wait (14 years) for Gen Three’s arrival. The first two generations offered V-8 engines exclusively. In 2023, Sequoia follows an industry trend of retiring fuel-thirsty, naturally-aspirated V8s in favor of potent, turbo-charged V6s within large pickups and Sport Utility Vehicles. Sequoia adds mild hybrid technology to the equation creating a dynamic narrative. It’s the sole engine for 2023.

Sequoia grows by three inches in length for 2023 while its wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) remains unchanged at 122 inches. Both Sequoia and Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup utilize this same new platform as does Sequoia’s corporate cousin, the 2023 Lexus LX. 

Three seating rows come standard.  Unlike many mid-sized SUVs/crossovers, the way back row accommodates three riders, but headroom may be tight for those extending past six feet. Not only do third-row backrests power recline, but an all-new sliding design allowing six inches of adjustment range.  A new-for 2023 adjustable shelf cargo system maximizing luggage-lugging flexibility behind the third row. 

Five trim levels include: SR5, Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro and new-for-2023 Capstone. All offer the choice of rear-wheel 4 x 2 or 4 x 4 except TRD Pro, which is 4 x 4 exclusive. Nightshade and TRD Sport trims from 2022 are dropped. Opting for 4 x 4 ? Get ready to shell out an additional $3,000.

Shoppers have the choice of seven or eight rider configurations. Limited and SR5 trims include bench style 60/40-split second-row holding eight total while Platinum, TRD Pro and Capstone include two Captain Chairs and a seven-seat maximum.

Our while pearl colored Capstone trim started at $78,300.   A trio of small stand-alone options added about $1,000 for a bottom line of $80,906 while factoring a relative hefty $1,595 destination charge. The most affordable version, a rear-drive SR5 checks in at $58,365 including a goodly number of standard safety features.

What’s of major interest is found under hood.  A twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 now mates with self-charging, (no extension cord or plug-in outlet needed) gas-electric hybrid technology. This enticing ‘i-Force Max’ combo jolts horsepower upwards to an impressive 437 with low-end torque upgraded to 583 lb.-ft.  The powertrain mates with a 10-speed automatic transmission, upgraded from last year’s six-speed.

The i-Force Max stores a self-charging, 1.87-kilowatt hour, 288-volt sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery (Ni-MH) resides underfloor. This 240-celled sealed pack motivates a 48-horsepower single unit electric motor/generator with an open-close clutch slotted between the engine and transmission/torque converter. This parallel design achieves peak torque at very low revolutions per minute, resulting in smoother, quieter experiences while pulling upwards of 11,300 pounds.  It’s not quite class leading, but Toyota’ own internal research indicates a majority of users tow an average of 5,000 pounds.

This inline vision allows Sequoia to operate solely with electric power in certain circumstances, but the computer’s brain decides exactly when, not the driver. 

Chicago-area automotive writers received an early preview of i-Force Max technology last year when Toyota provided a day-long presentation at its Midwest Parts Center campus in Aurora, promoting the revamped Tundra pickup.  Tundra received this hybrid technology just ahead of Sequoia.

Our 4x4 trim garnered 19 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway.  Front-drive versions add two miles in each category. The V-6 engine utilizes regular, 87-octane fuel inside its sizable 22.5-gallon tank. 

These fuel economy numbers represent a huge step forward.  In 2022, Sequoia’s V-8 registered a dreadful 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway, near the bottom when compared to rivals including the Chevrolet Tahoe, Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Expedition. Plus, horsepower with the new V-6 (437) jumps above the outgoing V-8 which registered 381 ponies.

The Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery is an outlier of sorts but a Toyota favorite.  Smaller pure electric vehicles (EVs) often opt for lighter lithium-ion style battery packs.  While heavier in weight, Ni-MH retains cold-weather charges longer, recycles easier and historically has proven durable with two decades plus of data to mine through.   In a non-plug-in gas-electric hybrid environment with a sizeable frame, Ni-MH is an ideal companion. 

