2023 Toyota Sequoia Review - A Three-Row Prius?

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone 4WD

3.4-liter twin-turbocharged hybrid V6 (437 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm, 583 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm)
10-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
19 city / 20 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
12.6 city / 10.5 highway / 11.7 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$79,895 US / $94,368 CAN
As Tested
$80,906 US / $95,008 CAN
Prices include $1,595 destination charge in the United States and $2,063 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Toyota wasn’t the first to market a hybrid car here in the U.S. Despite that, the Prius has become the defining hybrid car of the past two decades or so, with the model name occasionally outshining the marque itself. Hybridization has metastasized throughout the Toyota lineup, punctuating nearly every model and segment with electrification. 

It only stands to reason that the largest vehicles in a lineup, those vehicles for which fuel economy has never been the sole focus, should be among the last to see battery power. Within full-sized trucks and SUVs, however, there are plenty of gains to be made and plenty of room to stow extra batteries for additional economy and performance.

While the full-sized Tundra offers the choice between a standard turbo V-6 and hybridization, this 2023 Toyota Sequoia is hybrid only. How does it stack up in the real world? Is it a revelation in fuel efficiency, or does it keep you from seeing the redwood forest for the trees?

Whenever I drive a new vehicle, I try to look at it from a few angles. First, I ask myself where it might fit in my life and my driveway. But then I try and consider who the ideal buyer is, and ask how well it fits the needs of that buyer. Maybe it’s all the time I spent in sales, but I know that the marketing and planning departments always have that mythical target buyer in mind when they start to develop a new product.

Perhaps I’m a partial fit for the target demographic of the Sequoia, but I don’t specifically have a need for the size of this thing. When fitted with four-wheel drive, every trim level inches past the magical three-ton mark when empty. It’s 208.1 inches long and 79.6 inches wide, with a 122.0-inch wheelbase. I don’t tow anything regularly, but for those who do, the Sequoia can drag 8,980 pounds of boat, horse, car, or whatever. 

For those who do need the capability of this big rig, it’s competitive. The 583 lb-ft of electrically-assisted torque is addictive. Sadly, dipping into the throttle does send the fuel economy reading south, as the 20 mpg combined estimate might be a bit optimistic. My time in the Sequoia yielded readings in the 17 mpg range. That’s no improvement upon what I typically experience in V8-powered domestic rivals. Maybe the big 22-inch wheels fitted to this top-level Capstone trim affect the economy somewhat, though there is no difference in the EPA ratings for lesser trims. 

Comfort and ride quality aren’t what one might hope for out of a dreadnought-class SUV, either. Competitors have broadly moved to the independent rear suspension, but the Sequoia persists with the live rear axle borrowed from platform mate Tundra. Midcorner bumps send the hindquarters in a mild shimmy - it’s never uncontrollable, but it isn’t as plush a ride as one finds elsewhere.

The combination of a live axle and hybridization has another downside - rear headroom. The battery is above that axle, and thus right below the third-row seat. While this is a vehicle seemingly meant for hauling mass quantities of human cargo, those of average height and above will find themselves intimately acquainted with the texture of the headliner should they be unlucky enough to pull the short straw boarding position. Materials throughout the interior are quite nice, but that rear row is just a bit too cozy.

My concern with Toyota is they don’t seem to want to be the best with their mainstream vehicles - and that I’m talking about an eighty-thousand-dollar full-size luxury SUV as a mainstream vehicle is frankly absurd, to be honest. It feels as if Toyota is content to let their legendary customer loyalty and fabled reliability continue to feed customers into their showrooms, rather than building fully-realized market-leading vehicles. We know that Toyota has enthusiasts squirreled away within the engineering and product planning teams - witness the crazy GR Corolla I reviewed last month - but it often feels they deliberately hold back on their volume models.

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is, frankly, more of the same. I have no doubts that they’ll easily sell every one they make. But competitors are building SUVs with fewer compromises, and that’s why I’m disappointed with Toyota’s biggest tree.

[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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3 of 32 comments
  • Andrew Andrew on Aug 17, 2023

    Jumping in here to address the comments about 'the Sequoia persists with the live rear axle borrowed from platform mate Tundra'. Previous gen Sequoia actually went IRS for the 2008 MY straight through to 2022 MY.

    I suspect they saw Ford go IRS in the Expedition in 2003 or 2004 and were quick to copy them. Then they saw GM stay with solid axle (and dominate the market) for another decade and decide it wasn't worth the added cost / complexity. Of course GM just went IRS, a couple of years ago, so we will have to wait another 15 year Sequoia product cycle to see if Toyota follows suit :)!

    • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on Aug 17, 2023

      I have a suspicion that it was less about responding to market than about penny-pinching on development costs. Everything else on this platform is an off-road vehicle with a SRA, so IRS would have been unique to the Sequoia. They didn't want to bother, and they also didn't want to use the previous platform.

  • Booker Booker on Aug 18, 2023

    80K for a Toyota that is not named Land Cruiser...

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.