2008 Toyota Sequoia Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D SR5 2WD

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2008 Toyota Sequoia
Bob Plunkett

All-new, completely redesigned and re-engineered, the 2008 Toyota Sequoia is bigger and more capable than last year's model. This is the biggest SUV Toyota has ever made, and it has the most capability.

It can tow up to 10,000 pounds and transport eight people, plus cargo. The optional engine, a 5.6-liter V8, makes more than 400 pound-feet of torque, so the Sequoia rarely breaks a sweat in ordinary driving. An available six-speed transmission allows for smooth, low-vibration cruising on the biggest roads. Four-wheel-drive models offer credible off-highway driving capability, with easy shifting into and out of 4WD, good low range gearing, and lockable differential for better traction.

Bigger than a Chevy Tahoe in almost every dimension, and about 450 pounds heavier, the Sequoia still manages relatively good efficiency and fuel economy for a vehicle of this size. Those who don't really need the space and heavy-hauling capabilities could be better off with a 4Runner, Highlander, or RAV4, but when nothing less will do, the Sequoia is up to the task.

Seating comfort for rear-row passengers is a design priority, so the more you carry full loads of people, the more the Sequoia becomes attractive. The interior is designed with generous seats, big armrests, and lots of storage for passengers, plus an optional entertainment system for long trips.

Toyota's comprehensive suite of electronic safety, stability and traction controls, the STAR system, is standard on all models, as are advanced airbag systems.

The new Sequoia represents a state-of-the-art rendering of the modern sport utility vehicle. It's built to transport people and their gear, in comfort, across long distances on North American super-highways. It's all about getting people in and out easily, keeping them comfy, and making heavy loads secure and routine. It rides quietly, steers easily, and with three models, two drive trains, and a broad selection of options, the new Sequoia can be configured in a variety of ways to meet specific wants, needs and price points.

The Sequoia differs from the premium Land Cruiser in that the Sequoia is larger, can carry and tow more and is designed specifically for North America. The Land Cruiser is designed to address upscale luxury car buyers in global markets. The Sequoia is more about practical utility and comfort. It is built alongside the Tundra pickup at Toyota's Princeton, Indiana, factory and shares many components with the Tundra. Model Lineup
The 2008 Toyota Sequoia is packaged in three grades: SR5, Limited and Platinum. SR5 and Limited come standard with the 273-hp 4.7-liter V8 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Platinum comes standard with the 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed automatic. Eight-passenger seating is standard; Platinum seats seven.

SR5 ($34,150) is the entry grade and it comes standard with tri-zone air conditioning, power windows locks and back window, keyless entry, and eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with a plug for iPod compatibility, tilt steering, cruise control, spare tire, and mud guards.

Limited ($45,225) adds heated, leather trimmed seats, upgrades the driver's seat to 10-way adjustable, and adds leather trim to the steering wheel, seats, and gearshift knob. The rear 60/40 third row seat is power operated. The dash is upgraded with brighter Optitron gauges and a multi-information display, and the JBL Synthesis audio system includes Bluetooth capability. Outside, the Limited includes a roof rack, fog lamps, running boards and parking sonar system. Limited is also available with four-wheel drive ($48,450).

Platinum grade ($52,375) comes with the bigger engine plus 20-inch alloy wheels, a rear load-leveling suspension, a memory feature for the power seats, which are heated and air conditioned in the front. Second-row seats are heated buckets, converting the interior to seven-passenger capacity, and the navigation system with backup camera is standard with Platinum. The exterior also includes a rear spoiler, power back door, sunroof, and headlamp cleaner. Platinum is available with four-wheel drive ($55,600).

Options include a rear seat entertainment system with DVD player and rear audio controls ($1650); dynamic laser cruise control ($600); daytime running lights with on/off feature ($40). The SR5 and Limited can be upgraded with practically any combination of features listed above, including touch screen navigation with JBL Premium four-CD player with 14 speakers ($2980), rear load leveling suspension ($650), running boards ($385), fog lamps ($110), rear spoiler ($100), leather trimmed seats ($3100), towing package ($660) that includes receiver hitch, auxiliary transmission cooler, seven-pin wire connector, heavy-duty alternator, 4.30:1 gear ratio; and a cold weather kit ($230) that includes windshield wiper de-icer, headlamp cleaner, and larger battery. Also available on the Limited are 20-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels with P275/55R20 tires ($920) and Captain's chairs for the second row.

Toyota's Star safety system comes standard on all models. Walkaround
Obviously larger than the previous model, the Toyota Sequoia is now definitely full size in the domestic American sense.

