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Driving Impressions : 2017 Toyota Sequoia

My mom and stepdad are going on a two week Mediterranean cruise. They’ve also recently purchased a new 2017 Sequoia to replace their 2010 Highlander, which they deemed as “too small”. How a Highlander is too small for a retired couple, I’m not sure. But somehow it was apparently. The Sequoia came into my possession simply by virtue of me being the only person available to drop them off at the airport. I was told I could drive it if I wanted to, but just to make sure that when I come back to pick them up in two weeks, to make sure it has a full tank of gas, and is clean inside and out. Fair enough.

Anyway, I’ve been driving it for a few days and have some observations that I’d like to share with the group.

--------------------------------------------------------------------The Good-----------------------------------------------------------------

  • There’s lots of space inside, it’s very roomy. easily enough room for 6 full-sized American adults and some luggage. Which means that there’s ample room for 2 two adults, and additional 4 or 5 kids and their stuff.
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  • It’s surprisingly quick, while, I’m not drag racing this thing, there is more than enough power. The 5.7L V8 has alot of low and mid range grunt. It does seem to lose a bit of steam at higher (5000+) RPMs, but most people who buy these things expect more low end torque, and it’s got that in spades. This would be a ideal vehicle for a larger displacement (4 liter or thereabouts) turbodiesel V6. IMHO.

  • The front seats are comfortable with a wide range of adustments, The steering wheel also has electric adjustments.

  • Visibility is good, and the mirrors are large and offer good view. It has Blind spot monitoring, and the mirrors also have a power folding feature, nice for tight parking spots.

  • Handling is secure, I wouldn’t want to hot lap this thing at the Nürburgring but there’s no sensation that a rollover is forthcoming. It’s not nimble by any means, but it’s steadfast in the sense that you never see an elephant trip over it’s own feet.

  • The optional JBL sound system is much better than I expected. It’s easily superior to the mid-level Shaker sound system in my Mustang.

  • Like so many other things in this vehicle, the rear hatch/door is motorized, press a button; it opens, press the button again, it closes. The 3rd row seats are also motorized. The rear glass can be lowered like any other window.

  • It seems exceptionally well built, the doors shut with an almost Germanic “thunk” , Structurally it’s close to being over engineered. Not as much so as Land Crusier is though.

  • ---------------------------------------------------------The Not So Good----------------------------------------------------------

  • Compared to new GM and Ford full sized SUVs. The interior is very dated looking, especially the dashboard. Hard, cheap plastics abound. The quality of plastic used on the dash and parts of the center console looks the same as the stuff Ford used in my 2003 Mustang. For $60k+ I would expect lots and lots of soft touch materials. It’s really disappointing given the price point of this vehicle.

  • Toyota’s Intune infotainment system is lacking. There’s no Apple Carplay or Android Auto, inexcusable in 2017 IMHO. The screen is significantly smaller than you’d expect given all the interior room there is, and it’s a reach from the drivers seat to interact with the screen. The Nav system is more complex that it needs to be. The Sync 3 system that I have in my car has a larger screen (in a smaller car) and is much more straightforwards to use. Also to use Apps with Intune you first need to download Toyota’s Intune app for your phone, then go through it and match the sub-applications on the phone with the ones to the particular car with it’s own particular sets of sub-apps supports. It’s ridiculously complicated.

  • The transmission has oddly spaced ratios. Particularly the top two gears. It has double overdrive. with 5th gear being a .728 and 6th gear being a .588 At highway speeds there’s barely a 400 RPM drop from 5th to 6th. Seems odd to me. It’s like there’s no real purpose for 5th gear to be there. It would make more sense to have 5th gear as a direct drive and space gears 1-4 a bit better.

  • At highway speeds you’d expect relaxed cruising RPM. In 6th gear at 73 MPH this thing is turning over 2000 RPM despite the deep 6th gear. Turns out it has a 4.30 :1 rear end gear. This would explain it’s peppy performance. Which leads me to my next point

  • Fuel economy is bad even by full sized SUV standards. Ford and GM are getting over 20 MPG with their newest offerings. The Sequoia is rated for 13 MPG city and 17 MPG highway. Right now I’m just under 15 MPG in typical driving.

  • The steering is comically overboosted at slow speeds with very little feedback. It’s entirely possible to steer with your pinky finger at parking lot speeds. At highway speeds things tighten up a bit,(not enough for my liking though), but there isn’t as much road feel as there should be.

---------------------------------------------------------------------Overall--------------------------------------------------------------------

This vehicle is in need of an update. This generation of Sequoia came out in 2008, and really hasn’t been changed much since then. Mechanically speaking, the Expedition has better technology and a more powerful and efficient engine. Same story with the Tahoe. And now both GM and Ford are introducing 8 and 10 speed transmissions that help performance and economy, but Toyota is sticking with the same 6 speed they had a decade ago. Even if you look in the engine bay, The Toyota’s V8 has a mechanical radiator fan, who does this in 2017? The interior was the biggest disappointment On a $16k Yaris, I’d be fine with it, On a $63k vehicle it’s almost an insult. I’ve read that there are going to be some modest revisions for the 2018 Sequoia, which include an updated dashboard, but the competition has had much better interior materials for years now. But the thing that the competition doesn’t have is Toyota’s reputation for making incredibly reliable trucks. I think that the people who buy this vehicle value reliability and resale value over the latest technology and tasteful interior aesthetics .

