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2023 Toyota Sequoia first drive review: Hybrid passenger hauling and towing power

If you need a 3-row SUV, you have a few options to choose from. But if you want that same 3-row SUV to also be powered by a hybrid system, you don’t have nearly as many options. The updated 2023 Toyota Sequoia is that option, but is it any good?

Visually, the Sequoia receives some key updates for 2023. First and foremost, the front-end now resembles that of the redesigned Toyota Tundra. You’d be forgiven if you mistook the Sequoia head on for the new Tundra.

Around back there’s a new lift gate and redesigned taillights. New wheels flank each corner, with unique 18-inch designs for the TRD Pro and massive 22-inch chrome shoes on the Capstone, with everything else in between.

2023 Sequoia Limited Supersonic Red 006
The Sequoia in Limited trim. Photo credit: Toyota

The SR5, Limited, and Platinum trims should be familiar to those with a Toyota history. The SR5 and Limited can be had with a TRD Off Road package, which adds a rear locker and some off-road focused rubber.

The TRD Pro is for the toughest of trails — well as tough as you can get with a giant SUV — and has TRD Pro badging inside and out, a unique grille, and more off-road goodies.

2023 Sequoia TRDPro White 001
TRD Pro Sequoia. Photo credit: Toyota

The top of the line Capstone is worth mentioning specifically, with a plus interior, massive infotainment screen featuring Toyota’s newest software, and air suspension to help glide over bumps.

The semi-aniline leather borrowed from Lexus accents the American Walnut open pore wood nicely. Even ingress and egress is assisted with power deployable running boards.

The Sequoia has a class-exclusive sliding third row — though unfortunately you can’t remove the third row — which helps you prioritize either rear seat space or cargo space. We find the seats useful enough, but with the hybrid battery pack located below those seats, and seats that sit a bit higher because of the sliding seat runners, headroom in the third row isn’t the best. It’s a strange packaging decision that does hurt some of Sequoia’s practicality.

But if you tow your storage space behind you, you’ll be happy to know that the Sequoia is rated, when properly equipped, to tow up to 9,520 pounds. For comparison, the F-150 Lightning — a dedicated pickup truck — maxes out at 10,000 pounds.

Undoubtedly that performance is helped by a body-on-frame chassis and a solid rear axle. But the solid rear axle feels quite primitive for 2023, and gives the Sequoia a more trucklike ride than a body-on-frame Chevrolet Tahoe or Ford Expedition.

2023 Sequoia Limited Supersonic Red 057
The third row folded. Photo credit: Toyota

There’s only one engine option on Sequoia, the i-Force Max turbocharged V-6 hybrid that makes 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque. Combined with a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain is a highlight of the Sequoia experience.

EPA numbers haven’t been revealed yet, but we expect them to be reasonable, but not Earth-shatterning. Why? Because the Tundra’s hybrid fuel economy doesn’t compare favorably to Ford’s PowerBoost V-6 hybrid.

Without towing, at Texas highway speeds, we were averaging around 20 mpg. For such a big vehicle, that’s not too bad.

Toyota’s newest infotainment, as we said earlier, is on board and features wireless Apple Car Play and wireless Android Auto. It has a built in digital assistant similar to that in Google-equipped cars (like the Volvo C40 Recharge), but it’s not as feature packed. Though it does seem a bit more responsive than in earlier cars we’ve driven with this infotainment system, and over-the-air updates should help continue to work out kinks. It’s not our favorite system, but the screen is bright and the color reproduction is great. It’s also just big, making it easier for passengers to see.

A day driving and towing with the Sequoia is enough time get a taste for the replacement 3-row SUV in the Toyota lineup, and the our opinions are a bit mixed. The interior is great, with great materials, and we like where Toyota is heading with infotainment technology.

2023 Sequoia Platinum Silver 056
Photo credit: Toyota

The powertrain is also excellent, and even if we would like a bit better fuel economy, we’ve certainly experienced worse in cars this size.

The ride quality just isn’t our cup of tea, and lack of efficient space usage for 3rd-row passengers is a bit baffling. Though we did talk to people who like the trucklike ride, so your mileage may vary.

Sequoia starts at $59,795 with delivery, is built in San Antonio alongside the Tundra, and will be hitting dealerships in late Summer.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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