Compared to the Chevy Tahoe, the new Sequoia is longer and wider with a longer wheelbase. It's actually designed to look tall and oversized, so as to project strength from a distance.

The windshield angle is lower than before, accentuating bulk below the hood line, and larger high-mounted headlamps add an alert look to a cabin-forward design. Exterior mirrors are large, because they have to be, but careful smoothing has reduced wind noise, as does the use of partially hidden wipers that likewise, must be very large to sweep the large front windshield. The new design permits a drag coefficient of 0.35, respectable for a full-size truck.

From the side, large, strong-looking door handles are apparent, the kind you'd appreciate if you wear gloves. The rear doors now open 10 degrees wider for easier child seat and passenger access and have three detents, instead of two.

From the front bumper to the B-pillar, the Sequoia shares a lot of design features with the Tundra pickup, along with numerous drive train components.

Parking sensors enable easier parking and the ability to avoid people or toys lurking in the driveway. Interior
The Toyota Sequoia cabin is built for passenger comfort, with generous legroom and headroom. Seating is designed for long days of driving, with a comfortable, unusually wide driver's seat with power lumbar support. The seats have soft, wide bolsters and the kind of adjustability that allows a driver to shift around during long drives.

The interior is conspicuously wide. With a body longer and wider than the previous model (or a current Chevrolet Tahoe), more legroom and shoulder room becomes available for people and cargo.

The dash is simple and focused, with two central gauges, speedometer and tachometer, flanked by fuel, temperature and voltage gauges. Bright rings accent the instrumentation.

A very large rectangular shifter dominates the metallic center strip area, and behind it is a wide central console designed to hold 12 CDs or four DVD cases. Our test unit had an agreeable Sand Beige interior. Gray is another standard color, and a new interior design scheme, Red Rock/Black is only available with the Platinum grade.

The four-spoke steering wheel contains controls for AC, Bluetooth-capable phones and audio functions. The steering column tilts and telescopes; our test unit had a powered memory feature.

Switches and dials are used to control windows and HVAC system. The HVAC system is designed to define and maintain three different climate zones, two in the front, and one in the back. We think Toyota does a good job when it comes to switch feel and operational consistency when it comes to dials and other touchpoints.

Two overhead compartments are suitable for sunglasses, and the control strip has sunroof controls. An electrochromic rear view mirror is standard except on SR5, and the mirror contains built-in garage door opener buttons operating on three different frequencies.

The sun visors are huge, and they slide on their hangers, providing effective shade for driver and passenger all day long. On the A-pillar are hefty grab handles, with grips big enough to support body weight as you swing into the seat.

The interior is notable for thoughtful features that increase utility, such as a compass, map light, automatic up-and-down jam protection for front power windows, and back door power window.

The Sequoia is especially designed to make the third-row passenger seats more comfortable, and more useful, more like real seating for adults. To that end, the third row seats have almost as much leg room as the second-row seats, and have adjustability features rarely seen in eight-passenger SUVs. For those who often make use of the third row, the Sequoia's standard interior layout is better than many SUVs we've seen, in which the third-row seats constitute emergency seating for smaller people only. Then again, those who do not need eight-passenger capacity can configure the Sequoia with Captain's chairs in the second row, which shifts the priority to second-row passenger comfort.

If you smoke, the Sequoia does not discriminate. One of the very few SUVs with a retractable rear hatch window (4Runner is the other) the Sequoia offers flow-through ventilation that smokers particularly appreciate, along with a closed, removable ashtray that is dish-washable, and a cigarette lighter up front.

Last but not least, the new Sequoia has ample cargo room behind the third row, and even more if you fold it down. When the seat is folded flat, large baggage or cargo can be loaded without removing the seat. It is a well-organized cargo area, even having tow hooks that can hang grocery bags. There is an optional power full-flat mechanism for the third row seat that becomes standard in Limited models. Driving Impressions
Driving the 2008 Toyota Sequoia is like sitting in your den, watching the world go by. It may be big, but it's not tiring to operate as the day goes on.

We had a chance to spend two days driving the Sequoia on a variety of North Carolina roads and highways. We drove the Platinum model with the 5.7-liter V8, which had every possible option including laser cruise control. Our testing included an off-road track, and retrieval of a boat we would estimate in the 7000-pound range up a steep boat ramp, and onto the highway.

After all of that, we could see the Sequoia is made with a 1000-mile day in mind. It's the kind of vehicle that an American family will want for a long, long day on the interstate. It's got long legs and an effortless cruising pace. There is low noise and vibration, so you can listen to the audio system or converse at a normal tone of voice. It gets around 19 mph on the open road, so it can gobble up almost 500 miles between fill-ups on the highway. The more people, the more load, the more stuff you have, the better. No doubt about it, the Sequoia is at home on the biggest of North American roads.

