It’s been a long while since there was a new Toyota Sequoia. I guess it goes hand in hand with the Toyota Tundra because it’s based on that truck. Now in 2023, Toyota has updated the Sequoia and moved it firmly into the 21st century.
Engine – Just like the Toyota Tundra, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia has the same 3.5L twin-turbocharged hybrid V6 engine. The 3.5L V6 produces 389 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque (290 kW & 649 Nm) all its own. There’s one electric motor between the engine and transmission which produces 48 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque (36 kW & 249 Nm). Combined, the powertrain has 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque (326 kW & 790 Nm). This is a heavy SUV at well over 6,000 lbs (2,790 kg / 6,150 lbs to be exact) but the engine has so much torque that it almost feels like a really tall sports car. There’s a wonderful surge as you get pushed into the back of the seat thanks to the instant torque from the electric motor. Then a second later, the turbochargers provide maximum boost and the SUV will effortlessly overtake a slower moving vehicle on a highway.
Fuel Economy – With the switch to a smaller engine and an electric motor, the 2023 Sequoia is much more fuel efficient than the old V8 powered Sequoia. Officially it is rated for 12.6 L/100km (18.6 MPG) in a city and 10.5 L/100km (22.4 MPG) on a highway. Those are very good numbers but in reality, it’s very hard to achieve those numbers. Especially the city fuel economy. During my week with the SUV, the best I was able to average was 14.5 L/100km (16.2 MPG).
This hybrid powertrain is a bit different than the one found in the Toyota Prius or Corolla hybrid. This system was designed more for power than outright fuel economy. This system very rarely lets you drive only with the electric motor. From a stop, 99% of the time the engine will turn on and provide power until you reach your desired speed. You can also set off from a stop with a nearly fully charged battery but you have to be extremely gentle on the throttle pedal. Push too hard and the engine fires up immediately. If the SUV is staying at a constant city speed, the SUV will be powered by the electric motor for brief periods. But at highway speeds, the engine will remain on unless you’re coasting. Although the Sequoia can be driven at 60-ish km/h on electricity, it’s for very short periods and the engine burns a lot of fuel while it gets up to speed. This is the reason why my average fuel economy was above the rated numbers. On highways, I did notice that the fuel economy was better but still hard to get close to the 10.5 L/100km mark. I experienced the same thing in the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
Transmission – One of the reasons why the highway fuel economy is more easily achievable might be due to the 10-speed automatic transmission. 10th gear at 100 km/h lets the engine spin at just under 1,500 rpms. In other driving situations, the transmission shifts gears smoothly, almost imperceivable. However, this isn’t a particularly fast shifting transmission but it gets the job done for the type of vehicle this is.
Braking – The brake pedal has a long travel with a progressively firmer feel the more you push on it. The brakes themselves don’t require much pressure to bring the SUV to a stop. This TRD Pro utilizes the same brakes as the non-TRD Pro versions but the mud terrain tires don’t have quite as much grip on pavement as the standard street tires.
Handling – With this 2023 Toyota Sequoia being the TRD Pro off-road trim, it has a lot of goodies that will make wilderness trekking a walk in the park. It comes with 18” forged BBS wheels and all-terrain tires, a 1.1” front lift, 2.5” FOX internal bypass dampers, larger diameter sway bars, TRD front skid plate, TRD grille with integrated light bar, TRD dual tip exhaust, and a bunch of TRD Pro badges. In addition, it also has Multi-Terrain Select, crawl control (which is like cruise control but for slow speed off-roading), a locking rear differential (that can only be used in 4LO), and downhill assist control.The Sequoia is only available with 4WD for the Canadian market.
Off the beaten path, the FOX dampers absorb the harshest ruts and bumps that you may drive over. But keep in mind that this is a large SUV so you’ll want to take it somewhere with a lot of wide open space. Thankfully you can avoid some of the bigger obstacles thanks to the surround view camera system which can simulate an invisible hood. It essentially records the area in front of the hood and displays the image between the front wheels when moving forward.
On paved roads, the SUV leans through corners a little bit more than the GMC Yukon AT4 that I test drove a couple years ago. However, it can still change direction relatively quickly and the direct but light steering makes it easy to maneuver on city streets. But this still is a physically massive SUV and parking it can be a challenge in some parking lots.
Ride Comfort – With the off-road focused suspension, the 2023 Sequoia is quite forgiving on city streets. Bumps are well absorbed by the suspension, it’s not as smooth as the Yukon AT4 with the air suspension but overall a comfortable ride. This is more impressive when you take into account that the 2023 Sequoia has a solid rear axle rather than the Yukon’s independent rear suspension. The seats are also plenty comfortable with wide bolsters and lots of padding for your back & bum.
