If you like a big SUV, there’s a lot to like in the 2023 Toyota Sequoia.
The long-awaited redesign of Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV is finally here and it has created a lot of buzz. We got to see it in person when it was announced to the media and just couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. Built on the same framework as the newly redesigned Toyota Tundra, the Sequoia has an updated look, new multimedia system, and a twin turbo V6 replaces the former model’s V8 engine. When it rolls into dealers this fall, it will bring with it a lot of power and comfort, modern technology and seating for 7 or 8 passengers.
But the first chance to drive it came last week and true to its name, it’s a giant. A hauling, towing, seating-for-8 giant. True to its lineage, it is capable. But did we like it?
What it’s Like to Drive the 2023 Toyota Sequoia
Anytime you get behind the wheel of an SUV this big, you have to wonder how it will handle on the road. Keep in mind that these large SUVs are usually built on pickup truck frames; will it drive like a truck, which can take a lot of muscle to conquer, or like a car, which drives with more ease? Or something in between? And will the ride be truck-like, with more jostling due to its large frame?
When my drive partners and I first got into the new Sequoia and ventured out on the highway, I was surprised: The ride seemed a bit rough for an SUV with a starting price of $78k for the Capstone edition (the entry level model with 2 wheel drive starts at $58,300), which carries all the luxuries. But the pavement changed after a bit and the ride smoothed out.
And then! Then we got off the highway onto some gravel drives I was blown away by how comfortable and quiet the ride was considering the surface we were driving on. It made me wonder if this could be the ultimate SUV for country folk like me who spend a lot of time driving rough, narrow roads.
Overall, though, the 2023 Sequoia doesn’t really drive like a truck, which surprised me. Built on the Tundra platform, its just as big, and maybe even heavier, but it rides smoother. It’s no Cadillac, but it is very comfortable.
Towing with the 2023 Sequoia – Up to 9,500 Lbs Tow Capacity
A lot of people who drive large SUVs buy them because they make great overland or adventure vehicles. With 437 horsepower and 583 lb. ft. of torque, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia has the capabilities of a pickup truck and the ability to bring more passengers and keep your gear safe and dry in the cabin (even more if you put the seats down). These truck capabilities include an optional tow package that allows you to tow up to 9,500 lbs with ease.
At the drive event, I towed a 7,000 lb. airstream camper on and off the pavement. If it hadn’t been for some pretty high winds causing the trailer to sway a little, I could have easily forgotten I was towing. The Sequoia does a great job providing a smooth start and stop, without the jerking you often feel when towing. And the available extending and retracting tow mirrors give you a great view along the full side of your vehicle and trailer plus the area behind. If anything, the vehicle’s ride was smoother with some weight on the hitch than it was without.
Off-Roading in the New Sequoia is a Thrill to Do, and to Watch
An SUV this big can be a little scary to drive, especially when you can’t see over the hood and the top of the hill, or how deep that “puddle” really is. Thank goodness for spotters and course designers who know their stuff, because a lot of us took the TRD Pro 2023 Toyota Sequoia through some pretty crazy obstacles and it performed beautifully at every one of them. I had so much fun even watching and take pictures for a while. I couldn’t get enough of it. Seeing two wheels come off the ground while the vehicle did some exciting moves on the course, or watching it go almost vertical up a hill was just so awe-inspiring.
That the Sequoia can move like it does is a testament to the experience and intelligence of the Toyota engineers. Thanks to 4-wheel drive, locking rear differential, skid plates, rock bars, special shocks and a lot more, these beasts can go just about anywhere.
2023 Toyota Sequoia Pricing
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia SR5 starts at $58,300. This is the base model, but it’s still pretty nice. Like every Sequoia model it comes with the latest safety package that Toyota has to offer. This model has a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and Panoramic View Monitor, heated seats and 18″ wheels.
Next is the Limited edition, which is a small step up from the SR5 in price but adds some great features. This includes the larger 14″ touch screen multimedia system, completely redesigned in 2022 and featuring “Hey Toyota” voice assistance, memory heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding 3rd row seats, a hands-free power liftgate and pull-up sunscreen shades for the second and third rows.
Both the SR5 and Limited trims allow you the option to add some of the TRD Off-Road capabilities like a locking rear differential, multi-terrain select for improved traction, downhill assist control, and Bilstein monotube shock absorbers and TRD-tuned springs. This package also adds a red TRD start button and aluminum pedals. This allows you to get all the capability you need at a lower price than the decked-out TRD Pro package.
What do you get in the Toyota Sequoia Platinum grade? A lot more focus on driver and passenger comfort: heated and ventilated front and second-row seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a 14-speaker JBL sound system, panoramic moonroof and heads-up display.
The TRD Pro package with its red camo seats really stands out from the crowd. Of course, you don’t have to choose red seats, (the black is really nice too!) but if you’re getting the white exterior, I highly recommend the red. The TRD Pro package comes with second-row captain’s chairs, TRD Pro badges inside and out, a fantastic roof rack, a skid plate to protect the underside of the vehicle, a light bar on the front grille, wheels that provide a wider stance and dual exhaust for that TRD Pro growl we love. It also has all of the off-road features that are optional on the SR5 and Limited as standard equipment on the TRD Pro Sequoia. There is also a Solar Octane orange color that is only available on this trim level.
And finally, we got to know the brand new luxury trim: Capstone. This is Toyota’s newest, most glorious package. Our model had contrasting black and white leather seating inside and superior details like American walnut wood grain and chrome accents, 22″ wheels, power running boards, leather-trimmed seats, LED mood lighting, and acoustic glass on the front door windows to reduce the road noise and give passengers a quieter ride.
We’ve been waiting for the Sequoia to be redesigned for a while. Toyota’s largest SUV, it’s a go-to for families who need the space and also want the capability to bring the boat or RV along for the adventure. And like the Tundra, Toyota has a hit with this one. It’s modern, comfortable and capable; at the entry level it’s nicely outfitted, and at the top end you won’t want for a thing – except maybe even more country roads to explore.
Disclosure: Toyota brought me out to their headquarters in Plano, TX and then over to Eagles Canyon Raceway and their off-road course to experience the 2023 Toyota Sequoia. All images and driving impressions are my own.