My stepfather was a Volvo guy for quite a while, he bought, I want to say four or five Volvo wagons in row, starting with a 740 wagon and culminating in a V70 turbo wagon. Finally he got tired of spending a grand every time something went wrong (which was frequent). And he decided to get a Toyota, in this case a Highlander in 2010. The Highlander was bulletproof, they put 160k on the clock and nothing ever broke, just normal maintenance, tires and brakes. This impressed them, so when they decided that the needed a bigger vehicle, there was no other choice in their minds. It was the Sequoia or nothing. They didn’t even consider the Expedition, Tahoe, or Armada. The dealers apparently know this scenario well too. I was doing some research on their behalf and found that the Ford and GM dealers were perfectly willing to come $12k or more off sticker without us even setting foot in a showroom, the Toyota dealers were only willing to give a discount of maybe half of what the domestics were willing to do. Also it seems that most dealers had only a handful of Sequoias on the lot, there were about 12 total in the central VA area among the 3 dealers we looked at. The one I drove had to be transported in from out of state, as it was one of the few with a bench middle seat and leather, and the right color. But at the domestic dealerships, they had dozens on each and every lot. Seems that Toyota only makes enough of these things to meet barely meet demand. Which is probably a good business move.

1 Like

Well written Sir. Of course I also wonder why a retired couple needs something like this.

Need? Who really needs to go on a 2 week cruise?
Who cares? That’s none of my business. It isn’t about need. I’ve been there, done that thing most of my life.

Retire and then “want” replaces “need.” One can finally do what they want to do. I don’t work anymore, kids have left the nest, and I do whatever I want to do, not what I need to do.

Back to cars… I don’t know anything about any Toyota, sorry. I don’t recall I’ve ever driven or ridden in one.
CSA

Being retired myself, the Sequoia would appeal to me. I don’t see a cooling van with a mechanical clutch as real disadvantage. We have a 4Runner which is a little smaller than a Sequoia. When we bought the 4Runner back in 2003, we did road test a Highlander, but preferred the 4Runner. We also have a Sienna minivan.
I have had other people question why we have two larger vehicles. These vehicles are what we like and meet our needs. I don’t concern myself with gas mileage. I did my time in a Rambler, a Maverick and a Ford Tempo–economical cars for their time period. I have paid my dues.
If a retired couple wants a Sequoia, that’s great.

1 Like

i would go with an infinity qx80? my friend likes to go on cruises. or his wife does and he goes along. they went on a recent 3 week cruise with corner suite and the bill was $27k. good for him

Why do they need it?

One word: grandchildren

We don’t have any just yet, but my wife wants a minivan to transport stuff and to carry ALL the grandchildren when they arrive. We will need a replacement for her Silhouette in the next few years, and she wants another minivan.

1 Like

They don’t have to need it. If they like it, that’s all that matters.
Interesting review, but I urge you not to share any of the criticisms with them. It can be heartbreaking for some people to have someone point out their own disliked details in their new vehicle. Point out the good things if you’d like and let them enjoy their new ride. They’ve earned the right to like whatever vehicle they want.

2 Likes

You may be onto something there. My brother and his wife just welcomed their 2nd child into the world recently. Currently there are three grandchildren. A 7 year old, a 2 year old, and a 3 month old. The two little ones have strollers and whatnot they travel with.

Very well done and light years ahead of the reviews done by automotive magazine “pros”.

You have a new career awaiting… :slight_smile:

3 Likes

it’s not a bad choice, but after considering one my brother is looking at the highlander or Honda Pilot instead, he’d love to have the extra room behind the 3rd row but not with the mileage penalty.

My parents spent a week with a Toyota 4Runner that the rental company had instead of the compact SUV they’d reserved. Too high of a climb in for my aunt and uncle who went with them on the trip and the mileage was much lower than dad would have preferred although probably about normal for a 4runner. They did get across Donner Pass in the snow without problems on the stock tires though.

That is credit to Toyota, they didn’t have to eat their kin.

4 Likes

Very well written. I like it, now if you can only do one for the 2016 RAV4 :slight_smile:

It also sounds like what Toyota would build. Decent but not cutting edge, would probably make it to 300K miles easily if taken care of.

Dad was a little unsure if the highway patrol would let them go through since snow tires or chains were required. They got the ok and made it back to Sacramento. I think it got around 17mpg on the round trip to Yosemite and back via Lake Tahoe.

I’m not sure about the Reno area but in southern Nevada mountain passes are restricted during snow storms to vehicles with AWD, 4WD or tire chains, winter tires are not seen around here.

“Donner Pass” carries a stigma/folklore in the west.

When I bicycled from LA to Canada (then NYC) I stopped for lunch at the Donner Pass Picnic Area. Chipmunks were so bold they ran right in front of me on the table and snatched my food.