The Giant Tree of SUVs

2008, Toyota, Sequoia SR5

Toyota has become very successful by providing well made, reliable vehicles. They build and sell lots of Priuses the most fuel efficient and earth friendly cars in the American market today. However, in trying to cover every market segment, they chose to go head-to-head with the Chevy Suburbans and Ford Expeditions. The entire big SUV market segment is suffering now, thanks to four-dollar-a-gallon gas and rising concerns over global warming.

The 2008 Sequoia is all-new. The look is called "Rugged and Advanced" by the Toyota designers, it is more handsome than pretty. Standing taller and wider that its predecessor, my top-of-the-line Platinum model, in Slate Metallic, weighed an even three tons.

I think the origins of my guilt are that I was the only occupant of this enormous vehicle for most of the time I spent in it. It's exquisitely oversized for one commuter, but if your have a family with eight members, it could be a godsend. The engineers made sure that every seating position has plenty of room and is comfortable for extended travel. The second row seat slides nearly six inches, so if the third row is not being used, second-row riders can stretch out. My man-sized son reported limo quality space back there.

The second row splits 40/20/40, so you can carry a long object and still have two adults riding in that row. The third row is divided 60/40, so the enormous space swallows up a string bass like nothing and could probably absorb the contents of a studio apartment if necessary.

Toyota's biggest vehicle comes with two engine/transmission choices. The standard engine is a 276-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 mated with a five-speed electronically controlled transmission (ECT). But the company is especially proud of its new 5.7-liter V8. It puts out a mammoth 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft of torque and gets a six-speed ECT. It can tow 10,000 pounds.

In an odd twist, official EPA fuel economy ratings show the 5.7-liter engine doing better than the 4.7-liter 13/18 versus 13/16 for the four-wheel-drive model. I averaged 12.7 miles per gallon over my test week.

EPA Green Vehicle numbers are pretty good for Air Pollution, a 7 out of 10. However, the Greenhouse Gases scores are pretty dismal, 3 for all models except for the 4.7-liter version with four-wheel drive. It scored a 2.

If you're still interested in an eight-passenger SUV, there are three levels to choose from, SR5, Limited, and Platinum. Every Sequoia comes with a long list of standard features. A selected list includes automatic tri-zone air conditioning; power windows, locks, and mirrors; keyless entry; AM/FM/CD eight-speaker audio with iPod plug-in; and cruise control.

Notable safety and security features include the many electronic marvels of the STAR safety system, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, direct tire pressure monitoring, and an engine immobilizer with alarm.

The Limited adds luxury and convenience items, including leather-trimmed seats, steering wheel, and shift knob; handsome Optitron gauges; multi-information display; a roof rack; running boards; and an upgraded JBL audio system. The Platinum brings in the 5.7-liter engine standard as well as 20-inch alloy wheels, a rear load-leveling air suspension, power seat memory, heated and air-conditioned front seats, second-row heated seats, a rear spoiler, power back door, sunroof, and navigation system with backup camera.

The Sequoia, for all its mass, is very easy and pleasant to drive. The instrument panel portion of the dash carries a surprisingly large swash of silvery plastic. The forms inside the car are masculine and massive, implying safety and durability. The accommodations, particularly at the Platinum level, are equal to most luxury sedans, with high quality materials and assembly. Storage abounds, with twin glove boxes and a center console bin that could swallow a small child. A small wide angle mirror drops from the ceiling so the driver can monitor the behavior of second and third row passengers.

Performance with the 5.7-liter V8 is flawless, and the independent suspension in the all-new platform keeps the Sequoia from feeling like a land yacht. The turning radius is a tight 19 feet. Call off the tugboats!

Sequoia prices start at $34,815 for the SR5 with the 4.7-liter engine and range up to $56,285 for the Platinum with four-wheel drive. Both prices include delivery charges. My tester came to $57,410 with a couple of small extras, including dynamic laser cruise control ($600.00).

If you need and can afford to feed a full-size SUV, the Sequoia belongs on your shopping list.

By Steve Schaefer

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Images of the 2008, Toyota Sequoia SR5

2008 Toyota Sequoia front view
2008 Toyota Sequoia front view
2008 Toyota Sequoia interior
2008 Toyota Sequoia interior
2008 Toyota Sequoia backup cam
2008 Toyota Sequoia backup cam
2008 Toyota Sequoia rear shot
2008 Toyota Sequoia rear shot