Mountain Wheels: Ultra-massive fun with the all-new Toyota Sequoia |

Mountain Wheels: Ultra-massive fun with the all-new Toyota Sequoia

New and hybrid-powered for 2023, the full-size Toyota Sequoia boasts trailer-pulling torque and eight-passenger comfort.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

Alternately terrifying and hilarious, the most obnoxious and possibly awesome hybrid automotive experience around comes in the form of the all-new 2023 Toyota Sequoia and its TRD Pro edition.

Dressed in an eye-searing Solar Octane orange paint job and stretched out with massive, power-extending trailering mirrors, 33-inch mud tires and a blinding array of LED lamps and radiator-mounted lightbar, there’s nothing subtle about this new, full-sized SUV. It’s also base priced at $76,000.

The strangest part is that it really is a hybrid, as well, sharing the newer Tundra pickup’s optional 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 setup, producing a healthy 437 horsepower and a palpable 583 pound-feet of root-yankin’ torque.

Like the Tundra, the hybrid is meant for more towing and cruising power, not Prius-styled mileage — I got about 18.6 mpg overall — but the 288 volts of extra electric juice makes for easy hill climbing, both paved and unpaved. It’ll also go strangely quiet in low-speed situations and suddenly be a 6,150-pound electric vehicle, often when you least expect it.

This third-generation Sequoia lives up to its name in terms of sheer size, road (and trail) presence and the ability to carry up to eight people. There are five levels of Sequoia build, including a new, extra-luxurious Capstone edition; the full-blown, off-road oriented TRD Pro edition is a new idea for Sequoia and … well, it’s quite the handful.

I discovered that to be the literal truth last weekend on an absolutely heinous, nearly four-hour highway voyage from Lakewood to Eagle County (dry roads and Chicago traffic, welcome to 2023). While the 208-inch Sequoia absolutely holds its own in when it comes to mass, not to mention 9.1-inches of clearance, it’s maybe the least pleasant highway vehicle I’ve ever driven, thanks to its custom Falken Wildpeak mud tires.

Get it over 60 mph and the entire chassis, steering column and seating vibrates so much your fillings might come out; the tires were also wide enough to make those tractor-trailer ruts and filled-in potholes on I-70 bridges an absolute nightmare, requiring more inputs and corrections than a dune buggy.

My feeling is that the tires are entirely the culprit — I discovered they were also practically useless on snow. The TRD Pro has been upgraded with Fox internal bypass shocks, and the suspension and steering system ought to have the same finesse as the Lexus LX and the international edition of the new Land Cruiser, which are all built on the same platform.

I had an entirely different experience in actual mud and dirt during an off-road excursion, where the Sequoia’s multi-terrain control knob, the up- and downhill automatic crawl control, locking rear differential and absolutely perfect hill descent control made it a competent explorer. There, the tires were great; everywhere else, yikes.

Granted, Sequoia’s going to be a tight fit in some trail spots, as it’s 79.6 inches wide, not counting those cereal box-sized mirrors, but a full side/front/multi-rear-view camera system is helpful, especially when trying to see over its massive hood.

The 22.3-foot turning radius meant a lot of backing to keep it on trail, and I constantly ran through branches, especially with its enormous rooftop rack/camping platform, a $1,395 option.

The mirrors, which also include the side cameras and LED work lights, speak to a smoother-tire-equipped Sequoia’s ability to pull 9,520 pounds of trailer, or 9,020 on the TRD version. Like Tundra, there’s a full electronic Tow Tech package, making it easier to connect to a trailer, test brake lights, see a trailer-eye view and generally navigate while pulling and parking a load.

The new system is mated to a 10-speed transmission and while there are no shift paddles, the oversized shift lever can click through those gears pretty easily while headed on a heavy downhill stretch.

Inside, things are a vast improvement over the previous, especially long-produced model, with Toyota’s newest all-video instrument panel, a 14-inch multimedia display and comfortable seating, plus easy access to the off-road controls. You also get a built-in dashcam, to show off your mud adventures on YouTube.

Mine had a super-wide, fixed captain’s chairs second-row setup; they flop forward to allow access to an elevated, sliding third row. That does leave a relatively tall seatback platform even when the seats are dropped, but the vehicle still offers almost 87 cubic feet of storage behind the front row. There’s a shelf-styled cargo system in the very far back, which will help with the relatively tiny space there if all three rows are occupied. Both second and third rows get window shades, USB outlets and enough room to make things pleasant for longer drives. And the rock-rail styled aluminum running boards also make it a little easier to get aboard.

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