2019 Toyota Sequoia 4x4 TRD Sport Review

Huge in stature and hugely out of date


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Powerful V8 engine is a monster, built like a tank, spacious interior, nice TRD aesthetics help it hang on but barely.
Negatives: Cheap plastic cabin goes against the price tag, lame infotainment system, dinky audio knobs, painfully bad fuel efficiency. Looks like a dinosaur, drives like a dinosaur, is a dinosaur.
Bottom Line: Even in more aggressive duds, the Pleistocene era Sequoia shows its age. Big, bulky, and powerful, it's still a capable SUV but the clunky interior and cheap materials betray it every time you step inside. The tech also seems to have time-traveled here from ten years ago.
When an automaker starts adding style trim bits to make their dated models look contemporary, usually it's an indication that the brand is about to redesign the model. But it's also a poor substitute and a sort of window dressing afterthought that's rarely convincing. Case in point, the TRD Sport trim on the aging Sequoia. This Tundra pickup-based SUV has been around largely unchanged for over a decade, and its bald spots can no longer be combed over. We drove the 2019 Sequoia with the more aggressive-looking TRD Sport trim for a week to see if it's a case of too little, too late. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.4

 

There's no question the Sequioa is big, but it also feels huge when you're driving it. For the sheer size, it's not bad to drive, but it always feels ponderous. What it does provide, though, is a generally comfortable ride, which families will appreciate.

Ride Quality: Though it's a generally comfortable ride, you feel bigger bumps and gaps. It's not upsetting, but it is noticeable.

Acceleration: The big V8 with 341 horses and the six-speed automatic work well together, moving the nearly 6,000-lb Sequoia to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.

Braking: The brakes are strong, and they bring the big SUV to an authoritative stop. Progression is good, as is pedal feel, not something we expected from the big beast.

Steering: Steering feels vague and light with minimal feedback coming through the column. It's on center during highway driving, not requiring much adjustment.

Handling: The TRD Sport benefits from Bilstein shocks and anti-sway bars for both axles, but there's no mistaking this thing for a performance SUV. The 6K pounds makes it tough to manage curves well, and the tall ride height doesn't help matters.

Technology

4.8

 

Outside of being extremely small and hard to see from the driver's seat, the Sequoia's 6.1-inch infotainment display is antiquated. Other Toyota products have adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Sequoia hasn't – if Toyota hasn’t attached this tech to some of its newest products, do you really think a slow-selling, uncompetitive 12-year-old SUV is going to have it? Instead, the Sequoia sticks with outdated, off-the-shelf Toyota home screen and graphics. The addition of CarPlay and Android Auto would have at least made this small screen more functional.

Infotainment System: For a vehicle this expensive and this large, it shouldn't have an infotainment system this bad. The screen is small (6.1 inches), dull, and zero fun to use. You'd think Toyota would've at least pulled a bigger screen from the RAV4, huh?

Controls: We really hated some of the controls in the Sequoia. The audio knobs are the size of small marshmallows (while the climate control knobs are massive and quite good). The contrast is stark. Audio buttons on the steering wheel are not intuitive (volume is L/R, forward and back is up/down). And that shift knob is offensively large and cheap.

Styling

7.3

 

The more masculine dark touches for the TRD Sport certainly help the aging SUV, but they don't save it from looking dated. There's more black just about everywhere, and it gives the Sequoia a more menacing presence. When you pit it against more modern offerings like the Ford Expedition or the Chevy Traverse, the Sequoia looks painfully aged.

Front: The fascia just looks old, and the black strips across the grille frame just make it look like its going to a funeral.

Rear: The rear end of the Sequoia looks very basic, except for the round lenses in the taillight housings, which actually look like cheap aftermarket replacements.

Profile: Though it's really bulky looking from the side, when you add the black wheels from the TRD Sport trim that match the black paint, the big SUV looks special forces-ready. It's our favorite angle.

Cabin: Though there's some TRD badging inside, the interior is just really ancient. Everything is blocky, bulky, and generally ho-hum. It actually manages to make the exterior look fresh by comparison, which is not a compliment.

Comfort

8.2

 

The one good thing about having a big SUV is that there's likely to be bigly kinds of room inside. And that's where the Sequoia struts its stuff in terms of passenger comfort. There are better SUVs out there, but the Sequoia has managed to hold its own for a decade.

Front Seats: They're not much to look at, but the seat backs are broad, and the cushions are comfortable without being mushy. There's plenty of room up front, as well.

Rear Seats: Our tester had the captain's chairs, and they're very good for full-sized adults. Legroom is ample (40.9 inches), and there's plenty of room to move around. Third row occupants get an impressive 35.3 inches of legroom, so adults can park here without complaint.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Though the Sequoia feels solid, the fact that it's a pickup truck frame means creaks sometimes make their way into the cabin.

Visibility: Pillars are on the thick side, and the Sequoia is tall, so visibility is compromised. Cameras are imperative, and the rear camera helps. What this thing needs is a good 360-degree camera, but alas there isn't one even optional.

Climate: The climate system works well with big control knobs and large vents, but there are no ventilated seats, only heat.

Safety

5

 

The big Sequoia SUV hasn't been tested, but its companion pickup truck, the Tundra has, and it didn't do well in crash tests. The only thing that saves it from going sub-5 in our ratings is the set of standard safety features, which is robust.

IIHS Rating: It unfortunately scored "marginal" and "poor" for the driver and passenger small front overlap crash, respectively, which means you should probably look elsewhere if you're concerned about safety.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: It gets the Toyota Safety Sense P suite that includes Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Auto High Beams, and Radar Cruise Control, which works well. There's also a rear camera blind spot monitoring, and front and rear parking assist.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.6

 

If it's gear you want to haul, the back of the Sequoia is truly capacious. We just wish there were better small item options between the front seats.

Storage Space: The armrest compartment is huge, and the big cup holders are just as good for phones, etc., as they are for beverages. There are a couple of small cubbies in the center console, but they're not especially useful.

Cargo Room: 120 cubic feet of space for gear when you fold the last two rows flat is plenty of room. That's way more than the Ford Expedition's 104 cubes and just shy of the 121 in the big Chevy Suburban.

Fuel Economy

4

 

The four-wheel-drive Sequoia TRD Sport has painfully lowe EPA ratings, and we backed that up with our results. The 13 miles per gallon city, 17 highway, and 14 combined aren't far off the mark and the worst in the segment. Ouch.

Observed: 13.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 273 miles

Driving Factors: We did a lot of highway miles, so our results were especially shocking. We'd hoped to crest 15.

Audio

6.8

 

There's no ugpraded JBL system in our Sequoia, but our tester did get the optional Entne Premium Audio. Too bad it's not especially great in terms of bass or clarity. The system was fine, but for something this big, it should have a booming sound system.



Final Thoughts

Other than reliability and interior space, there's not much to like about the Sequoia. The styling is old both inside and out, the driving experience is lackluster, and the monster drinks gas like an automotive whale. It's high time Toyota redid it (as well as the Tundra pickup). The TRD Sport trim may help a little, but it's a bit like Sylvester Stallone playing Rambo in his 70s. The jig is up.
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