The Toyota Sequoia is relatively new to the Toyota line having debuted in September of 2000 for a 2001 model year. It’s petagree sits on the platform of the Tundra pick-up truck which was introduced in 1999. The first generation of Sequoias (XK30/XK40) lasted through 2007 of which just over 370,000 units were sold in the US. The second generation (XK60) spans from 2008 to present. Little upgrades were made until 2015 when the Sequoia didn’t receive much attention, although that may be understandable considering the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found the Sequoia 4WD to be one of the safer vehicles to be in. It had the lowest overall driver death rate in its class with zero deaths per million registered vehicle years. In 2018 the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) trim was introduced and a TRD Pro version is expected for 2020.

For this road trip test, we really needed the spaciousness of the third row because along with our family of four, my dad was out for a visit from California and we all headed from Boulder down to Crested Butte to visit my dad’s sister. Being winter, we naturally had to take our ski gear with us and that meant adding the box to the roof to fit all of us plus our gear. It’s about a four and a half hour drive to cover the 240 miles each way.

Specifically, we were set up with the 2019 Toyota Sequoia 4×4 TRD Sport Premium with tow package and a 5.7L V8 which priced out just short of $60k as driven. The TRD Sport starts at $51.5k and the base model, the SR5, starts at $48.8k.

Handling

Like all full size SUVs, the Toyota Sequoia feels big when you get in and it feels big to drive around, but also like others, we got used to it pretty quickly. It measures 205 inches long, 80 inches wide, and stands 77 inches tall. That’s pretty much the size of the Chevy Traverse (204″ L x 79″ W x 71″ H) and slightly bigger than the Ford Explorer (198″ L x 79″ W x 70″ H). As mentioned above, we threw a box on top which may have affected the handling some, but we never felt like it was top heavy or obnoxious.

The second generation came with an upgrade to the suspension system that gave it a tighter turn radius of 19.05 feet which is just a smidge better than similar vehicles (Ford Explorer and Chevy Traverse at 19.5’). True to it’s 4×4 TRD moniker, the Sequoia provides an impressive 10 inches of ground clearance.

All this considered, it was a very comfortable drive to Crested Butte. We never got on any Interstate Freeways on this drive, but there were plenty of wide open and straight segments to confirm it rolls just fine at speed. But we also had plenty of roads with twists and turns, ups and downs (including Monarch pass at 11,312 feet which was closed in the morning before we got there for avalanche mitigation) to play with the agility some. No complaints there and the 5.7L V8 provided plenty of power on demand.

Hauling

Getting us and our gear out to our adventures is a pretty important aspect of how we use vehicles. This test varied from the tests I link to above of the Ford Explorer and the Chevy Traverse because we had a fifth person, my dad, tucked into the third row. My wife and I both had chances to have a stint in the third row and it was fine, even in the configuration we used which was to drop the 40% side down for bags and leave the 60% side of the bench up for the passenger.

Even without Dad in the back, it was nice to have the box or at the very least we could have just used ski racks like we used for our trip in the Traverse. Using the box meant we didn’t have to stack the bags in the back so high that we couldn’t see out of the rear view mirror. That said, the Sequoia came with crossbars so it was easy to throw the box on. But the aero-style crossbars were a little flimsy considering I could see the box move a little as I glanced up through the moonroof while we were driving. At first I was worried I hadn’t clamped the box on properly, but a closer look and by pushing on it with my hand (while stopped) I could see it was the crossbars flexing up and down. The rails are raised so I could have added my standard set of Thule towers and bars if I wanted (like I did for the Traverse test).

Watching through the moonroof to see the box move as the crossbars flexed.

For comparison sake, below is a chart of how these three vehicles compare for cargo volume. Granted, not all cargo space equally measured simply by volume and these are the numbers provided by the manufacturers.

VehicleBehind 3rd Row (cu. ft.)Behind 2nd Row (cu. ft.)
Toyota Sequoia18.966.6
Chevy Traverse2358.1
Ford Explorer2143.9

Part of the variation beyond pure cargo volume that I look for is how (and if) the rear 12v power socket is placed. Like the Traverse, the plug is pointing right into the main cargo space, albeit a little recessed thanks to being offset from the wheel well. In comparison, Toyota was savvy about this for the 4Runner we tested.

Cargo space is a little tight with all three rows of seats up.
Lots of cargo room with the third row of seats folded down.
The 12v plug points into the cargo space… not our ideal placement.

Where the real differences lie is in the towing. And, this is reflected in the fuel efficiency of the various vehicles being compared here.

VehicleTowing Rating (high end)MPG (combined)
Toyota Sequoia7,40014
Chevy Traverse5,00021
Ford Explorer5,00019

We did not tow anything on this trip, so that was a lost opportunity on our part but the above shows the Sequoia could tow something like a 30-foot travel trailer while the other two would be limited to about a 20-foot travel trailer. In short, the Sequoia is for hauling a bunch of people and a big trailer. If that’s not you, you’re burning a lot of gas unnecessarily.

Amenities

This rig was decked out with a pretty high end trim with things like leather heated seats, three-zone climate control, rear backup camera, and auto-dimming rear view mirror. But specific to the configuration in the vehicle one thing we really liked was the big compartment between the front seats. For us, we removed the internal tray and used that entire space to store the ever needed snacks for our nuggets while on the road. For those who make being in a vehicle their office, it’s sized to accommodate hanging file folders as a mobile filing cabinet.

There are lots of large cup holders which was a blessing for our bigger vessels like a 32oz insulated Hydroflask which my wife has glomed on to as her favorite water bottle. But the same holder was a little cavernous for my favorite 16oz Stanley Go Tumbler which rattled around some. They just needed those clever little folding wings that help keep smaller bottles and cups stable. For instance, I really liked the cup holder braces in the 2019 Toyota Tacoma I recently tested—why didn’t those make it into this Sequoia or the 4Runner?

The front row cup holder configuration.

A great feature that Toyota does do on the interior is how they setup the controls on the steering wheel and Toyota has my favorite cruise control interface—tucked behind and attached to the right side of the steering wheel with very intuitive interaction. The main thing I like about the steering wheel controls is they put the volume and infotainment controls on the left side. If it’s on the right side, I feel I might as well let go of the wheel with that hand and rach over to the radio to make an adjustment. Little things matter.

Steering wheel mounted volume control on the left: just where I like it.

Family Friendly

It’s hard to go wrong with vehicles this size for being family friendly. There was plenty of room for the kids’ car seats and for them to fit. There was also room for an adult to squeeze past the car seats to slide into the back row as we had to do for this trip. While the tinted aft windows are a great start, we still had to suction-cup a sun-screen on the window for the kid stuck on the south side of the vehicle to keep the sun out of their eyes.