Thursday, July 10, 2008

Test Drive: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum


Summary: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum

PROS: 5.7L V8 engine with 381 HP, firm handling, and 6-speed transmission all hide its massive size; low-gear transfer case for off-roading; space behind 3rd row is enough to fit Peg Perego Pliko P3 stroller.

CONS: Massive size; restrictive navigation system; Nav/backup camera only available on Platinum (top) trim line; 8 passenger seating not available on Platinum; [inefficient design of interior space-- UPDATE: I was wrong. After a second look at the 3rd row, it is much roomier that my first impressions].
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I test drove the 2008 Toyota Sequoia on Monday, immediately after taking a Land Rover LR3 HSE out for a spin. I'm glad I did that because with both vehicles fresh in my mind it was easy to pick out the differences and see which features I liked better....

I used to own a 2003 Toyota Sequoia. We bought it back when we had only 3 kids and I loved the amount of space there was inside. Eight adults could have sat in there very comfortably. It was also quite capable off-road and I enjoyed taking it out with the family on the weekends just to see how far we could go before we got stuck :BIGGRIN:.

However, after awhile I grew tired of its size--especially when trying to find parking at the local mall--and of the way it drove like an appliance: reliable, but without character. Our Sequoia got traded-in for something on the other side of the spectrum: a 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

It's with these concerns in the back of my head that I went back to look at the newly re-designed 2008 Toyota Sequoia. The new Sequoia is now bigger and more powerful than before. But is it better?

There's no mistaking its massive size. The new body style emphasizes it's bulk and even from a distance you can tell right away how big it is. I'm 5'10" and the top of the Sequoia's hood comes up to my shoulders!

Luckily, the new 5.7L V8 engine from the Tundra is also in the Sequoia, and at 381 HP there's more than enough power to haul the beast around. In fact, there are several things on the Sequoia that help hide its size. First is the engine. Second is it's tight turning radius. Third is it's 6-speed transmission.

Just like many new vehicles with automatic transmissions, there are two drive modes: Normal and Sport. When in Sport mode, the throttle response is very quick and there is almost no hesitation at all. The Platinum model also has an adjustable suspension setting that can be switched to Sport, Normal, or Comfort. Between Sport and Comfort there was a subtle but noticeable difference. Of course I preferred Sport mode. I found that the ride was still comfortable, but just a little more firm and made the Sequoia just a little more flat through the corners. Much improved over our 2003 Sequoia and more sporty than the Land Rover LR3 I just tested. All of those things made it feel like the 2008 Sequoia was a lot smaller than it really was.

Unfortunately, looking through the windshield over the massive hood, or out the side windows peering down at people in sedans (and other SUV-wannabes) way down below you, never lets you forget how big the Sequoia really is. Now that by itself, I might be able to overlook if only the interior space was more intelligently designed for large families like ours.

The biggest disappointment is in the 3rd row. When my wife and I both sat back there, we didn't feel that there was very much room for a third person. It didn't look to us to be very wide at all. I know that the specifications say that the 2008 Sequoia has more third row shoulder room than either the 2003 Sequoia or the 2006 Honda Odyssey, but it just didn't feel that way. It felt like the 3rd row would be better suited to 2 passengers not 3, let alone the two wide high-back booster seats and our 9-year-old in between like we have on our Odyssey right now. The 1st and 2nd rows are absolutely cavernous. But, really, my wife and I don't need that much room as driver and passenger and would probably prefer not having a file cabinet between us--yes, the center console has a spot for hanging file folders! We would like some of that space moved to the back.

UPDATE: I went back to the Toyota dealership today after writing this review to take another look at the 3rd row on the Sequoia. I brought our two high-back booster seats to test out and my initial impression of the lack of space was wrong. The 3rd row is much more roomier than our Honda Odyssey. There's plenty of room to sit in the middle and I think it will be much more comfortable--far from the 2nd class accommodations I thought it was.