In everyday driving, the suspension is surprisingly compliant for a vehicle built to carry heavy loads. There is a minimum of tummy jiggle on broken surfaces, and yet, when hard braking is called for, the front end does not dive wildly or pitch about. We had the active air suspension on our test unit, which has the ability to maintain more even ride height with heavy loads, but without a load, we're not sure the suspension would be much different. The standard setup is an independent A-arm setup at all four corners with coil springs and anti-roll bars.

We didn't do it, but we suspect the Sequoia would score highly in the drive-through fast-food test. That's the one when Dad, son, and half the little league team picks up shakes and French fries on the way home after the game. There are eight cup holders, eight bottle holders, console surfaces, everything you would want to eat in the car, and go. And then, lots of door pocket space for trash.

Driven empty, the Sequoia has an impressive reserve of torque. We loafed along at 2000 rpm or less, all day long, without feeling the need to punch the throttle. The 5.7L V8 makes most of its torque below 3600 rpm, so when you do decide to pass, acceleration is impressive. The 5.7-liter is Toyota's newest truck engine, so it is ULEV-II compliant. It's designed with four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust. The internals are made with high-strength materials, and a low-friction valve train is employed for better efficiency. Consistent with the internal component quality is the exhaust, which is made from stainless steel and has four catalytic converters: two for cold starts and two main.

We've driven the standard 4.7L V-8 in the past, and it's no slouch, but the 5.7L shows how far engine technology has progressed at Toyota in just a few years. It's revealing that the bigger, cleaner, more powerful 5.7 V8 also gets better mileage.

To be fair, a good part of the mileage improvement is due to the six-speed electronically controlled transmission that comes with the optional 5.7L engine. Like the standard five-speed automatic, it's controlled by a shifter that allows sequential shifting, and has a lock-up torque converter for better towing efficiency and heat control. With the six-speed, there is a Tow/Haul mode that changes the shift points for heavy loads and long, uphill grades.

Just like the Tundra, the Sequoia has a two-speed transfer case with 2.6:1 low range. We found Low range easy to get in and out of, even on ground that was not perfectly level. And enhanced gearing seemed low enough, given the 275/65 tires, that the Sequoia could crawl at speeds low enough to slog up very steep terrain. Also like the Tundra, the front and rear differentials are larger than previous versions of this platform. The lowest available gear set is 4.3:1, which comes with the towing package.

The new Sequoia has the towing capabilities of a 3/4-ton pickup. It can tow up to 10,000 pounds, compared to 6500 pounds for the previous model. A seven-pin connector and a standard four-pin connector are set up and ready to use, and there is a pre-wired brake controller connector under the dash, similar to the Tundra. The Max Gross Combined Weight Rating, the total permissible weight of vehicle and trailer, is now 16,000 pounds.

The brakes are also consistent with the 3/4-ton capability. Very large discs are mounted on all four corners. In use, the brakes feel reasonably gradual, with some forgiveness at the top of the pedal and very strong response as foot pressure is increased.

The brakes are enhanced by ABS (an anti-lock brake system) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), the latter of which keeps all four brakes accurately proportioned if road surfaces get slippery, assuring straighter stops and better control. There is also electronic Brake Assist, which reduces stopping distances in panic situations. These are all useful and necessary features for a modern SUV, particularly one that might be towing a boat or RV.

We still have a hard time trusting laser cruise control, but after a day in the new Sequoia it's getting easier. We suspect dynamic cruise control is one of those features that we'll all rely on before the decade is out. We switched it on and watched it work, carefully, and, sure enough, it sensed vehicles as we came up on them, slowed appropriately, and maintained the distance we selected. Then, when the lane opened, it slowly resumed speed. It's not really intended for use on a crowded highway, but would be great on roads with just the occasional car.

In daily use round town, the Sequoia will seem big to those not accustomed to maneuvering full-size domestic iron. We notice that, like any full-size, the hood is long and tall, and the distance to the rear bumper is not easily estimated without practice. However, Toyota's front and rear parking sensors go a long way toward making the best of the need to fit a big SUV into an average parking space by providing audible warnings when maneuvering in close quarters.

Even better is the available rearview camera that displays a video image of what's behind you on the navigation screen. We recommend getting this feature for its safety benefits. A rearview camera, in addition to the audible warnings, can help alert the driver to a child behind the vehicle, for example.

