2003 Toyota Sequoia Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Limited 4WD

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2003 Toyota Sequoia
Mike Quincy

Toyota Sequoia is among the best of the full-size SUVs. It's about the same size as a Ford Expedition, and slightly larger than a Chevy Tahoe. Like most Toyotas, it's very well engineered and offers the highest levels of quality, durability, and reliability. It's quiet and comfortable.

The Sequoia is a great family vehicle, a modern replacement for the traditional American station wagon, with three rows of seats capable of carrying eight passengers.

New options for 2003 include a DVD entertainment system for rear-seat rugrats. The package comprises a high-resolution screen that flips down from the headliner, a DVD player in the center console, wireless headphones, and an independent rear-seat audio system. Another new option for 2003 is hydraulic load leveling. Brake Assist has been added as standard equipment for 2003.

Model Lineup
Toyota Sequoia comes in two trim levels: SR5 and Limited. Both are powered by a 240-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models are available.

SR5 ($31,625) comes standard with power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, automatic climate control, an AM/FM stereo with both cassette and CD players, ABS with brake assist, and 16-inch styled steel wheels.

Limited ($40,200) adds leather upholstery, dual-zone (front and rear) climate control, heated outside mirrors, JBL stereo, roof rack, and (new for 2003) P265/65R17 tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Both trim lines come standard with an electronic stability program to help correct a skid, and traction control to keep the wheels from slipping when accelerating in slippery driving conditions.

Sequoia takes its styling cues from the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup. Both are built in the same assembly plant at Princeton, Indiana.

Sequoia's front and rear doors are nicely integrated and fit proportionally with the rearmost seating and cargo area. The liftgate rear window actually rolls down, just like on those wood-paneled station wagons of the '60s and '70s.

The Limited model is distinguished by its fog lights, running boards, attractive alloy wheels, and rear spoiler. The overall look is clean, purposeful and, above all, big.

The Limited model is fitted with sumptuous leather seats, comfortable and heated.

Getting in and out of the Sequoia is a challenge, however. Although the Limited model comes with running boards (optional on the SR5) and grab handles mounted inside of the doorframes, you must be prepared to lift yourself up and into this vehicle. A big beast like the Sequoia requires some physical dexterity and for its occupants to be unafraid of heights: Once in, there's a commanding view from every seat.

The Sequoia is a champ if you have to transport lots of kids on a regular basis. We say "kids" because they're the only ones with the agility to hop over the middle-row to get to the third-row seats. Asking full-sized adults to crawl back there will likely cost you a few friends.

For carrying cargo, the third-row seats are easy to tumble forward to expand the cargo area. We found that left enough room for a jogging stroller, a baby backpack, and all the rest of the gear we needed for a day's worth of hiking. For maximum cargo carrying, you can remove the third-row seats and fold and tumble the second-row seats. Then there's enough space back there to clean out Toys 'R Us during a clearance sale.

Toyota's attention to detail can be seen everywhere in the Sequoia. The terrifically large bin between the front seats is split into two levels. The top level has a notepad holder and a place for coins. The bottom level has a molded, bookshelf-like CD holder to keep up to eight CDs from rattling around. There's enough room left over to hold a six-pack or a moderately sized purse. An overhead console holds sunglasses. The driver information center includes a compass, outside temperature, and fuel economy statistics, such as miles until empty, and overall and instant mpg. Double sun visors are provided. Other items make family outings a snap: multiple cupholders and storage bins scattered throughout the cabin; large openings for the rear doors which make installing child safety seats a breeze; front and rear air conditioning controls

The Limited version is very luxurious, almost like a Lexus in that regard, dual-zone automatic climate control, a killer JBL stereo with an available in-dash 6-CD changer, and every power-operated convenience feature you can imagine. Ours came with an enormous moonroof.

Nitpicks: The clock is mounted far too low in the center of the dash and is obscured by the climate control switches. And not all of us are enamored with the metal-tone trim in the Limited model.

