We've had several opportunities to play with our Sequoia in the mountains around Los Angeles and at even higher-elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Sequoia uses a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a manual button on the dash to lock the center differential to split power 50/50 to front and rear driveshafts. At each corner, sensors control stability and traction. Toyota includes a VSC Off (Vehicle Stability Control) button that doesn't remove all the traction control, but does allow the driver more predictable control in extreme-weather conditions. The VSC Off button will work only with the 4x4 button engaged, a tradeoff we're willing to accept. For typical driving, especially for those surprise oil slicks or dirt patches in sharp corners, the VSC will (and our guess is has) probably saved lives.

In low range, engaged with a conventional lever, the extra gearing makes this a formidable rugged-terrain climber, hampered only by the outrigger running boards, which appear able to take quite a few punishing rock hits. Between the traction control and engine-management system run by computers monitoring wheelslip, more than a few comments were made about the VSC taking power away at the wrong times and how odd it feels to hold the gas pedal down and let the vehicle find the traction it needs for steep inclines-inching, clawing, and grabbing at the ground.

The Sequoia's interior has held up fine, still garnering praise for its thoughtful dash and console layout, many compartment storage spaces, as well as a powerful and properly vented HVAC system throughout the large space. We like the fact that separate front and rear temperature and fan controls give rear passengers a sense of independence. For something of this size and power, the interior is much quieter than you might expect, but still not as quiet as a Land Cruiser or LX 470. Overall, our Sequoia has fared well. We've got a few "personality" scratches inside and out, a few dents on the bumpers, and even a bang or two on the skidplates. With two dealer services under its belt, we've spent to date just under $500 and made almost 80 trips to the gas station for fillups, all the while closely watching fuel prices. At press time, the average price per gallon in the Los Angeles area is around $1.75. Our best mileage run came on an easy long-distance blast up the heart of California where we got 19.1 mpg. That only happened once. Our mpg average factors out between 14.0 and 15.0, with some hard-work stretches measuring near 11.5 and 12.1 mpg. All in all, not that surprising. If we had a gripe, it would be the drastic performance and fuel-economy drop when towing and moving heavy loads around for extended periods, but maybe that's not so surprising either.

With almost 18,000 ticks on the odometer, we've put a few more miles on the Sequoia than we have on most of our long-term testers-a testament to this vehicle and all the things we love doing around here.

What's that you say? You still want to know how it does after 35,000 miles? We'll see what we can do and keep you posted.