2001 Toyota Sequoia
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Toyota dealers have pressured that automaker for several years to offer a high-volume full-size sport-utility vehicle because such a sport ute is very profitable. They had the Land Cruiser, but it's a costly, low-volume truck with almost a cult-like following.
Not one to do things halfway, Toyota thus has come up for 2001 with the Sequoia, which is the largest vehicle ever sold in this country by a Japanese automaker. It's bigger and roomier than the costlier $52,895 Land Cruiser and should make all those Toyota dealers smile.
Sequoia prices range from $30,815 for the entry SR5 rear-drive model, which is fairly well equipped, to $42,275 for the top-line LTD 4-wheel-drive version.
Designed for America
The aptly named rugged and tall Sequoia competes head-to-head with the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, which have a similar exterior size. These are not the biggest full-size sport utes, but they're close to being the largest ones.
Based on Pickup
The Sequoia has a modified Tundra front suspension and different rear suspension than that pickup to give it a more comfortable ride. And the rear half of the frame is different from the Tundra's.
But the ride still is generally truck-like. Many buyers of big $30,000-plus sport utes expect a car-like ride, but there's only so much you can do to make a truck ride like a car if you're using essentially the same beefy frame and chassis as a heavy-duty pickup.
However, the Sequoia's frame rails are boxed to reduce vibration and harshness. And it should be at least as tough as the Tundra, which competes with rugged U.S. pickups such as the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado.
Side-impact airbags and curtain-shield side airbags are optional for front occupants on all models. Three-point seat belts are at all passenger-seating positions. And there are height-adjustable belt anchors for front-seat occupants and outboard passengers in the second row.
A standard anti-lock brake system with Toyota's Electronic Brake Distribution system that adjusts braking to the load carried helps provide confident stopping.
The 240-horsepower V8 is a version of the Tundra's V8 and works with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission. The 4.7-liter engine is thoroughly modern, with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It provides strong acceleration to 65 mph, where it revs at 2100 rpm for supremely relaxed steady cruising. The 65-75 mph passing time is decent.
Larger V8 Needed
However, perhaps fearful that environmentalists will hurl rocks at the Sequoia, Toyota gave it an engine that gets EPA ultra-low-emission status.
Toyota—Japan's largest automaker—is essentially conservative. The Sequoia thus has ordinary styling and could be mistaken for any number of sport utes. But it isn't unattractive and features Toyota's high assembly quality and superb fit and finish.
Cupholders are large and ashtrays are even in the rear doors, which have windows that roll all the way down. Nifty touches include a dashboard sign indicating what side the fuel door is on. Large outside mirrors help in maneuvering, but parking is hampered by poor rearward visibility.
Cargo room is decent even with the third-row seat in its regular position, which can't be said for all larger sport utes.
Expect the Sequoia to be a strong contender. It has Toyota's highly trusted nameplate and is roomy, comfortable and generally well executed. But let's hope better styling and a stronger engine are in its future.