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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2023 Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4x4: A Hybrid That is NOT Made for MPG?

In a world that seems bent on switching from gas-powered vehicles over to fully electric variants, it is a pleasant surprise when we get new vehicles that can still be filled up at your corner gas station. Hybrids seem to be the way to stave off the impending switch to full electrification, but this particular hybrid seems more concerned with brute strength than sipping fuel.

Meet the all-new, hybrid-only 2023 Toyota Sequoia. As the name suggests, this is the biggest SUV from the Japanese automaker and it borrows heavily from the Tundra pickup. With toned-down looks up front and three rows of seats, the Sequoia is the more family-friendly option to the brutish Tundra pickup. Styling, while very clearly in the same family as the Tundra, takes a slightly more subtle approach with a more conventional grille and bumper design making the Sequoia the better-looking face of the two siblings, in my opinion.

Aside from small revisions to the facias, everything from the nose to the front doors could be taken straight off the Tundra and no one would notice any difference. That similarity flows through into the interior as well, but we will get to that in a moment.

For 2023, the Sequoia has two roles to fill within Toyota's lineup, a replacement for the outgoing Sequoia, and a replacement for the now-discontinued US-spec Toyota Land Cruiser. Foreign markets get an updated Land Cruiser built off this shared platform that also underpins the Tundra and Lexus LX 600. If Toyota buyers are not satisfied with this as a Land Cruiser luxury SUV replacement, we suggest they visit their Lexus dealer to check out that LX 600.

The overall styling is nice, muscular, and generally unoffensive. This is exactly what you would imagine a three-row SUV version of the Tundra to look like. Our favorite exterior design cue of our Platinum trim is the sequential LED turn signals in the front and rear. The rear hatch loses its roll-down rear window in favor of a separate liftable glass portion that allows users to quickly throw a small bag in without having to wait on the power liftgate. The rear glass also covers the rear-facing camera that serves as the eyes for the rearview camera mirror for the driver. Helping to remove the obstacles in the driver's rearview inside the cabin, this camera rests behind the rear glass so inclement weather does not render it useless. It sits just within the area of the rear window wiped clean by the small rear wiper.

With a shorter wheelbase than the Tundra and its hybrid powertrain, engineers made some choices that could leave buyers looking to the competition. First is the placement of the battery for the hybrid system. In the Tundra, the battery resides under the rear seats, taking up storage space typically found in full-size pickups. In the Sequoia, the battery is somewhere underneath the sliding third row of seats. That, in addition to the solid rear axle that has already been replaced by independent rear suspension in Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade leaves the third row of seats sitting directly on the floor. This leaves rear passengers with their knees in a higher position than either of the other rows or any of the competition's third row of seats. Toyota hopes that the power recalling/folding feature along with the manual sliding function will suffice to make rear passengers as comfortable as possible on long trips.

These two decisions also play into rear cargo space. While the leader of the pack, Chevy Tahoe, has 25 cubic feet of storage space behind its third row of seats, the Sequoia can only muster up to 22.3 cubic feet, however, that is with the seats fully forward. With the seats in a comfortable position for a 5'10" passenger like myself, the rear cargo capacity is somewhere around a paltry 11 cubic feet. In a vehicle this large you would expect it to have more rear storage space than a subcompact Honda HR-V.

Also a headscratcher, in a hybrid-only approach, you would expect the Sequoia to be the leader in big, three-row SUV MPG, but that too is not the case. Our 4x4 model had an EPA estimated 19/22/20 MPG (city/hwy/combined). The leader in the pack, Tahoe, can get up to 21/28/24 when ordered in RWD with the LZ0 3.0L turbodiesel engine, which we loved in our test of the Silverado Trail Boss. It does outperform the Tahoe's large and thirsty 6.2L V8 which registers a sad 14/18/16 in 4x4 variants. Honestly, after having that turbodiesel from Chevy for a week and seeing what it could do in an off-road focused pickup, we were let down by the fuel economy numbers we saw in our week with this Sequoia. Our time left us seeing real-world returns in the 16 MPG range.

Complaints about fuel economy and rear-seat space and storage aside, the first two rows of the Sequoia did not disappoint. With 2-person memory on the driver seat settings, soft leather over all the seats, heat and ventilation on the first two rows, manually retractable sunshades on the rear two rows of seats, and a large panoramic sunroof, this was a nicely laid out cabin. The dash is a carbon copy of the Tundra, which is not a bad thing. Hosting the 14-inch infotainment screen with Toyota's new software means 14 inches of uninterrupted wireless Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto). I really like how Toyota gives you the whole screen to see your content.

12.3 inches of screen resides behind the steering wheel to show the driver all pertinent information for speed, mileage, turbo speed, battery levels, and more. Toyota even gives the driver 10 more inches of screen with the head-up display on the windshield.

Visibility was generally good in this Sequoia, with large windows all around and a high driving position. However, our model had the optional tow mirrors that we would not recommend unless you are towing regularly. They sit further out than the normal mirrors on a Sequoia, even when retracted, and are vertical in design meaning you have a large rectangular blindspot in your cross-traffic vision. There were certain intersections where my wife and I would need to work as a team to ensure nothing was hiding behind the large mirror on the passenger side.

All around, this was a good SUV that made our time with it generally agreeable. I liked the seats and used both the heat and ventilation features during our crazy Texas springtime weather. We never had to carry anyone in the third row, so that stayed folded flat for most of our time with it, leaving us with plenty of room for shopping trips around town. The power deployable running boards made climbing in easy for all three members of the family as well. While not a perfect execution of the desires of many shopping in the segment, the new Sequoia does get enough right that I do believe Toyota should gain some new buyers that aren't just trading in old versions for the new one. Is it the one we would pick, no. But that does not mean it is not the right choice for you.

2023 Toyota Sequoia Platinum Specs:

  • 3.5L Twin Turbocharged V6 i-Force MAX Hybrid Engine

  • 437 Horsepower

  • 583 lb-ft of Torque

  • 10-Speed Automatic Transmission

  • Electronic Transfer Case

  • 20-inch Machine-finished Black Alloy Wheels

  • Premium LED Headlights

  • LED Daytime Running Lights

  • LED Sequential Turn Signals

  • Seating for 7

  • Power Fold Third-row Seats

  • Load-leveling Rear Height Control Air Suspension

  • Adaptive Variable Suspension

  • Tow Technology Package

  • Heated and Ventilated Leather Front Seats

  • Heated and Ventilated Leather Second Row Captain’s Chairs

  • 8-Way Front Seats with Power Lumbar

  • 10-inch Color Head-up Display

  • 12.3-inch Fully Digital Instrument Cluster

  • Toyota Auto Multimedia System with 14-inch Display and Wireless Apple CarPlay®

  • JBL® Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers and Subwoofer

  • 11.5-22.3 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind the Third Row

  • 49 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind the Second Row

  • 86.9 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind the Front Row

  • Panoramic Moonroof

  • Power Running Boards

  • Tri-zone Climate Controls with Rear Vents

  • Proximity Key with Push Button Start

  • Toyota Safety Sense™ 2.5

  • EPA Fuel Economy 19/22/20 (city/hwy/combined)

  • Starting MSRP $58,365 (SR5)

  • Price as tested: $78,880

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