Enthusiasts — long loyal to the cult of the Land Cruiser —have long known the Sequoia as Toyota’s other three-row SUV. But that’s about to change. Toyota has dropped the Land Cruiser from the American lineup, and now, the company is reintroducing the Sequoia with its first all-new version since 2007 — the year Apple launched the iPhone. And, based on price, size and capability, the Sequoia is Toyota’s flagship model — at least for now.
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is upgraded from the old reliable but inefficient 5.7-liter V8 to the company’s best powertrain, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter (well, 3.4-liter, if you want to be technical) twin-turbo hybrid V6. That powerplant puts out 437 horsepower and a mammoth 583 lb-ft of torque. The Tundra gets that engine on fancier grades; the Lexus LX 600 and J300 Land Cruiser don’t get it all. On the Sequoia, the hybrid motor comes standard.
The Sequoia rides on Toyota’s new TNGA-F truck platform. It sports swaggy new looks cribbed heavily from the new Tundra. It uses Toyota’s sharp-looking new North American-developed infotainment system. And Toyota believes it’s quite the package — enough to sell about three times as many of them as before.
Toyota enticed me to Plano, TX, with the promise to drive the new 2023 Sequoia on-road and off it for a day. And like the Tundra it is based on, the Sequoia is a comprehensive, night and day improvement over what came before. The full-size, three-row market is fierce. And for the first time since Rihanna asked you to stand under her umbrella, ella, ella, eh eh eh, the all-new Sequoia is prepared to compete in it.
So, the J300 Land Cruiser and Sequoia share a segment, platform, manufacturer and commitment to durability. Beyond that, they are very much different vehicles.
The Land Cruiser is a specialist SUV. It’s a niche, high-end, Japanese-built product. While found in places like Nantucket, the Land Cruiser is designed for harsh environments like the Australian Outback.
The Sequoia is designed, developed and assembled in America (now in Texas, rather than Indiana) and sold in the North American market. It’s more truck than SUV. Its wheelbase is about 10 inches longer than the Land Cruiser’s, better for stability and worse for off-road obstacle clearance. It has the hybrid powertrain the Land Cruiser doesn’t and can tow more, with a 9,520-lb max rating. And unlike the Land Cruiser, the Sequoia can be more reasonably priced.
TL;DR: The Land Cruiser is the better off-roader. But the Sequoia is closer to what more Americans want to buy.
Like the Tundra, the new Sequoia drives very well. The twin-turbo V6 is smooth and powerful, paired with a seamless-shifting, linear-feeling 10-speed automatic transmission. While it does at least theoretically improve fuel economy, the electric motor is tuned for torque delivery. The new TNGA platform brings a fully-boxed frame for better rigidity and a standard rear multi-link coil suspension for improved ride quality.
The result is a composed and competent highway cruiser. With all that torque, overtakes are effortless. And though it’s not a Lexus, the Sequoia is quiet at high speeds with standard acoustic windshield glass (the Capstone grade throws that on the front side windows, too). You do get the customary array of drive modes — the number varies by trim — but there’s not much reason to shift out of normal mode.
Don’t worry about losing that big SUV feel with the Sequoia because it’s not dainty. The TRD Pro and Capstone 4x4 Sequoias check in north of 6,100 lbs. That’s around 500 pounds heavier than the Tundra. And it’s 300 pounds more than the outgoing J200 Land Cruiser, affectionately nicknamed the Land Crusher. You’ll feel that weight if you enter a corner too hot or exceed its comfort zones.
Toyota does not have EPA fuel economy figures for the Sequoia yet. They expect the EPA numbers to be around the Tundra hybrid’s 19 mpg city and 22 mpg highway rating. I saw about 15 mpg and 19 mpg in each scenario, which is about what I achieved in the Tundra.
Well. The Sequoia 4x4 (there is a 4x2 option if you’re into that sort of thing) will be super-capable for most buyers, especially in TRD Pro form. Toyota laid out an off-road course for us with multiple staged events. We had articulation tests, a mild rock climb, ascents and descents, loose surfaces, and even some water to wade through. It was the same gauntlet Toyota was sending Tacomas, 4Runners and Lexus LX 600s around.
The Sequoia TRD Pro handled everything deftly — including a rock climb that the 4Runner driver in front of me took multiple attempts to complete. You get a lot of ground clearance and a fair amount of articulation, and hey, 583 lb-ft of torque will muscle you through and over many obstacles.
Extreme rock crawling — where the long wheelbase and not especially great approach and departure angles would come into play — would be a concern. But the Sequoia will handle the cobblestones on Main Street and rutted beach roads without issue — even if it can't quite pull off the Land Cruiser's coveted old money panache.
Very, very similar to the Tundra. It’s tough to tell the two interiors apart from some angles. The Sequoia swaps the remnants of 2000s curviness for clean horizontal lines and a massive new 14-inch touchscreen — which curiously lacks the option to take advantage of that screen and view the navigation and radio simultaneously (you can change the station by yelling).
Luxury isn’t Toyota’s hallmark; that’s more of a Lexus thing. Everything is soft to the touch, but the interior is still quite simple and unadorned, even if you do level up to the Capstone trim for the fancy wood. There’s a big jump in features from the base SR5 grade to the second-tier Limited, which will have more of the amenities — i.e. heated and ventilated seats — one would expect in a relatively pricey SUV.
Or lack thereof, at least with every seat in use. Toyota highlighted some innovative Sequoia cargo features during their Sequoia presentation, including an adjustable cargo shelf and a sliding third row. Toyota had to get innovative back there, because there is hardly any space behind the third row.
It would be hard to go grocery shopping if the cargo shelf weren’t there. Even if you slide the seat all the way forward, you'll be squeezing in carry-on suitcases vertically. Some midsize crossovers like the Telluride offer more cargo space.
The Sequoia can seat seven or eight people, or carry luggage and gear. But not both. You'll likely need a rooftop carrier if you’re a road-tripping family of more than five.
Previous Sequoia owners may be in for some sticker shock. The Sequoia starts at $58,300; adding the $1,495 destination charge and some floor mats would put you around $60,000. Adding 4x4 to any trim — TRD Pro excepted, since it only comes as a 4x4 — is a $3,000 option.
A fully-loaded 4x4 Capstone grade Sequoia begins at $78,300, a tad more than the $76,900 TRD Pro trim. That’s about $10,000 cheaper than the base model Lexus LX 600. Toyota didn’t have the complete pricing on our pre-production test cars, but it didn’t look like there were many options to drag the price point further upward.
Toyota mentioned specific competitors for the Sequoia: the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Ford Expedition and the Nissan Armada. These are relatively affordable three-row, full-size family SUVs priced between $50,000 and $80,000. They each have more expensive corporate siblings — Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80 — that rival the Lexus LX 600. The Sequoia starts higher than all three of them with current pricing.
A couple of Jeep models could also tempt the Sequoia buyer. Jeep prices the base Wagoneer — a bit cheaper than the Grand Wagoneer — similarly to the Sequoia. The Grand Cherokee L can also be maxed out in opulent Summit Reserve spec for less than $70,000 and — though not body-on-frame — would offer similar off-road capability and practicality.
Powertrain: Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6; 10-speed automatic; 4x4
Torque: 583 lb-ft
Towing Capacity: 9,520 lbs
Seats: 7 to 8
What we know so far about the most-eagerly-awaited midsize truck.