The hybrid boost adds additional weight, so expect some body roll during turns and quick maneuvers compared with smaller crossovers or similar-sized sport utility vehicles.  Body-on-frame structuring invites shudders here and there, but standard multi-link rear suspension helps smooth out bounciness. The trade off? Superb low-end torque providing zero to 60 mph in under six seconds.

Capstone trims offer the largest wheels (22-inch) and a chrome-accented mesh front grille. Inside, front bucket seats move 10-power adjusted ways (other trims settle for eight) with semi-aniline leather trimmed seats with premium stitching, and walnut-woodgrain interior trim.

An optional tech extra includes a full-color video feed through the rear-view mirror.  This perspective circumvents shoulders or heads encountered within a conventional mirror format.  It’s easily switched back to a reflective view with a pull-push of a manual tab under the mirror frame. The video view is helpful in certain situations, but too much utilization may initiate headaches.

Electronically switching from rear drive 4 x 2 into 4 x 4 high mode accomplishes via a small rectangular tab within a horizontal track between front buckets.  Four-low is also available during lower-speeds or off-road travel.  Also nearby: a twist dial for selecting one of three drive modes which temporarily impacts the design of the animated instrument panel. The nearby stubby, vertically shifting 10-speed automatic transmission shifter handle reside next to dual inline cup holders. 

The large storage bin includes an ‘H’ style cover with a small sliding tray in the upper goal post area.  Slide it back and gain access to what’s inside; or, the entire top, hinged at the rear, opens up for a larger entry point. The illuminated push-button start resides on the dash with some direct interference from the steering column.

The huge 14-inch multi-function center touch screen and updated software are relatively user friendly.  Took less than four minutes of tutorial diving to change the digital clock from eastern to central time without flailing thru the owner’s manual or online instructions. The SR5 comes with an eight-inch screen standard. All trims include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto charging and an ample number of plug ports.

Under screen one finds a narrow horizontal display window and row of HVAC tabs; push a tab up for increased temperature or fan speed, or down to reduce the numbers/force.

Backrests of second-row captain’s chairs fold onto the cushion with the pull of a long, seat-side outboard handle, after which the entire unit folds forward requiring very little manual effort and opening up a sizeable walkway into the third row.  A convenient C pillar button motivates third-row seat back folding and unfolding.  Another set of power buttons reside in the cargo region accessible with the power door open. When exiting from row three, a simple pull of a visible red strap along the inside seat bottom of the captain’s chair sends seats tumbling forward effortlessly. 

Up front, the huge chrome-like grille includes a four-by-four pattern of hexagonal-like ovals. The circular Toyota logo includes a blue tint, a hint to its hybrid underpinnings.   Power retracting running boards come standard in Capstone, folding seamlessly into the lower frame when not in use (or closing the side doors). Wheel wells enjoy a squared look while side beltlines retain a high position, narrowing side windows.  Capstone features strap-like side door handles adorned with chrome accents.

The liftgate’s rear glass manually flips-up with the push of a release button for quick drop offs; or the entire unit, hinged topside, powers open from the bottom.  Room behind third-row backrests is limited, but the manually adjustable shelf includes multiple settings and the partitioned bottom helps keep two-liter pop bottles from rolling and fizzing.

In addition to a generous 10-year/150,000-mile hybrid battery warranty, Sequoia also qualifies for ToyotaCare, covering normal scheduled maintenance (oil changes, etc.) for two years (or 25,000 miles) along with 24-hour roadside assistance.

Price as tested: $80,906
Engine: 3.5-liter twin turbo hybrid
Total Horsepower: 437
Wheelbase:  122.0 inches
Overall Length:  208.1 inches
Overall Width: 79.6 inches
Overall Height:  74.5 inches
Fuel Economy:  19 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Hybrid related component warranty: 96 months/100,000 miles
Hybrid Battery warranty: 10 year/150,000 miles
Curb weight: 6,185 pounds
Assembly:  San Antonio, Texas

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.