2023 Toyota Sequoia SUV redesigned for modern-day family


CARMEL, Calif. — Like its platform mate, the redesigned 2022 Tundra pickup, the Toyota Sequoia large SUV was showing its age in unflattering ways, a victim of the Japanese brand’s extremely long product cycle for its body-on-frame light trucks.

Its last full redesign had occurred in 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession and a lifetime in automotive terms. Its fuel economy, towing capacity and ride and handling were all largely leftovers from that era. There was a minor freshening in 2018, but even that was trimming on an SUV serendipitously named after one of Earth’s oldest living organisms — a giant hulk of a tree.

Enter then the redesigned 2023 Sequoia, with a long-overdue infusion of new technology, practicality and refinement and arriving as more customers demand crossovers and SUVs with useful third-row seating and towing capacity. Toyota is confident that this bottom-to-top overhaul, including a new hybrid powertrain, will restore some of the market stature the Sequoia had lost over the years to segment heavyweights including the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition.

Aiming the SUV at older millennial and younger Generation X customers with families, Toyota expects annual U.S. volume to approach 30,000. Sales are likely to be strongest in the “smile states” — the East and West coasts plus Southern states.

“We’re definitely going to see a bump, and I think we’ve definitely brought a product that I think will warrant that higher volume,” Joe Moses, Toyota North America’s general manager of vehicle marketing and communications, trucks and SUVs, told Automotive News on the sidelines of an event here. “Quite frankly, there might even be a little bit more there, but we’ve set our targets on about triple where we are today.”

Two years after its 2000 debut, the Sequoia peaked at just over 70,000 U.S. sales. The last two years, beset by COVID-19 and the microchip shortage, were not kind to the aging SUV, with U.S. volume totaling 7,364 in 2020 and 8,070 in 2021. Last year, it was second from last in the large SUV segment, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center, ahead of only the Jeep Wagoneer, which returned to the market in late 2021 after a three-decade absence.

“Sequoia will be a great product for us,” said Doug Eroh, president and general manager of Longo Toyota in El Monte, Calif., the nation’s top-selling Toyota dealer. Eroh said the redesigned SUV should “fuel some of our year-over-year growth” in the second half of 2022, given how low current Sequoia sales are.

He said his dealership had already “received a few dozen new orders from our customers” since the Sequoia was revealed this week. “Our customers are excited about the product and especially the hybrid powertrain,” Eroh said. “The prospect of having a high-quality Toyota full-size SUV with an electrified powertrain is very appealing to our guests.”

Riding on Toyota’s new F1 global light-truck platform, the Sequoia is larger and far more refined. It touts increased driver-assistance and technology features, towing capacity and fuel economy over the current version.

The redesigned Sequoia, set to arrive in dealerships late this summer, was shown this week to journalists here. The SUV will come standard with the brand’s new iForce Max hybridized powertrain, with a 48-hp electric motor, which debuts this year on the Tundra full-size pickup and is engineered specifically to improve power and torque instead of just fuel economy.

The iForce Max produces a maximum 437 hp and 583 pound-feet of torque from its twin-turbo V-6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, and the new combination will give the Sequoia an improved maximum towing rating of 9,000 pounds, 22 percent more than with the current version.

Though fuel economy ratings for the 2023 Sequoia won’t be available for months, Toyota promises they will be greatly improved from the current 4×4 version’s 14 mpg combined figure and more competitive with segment leaders, including the Yukon (17 mpg combined) and Expedition (19 mpg combined).

Inside the cabin, the Sequoia receives major upgrades, highlighted by a standard 8-inch or optional 14-inch infotainment touch screen. Both screens run the new Toyota Audio Multimedia system that was developed in-house in Texas and is being rolled out across the brand over the next several years.

Toyota also paid close attention to the Sequoia’s third-row seating, adding a recline feature as well as a sliding function that allows those seats to move fore or aft up to 6 inches.

Toyota also is introducing what it’s calling an adjustable cargo shelf system. With the third-row seats folded down, a removable shelf can be set in a variety of positions, the brand explained. The shelf also gives the Sequoia a flat, if raised, load floor behind the first row, with all rear seats folded down, that provides additional utility.

In terms of safety, all versions of the 2023 Sequoia will come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, which includes dynamic cruise control, lane-departure alert with lane-centering, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

Toyota is recalibrating the Sequoia’s trim walk in part to fill some of the void left by the Land Cruiser’s departure this year, slotting the new Capstone trim above the previous Platinum top grade. Capstones will have standard 22-inch chrome rims and feature walnut interior inlays and multiple exterior chrome accents, as well as standard power running boards.

IMG02“Our primary design goal for Sequoia was to create a sophisticated yet tough and active lifestyle SUV that looks capable of handling a diversity of big adventure needs,” Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American design studio, Calty Design Research, said in a statement. “That holds true whether it’s a night out on the town with friends, towing a boat to the lake with family or taking a more extreme off-road adventure.”

The redesign allows the Sequoia to boost its towing chops. An optional Tow Tech package, which includes electronic aids to back up a trailer, is available across all trims and standard on TRD Pro and Capstone versions.

Pricing details were not announced. Sequoia production is being moved this year from Toyota’s assembly plant in Princeton, Ind., to its truck plant in San Antonio, where it will share an assembly line with the Tundra.

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