Review: 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro
A master class in underutilization.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Occupies a unique space in the automotive market.
- What’s Bad: Only a very small subset of drivers can really justify it.
This is not how this test drive was supposed to go.
The plan was a long weekend in the snowy Quebec wilderness, lumbering up rugged gravel roads to breathe crisp, fresh air and enjoy natural scenery on remote cross-country skiing trails. In other words, it was to be a perfect fit for the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, which for the first time receives the brand’s off-road performance badge for the 2020 model year at a total price after fees of nearly $83,000.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond this writer’s control, those plans were canceled at the last minute. This left the Sequoia with nothing to do but kick around through very average activities in very average suburbia.
It goes without saying that this is not the lifestyle for which the Sequoia is intended. Was it a waste of time? Not necessarily. It was still enlightening, though perhaps not in the ways that one would expect.
For example, although the Sequoia hasn’t received a redesign in 12 years – a third generation is expected to finally land in 2022 – there’s more modernization here than I was expecting to see.
We’re not talking about a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, or heated second-row seats (though the latter feature is available in the Platinum model). But it does have keyless entry and push-button start, a reasonably modern infotainment system, and power-folding third-row seats. It also comes with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of technologies that includes a pre-collision system, active cruise control, lane departure assist, automatic high beams, and blind spot monitoring. Plus, both rows of seats fold to create a nicely flat loading surface, a trait that even some newer three-row SUVs don’t get right.
There’s only so much that can be done, though, so the exterior looks like a decade-old truck – the TRD Pro exclusive Army Green paint notwithstanding – plus the interior design is dark and utilitarian, and certain elements of ergonomics like being able to reach all of the controls from the driver’s seat need to be forgiven, although this doesn’t come as a surprise given the sheer size of this thing.
One Large SUV
Speaking of size, at 5.2 metres in length the Sequoia is not as long as some of its full-size SUV competition, but it’s one of the tallest ones: at a 1,955 mm height plus extra for the roof rack, I find I need to rethink how I use this vehicle in certain ways. For instance, I wanted to park in an underground garage that was the convenient choice at one point and had to opt for exterior parking instead. It’s not a factor that’s likely to apply to most people considering a vehicle such as this, but it could be a very occasional inconvenience.
It’s also just as heavy as it looks with a curb weight less than 20 lbs shy of 6,000 lbs. That makes the Sequoia’s beefy 5.7-litre V8, with its 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, more necessity than nicety. And once the whole rig gets going, it takes a heavy foot on the brake pedal to bring it to a stop, and it’s sipping a lot of juice along the way: Natural Resources Canada’s official figures put this setup at 18.4 L/100 km in city driving, 13.8 on the highway, and 16.4 combined. My week matched the 18.4 L/100 km city driving figure; the $2,000 green levy that gets added along with the rest of the fees says it all.
That said, this truck’s handling is better than its size might suggest. There’s detectable body roll in situations like highway on-ramps, but nothing unmanageably dramatic. And while it does get bouncy on rough roads, that’s an expected trade-off with this version’s off-road capability.
What’s TRD About It
Some of that comes down to the Fox internal bypass shocks that are featured on the TRD Pro package, which all told is a $15,660 add-on over the base Sequoia SR5. The front 2.5-inch shocks include 7 compression zones and 2 rebound zones, a reduced spring rate, and an 18 mm increase in rebound travel. On the rear, the 2-inch piggyback monotube shocks include 47 mm pistons, which are 15 mm larger than the standard shocks, plus 3.2 mm thicker shock rods, all of which Toyota says comes together for increased bottoming resistance on rough terrain.
The shocks are the only truly performance-oriented feature in the package, which also includes 18-inch forged alloy wheels, Rigid Industries fog lamps, the heritage-style grille design, that aforementioned tube-frame roof rack and power liftgate, interior TRD Pro branding, a JBL 14-speaker audio system, and a Toyota Connected Services package with on-board navigation, automatic collision emergency calling, and other connected features.
Although this aspect is part of all Sequoia models, it’s also worth noting the factory-installed tow package comes with a heavy-duty hitch receiver, four- and seven-pin connectors, supplemental transmission cooler and transmission fluid temperature gauge, and weight rating up to 3,220 kg (7,100 lb).
As novel as the TRD Pro model may be, it’s a very particular subset of drivers will find the Sequoia TRD Pro to be their ideal combination: only someone who needs vast amounts of space, power, and off-road capability – more so than what’s found on the 4Runner TRD Pro, which has generally received very positive reviews – and who can also justify spending on the fuel this truck demands will get enough out of it to justify the north-of-$80,000 price tag. And those who can justify all of that may have loftier expectations in terms of modern looks and finishes. But for someone who’s looking for this exact set of attributes and capabilities and truly wants an SUV over a pick-up truck, this could be the exact model that specific type of driver has been waiting for.
2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro
BODY STYLE: Large SUV
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
POWER: 5.7-litre V8 (381 hp, 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: (L/100km) 18.4 city/13.8 hwy/16.4 combined
PRICE: $82,896 as tested, including freight and PDI