Steering is fingertip-easy around town. Turning radius is just 19 feet. It avoids being boat-like by a variable system that adds more return-to-center and a firmer, more precise level of control as speeds increase. At higher speeds, we felt the Sequoia was easy to keep in-lane without undue attention. While this family SUV is not built to be a cornering machine on country roads, control is easily good enough for confident handling. The steering column actually has a floating shaft that keeps noise and vibration from coming through to the wheel.

On a vehicle this big, things like power windows and doors are more than just luxury options; they become necessities. It's a long reach across the cabin, and a long walk to open the tailgate in the rain. The power rear hatch can be opened using the remote fob, handy when approaching the vehicle in a downpour with a load of groceries. Summary
The all-new 2008 Toyota Sequoia is built in America to satisfy North American conditions: big roads, big loads, and wide open spaces. There is ample power in reserve for towing and hauling, and a roomy, comfy interior. There are so many small, thoughtful touches, we get the sense that the Sequoia is one of those SUVs an owner would grow to appreciate more and more as time goes on. If you require capability on a full-size scale, and you'd appreciate roomy, comfortable surroundings, the 2008 Toyota Sequoia should be on your short list.

Model as tested
Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4x4 ($55,600)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Princeton, Indiana
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Rear seat entertainment system ($1670); Dynamic laser cruiser control ($600); Daytime Running Lights ($40); White Pearl paint ($220); rear load leveling suspension package ($650)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Toyota Sequoia SR5 ($34,150); Limited ($45,225); Platinum ($52,375)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front air bags; driver and passenger seat-mounted side airbags; three-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags with roll-sensing cutoff switch; three-point seatbelts in all seating positions with seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters on driver and front passenger; adjustable seatbelt anchors on first and second row; child protector rear hatch and door locks; direct tire pressure monitoring system; ISOFIX lower seat anchors in middle seating positions; STAR Safety System includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control, and cut-off switch; auto limited slip differential; four wheel ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
Safety equipment (optional)
5.7-liter dohc 32v V8
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
SR5 standard features include power remote controlled outside mirrors, P275/65R18 tires on alloy wheels; automatic tri-zone front and rear defroster; power windows and door locks, power rear tailgate window with wiper; cruise control; map lights; tilt-telescopic steering wheel; fabric-trimmed eight-way manually adjusted driver seat and four-way manually adjusted passenger seat; 40/20/40 split fold-flat recline second-row bench seat; remote hood release; eight cup holders and eight bottle holders; 12-volt power outlet in cargo area; anti-theft and engine immobilizer system; AM/FM/single CD audio system with eight speakers; halogen headlamps with auto-off feature; variable intermittent windshield wipers; mudguards; in-glass antenna; rear quarter privacy glass; deck storage box; sliding sun visors with vanity mirror; overhead console with conversation mirror; dual glove box; cold kit (includes windshield wiper de-icer, headlamp cleaner and heavy duty battery); front and rear sonar; Limited adds leather-trimmed doors with integrated speakers, map pockets and courtesy lamps, leatherûtrimmed heated power-adjustable 10-way front seats with four-way adjustable driver's seat and adjustable headrests; leather trim and center armrest on the 40/60/40 split fold-flat second row bench seat and leather trim on the 60/40 split third row bench seat; leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob (with Bluetooth, A/C and audio controls); leather trim on the front console lid; two extra large storage overhead consoles; infrared ray cut glass for windshield; Optitron instrument panel gauges; electrochromic inside rear view mirror; dual retractable chrome power remote heated outside mirrors; fog lamps; front and rear parking sonar; running board; roof rack; JBL Premium 3-in-1 AM/FM/six-CD with 14 speakers; chrome grille, meter ring, A/C control knob and inside handle; sun shades for rear side and rear quarter windows; dual sliding sun visors with illuminated vanity mirror; Platinum adds P275/55R20 tires on alloy wheels; seven-passenger seating (second row bucket seats with center console); power seat with memory; heated/air conditioned vented front driver and passenger seats; heated second row seats; power back hatch/door; navigation system (JBL AM/FM four-CD with 14 speakers) with backup camera; power tilt/slide sunroof; Toyota Electronic Modulated Suspension (H-TEMS); power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; headlamp cleaner

Engine & Transmission
5.7-liter dohc 32v V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
381 @ 5600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with 4-wheel ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, double-wishbone w/coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear
air suspension

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 5 / 5
Overall Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Overall Quality - Design
5 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Design
5 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Design
5 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
5 / 5

Overall Dependability 4 / 5
Powertrain Dependability
3 / 5
Body & Interior Dependability
4 / 5
Feature & Accessory Dependability
5 / 5

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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

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.