We used to go to a movie theater that had catchy phrases on the popcorn containers.
On the largest size was the especially memorable: BIG IS MORE.
Well, there’s no arguing that in popcorn.
Or full-size SUV’s.
Which brings us to the 2019 Toyota Sequoia. If an SUV ever deserved that motto on the side, this would be it.
But there’s plenty to talk about outside of the big and tall dimensions.
Big is Beautiful
The 2019 Sequoia is a good-looking beast. Unlike the new RAV4 (that we loved) that’s dressed up to look rugged, the big Toy bowls you over with its sheer dimensions. It’s longer than a Chevy Tahoe, taller than a Ford Expedition, and wider than a Kia Telluride.
It’s also probably the oldest of that group, but Toyota has made efforts to keep it looking fresh.
Our tester was helped with that being a TRD Sport model, which enjoys LED headlights surrounding a massive gloss-black grille with chrome surround for a strong first impression.
In profile, it’s hard not to notice the 20-inch TRD Sport black alloys, holding up a TRD sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, and tasty black TRD Sport lettering on the front doors. Out back, a massive tailgate is flanked by taillights that look like they came off a Nissan GT-R, give an added sporty look.
Your Sequoia TRD Sport comes in any color you like – as long as its Super White, Midnight Black Metallic, or like our tester, Magnetic Gray Metallic. We liked the gray; it looked rich and upscale.
Big is Bountiful
That huge exterior serves up a huge interior. Among three row SUV’s, the Sequoia’s rear seat is one of the best for adults. Our TRD Sport featured 2nd row Captain’s chairs which are uber-comfy, and large comfortable buckets up front. The big Toyota shows its age here though, it’s from the previous generation where big SUV’s where more like trucks, and less like luxury family vehicles. While the knobs are large and easy to grab even with gloves on, the quality of the plastics while certainly are durable, feel below par for this class of vehicle. On the plus side, the TRD Sport package does its best to liven things up with available black leather seats with contrasting stitching, a TRD shift knob, floor mats and sill protectors.
Well, at least you can haul gear. With the rear seat up, there’s loads of cargo space. A push of the button in the hatch area power lowers the rear seat to create a mammoth area, and then folding flat the 2nd row chairs creates a humongous area. There’s also a huge center console capable of carrying hanging files, and numerous hidden storage areas along with giant cupholders to hold everything you could possibly bring along. That said, our TRD Sport model didn’t have a power liftgate – with its large heavy door, it was noticeable in its absence.
The info-tainment also felt a little behind the times. Our 2019 tester’s 6.1-inch screen looked small (no doubt in part, of the massive surroundings), and is the last of the old-school Toyota head units. It does include the 8-speaker Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation that allows compatible smartphone to provide navigation through the head unit. We’d still recommend going for the recently-introduced 2020 models, that feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a Wi-Fi Hotspot.
The gauge package of our 2019 felt quite modern – there’s an ample-sized speedo and tach. Four supplementary gauges with oil, battery, temp and fuel gauges, and a handy 4.2-inch TFT driver assist display in between.
Powerful, Strong and Safe
While we might bemoan the lack of luxury, we realize the Sequoia is a workhorse, and it that light it excels.
Speaking of horses, there are plenty under the hood, with Toyota’s 5.7-liter i-FORCE V8 kicking up 381 hp. You also have 401 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm, with 90% of torque at just 2,200 rpm. This is a surprisingly lively powerplant that revs easily, and the 6-spped automatic snaps off the gear changes. It moves out with authority – you’ll grin as the big guy blasts on to the freeway without breathing hard. Towing? No sweat, the Sequoia can bring up to 7,400 lbs. of gear.
A big V8 in a big vehicle is not a recipe for great fuel economy – we wouldn’t expect that from any vehicle in this class – but the i-FORCE V8 only requires Regular grade gas, so at least there are some savings there. 14-18 mpg is a reasonable return.
The long wheelbase provides a comfortable ride, and Toyota also has an independent rear suspension, that pays off in a smoother ride, better handling and enhances the passenger room as well. Win-win-win.
The steering is light, and while this vehicle takes up plenty of space on the road, it feels smaller than it is, and you don’t live in fear out of taking out the vehicles in the lane next to you.
Being a TRD Sport, we also enjoyed an exceptionally well-controlled ride, thanks to the model’s upgraded front and rear Bilstein shocks, while the TRD front and rear sway bars helped the Sequoia corner with exceptional precision, considering its weight, height, and overall size.
With a body on frame construction, the available Multi-Mode 4WD system with a lockable TORSEN limited slip center differential, and driver-selectable low-range, we’re confident that this vehicle would be superb off-road, as well as shrugging off just about any weather conditions you might encounter.
While you might not be hitting the Rubicon, or traversing an avalanche (wait, isn’t that a Chevy?), you’ll find an extra helping of confidence in the Sequoia’s extensive safety gear. Every Sequoia features Toyota’s Safety Sense, which include the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with full stop technology, and Automatic High Beams. Also included are standard Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert – both extra useful on such a large craft.
We might grouse a little bit about the lack of luxury, but we’ll take the armada (wait, isn’t that a Nissan?) of safety gear in the Sequoia over a few gizmos any day.
This is a large premium vehicle. But it’s also a Toyota. Thankfully, there’s a middle ground. You can get into a 2020 Sequoia SR5 starting at $49,410. It’s nicely equipped, with that powerful V8, seating for 8, 3-zone climate control, a moonroof, and more. Add $3215 for 4WD, and you pretty much have a huge, safe all-weather, multi-terrain family vehicle.
Our 4×4 TRD Sport was next up the ladder, and started at $54,640, which includes unique exterior trim, 20” sport wheels, and Sport-tuned Bilstein shocks and TRD sway bars. We also had the premium package, which adds $3,810 to the price, and gives you 7-passenger leather trimmed seats, 10-way power driver and 6-way power adjustable front seats, power reclining, and fold flat 3rd row seating. Adding in $1,295 for destination, and we totaled out at $59,745. Taking a little of the brunt away, Toyota does include complimentary scheduled maintenance for the 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. And you can also add famed Toyota reliability to the equation – this is a vehicle you could own for decades.
Direct competitors would be the Nissan Armada, similarly equipped it came in at $58,225. But with 7 inches less legroom in the third row, it’s notably smaller. A Chevy Tahoe is even smaller in the third row, but the price isn’t. It came in at $62,570. The Kia Telluride we recently tested was a bit of a bargain at $46.860. We loved it, but the Telly may not be enough depending on your needs – you’ll be swapping out a V8 for a V6, and be dropping from the Sequoia’s 7,400 lb. towing capacity to 5,000 lb.
The Toyota Sequoia is big on space, performance, and value. It’s proof of the saying Big is More.
Now we want some popcorn!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.