As you might imagine, life here at Truck Trend is pretty strange. Various pickups, SUV, and vans are run through the revolving doors, barely giving us enough time to track test the vehicles, find a few good photo locations, and discern only the more obvious strengths and weaknesses. Our long-term test-vehicle program allows us to dive a little deeper into the rig--living with it for a year, exposing it to various work-duty situations, and even taking it on a few long-distance road trips.
Our long-term '01 Toyota Sequoia (last reported in the Jan./Feb. '02 issue of Truck Trend) has had an unusual life. We figure most Sequoias are put into the typical, family transportation mode and end up taking people to and from work, school, and weekend activities. Pretty boring. Our Sequoia has run the gantlet to Death Valley in mid-summer, played support vehicle for several 18-hour-day photo shoots, carried a full complement of craft services as a road-test chase vehicle, hauled half a nursery full of ground cover plants to and from a staffer's home, and been the high-abuse school bus for teens and preteens to boot.
Obviously, Toyota's answer to the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe, the eight-passenger Sequoia has hulking mass, making it the largest Toyota sold in the U.S. Although the Land Cruiser offers a third row, those seats store poorly and don't provide for much real-use cargo capacity. We found our Sequoia's third row quite useable for adults, especially when factoring in the second-row flip-forward seats that make climbing into the "way back" less like climbing over monkey bars. Although heavy and awkward to carry and remove (we wouldn't mind seeing some type of wheeled mechanism), we like that the third-row seats are completely removable and make for a huge amount of cargo space in their absence. This was convenient in combination with the highly prized electric rolldown rear window when the Sequoia was used as a photo vehicle for magazine shoots and Motor Trend Television action shots. And if you've seen the size of our camera crew and the gear they haul, it's a good thing the Sequoia has a payload rating over 1300 lb.
We should note the coil springs usually found the bump stops over rough roads when we had loads at or near 800 lb -- a tradeoff for the Sequoia's softer, subtler ride when driven around town empty. Many of our testers made note of this point when commenting the vehicle looks huge from the outside, but drives and handles like something smaller in city traffic. Although the Sequoia's turning circle seems much larger than necessary, that might be a good thing for those who might be tempted to drive the big SUV as a more nimble compact.
The DOHC 4.7L V-8, according to our logbook, has quite a few fans. Clearly allowing for high-rpm horsepower, the Sequoia can easily surprise an unsuspecting driver if he's expecting a sluggish takeoff from a hulk. However, this is a 5000-lb-plus vehicle. That was most prominently demonstrated when we towed with the Sequoia or loaded it close to max payload. According to our finely tuned butt-dynos, the smallish V-8 seemed sensitive to heavy loads and high altitude, losing a noticeable amount of grade-climbing horsepower. Maybe that's not so surprising considering the dual-overhead-cam configuration at least a half liter smaller than other vehicles in its class.