Interior Space – The Toyota Sequoia is a large SUV from the outside but it is lacking space on the inside. However, it’s not the front occupants that will be lacking space because they have the most. The seating position is similar to that of the Tundra so there’s excellent visibility all-round.
It’s in the second row where things get… odd. You can option the Sequoia with bench seats or captain’s chairs. But unlike in other SUVs, the 2nd row seats cannot slide forwards or backwards, they just recline. Despite that, there is enough space in the 2nd row for adults, even those that are as tall as myself at 6’4”.
The 3rd row is stranger still. Getting into the back is easy thanks to the folding 2nd row seats. But space there is very tight. You can make more space for your legs, however, by sliding the seats backwards. I don’t think I’ve seen any other SUV with sliding 3rd row seats in recent memory. But even with the seats all the way back, it’s still not as much space as you’d find in the GMC Yukon or Ford Expedition. Additionally, the floor is extremely high. It makes it feel as though your knees are right by your ears. It’s not very comfortable.
Space in the trunk is also very limited due to the high floor. Behind the 3rd row, there’s 326 L to 631 L (11.5 to 22.3 cu-ft) of space depending on how far forward or how far back the 3rd row seats are. With the 3rd row folded (electronically), there is 1,387 L (49 cu-ft) of space. But the 3rd row seats do not fold into the floor. Instead, they just fold on top of the floor so they create a massive step. With the 2nd and 3rd rows folded, there’s 2,460 L (86.9 cu-ft) of space. All of these numbers are less than what the American brands can offer.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – With the large all-terrain tires, the 2023 Sequoia doesn’t have a whole lot of road noise intruding into the cabin. But due to the boxy shape of the SUV means that wind noise is prevalent. But you can cure this noise by putting your foot down. The TRD exhaust gives the V6 engine a deep tone that almost makes it sound like a V8. Speaking of the engine, the transition from electricity to the gasoline V6 is smooth and imperceivable under normal driving conditions.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2023 Toyota Sequoia has a starting price that is considerably more expensive than the American rivals. It starts at $76,050 CAD ($59,865 USD, 2WD). Moving up to this TRD Pro trim will cost you $91,050 CAD ($77,565 USD). The top Capstone trim is $1,000 CAD more ($79,865 USD, 4WD) but that’s as far as the price goes.
Gadgets – But at least for the higher starting price, the Sequoia does come better equipped with more standard features. Some of these include heated front seats along with a heated steering wheel, 3-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger seats, hands-free power liftgate, an 8” infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay & wireless Android Auto connectivity.
Moving all the way up to the Capstone trim will add features such as heated & ventilated 1st & 2nd row seats (captain’s chairs for the 2nd row), a head-up display, surround view cameras, panoramic sunroof, a larger 14” infotainment display, wireless phone charging pad, power running boards, and a rear camera mirror.
Interior Design – The majority of the interior design is identical to that of the Toyota Tundra. A lot of the same components are shared between the two including the steering wheel, infotainment screen, shifter, and climate controls. All of the functions have their own dedicated buttons. There’s no need to dig through the infotainment system to change the climate temperature. All in all, a very functional and straightforward design.
Exterior Design – This new generation Sequoia, particularly the TRD Pro, turns a lot of heads. I’ve had quite a few people giving me the thumbs up or asking questions about it at a parking lot. This SUV shares the same basic front-end design as the Tundra TRD Pro but the back end is unique to itself.
Safety – The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 which includes forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, left turn oncoming vehicle detection with emergency braking, lane tracing assist, auto high beam, sway warning system, and adaptive cruise control. This trim of the SUV also comes with standard blind spot sensors, lane departure warning with lane keep, and rear cross traffic alert with braking.
Warranty – The 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km basic and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. The hybrid components are covered for 8 years / 160,000 km and the battery pack is covered for 10 years / 240,000 km, whichever comes first. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here. (Scroll to bottom of page)
Conclusion – Let’s first look at the good stuff. The engine is a powerhouse with better fuel economy than the old V8. But getting the rated fuel economy numbers is difficult. The ride of the new Sequoia is very good considering it does not have independent rear suspension or air suspension like the GMC Yukon or Chevy Tahoe. Finally, the interior design is straightforward and really simple to use but still looks good.
On the flip side, the interior isn’t the biggest, which is kind of missing the point of a full-size SUV. The 3rd row is odd, to say the least, with the high floor and seats that don’t fold into it making the trunk awkward to load. Additionally, the Sequoia has a more expensive starting price than the competitors. So if you just need something spacious without any of the features, this is not the big SUV for you. Additionally, there may be a Toyota badge on the front grille but the increased complexity of the twin-turbocharged engine and hybrid components leaves a question mark for reliability compared to the old V8.
Having said that, if you are a fan of Toyota’s recent large trucks & SUVs and you can live with the space that this Sequoia provides, I think that you’ll be happy with your decision.
Thank you to Toyota Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Toyota.ca