Friday, February 6, 2009

Toyota Sequoia: Larger than life

Fuel efficient?


Lightweight and nimble?

Not so much.

While those descriptors cannot be used for the Toyota Sequoia, one thing that can be said of it is that it is big, as in "gi-normous."

It also rides very smoothly and is full of luxury.

Toyota, which introduced the Sequoia in 2001, is known for doing so many things right.

Its vehicles are among the industry standard-bearers when it comes to reliability, fuel efficiency, intelligent design and value.

So to those who know Toyota, it may seem a little surprising that the company continues to make big, expensive SUVs such as this one, which have seen their popularity plummet in recent years.

But in truth, there is still a market for these vehicles, albeit a shrinking one.

When I had my test-drive model Sequoia for several days recently, I was hit with pretty much the same two questions from anyone who inquired about the vehicle.

1) How much is that thing?

2) What kind of gas mileage does it get?

So it makes sense to dispense with those issues.

The sticker price on the tester, which was a fully loaded Platinum model, was $58,654.

The EPA ratings are 13 mpg city, 18 highway.

We got about 14 mpg in combined driving.

Largely because of those factors, Sequoias aren't particularly brisk sellers right now, which can likewise be said of so many other large SUVs on the market today.

In fact, Toyota is offering nearly $4,000 cash back as it attempts to purge its inventory of 2008 model year Sequoias.

And it took a timeout from producing some of the vehicles as it responds to market conditions.

Toyota has scheduled more halts in production days at several North American manufacturing plants over the next few months as it deals with high inventory levels caused by falling sales.

The number of days without production varies by assembly line and model.
For instance, this month, Toyota's plant in Huntsville, Ala., will close for two days and for 16 days in March for the 4.7-liter V-8 engine.
It also won't make the 5.7-liter V-8 engine one day this month and five days next month.
"Since we're an engine supplier to vehicle assembly plants, we have to take their production schedules into account to determine our local volume," Stephanie Deemer, spokeswoman for Toyota, told reporters.
The Huntsville plant halted production of V-8s for about three months starting in August, which came on the heels of Toyota's production hiatus of Tundras and Sequoias.
But all that aside, this is still a very nice machine for those who need or desire something in this category.

The thirsty V-8 engine provides plenty of power.

The interior is extremely comfortable.

And it's attractive, inside and out.

This version of the Sequoia has a wheelbase of about 122 inches and weighs around three tons.
Toyota says it lowered the back floor of the vehicle to make it more user friendly by making the rear suspension more compact.

And I must admit, I found this a bit more convenient when loading groceries or other gear back there.

Toyota also touts Sequoia's increased towing capacity, which now hits about 10,000 pounds -- in the same ballpark with its pickup-truck sibling, the Tundra.

The Sequoia is available in SR5, Limited and Platinum trim levels.

It's more of a luxury, family-hauling vehicle than an off-road rock climber.

But it does have full-time four-wheel drive with a low gear range in case you're inclined to head for the hills.

Toyota says Sequoia's central-locking mechanism sends torque to the wheel that has the most traction.

There are two engines available: a 4.7-liter, 276 horsepower V-8 and 5.7-liter, 381 horsepower V-8.

Toyota says the Sequoia can sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds.

But it's in the comfort and convenience department that the Sequoia really shines.

The second and third rows of seats are cavernous and comfortable for passengers of any size.
Our tester had a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a 14-speaker premium audio system.

A backup camera and navigation system also were equipped.

I spied quite a few game ports, too, which would come in handy for kids.

Overall, while the time might not be right for it, the Sequoia delivers luxury, comfort and power in a package as pretty as anything else of its kind on the market.

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