CARY, N.C., – Today's full-size sport-utility market is a tough world. Sales have fallen as gasoline prices have rose and most manufactures hope that the drop has bottomed out. But with the price of a barrel of oil within range of $100, higher prices at the pump seem all but inevitable.
Into this cauldron of economic trouble Toyota is launching its full-size 2008 Sequoia sport-utility-vehicle. The bottom line on the Toyota Sequoia is that it is as big as Toyota's Land Cruiser but not as pricey. The Sequoia is slightly larger than the model it replaces and it has been bulked up under the hood but it was also more refined during our brief test drive.
The 2008 Sequoia now comes in three models: the SR5, the Limited and the Platinum. Our test vehicle was the platinum model. For those not in the know, a full-size sport utility has three rows of seats and can accommodate up eight passengers depending on the configuration of the second and third rows.
Our top of the line test vehicle was powered by a 5.7-liter V8 that made 381 horsepower and 401 pounds-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. We found this powertrain quiet, powerful and responsive.
A 4.7-liter 276 horsepower V8 that makes 314 pounds-feet of torque was also available. It had a five-speed automatic transmission.
On the Interstate here the Sequoia was nimble, responded to driver input well and it was able to get down the road with relative swiftness. The vehicle was also quiet. We found this attribute particularly admirable because the Sequoia had a high silhouette and larger side view mirrors that naturally create noise as the wind rushes around their housings.
The second row seats were spacious, leg room was ample and head room was no problem. Although we didn't get back there, our rather lanky riding partner did and he proclaimed "I fit back there real well."
The interior was top notch. The Sequoia had all the bells and whistles as our driving partner called them. The obligatory moon roof, navigation system and premium audio system that featured satellite radio were a part of the package. But our test vehicle also had Bluetooth that turned our cell phone into a hands free car phone. And it had 20-inch alloy wheels. The second row seats were also heated.
The front seats were spacious, they provided plenty of lumbar support and hip space was meaningful. At times, we felt like we were sitting in a large living room chair. The Sequoia's Star Safety system included ABS, traction control and brake assist.
Still, all that would mean nothing unless the Sequoia rode the roads relatively smoothly and that it did. Bigger tires and a revamped suspension have given the Sequoia a very comfortable ride and excellent handling characteristics. That's saying something since the Sequoia is based on the Tundra, Toyota's full-size pickup truck
Toyota has improved the Sequoia's suspension by giving it a double wishbone set up in the front. The rear set up is now an independent double wish bone set up. It's the first application of an independent rear suspension on a Toyota SUV.
The Sequoia's towing capacity has been boosted from 6,500 lbs. for the old model to 10,000 lbs. for the 2008 model. It comes in either four-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive configuration. Our 5.7-liter V8 had an EPA fuel rating of 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg o the highway for the two-wheel-drive model. Power to all four wheels brings mpg down by one mile in the city and on the highway.
The Sequoia was the first Toyota SUV that was designed and built in the U.S. Toyota continues to slant the Sequoia's characteristics toward American needs and tastes. Thus, it was a first rate people hauler. Now, it has the oomph to tow the heavy stuff.
Prices start at: $33,160