I didn't expect to like the Sequoia. Its platform mate, the Tundra, struck me as a massive disappointment when I drove one back in 2018—the truck's 11th model year without a major redesign. Less refined, less efficient, less capable, less safe, and less advanced than any other full-size pickup, it was extremely hard to recommend. All of that is true with the 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, too. I just like it anyway.
The biggest advantage the Sequoia has over its pickup-truck counterpart is independent rear suspension, which quells the cart-like bucking and unsettling rough-road behavior of the Tundra and takes the SUV's dynamics from "actively annoying" to "not bad." The situation is further improved by this TRD Pro's softer springs and off-road Fox Racing shocks. It's surprisingly good at soaking up massive impacts, particularly helpful on crumbling city streets.
Like the Tundra, the Sequoia has outlive-you-all charm. The 5.7-liter V-8 has a reputation for stone-like reliability, having appeared in various Land Cruisers and two Tundras that have eclipsed 1,000,000 miles. The ancient six-speed automatic transmission should prove similarly durable, lazily swapping cogs for the next several decades. With its massive interior and off-road aspirations, the Sequoia inherits the zombie-invasion prowess of both the Land Cruiser and the Tundra.
But the world hasn't ended. And while you wait, you'll be stuck with a setup that trades efficiency and refinement for durability. That's a fair trade if you're going to keep this truck for more than a decade, but it's worth remembering that GM's full-size body-on-frame SUVs aren't exactly fragile. More to the point, you won't go broke quite so swiftly fueling a GM product. The 5.7 in the Sequoia is EPA rated for 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway—awful numbers plucked straight out of the pre-recession world in which the Sequoia was designed. It's squarely worst in class, behind even the 6.2-liter GM triplets and the old 5.6 in the Nissan Armada.
At least it sounds good. The Sequoia's V-8 burble is satisfying and angry. I just wish you didn't have to hear it so much. Thanks to that old six-speed and a lot of bulk, the engine has to work hard to get this big SUV moving. Kick the throttle, and you get a slow response from the transmission, than a lot of racket as it chugs to speed, plus some poorly-controlled vibrations and secondary noises.
Despite that independent rear suspension, the chassis tuning is decidedly old school, a soft setup great for big bumps but utterly disinterested in controlling body roll or pitch. It never quite settles in, always listing and leaning with every input. That makes it somewhat tedious to manage on longer drives, and entirely terrifying if you try to take a corner quickly. At least it accelerates well: In 2016 our colleagues at Car and Driver clocked a mechanically identical Sequoia at 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.
Where this big old SUV falls massively, embarrassingly behind is in the interior. My tester stickered for $66,129 and, frankly, for that price this interior is a joke. You can generously describe the plethora of buttons and knobs as being useful and utilitarian, but when you're creeping up on 70 grand, you ought to offer some semblance of luxury. Toyota didn't even try; this interior is the same old mess it was 13 years ago, when the Sequoia first showed up.
Designed concurrently with the very first iPhone, this interior has been lightly retrofitted over the years to add a slight veneer of newness. But everything in the cabin is either unadorned, cheap plastic, or cheap plastic pretending to be something else. Even the dull red switchgear backlighting and weak yellow glow of the dome lights remind me of used cars. It has radar cruise control and CarPlay, but both of these systems feel patched-in: The cruise control is slow to react and unusable in traffic, and CarPlay lives in a tiny, slow-to-react touchscreen that sits too far from the driver.
There are a hundred little ways cars have gotten better and less annoying in the last 13 years. The unevolved Sequoia has missed out on all of them. The driver's seat is unsupportive and uncomfortable for long rides; the second-row seats are even worse, and the third row is hostile to humans. The back two rows are annoying to fold, while the power liftgate is slow and often catches itself on nothing.
None of this takes away from the fact that the Sequoia is an unkillable, relatively comfortable, and potent SUV. It just asks you for a lot of compromises. In a class not known for impeccable design, great interiors, or efficiency, the Sequoia manages to be the ugliest, worst-appointed, thirstiest truck on the block. It is far less refined than the Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe, or GMC Yukon. It's still charming, with its burly V-8 that will never die and a design that lends itself to prepper cosplay. But I wouldn't spend nearly $70,000 on one.
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