2023 Toyota Sequoia: Forget the Old V8, Embrace Hybrid Power

Strong points
  • Segment-first hybrid technology
  • Good towing capacity
  • Multiple looks
Weak points
  • Vague steering
  • Lack of space behind the third row
  • Tight access to the third row
Full report

Remember the late 2000s when the economy was struggling badly and gas prices topped $1.50 per litre in many parts of the country? Some automakers, incredibly, thought it was a good time to introduce big new SUVs with a powerful V8 engine under the hood.

The Jeep Commander and Kia Borrego are two examples. Meanwhile, Chevrolet redesigned the Suburban, Cadillac debuted the third-generation Escalade, and Toyota did the same with the Sequoia. The timing couldn’t be worse.

About a decade and a half later, with gas now costing over $2 per litre, it feels like history is repeating itself. Jeep recently launched the new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, Cadillac packed more horsepower than ever in the first-ever Escalade-V, and Toyota finally introduced the next-generation Sequoia.

A few days ago, The Car Guide flew to Texas to discover this new 2023 Toyota Sequoia and put it to the test on the road. Below are our first impressions.

Photo: Germain Goyer

What is the Sequoia, Exactly?

With just 418 units sold in Canada in all of last year, the Toyota Sequoia is not a household name. As a full-size, body-on-frame SUV, this model shares its chassis with the Tundra pickup, which received a complete redesign of its own for 2022.

The Sequoia is positioned above the 4Runner and Highlander, and just like the latter it offers three rows of seats. As they say in Texas, bigger is better.

Photo: Germain Goyer

No More V8, Now Hybrid Only

Following the lead of the Tundra, the new 2023 Sequoia has discarded the gas-guzzling 5.7-litre V8 engine of the previous generation. As Toyota moves to electrify its entire lineup, a hybrid powertrain called i-Force Max now sits under the hood, combining a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 with an electric motor. Total system output is 437 horsepower along with 583 pound-feet of torque.

While displacement is significantly smaller than most competitors except for the Ford Expedition, the twin turbos and electric motor make a big difference. Acceleration is strong, and the Sequoia makes short work of passing manoeuvres. Some of the credit obviously goes to the 10-speed automatic transmission, which does a commendable job most of the time.

The idea with this large SUV is to please American customers first and foremost, so despite all the powertrain upgrades, don’t expect the drive to be exciting in any way. Steering is vague and handling is far from agile, but on the other hand, comfort is impressive.

Photo: Germain Goyer

We love the new, state-of-the-art Toyota Multimedia System, although the standard eight-inch touchscreen feels like a major compromise versus the optional 14-inch display. Definitely get the latter if you can.

When it comes to towing, the new Sequoia can pull up to 4,080 kilograms (9,000 pounds), which is about the same capacity as a full-size pickup. Fuel consumption is not specified yet, but given the SUV’s boxy shape and heavy weight, don’t expect any miracles from the hybrid powertrain. The numbers will likely be better than those of the old V8, as well as GM’s 6.2-litre V8.

Canadian pricing also remains unspecified at this time.  

Photo: Germain Goyer

Multiple Looks

Just like it does with several other models, Toyota gave the 2023 Sequoia multiple looks and personalities. The lineup actually consists of five trim levels.

TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models sport a more rugged appearance, while Limited and Platinum models make a classy statement wherever they go. The new generation also marks the debut of the Capstone grade—the most luxurious Sequoia ever offered. This one stands out with 22-inch chrome wheels, power running boards, semi-aniline leather in a black and white combination plus real American Walnut wood trim with an open-pore finish. It’s the only Sequoia to feature acoustic glass in the front doors.

Photo: Germain Goyer

The Sequoia can once again accommodate seven or eight passengers depending on the configuration. No matter where you sit, comfort is generous. In the back, the cargo area can be accessed by opening the entire liftgate or just the rear window. There’s not much space available behind the third row, but here’s the thing: those seats can now slide forward by as much as 150 mm (6 inches). What’s more, a removable shelf can be set in a variety of storage positions for extra versatility.

In the end, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia is refreshingly improved. Enough to match its American rivals? We’re not quite ready to say that.

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