2001 Toyota Sequoia Limited 4×4 Is a Large, Luxurious Truck Spawn

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From the February 2001 issue of Car and Driver.

For the past several years the editors of the New York Times have been suffering major anxiety palpitations over the threat to the populace posed by pavement-pulverizing, gasoline-swilling, compact-crushing, rollover-prone sport­-utility vehicles. The rest of the media elite have followed the lead of the frumps at the Times, waxing hysterical over the obvious reality that tall, heavy vehicles roll over more easily and stop less efficiently than their lower, lighter counterparts. Then came the Ford/Firestone debacle, which sent television reporters and editorialists everywhere into swoons of terror, identi­fying the scourge of the SUVs as the next Black Plague to envelop civilization.

Manufacturers from the start have responded to these tocsins with bigger and bigger SUVs—machines with their own ZIP codes, packing V-8 and V-10 engines with enough power and torque to electrify small Third World countries.

HIGHS: The latest successful SUV spinoff from a full-size pickup, traditional Toyota quality.

Here came the fleets of Excursions, Escalades, Yukons, Yukon XLs, and Durangos, all with gonzo motors and suf­ficiently low fuel mileage to qualify for eternal damnation from the Friends of the Earth. Now Toyota is in the act. Yes, the same Toyota whose Priuses, Echos, and Corollas are among the lightest, most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world. But Japan’s largest automobile manufacturer is a profit-making business, not a division of the Sierra Club, and after first attacking the domestic full-size­-pickup market with its new Tundra last year, it was only a matter of time (mea­sured in months) before that platform would be modified into what is charitably called the “full-size” SUV class.

Although the Sequoia falls a bit short of the outré weight and size standards set by Ford’s Excursion and GM’s Suburban, it is one big Namu, offering eight leather­-bound seats in a neatly styled if unre­markable package. Offered in two- and four-wheel-drive versions (priced from $31,295 and topping out at $44,000 for our loaded four-wheel-drive test vehicle), the Sequoia is substantially cheaper and slightly more capacious than the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Lexus LX470, both of which are powered by the same 4.7-liter DOHC V-8 developed for the Tundra pickup, tuned for 240 hp here. This puts the Sequoia, pricewise, in direct competi­tion with the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Ford Expedition, while offering world-class Toyota fabrication and relia­bility. The only clue that its lineage can be traced to the Tundra, except for its engine, is the presence of the four-speed automatic shift lever on the steering column, as opposed to a console mount found in most upscale SUVs.

As expected, its road manners are prim and proper, in the narrow context of sport­-utilities. (Note: With the possible excep­tion of the BMW X5, there isn’t an SUV built that could be described as possessing decent handling.) Our Sequoia, weighing in at 5251 pounds and standing two inches more than six feet tall, and with 10.6 inches of ground clearance, wobbled around the skidpad generating 0.71 g of cornering force. This is not a bad number for an SUV of this size, but the Sequoia cannot be confused with a modern sedan.

LOWS: Limited towing capacity for an SUV in this class; conventional, low-risk styling.

Yes, the Sequoia has all the right stuff: a new five-link coil-sprung rear suspen­sion, anti-roll bars fore and aft, ABS on four-wheel vented disc brakes, a skid-man­agement system that automatically acti­vates brake and throttle applications when adhesion fails, plus Toyota’s A-Trac trac­tion-control system. But none of these devices can overcome the laws of simple physics. Large, heavy, tall vehicles must be driven with caution, meaning that the rollover shibboleth popularized by the media is in part the fault of the driving public that presumes SUVs can be wheeled around like cars. Cornering, as with all sport-utes this big, demands pru­dence. Modern gadgetry such as traction control, skid management, and ABS notwithstanding, big SUVs like the Sequoia cannot be taken for granted in any driving situation demanding agility or quick movements. This is hardly a design flaw but merely a manifestation of the nearly impossible task of wedding a large five-door, multipassenger vehicle with off-road capabilities to a smooth, comfortable package with a carlike personality.

On pavement, the Sequoia behaves well. Its acceleration (0 to 60 in 9.1 sec­onds) is within the range of vehicles in this class, and cruising at 65 to 80 mph on the open road offers silent running with silky comfort. Straight-line stability is first-rate, considering the vehicle’s high-rise architecture. The Sequoia hauled itself from 70 mph to a dead stop in 204 feet, which is very good for a 5251-pound vehicle. Like most Toyotas, the full-power interior is effectively laid out and executed to middlebrow perfection, offering high levels of function and low levels of visual stimulation.

But make no mistake, this is one big, beefy machine, and unless one plans on reg­ularly hauling five or more passengers or enough junk to fill a small single-wide, it may be too large for most customers. These whale-size SUVs fall into a narrow-spec­trum specialty class and should not be con­fused with more conventional machines of this genre. Maneuvering in tight quarters can be a night­mare. Rearward visibility, hampered by headrests and a high backlight, offers the unfortunate option of parking with the Braille system while dreaming about one of those remote television cameras employed on giant recreational vehicles. The Sequoia, and other similarly sized SUVs, can be legitimate pains in the ass to navigate when employed for normal transportation.

Thanks to its impressive ground clear­ance and four-wheel-drive system that can be engaged with the push of a dashboard button (or used full-time), the Sequoia is quite effective off-road, although it lacks locking differentials. As a compromise, low range is available with a separate shifter that locks the center differential. Aside from slogging up snowy mountains to ski lodges or occasional forays to back­country trout streams, the Sequoia is, like all upscale SUVs, probably best suited for John Loudon McAdam’s ancient but uni­versally celebrated road surfaces.

Toyota claims that the two-and-a-half-­ton four-wheel-drive Sequoia will tow up to 6200 pounds, although its engine produces only 315 pound-feet of torque. Based on our experience with race cars, one puz­zles under what conditions such a load could be hauled effectively. Sixty miles an hour on level terrain? Perhaps. Then again, the Chevy Tahoe’s trailer rating is even higher with less torque.

That said, Toyota has effectively followed the domestic industry’s lead in converting a pickup platform into a useful, well-founded sport-ute. High value, vaunted quality, and reliability at a rea­sonable price are all in play with the Sequoia. Like most of the products from this cau­tious and essentially conserv­ative manufacturer, there is little about the vehicle to prompt rooftop celebrations, but there is also precious little to criticize, considering the mission state­ment of the vehicle.

VERDICT: The right price, the right quality, the right stuff to create an instant contender.



2001 Toyota Sequoia Limited 4×4
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 8-passenger, 4-door wagon


Base/As Tested: $42,755/$44,000
Options: sunroof, $1005; 6-disc in-dash CD changer, $200; daytime running lights, $40

DOHC 32-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 285 in3, 4664 cm3
Power: 240 hp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 315 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm 

4-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: control arms/live axle
Brakes, F/R: 12.5-in vented disc/12.2-in vented disc
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T


Wheelbase: 118.1 in
Length: 203.9 in
Width: 78.0 in
Height: 74.0 in
Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 62/56/37 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 60/39/9 ft3
Curb Weight: 5251 lb


60 mph: 9.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.8 sec @ 81 mph
90 mph: 21.9 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 9.8 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.7 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.3 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 97 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.71 g 


Observed: 13 mpg

City/Highway: 14/17 mpg 


Source: Reviews -


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