Motoring: Toyota Sequoia Limited a heavyweight contender

After a week in this big rig, tapping the 5.7-litre V8’s vast reserves of power, I was hesitant to return the keys.

The 2013 Sequoia full-size SUV is large by any standard. In Limited Trim

Parked next to anything, other than perhaps an aircraft carrier, the Sequoia looks immense.

Indeed, this three-ton, eight-passenger SUV dwarfs all else in the Toyota lineup, matched only by full-size sport utilities like the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

I’m seldom thrilled by the prospect of driving something so large around town, especially when standard parking spots leave the narrowest of gaps either side of this 80-inch wide behemoth.

But after a week perched in its big-rig driving position, tapping the 5.7-litre V8’s vast reserves of power and benefiting from its relatively nimble handling, light steering and surprisingly tight turning circle, I was hesitant to return the keys. At least until my trip to the gas pump.

More on that later.

The Toyota Sequoia, as you’d expect with vehicles in this segment, is not the company’s top seller. In fact, they moved only 744 last year in Canada, and 103 so far in 2013.

But that’s more a sign of the eco-friendly times, and our outrageous fuel prices that now top $1.30 per litre.

And I will mention that if you truly need a spacious people carrier, the minivan does it better—and cheaper.

The Sienna, for example, tops the Sequoia’s 3400-litre maximum cargo capacity by 850 litres, weighs about 1,500 lbs less, and starts at about half the price.

Of course, you’d be driving a minivan, not a burly SUV that feels like it could crush one of these tepid family taxis under its massive 20-inch alloy wheels.

And although some minivans do come with all-wheel-drive, what you don’t get is serious ground clearance, like the Sequoia’s, which at 9.5 inches allows you to take it off the asphalt.

Bottom line—you do pay a premium for any full-size sport utility, but like many of the others, the Sequoia is a rugged vehicle that provides no shortage of creature comforts, along with plenty of muscle should you want to tow a boat or large camping trailer.

Let’s start with the amenities, which even in the base Sequoia SR5 (starting at $51,890), comprise a lengthy list. This includes three-zone climate control; leather seating—heated in front with 10-way power and memory for the driver, four-way power for the passenger; tilt/telescopic steering with audio and Bluetooth phone controls; power rear window; moonroof; front and rear parking sensors; heated exterior mirrors; conversation mirror and an 8-speaker audio system.

You also get a backup camera. My only gripe here is the tiny display, integrated in the rearview mirror. It is quite useless for those of us needing reading glasses.

Second-row seats are a reclinable 40/20/40 split, and third-row are a 60/40 split-fold bench. Helping you get in are a pair of standard running boards.

That’s a lot of stuff. Mind you $52K is a lot of coin.

My tester, the Limited (MSRP $58,960), adds even more goodies such as a 14-speaker JBL audio system, power adjustable steering wheel, driver’s seat memory, rear door sunshades, 20-inch alloys (up from 18-inch), blind spot monitoring system, power rear door, and side mirrors that do everything but make toast. This includes memory, reverse tilt, integrated puddle lamps and turn signals.

Platinum is the top Sequoia trim level, and at $67,140, you really do get some premium content. This starts with rear entertainment system with nine-inch monitor, navigation with seven-inch display for maps and your backup camera, upgraded perforated leather seating, heated and ventilated front row seats, heated second row captain’s chairs, woodgrain trim, radar cruise control and more.

My tester was the Limited model, and it had everything I’d want except for navigation. A $200 portable Garmin unit would have filled the void.

My first impression, as mentioned above, was of sitting so high that parking the Sequoia felt like landing a plane. It’s a feeling you quickly get used to, and in traffic, greatly appreciate as you’re able to see over the long line of minivans and crossovers that would otherwise block your sightline.

Power too was a pleasant surprise. A prod of the pedal results in a hearty roar from the 5.7-litre V8 with dual variable valve timing, along with the kind of launch you’d expect from a much lighter vehicle.

This comes courtesy of the i-Force engine’s 381 hp and 401 lb/ft of torque. Which is not only enough for rapid off-the-line acceleration and passing power, but for 7,000 lbs of towing capacity.

The Sequoia, however, isn’t all about grunt. The capacious interior, with three full rows of seating, is a quiet, comfortable way to travel—even in the back row.

It is here where SUVs typically lose ground to the minivan, but the Sequoia has no shortage of head and knee room, not to mention enough width for three full-size adults. There’s also a power fold and recline function for these rearmost of passengers.

And getting back there requires no gymnastics, as the middle row—which has plenty of fore and aft travel—gets well out of the way.

Throughout, the passenger cabin uses high-quality materials along with an attractive mix of tones and textures. Nothing flashy here—big knobs for the HVAC, large buttons for the radio—but everything is easy to understand and operate on the fly.

There’s loads of storage up front, including a computer-swallowing centre binnacle that is also ideal for hanging files. Its lid even includes an organizer that neatly holds tissues, paper, business cards and pen.

Beside the cupholders, a removable tray covers a deep well for magazines, maps or additional file folders, and there are still more little trays in the door handles.

Overall, this is a thoughtfully designed vehicle that in so many ways makes an ideal family hauler. You just have to be judicious with the throttle, because although the Sequoia is rated at an already thirsty 17.2/11.9/14.8 litres/100 km (city/hwy/comb), my enthusiasm resulted in an even thirstier average of 18.0 litres.

That being said, it did make it a little easier to hand back the keys.

2013 Toyota Sequoia Limited

Body Style: full-size SUV

Drive Method: front-engine, four-wheel-drive

Engine: 5.7 litre DOHC 32-valve V8 (381 hp and 401 lb/ft of torque)

CARGO: 540 litres behind third row, 1,890 litres behind second row, 3,400 litres behind first row

Seating Capacity: 8 passengers (SR5 and Limited), 7 passengers (Platinum)

Towing Capacity: 7,100 lbs (SR5 and Limited), 7,000 (Platinum)

Fuel Economy: 17.2/11.9/14.8 litres/100 km (city/highway/combined)

Price: base SR5 $51,890, Limited $58,960 (as tested), Platinum $67,140



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