Short Take Road Test: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4WD
By Steven Cole Smith of Car and Driver
Following extensive research—otherwise known as "Google"—we've determined that the world's largest tree, according to the U.S. National Park Service, is the General Sherman, a sequoia in California's Sequoia National Park.
This is a bit unfortunate, as we were hoping to help Toyota find a new name for its largest SUV, the all-new 2008 Sequoia, which is so big that keeping the Sequoia name seems slightly modest. But if the Sequoia is already the largest tree, then it looks like we, and Toyota, are stuck with it.
You already know why the second-generation Sequoia (a mild freshening in 2005 doesn't qualify as a "generation") is so big: The vehicle platform it's based on, the Tundra pickup, is huge, so it stands to reason the new Sequoia would be, too. The wheelbase, at 122.0 inches, is up 3.9 inches; length, at 205.1 inches, is up 1.2 inches. It's also an inch wider and half an inch taller. Unlike the Tundra, the Sequoia has a fully boxed frame.
The biggest news is under the hood, though. Previously, the best we could do in the Sequoia was the standard 273-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 and five-speed automatic transmission. That powertrain remains, but it's supplemented by the Tundra's beefy 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 with a six-speed automatic. The Sequoia can now tow a maximum of 10,000 pounds, up from 6500.
Why Two Big SUVs?
Toyota figures that 55 percent of 2008 Sequoia sales will be the SR5, 35 percent the Limited, and just 10 percent the Platinum. Rear- and four-wheel-drive sales should be split evenly. And Toyota has high expectations for the 5.7-liter V-8, figuring it will account for 90 percent of the product mix. One reason: It actually gets better fuel mileage than the 4.7. Neither will get kudos from the Sierra Club, though: EPA estimates for the four-wheel-drive models are 13 mpg city and 16 highway for the 4.7, and 13 and 18 for the 5.7. We averaged 12 mpg, which included some light towing.
The engines do, after all, have their work cut out for them. The four-wheel-drive Platinum we tested weighed in at a substantial 6100 pounds, about 300 pounds heavier than the rear-wheel-drive SR5. But the Platinum is no slouch: We logged a 0-to-60-mph time of 6.6 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 15.2 seconds at 92 mph. The Sequoia stops, too, thanks largely to huge 13.9-inch vented rotors up front and 13.6-inchers in the back: 70 mph to 0 took 184 feet. Not much that technology or the front-and-rear unequal-length control-arm suspension can do to help all that mass on the skidpad, as the Platinum registered a 20-inch-tire-moaning 0.73 g, inhibited by its undefeatable stability control.
Inside, It's Your Living Room
The Platinum, of course, has leather upholstery, but even the cloth seats in the SR5 are nicely done. In fact, unless you just like spending money, a well-appointed SR5 may be your best buy in the Sequoia lineup. If you want the power third-row seat, though, you’ll have to get the Limited or Platinum.
Options on the Platinum are few and include a laser-operated cruise control and a DVD entertainment system. The Limited can be nearly optioned to Platinum levels if you choose the sunroof, 20-inch wheels, the entertainment system, nav, and the load-leveling rear air suspension. Most of that is offered on the SR5, too.
Safety features abound, all standard. They include front-seat side airbags, three-row curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist, and stability control. The four-wheel-drive system operates via a dash-mounted rotary switch that takes you from rear-drive to high range with either a locked or unlocked center differential, and to low range with a locked or unlocked center diff. We took a Sequoia off-road, and aside from the surprisingly tight 39-foot turning circle, it’s what you’d expect: big. Very big. One feature we like a lot: the optional backup camera.
On the Road
No complaints about the 5.7-liter engine and six-speed transmission, though. This is a monster motor, and a problem we’d experienced with a couple of Tundras—very aggressive, abrupt transmission downshifts as we slowed to a stop—wasn’t apparent here.
We can certainly see how a big, active family could embrace the Sequoia’s room and huge towing capacity, and if one of these vehicles were to show up again at the office during auto-racing season, count on its being signed out every weekend. But the vast majority of our day-to-day tasks could be handled easily by Toyota’s less-enormous offerings, such as the Highlander and 4Runner.
That’s just us. If you need what the Sequoia offers, Toyota has packaged it nicely.
C/D TEST RESULTS: