First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sequoia Platinum
Burly, Brawny, Blingy
Turns out the Toyota Sequoia can get glammed up if it wants. Although it's far from the prettiest sport/ute out there, the 2011 Toyota Sequoia Platinum is at the beck and call of consumers looking for an upscale alternative in the full-size SUV market (a field that has long been a domestic specialty).
We'd posit the hypothetical flannel-wearing lumberjack enjoys the simpler things in life. But for $17,150 over the base SR5, Toyota will throw in an all-inclusive Platinum package that should satiate any wood-splitting feller with more discriminating taste. Opt for the stout Multi Mode (part-time) four-wheel drive system for another $3225 and you get our Silver Sky Metallic, $61,380 Sequoia Platinum (includes $975 destination charge) test vehicle.
That's a considerable amount of money, but Toyota isn't using all of it to line its corporate coffers. It's obvious the Sequoia is an immediate sibling to the Tundra pickup truck, though the big SUV gets its own unique rear suspension. Work trucks ritually use simplistic, yet stout, leaf springs in the rear for load-bearing purposes. Toyota presumably couldn't fathom such devices on its upmarket SUV, and put an order in for independent rear double A-arms with dampers and a 0.91-inch anti-roll bar. Matching the back end is a set of front dual A-arms.
The payoff is much better ride quality compared to the hop-happy Tundra, but the Sequoia still pales in comparison to the pricier and more refined Land Cruiser. Adaptive Variable Suspension alters the shocks' damping profile to suit the available Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes, while Electronically Modulated Air Suspension helps the Sequoia withstand bottoming out when it's acting as a beast of burden. (Platinum 4WD carries 7000-pound towing and 1235-pound payload ratings.) Both suspension-assist systems are specific to the Platinum, as are the 20-inch diamond-finish alloy wheels with 275/55/20 rubber.
Even with the heap of chassis help, it's the interior appointments that will ultimately sell the Sequoia Platinum. The cabin doesn't disappoint and comes furnished with fine perforated leather colored Graphite or vibrant Red Rock. There's little skimping on features. Platinum buyers receive a 12-way-adjustable power driver's seat with memory function, heating, and cooling. Dynamic Laser Cruise Control, voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and a steering wheel with leather trim and "simulated wood," per Toyota's words, are bundled in, too. Heated second-row captain's chairs, exclusive to the topline model, mean the three-row SUV stays a seven-seater at its people-hauling limit, but a human stowaway likely wouldn't be troubled to hole up in the cargo hold. (Disclaimer: We don't condone transporting unruly passengers in this manner.)
The center stack is a bit gimmicky, but still has some appeal. Mirroring the Tundra, the enormous plastic-laden stack and accompanying center console may as well be called the "great divide," especially if driver and front passenger are of smaller stature. The seats easily swallow occupants like a familiar La-Z-Boy. Controls placed within the driver's immediate reach are deemed more critical to vehicular operation -- the rotary switch for the four-wheel drive system, lock button for the Torsen limited-slip center differential, and Tow/Haul toggle to ready the six-speed automatic transmission. Farther from easy grasp are the Sequoia's sound system and tri-zone HVAC controls, but the steering wheel offers limited climate control functionality with temperature adjustment and off buttons.
Search hard and you'll find 18 cup holders (yes, 18), two more than the SR5 and mid-tier Limited trims. The cavernous cabin certainly doesn't lack space, yet the sheer volume constantly reminds us of its truck roots. It's difficult to kick the subliminal mental message saying: "This is a Tundra with a cap covering the bed and a much fancier interior." There's still a lot of pickup truck in the Sequoia's DNA, particularly when glancing at the gauge cluster and funky shifter.
But at least it drives easily. The Sequoia Platinum has a towering presence on the road but the steering feels very car-like. It can be a little too loose at times; an older First Drive relays the steering was specially tuned "for females." (Disclaimer #2: Those were the words of Sequoia chief engineer Motoharu Araya.)
There's no shortage of power. The Platinum employs Toyota's iForce 5.7-liter V-8 as standard kit, complete with a variable-length intake manifold, VVT-i, 381 horsepower, and 401 pound-feet of twist. Torque peaks at 2200 rpm, helping to deliver a feeling of steady pull. If you happen to live in a state with plentiful ethanol pumps, a separate flex-fuel-capable iForce V-8 will give you slightly fewer miles per gallon. The EPA rates the large SUV at 13 city/18 highway mpg in its present, four-wheel drive setup. Less-energy-dense E85 forces fuel consumption to backslide to 9 city/12 highway mpg.
Oh, and how could we almost forget about the exterior looks? Chrome door handles, side mirror covers, and front grille surround are the SUV's bling, complementing the bright 20s on display in the wheel wells. No, it doesn't have the cachet of a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Navigator. But the Sequoia Platinum is definitely capacious enough for the lumberjack in your life, whether he likes dendrology or not.
|2011 Toyota Sequoia Platinum|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||5.7L/381-hp/401-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||6050 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||205.1 x 79.9 x 74.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.7 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||13/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||259/187 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.31 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|