Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 15, 2023
While Toyota does not offer its famed Land Cruiser in our neck of the woods, they do have the Sequoia. It’s their version of the Lexus LX 600, both lying on the same bones but seemingly with less fanfare than its rivals like the Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Expedition. We’d argue that despite living in the shadow of its premium stablemate, the eight-passenger Sequoia is equally as utilitarian, and is now more powerful and efficient than ever.
The Sequoia was in dire need of an update in 2022, losing momentum against its competition but 2023 brings everything we asked for. New looks, updated powertrain, and more interior space. The big news is the i-FORCE MAX powertrain and before you ask, what did I force Max Verstappen to do, just know that we have no clue either. But in Toyota speak, it alludes to the new 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine paired with a hybrid electric motor. Total output is 427 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque, and it runs that through a 10-speed automatic transmission and part-time 4WD system. Its aim is to deliver maximum output while also providing respectable fuel efficiency. Towing capacity is rated at 9,000 lbs.
We don’t miss the Toyota’s outgoing V8 at all. The hybrid V6 produces an abundance of low-end torque, acceleration is lively, and the Sequoia never feels lazy or lethargic. Every one of those 427 horses feel so accessible. For a large SUV like this, that’s almost a miracle, and is what has won us over. Highway passing is effortless - just kick down the throttle and the gearbox and hybrid take care of the rest.
It doesn’t sound like a V6 either, let alone a hybrid one. Under full throttle it conjures up acoustic notes of a V8 and is a thrilling sound. Yes, some of it is due to Toyota’s Active Noise Control that pipes in intake noise through the cabin speakers, but we aren’t complaining when it makes the Sequoia sound like a proper V8 truck.
While the Sequoia has nailed the performance down, the fuel efficiency side of things is more lukewarm. The hybrid is always present, filling in torque during gear transitions and at low-speeds, but you can only drive electric-only when cruising under little to no throttle, or at low speeds under 20 km/h. Being judicious with your right foot keeps the engine from waking up, but you have to be extremely delicate, and it becomes a game of how much throttle you can add without poking the V6 bear. Play gently, and you can average similar to our 14.3 L/100km yield, pretty decent for this size of an SUV. That’s not even close to Toyota’s claimed average of 11.7 L/100km, no matter how gentle we were with the go-fast pedal and exercising every opportunity to trigger electric driving. On the bright side, the Sequoia only requires 87-octane regular fuel.
The Sequoia is essentially a three-row SUV version of the Toyota Tundra truck, but with the aid of an adaptive air suspension, the Sequoia rides quite nicely, absorbing most minor undulations with ease, and dispatching larger ones with a bit less grace. It drives more like a truck than an SUV, and it exhibits that typical body-on-farme shudder as it hits bumps, briefly stuttering from left to right before settling down. On smooth pavement though and on highways, it glides like hot butter.
The Sequoia’s new sheetmetal falls in line with the rest of the modern Toyota lineup, and if you desire a more rugged appearance and driving behaviour, Toyota also offers a TRD PRO trim. But the cabin is what gets the largest revision. We’d call it functional luxury in here. It’s not over the top with leather and wood panelling, but it’s just enough to not feel cheap, disregarded, or having a price tag that’s unwarranted. Capstone is the highest trim for all Sequoias, and adds features like 22-inch wheels, semi-aniline leather seats, a head-up display, and a JBL 14-speaker audio system.
The walnut-wood trim is convincing but far from the most premium veneer we’ve seen or felt. The same goes for the semi-aniline leather seats, which aren’t the softest or plushest examples. We assume they were simply saving the best hides for the Lexus LX instead. But hop into the front seat and you’re met with a gigantic steering wheel. The leather grip is even beefier than that of the BMW M wheels. A large 14.0-inch touchscreen controls the show and is a friendly interface without much fuss or a learning curve. We had no quarrels with it, as there are still hard buttons and switches for all the high-traffic features, so you can input them in a pinch without diving into multiple sub-menus. As a workman’s horse, that’s well appreciated.
We also enjoyed the electronically-deployed door steps, which should come in handy for those that are more vertically challenged and have trouble climbing up into taller trucks. It’s automatically stowed under the floor bed when not in use to aid in aerodynamics as well. We also appreciate the purposefully large window sill that’s protrodues out, and has been equipped for the sole reason of being an armrest. It’s a small addition but makes for an incredibly cozy couch-like seating position, something we find common in trucks but rare in large SUVs.
If you need your three-row fix, just know that Toyota also offers an equally roomy Highlander and Sienna, both available in hybrids as well. The Sequoia on the other hand is for those who want the absolute maximum of everything. Max towing load, max cargo space, max power, max efficiency, and of course, i-FORCE MAX. In that light, it’s the Sequoia we’ve always wished for: functional luxury matched with high-powered efficiency.
Model: 2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone
Paint Type: Supersonic Red
Base Price: $89,050
Price as Tested: $92,305
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,285 / 2,021 / 1,891
Curb weight (kg): 2,790
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 with hybrid system
Horsepower: 427 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 583 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.6 / 10.5 / 11.7
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.3