Driving Impressions
Piloting the Toyota Sequoia on the open road is a pleasure. We love the smooth and powerful V8 engine. It's a marvel of a power plant, and this truck needs all of its 240 horsepower. The transmission, too, was seamless in operation. With such a long wheelbase and significant overall heft, the Sequoia delivers a comfortable ride on all types of roads.

Yet while our Limited was almost as luxurious as a Lexus, it wasn't nearly as quiet. Wind noise at highway speed wasn't obtrusive, but the cabin wasn't as hushed as a Lexus LS 430 sedan we recently drove.

The brakes work well, and come with Brake Assist. Brake Assist detects panic stops and increases brake pressure automatically to help reduce stopping distances.

There are two controls to activate the optional four-wheel drive system. The first is a simple button, located fairly low in the center of the dashboard. Pressing it will put the vehicle in 4 Hi, good for driving on snowy or slippery roads. It can be engaged on the fly without having to stop the vehicle. A traditional-looking shift lever between the front seats activates 4 Lo, a creeper gear used for extreme off-road use, such as descending a very steep hill.

Speaking of steep hills, Sequoia's active four-wheel traction control (TRAC), which comes standard on four-wheel-drive models, made it easy for us to drive straight up a set of moguls on a dry, gravel-covered ski slope at Big Sky, Montana. Instead of modulating the throttle, we simply held the gas down, and the Sequoia walked right up the hill, transferring torque to the tires with the best grip. Drop it into 4 Lo, and the system automatically locks the center differential for go-anywhere capability. Two-wheel-drive Sequoias come standard with rear-wheel traction control, though, obviously, they won't offer the mogul-climbing abilities of the four-wheel-drive models.

The skid-control feature, which is standard, helps the Sequoia maintain stability should it lose traction and begin to slid sideways. This electronic stability program selectively applies braking force to individual wheels to stop a skid, and it can really help you avoid an accident.

A two-wheel-drive Sequoia is rated to tow up to a 6500-pound trailer, while a 4x4 is rated to pull a 6200-pound trailer. Yet another new option for 2003 is a seven-pin towing connector that is compatible with electric trailer brakes.

Sequoia's luxury and comfort come with a price at the gas pump. The EPA says to expect only 14 mpg in city driving and a paltry 17 mpg on the highway. Forgoing 4WD ups the highway figure to 18 mpg. As you'd imagine from a vehicle of this size, the Sequoia is not easy to park. Parallel parking this hulk in downtown Austin, Texas, proved to be a humbling experience.

Toyota Sequoia has seating for up to eight (or five and lots of room to bring the dogs). It delivers a smooth, comfortable ride. It comes with lots of safety equipment, including traction and skid control, available front side-impact and head-level airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, available on-demand four-wheel drive, and the secure feeling that comes with driving a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds. It can pull a 6200-pound trailer.

Overall, the Sequoia is a marvelous truck. It's not the best daily family taxi in congested, urban areas, but it's unbeatable for family road trips.

Model as tested
Limited 4WD ($43,520)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Princeton, Indiana
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
in-dash CD changer ($200); front side-impact and side curtain airbags ($500); rear spoiler ($200), daytime running lights ($40); power moonroof ($1,000)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
SR5 2WD ($31,625); SR5 4WD ($35,155); Limited 2WD ($40,200); Limited 4WD ($43,520)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual airbags, ABS, brake assist, skid and traction control, three-point seatbelts in all seating positions, front seatbelt pretensioners
Safety equipment (optional)
4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
automatic dual-zone climate control, power windows, mirrors and door locks, Premium JBL AM/FM/cassette/CD; leather seating surfaces, eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, heated front and rear seats, running boards, fog lights, rear privacy glass, remote keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels

Engine & Transmission
4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
240 @ 4800
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc, with ABS and brake assist
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

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