In this post Humvee era of Smart Cars and crossovers, sports utility vehicles seem to be shrinking, fading away from the multipurpose transports they were designed to be and becoming glorified Jeeps with a couple extra seats.
But, there’s nothing shrinking or fading about the 2011 Toyota Sequoia. This seven passenger, four wheel drive behemoth stands alongside other mighty holdouts like the Denali, the Escalade, the Chevy Tahoe and the Ford Expedition as the standard bearers for the SUV tradition.
Designed to carry people in comfort while their assorted belongings pile into the back, this $61,000 Platinum Edition Sequoia offers seven leather-trimmed and heated/vented seats and three zone, air-filtered climate control that can also be synced and controlled from the driver’s seat. The second row captain’s chairs and rear rows of seats fold down or slide out for more cargo space.
The rear seats enjoy DVD entertainment with a 9” flat screen, while the driver and front passenger take in their AM/FM/Sirius XM CD studio through the 14-speaker JBL Synthesis sound system. Both front and rear seats have USB connectivity for iPods and charging capacity for iPads.
With its passenger capacity and amenities, there’s no doubt the Sequoia leans more to the utility side than the sport end of the SUV equation It’s the largest SUV in Toyota’s line, bigger than the sportier 4Runner or the worldly and tough Land Cruiser.
But the ride is more akin to an urban street cruiser than an off-roading truck. Its electronic modulated air shocks, adaptive variable suspension system and the 20” allow wheels makes a very smooth drive and protects – or separates – both driver and passengers from the street or freeway.
If you’re looking for a nimble, prancing driving experience, you won’t find it at the wheel of the Sequoia. But, in fairness, why would you look for it at the wheel of an SUV large enough to transport the entire Brady Bunch? They make two-seater sports coups for that. Like the tough, strong BBW it is, the Sequoia is built for comfort, not speed.
That said, the big lady handles surprisingly well for a heavy truck – with a turning radius that enabled adequate mobility in tight parking spots and deft enough steering to move in and out of tight LA traffic at speed. Though powered by a 5.7 liter, 32 valve iForce V8 that puts out 381 horsepower and 401 lb. ft. of torque, the Sequoia can’t be described as quick. But the power is adequate and smooth in its build up regardless of the size of the load filling its passenger and cargo area.
Toyota’s now standard Smart Stop Technology and Star Safety System with vehicle stability and traction control transforms the experience of bringing all of the Sequoia’s weight to a stop from a possible nightmare to a stabile and reassuring experience. So, the stability and ease of driving the SUV carries over to slowing and stopping.
Unfortunately, there is a catch to the Sequoia’s comfort, luxury and capacity. It manages between 10 and 16 MPG in city driving. You might manage 15-18 on longer high way journeys, but that doesn’t change the reality of the math involved. She’s thirsty and expensive to fill with gas selling north of $4.00 per gallon.
To demonstrate the dilemma, as the fuel gage needle dipped below the quarter tank line, I handed a gas station attendant a U.S. currency bill bearing the face of Ulysses S. Grant and drove away with just half a tank. While gas prices may vary in your neighborhood, I would estimate the cost of filling the Sequoia from “E” to fall around $80-$100.
But, to the style-minded SUV driver able to afford a well-equipped $60,000 vehicle, the price of gas isn’t likely to scare anyway away from the 2011 Sequoia.