2001 Toyota Sequoia
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Over the years, Toyota hasn't been the first name to come to mind for most shoppers of full-size sport-utility vehicles. Ford and Chevrolet, yes. Toyota, no.
But the 2001 Toyota Sequoia, the first mainstream, full-size SUV from the automaker, could easily change that.
Heavier than a 2-ton Chevrolet Tahoe and nearly as long as the formidable Ford Expedition, the Sequoia is designed to compete against both.
As Toyota's biggest SUV ever—yes, it's bigger and has more usable room than the long-running Toyota Land Cruiser—the Sequoia comes with the V8 power, three rows of seats, no-nonsense big-SUV looks, and push-button four-wheel drive that shoppers in this segment demand.
But it also has a noticeably quiet interior; capable, bump-absorbing suspension; silky smooth engine performance; ten cupholders, four power points and more than just a few safety items.
In fact, if I didn't know better, I wouldn't have guessed the Sequoia is only Toyota's first major attempt at getting into this lucrative—read profitable—part of the market where buyers typically pony up some $30,000-plus for their vehicles.
This is no Land Cruiser
But the pricey, more than $53,000, full-time, four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser has tallied sales of less than 18,500 annually in recent years while Ford's Expedition, with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of more than $30,000, racked up more than 213,000 sales in each of the last two years. Chevy's Tahoe, with a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of more than $25,600, nabbed another 122,000-plus buyers yearly.
Toyota expects sales of the Sequoia—which has a starting price of more than $31,500 for a two-wheel-drive model and is sold in both two- and four-wheel-drive—to total nearly four times the Land Cruiser sales of calendar 2000.
Compliments come easily
Statements like "Boy, it's quiet in here," and "Hey, love that smooth V8," and "Wow, what a nice ride" peppered the conversations during my test drive of a Sequoia Limited 4X4.
Based on the Tundra, Toyota's full-size pickup truck that debuted for the 2000 model year, the Sequoia is surprisingly quiet inside, rides comfortably and has decent road manners for a vehicle weighing more than 5,000 pounds.
I heard some tire noise and, when at highway speed, some wind noise while driving the tall, boxy Sequoia.
But none of it was enough to interfere with conversations, even when I was talking with someone sitting in the third-row seats. The sizable, optional moonroof didn't appear to create the normal buffeting wind sound when opened, either, and I found long-distance highway travel especially pleasant.
Getting around in city streets can be another matter, but more on that later.
Tundra's V8, modified
But in Sequoia the engine management system is updated and the catalytic converter is revamped to allow this big SUV to qualify for ultra-low-emission vehicle (ULEV) status. As a result, horsepower is down a tad, from the Tundra's 245 to 240 at 4800 rpm in the Sequoia. The Tundra ranks as a low-emission vehicle (LEV), not ULEV.
Peak torque in the Sequoia is just 315 lb-ft at 3400 rpm. I say "only" because the up-level 260-horsepower V8 in the Expedition delivers 350 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm, and the Tahoe's up-level 285-horsepower V8 has 325 lb-ft of torque.
Thus, both the Expedition and Tahoe can tow heavier trailers and boats. Their maximum tow capacities are 8,100 pounds and 8,700 pounds, respectively, compared with 6,500 pounds for the Sequoia.
Fuel economy is nothing to brag about, of course. The Sequoia is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, about the same as competitors Expedition and Tahoe.
Note that the transmission gearshift is on the steering column and not a sporty, floor-mounted device. This is despite the fact that all Sequoias come with front bucket seats. A company official pointed out the Tundra's gearshift also is on the steering column, so this is a way to use the same equipment.
I did notice, however, that in the test Sequoia the shift lever easily went past the gear I was trying to reach.
Sequoia's V8 does work smoothly. Even with all the vehicle bulk it has to move down the road, the engine gave me enough "oomph" to get around left-lane hogs several times during the test drive. And that was with the left-laners speeding up to try to prevent me from getting by them.
Good view, except when backing up
But at the wheel of the Sequoia, I found the vehicle's high ride height gave me great views out front and out the big side door windows.
Still, narrow city streets, tight, off-road trails and parking maneuvers can be challenging.
Though the Sequoia is actually narrower, by a tad, than the Expedition and Tahoe, it can feel just as bulky in skinny alleys and on narrow, off-road paths. Sequoia's turning circle of 42.3 feet is bigger than that of the Expedition and Tahoe, too, making the vehicle a bit more cumbersome to turn around.
I had a good view of the Sequoia's tall hood from the driver's seat. But I didn't always have a good sense of where the front bumper was. On more than one occasion, I stopped in a grocery parking space and got out, only to find there was still more than a couple feet of room ahead. With practice I got better, but it took some time.
And while trying to nab a curbside parking spot in town, I found I couldn't see the front bumper—or much of anything—at the front of a small car that was parked behind me. I finally had my husband jump out of the Sequoia and just tell me when to stop backing up.
Note that you can get an optional reverse-sensing system that will beep and help guide you in parking maneuvers on the Expedition. Toyota doesn't offer such a system on the 2001 Sequoia.
Skid, traction control standard
Notable for this segment, side curtain airbags are offered, too. They deploy out of the side ceiling areas and help protect against head injury during side crashes. They're a $500 option on the Sequoia and come as part of a package with front-seat side airbags. Neither the Expedition nor Tahoe offers curtain airbags.
But the Tahoe does offer the OnStar emergency response system that automatically notifies officials if your vehicle's frontal airbags deploy.
A few more items . . .
Riders have to climb up to get inside. The Sequoia's doorsills were above my knees, and my elderly parents needed a boost to get up and inside. Thank goodness there are plentiful grab handles all around.
There is a rather sizable gap between the accelerator and brake pedals—big enough for me to fit my whole foot and miss the brake pedal altogether on one occasion.
I also was a bit disappointed in the rather uninspired exterior styling. Even the Sequoia's factory tires are ho-hum, consisting of only 16-inchers. Expedition and Tahoe offer 17-inch tires.