If the Sequoia's 3rd row could only fit 2 people effectively, it would make the Platinum trim only a a 6-passenger vehicle for us--meaning that it would not be suitable. We would need to go down a trim level to the Limited to get the 2nd row bench and extra seat. UPDATE: Although getting the Limited is no longer "required," having the extra seat in the second row would be very handy. We are severely "limited" by Toyota Canada in choosing options so in addition to losing things like the ventilated seats, the Limited also loses navigation and a back-up camera. I believe that in a vehicle this size a back-up camera is essential.

In reality, I'm glad not to have the Toyota navigation system because it will not even allow the passenger to make changes to the destination while the vehicle is moving. You must be in "Park" to make changes. If I had to do that during our across-the-USA road trip last summer, I would have pulled my hair out and given the Nav system a swift kick! After market is the solution and with that a back-up camera can also be easily had.

What I might miss the most in downgrading to the Sequoia Limited might be the adjustable sport suspension. I'm going to have to go back for another test drive of the Limited to see how the ride quality compares the Platinum. Maybe at that time I'll bring in the booster seats to see how much room there really is in the 3rd row.


Summary: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum

PROS: 5.7L V8 engine with 381 HP, firm handling, and 6-speed transmission all hide its massive size; low-gear transfer case for off-roading; space behind 3rd row is enough to fit Peg Perego Pliko P3 stroller.

CONS: Massive size; restrictive navigation system; Nav/backup camera only available on Platinum (top) trim line; 8 passenger seating not available on Platinum; [inefficient design of interior space--UPDATE: I was wrong. After a second look at the 3rd row, it is much roomier that my first impressions].

7 comments:

  1. That nav does sound irritating. I wonder if any other makes have the same lack of function.

    Are the stated mileages of the Sequoia and Land Rover pretty much the same?

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  2. I like the Sequoia, but it's a huge vehicle. When I was at the Honda dealership the other day, they had the new Pilot in the showroom, which looked good and had third row seating, nav and all the other goodies.

    I was tempted to trade the FJ in on the Pilot. Nice ride.
    Sequoia does have a good amount of space, but buying gas would be pricey. I do like the look of it though... My brother-n-law has an older Sequoia which I really like and it has a ton of room.

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  3. According to Cars.com, fuel consumption for the 2008 Land Rover LR3 with 4.4L V8 300 HP is 12/17 mpg. The 2008 Sequoia with the 5.7L V8 381 HP is actually slightly better at 14/19 mpg. That's quite an achievement considering how much bigger the Sequoia is.

    I went back to look at the Sequoia again this afternoon to check out the 3rd row more carefully. I took our two booster seats and tried them out and my initial impressions of the interior space were wrong. I'm going to change my review above because the 3rd row is much larger and roomier than the Odyssey. There will be no problem with our oldest child sitting in the middle. I've scheduled a test drive of the Sequoia Limited tomorrow morning to see how it handles compared to the Platinum.

    I also went for a test drive of the 2009 Honda Pilot today and I'll do a write up of it later on.

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  4. Oh, regarding the restrictive navigation system, the Land Rover has similar restrictions, but they can be by-passed if you use the voice commands. That seems to me a much better compromise.

    On the Honda navigation system there are no restrictions at all.

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  5. After thinking about, I'd probably go with the Sequoia because of the space. The LR3 is a cool ride, but the mileage/space of the Toyota....plus, it's a Toyota! Then, you get the TRD cold air intake, TRD exhaust, and....all the other cool TRD mods...(okay, I know I got carried away..)

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  6. I agree with you. Both my wife and I came away with a better impression of the Sequoia today and we're leaning towards it because of space and reliability. Plus, I really liked the way it performed and handled :0)

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  7. But I'm not agree on the point that this Toyota Sequoia is lacking advantages and uncomfortable to drive. My friend does have this type of model which still in well condition. Now I'm looking for this type of used model.

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