Preview: 2023 Toyota Sequoia Is a Big, Bold Hybrid

A long overdue redesign brings power, conveniences, and a much needed dose of modernity

2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro front
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro.
Photo: Toyota

Toyota prepares to launch its redesigned Sequoia full-sized SUV this summer. It the companion model to the recently launched Tundra pickup truck, and it is a bold, powerful model that looks poised to take on its three-row rivals.

It has been a long wait for this Sequoia. The last one was introduced for the 2008 model year. Over time, it lost a competitive edge to fresher competition. 

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But the 2023 Sequoia packs the goods to stand against the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, with its fresh platform (shared with the Tundra and Lexus LX), powerful standard hybrid engine, and contemporary features and myriad trim levels. 

The base Sequoia is an SR5, with trims progressing through Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro, and a new premium Capstone grade. Each level brings more content as well as distinguishing styling features, allowing the Sequoia to appeal to a broader audience. Added power and increased tow capacity across the board bring further appeal. 

More details will be released closer to the on-sale date. Here is what we know so far. 

What it competes with: Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Jeep Wagoneer, Nissan Armada
What it looks like: A Tundra-based SUV
Powertrains: 437-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged hybrid V6 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
Price: $52,000-$70,000 (estimated)
On sale: Summer 2022

CR's Take

The Sequoia has been long overdue for a redesign. It has been on the market so long, relatively unchanged, that a kindergartener shuttled to school in a car seat when the second-generation launched could now be driving to college. Yeah, that long. 

The outgoing model ranks well for its Overall Score, buoyed by strong reliability in a category plagued by problem-prone rivals. This is a real benefit of a long product life, doubly so for a Toyota because the brand is known for reliability.  But its road-test score trails the more contemporary rivals due mostly to a stiff ride and an insatiable appetite for fuel.

The new model looks poised to jump right into the competitive mix. The strong hybrid powertrain sounds promising, with big power and the potential for best-in-class fuel economy. The 2022 Sequoia, with its thirsty V8, delivered just 15 mpg overall in our tests. Surely this will do better.

We thought Toyota did a fantastic job with the 389-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 we sampled in a Tundra. It churned out abundant power at any speed, and the 10-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. We would expect the same from the Sequoia’s engine, buoyed further by electric assist. 

The Tundra’s ride benefited greatly from the switch from leaf springs to a multilink rear suspension with coil springs. We expect this body-on-frame SUV will have a similar setup.

The cockpit looks to be essentially a carryover from the Tundra. We found that even a high-trim Tundra 1794 had rather plasticky cabin materials. We hope the Sequoia has more in the way of soft-touch trim panels. 

That Tundra used the large 14-inch infotainment display that will be shared with top-trim Sequoias. We found that the giant screen made for large, simple-to-decipher text (almost comically large, in fact), and we appreciated the easy-to-use menu bar that’s always visible on the left side of the display. Even though Toyota completely redesigned the infotainment system, it didn’t go overboard with newfangled tech. There are still large knobs and plenty of physical buttons and toggle switches. The same looks to be true for the Sequoia, complete with a tried-and-true lever for engaging 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD low. Although the TRD Pro is full-time 4WD, we wish all trims were available with automatic 4WD, which is a great convenience and a safety benefit, relieving the driver from making a judgement call about when and where to use 4WD. Most competitors have that ability.  

We found the driving position in the Tundra to be quite comfortable, with wide, supportive seats for the driver and generous space in the second row. But we found that the climate controls could be a bit difficult to decipher during the day, washed out in sunlight. 

Outside

The exterior looks very much like a Tundra-based SUV, with a dash of styling flair from the new Land Cruiser that’s offered overseas (and repackaged as the Lexus LX here in the States). The simple touch of a body-colored horizontal surface beneath the main engine grille gives the front a much different and more conventional look than the Tundra, whose massive grille and black lower intake make it look like a Blue Whale feeding. 

2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro rear
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro.

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

It certainly looks new—there’s no confusing this Sequoia with the previous generation. The boxy body is cut with a complicated array of shapes, curves, and indents that combine to make bold wheel arches and rather distinctive front corners, dressed with LED headlights. 

There’s a significant difference between the extroverted TRD Pro, with its blackout trim and red accents, and the more upscale Capstone trim. This helps ensure that the Sequoia has broad appeal.

Inside

The cabin appears Toyota businesslike, with lots of rectangular and angled surfaces that convey toughness and durability. The large infotainment screen is a fashionable sign of the times. Depending on the trim level, the second row has either a three-across bench or captain’s chairs, allowing the Sequoia to be configured for seven or eight passengers.

The base SR5 trim comes with the notable niceties of a power moonroof and heated seats. It has the standard 8-inch center screen, which is upgraded to a 14-inch unit with the SR5 Premium package and a fully digital instrument display. 

2023 Toyota Sequoia Limited interior
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia Limited.

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

The Limited builds on that by adding ventilation to the seats to aid comfort in warm weather, along with a heated steering wheel, power-folding third row, and hands-free power liftgate. 

The Platinum trim level adds comfort and convenience by applying the heated/ventilated seat tech to the second row as well as fitting a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging, and 14-speaker JBL stereo. 

The TRD Pro brings a host of mechanical upgrades as well as red accents throughout the cabin that make the interior look a bit more special. 

There’s a new top trim with the Capstone. It adds numerous luxuries to the Platinum level, such as wood-grained trim, quieter acoustic glass, and more posh two-tone perforated leather. And many enhancements are made to the exterior, with power running boards, chrome accents, and massive 22-inch wheels. 

2023 Toyota Sequoia cargo area
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia Limited showing the adjustable cargo shelves.

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

What Drives It

The Sequoia shares its 437-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged, hybrid V6 engine with the Tundra, promising a balance of power and fuel economy. This powertrain relies on the electric motor at low speeds, firing up the gasoline engine above 18 mph and as needed, based on power demands. Putting the truck in Tow/Haul mode for towing commands the engine to work at all speeds. The Sequoia boasts a 9,000-pound maximum tow capacity, a significant increase from 7,100 to 7,300 pounds previously. 

To aid trailering, there’s a Tow Tech Package that’s standard on TRD Pro and Capstone, and optional on other trims, that adds a backup guide for the backup camera and steering control to help direct the trailer’s path when reversing. 

There are several driver-selectable modes that can alter powertrain characteristics to meet the current needs, including Comfort, Eco, and Normal. When equipped with the adaptive suspension, which can react to road conditions and raise/lower as needed, the Sequoia adds Sport, Sport+, and Custom modes, allowing further personalization. 

A TRD Off-Road package will be available on the SR5 and Limited trims, equipping the SUV for more daring adventures. This package brings a locking rear differential to enhance traction, further measures to reduce wheel spin, and hill descent control to aid with steep, slow descents. There’s also a Crawl Control that acts like a low-speed cruise control for creeping along trails. The package upgrades the suspension with shocks and springs that are optimized for off-roading. Various interior and exterior trim bits add red flourishes to signal the TRD makeover.

2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone.

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

Active Safety and Active Features

The Sequoia comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, active safety systems that include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection. It can also respond to vehicles and pedestrians crossing paths at intersections with alerts and automatic braking. And there’s a feature to aid in steering response to avoid pedestrians specifically. 

Other features in the TSS 2.5 suite include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. 

Additional standard safety features also include blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, and rear-seat reminder.


Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).