First Drive: 2008 Toyota Sequoia
Credible Tahoe-fighter from the automaker that brings you the Prius
Let this serve as notice that the Detroit Three are not unique in their propensity for bad timing. Toyota fails here, too. The long-awaited, long-overdue real full-size Tundra pickup launched just as the housing market was putting the kibosh on full-size pickup sales. The Sequoia launches a year later, having been developed when full-size, truck-based SUV sales were beginning to slide from 800,000 per year to 500,000 per year (Toyota's numbers).
If you think of Toyota as being smug, though (an image that the Prius and its owners foster), well, then the World's Most Fantastic Number One automaker can continue to be smug. The Tundra is meeting Toyota's conservative sales projections. Toyota says it hopes the new Sequoia can claw its way back to a peak of about 65,000 sales per year, roughly twice calendar year '06 numbers, and that seems reasonable, even in the current market.
Like Tundra, Sequoia is vastly improved and should grab a larger share of its shrinking segment. Tundra's aluminum 5.7-liter V-8 is optional on SR5 and Limited and standard on the new Lexus-like Platinum. The old 4.7 iron block remains the base engine until a new smaller V-8 derivative of the 5.7 is ready.
Tundra's familiar dash makes it into the Sequoia, but the horse-collar grille is toned down a bit, as if to say, "I'm not really so massive." The dash is still disappointing in its plastic-ness, and looks better in photos than in the flesh. But the days of making an SUV by slapping a station wagon body onto a pickup truck are long gone, and here, Toyota doesn't disappoint. The Sequoia gets an independent rear suspension, replacing the old Sequoia's live rear axle, and re-tuned steering. The steering is "for females," and that's according to chief engineer Motoharu Araya, so direct your emails about male chauvinism elsewhere. Toyota boasts a 39-foot turning diameter, which happens to equal that of the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.
As for the IRS, which the Ford Expedition has but the Tahoe doesn't, it gives the Sequoia two advantages over the Tahoe; a low, fold-flat cargo area and better third-row space. It's good enough for average-sized adults on short trips, but not as good as third-row space in the new breed of large, crossover SUVs, most notably Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. Those crossovers can't match the Sequoia's 10,000-pound towing capacity, though.
A false floor under the third row serves as cubby space. And Limited and Platinum trim levels have a standard power folding/reclining third row. The Platinum is a new variant, with a Lexus-like list of features, including P275/55R-20 tires on alloys, heated second-row bucket seats, power memory package, heated and cooled front driver and passenger seats, navigation system with backup camera and 14-speaker JBL hi-fi, sunroof, headlamp cleaners and adjustable suspension.
Toyota expects the Sequoia Platinum to take 10 percent of the mix, with 55-percent of buyers choosing the base SR5 and 35-percent choosing the well equipped Limited variant.
All Sequoias get a fully boxed frame, six-speed automatic with tow-haul shift mode (five-speed automatic with the 4.7) and an aluminum driveshaft. The optional multi-mode four-wheel-drive system includes a torque-sensing limited slip differential and it's operated via a rotary control on the dash.
On the road, nothing negative or positive makes it stand out much versus the class-leading Tahoe. Ride is cushy for comfort and confidence, not handling. The feminine steering and carlike turning radius has its psychological effects; Sequoia feels smaller than Tundra, and than it is, except in its fuel economy. That's where bad timing can really hurt.
|2008 Toyota Sequoia|
|Base Price||$34,000 (est.)|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, RWD or 4WD, 8-pass, 4-door, sport utility|
|Engine||4.7L/276-hp/314-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8; 5.7L/381-hp/401 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic; 6-speed automatic|
|Curb Weight||5680-6000 lb (mfr)|
|Length x Width x Height||205.1 x 79.9 x 74.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.0-8.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA City/HWY Econ||13-14/16-19 mpg|
|On Sale In U.S.||December 2007|