2004 Toyota Sequoia

By June 16, 2005
2004 Toyota Sequoia

Toyota Sequoia is among the best of the full-size SUVs. It's nearly the same size as a Ford Expedition, and slightly larger than a Chevy Tahoe. Like most Toyotas, it's very well engineered and offers high levels of build and finish quality, and Toyota offers some of the highest customer satisfaction and long-term reliability ratings in the auto industry. The Sequoia is every inch a truck, but it's very comfortable and relatively quiet.

The Sequoia is a good vehicle for large families, particularly for those who pull trailers. It offers three rows of seats capable of carrying eight passengers. Though big, it's surprisingly maneuverable. It's great for towing.

All models are well equipped, and Toyota has enhanced value for 2004 by adding equipment without raising the base price. The less expensive SR-5 model adds standard dual-zone front and rear climate control and power front seats. The high-trim Sequoia Limited now comes standard with a power moonroof.

If the space, towing capacity and off-road capability of a truck-based, full-size sport-utility are what you need, the Toyota Sequoia is hard to beat.

Model Lineup

The Toyota Sequoia comes in two trim levels: SR5 and Limited. Both are powered by a 240-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive are available.

The SR5 ($31,625) comes standard with power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, power front seats, an AM/FM stereo with both cassette and CD players, ABS with brake assist, and 16-inch styled steel wheels. Four-wheel-drive ($3,530) is extra on both models.

The Limited ($40,900) adds leather upholstery, heated seats and outside mirrors, color-keyed body, premium JBL stereo with 10 speakers, a power slide-and-tilt moonroof, a roof rack and 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Both trim lines come standard with a lot of safety equipment. The electronic stability control system can help correct a skid when cornering. Traction control keeps the wheels from slipping when accelerating in slippery driving conditions. Front airbags are standard, as are three-point seat belts for all eight places. Front side-impact and head-protection airbags are optional ($500).

Toyota allows its customers more flexibility with optional equipment than many manufacturers. The SR-5 can be equipped with most of the Limited content in several option packages. These include a Preferred Package ($1,770) with the leather and premium stereo with a six-disc in-dash changer. An Alloy Wheel Package ($1,835) adds P265/65 R17 tires on 17-inch rims, color-coordinated fender flares and running boards, rear privacy glass, a towing receiver hitch, seven-pin wiring harness converter and high-power alternator. The Convenience Package ($255) includes heated outside mirrors, a trip computer with compass, outside temperature, current and average fuel consumption and fuel range functions, and a HomeLink universal transceiver. Stand alone options for the SR-5 include the power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade ($1,000), roof rack ($220), remote keyless entry ($245), trailer package ($380)), the premium stereo with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer ($715), rear-seat audio controls ($240) and a rear-seat entertainment package with a DVD viewer and the rear audio controls ($1,770).

Options for the Limited model are, well, limited. They include the DVD entertainment system, rear-seat audio, in-dash CD changer ($200), a rear self-leveling suspension ($360), and a rear spoiler ($200).

Walkaround

Sequoia's overall look is clean, purposeful and, above all, big. The Sequoia takes its styling cues from the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup. Both are built at the same assembly plant in Princeton, Indiana. Sequoia may be the most conservatively styled full-size SUV available. The rear looks more like a minivan than a truck.

Sequoia's front and rear doors are nicely integrated and fit proportionally with the rearmost seating and cargo area. They swing open and closed with exceptional lightness, but shut with a nice, secure thunk. The window in the rear liftgate actually rolls down, just like those on the wood-paneled station wagons of the '60s and '70s. That's good, because this is a big vehicle. The liftgate swings so high that it's a long stretch for people five-feet tall, even with the hanging assist strap.

Sequoia's overhangs, particularly the front, are short, so the approach and departure angles are good for off-roading. The Limited model has body colored wheel arches, mirrors and molding, as opposed to black. It's also distinguished by its fog lights, running boards and standard alloy wheels. Toyota hasn't taken to the trend of decking its SUVs with big swathes of black vinyl or plastic, and in our view that's good.

Interior Features

Getting in and out of the Sequoia can be a challenge, particularly for smaller children and Grandma. Running boards are available and are immensely helpful, along with the grab handles mounted just inside the doorframes. But you must be prepared to lift yourself up and into this vehicle. A big beast like the Sequoia requires some physical dexterity, and that its occupants not be afraid of heights.

Once in, there's a commanding view from every seat. The big, sumptuous leather seats in the Limited model are extremely comfortable, and heated.

Controls follow Toyota's classic, and handy, standard: Lights on the left stalk, wipers on the right. Stereo and climate-control buttons and knobs are larger than those in most vehicles and are clustered in a pod in the center of the dash. Indeed, the temperature and fan dials are the largest in the Sequoia, and that takes a little getting used to. Our instinct was to change the interior temperature when we wanted to adjust the volume. All switches have a satisfying feel, but we have a couple of nitpicks. The clock is mounted too low in the center of the dash, and obscured from view by the climate-control switches. And not all of us are enamored with the metal-tone trim that adorns the switch clusters on the doors and dash.

Toyota's attention to detail can be seen everywhere inside the Sequoia. The terrifically large bin between the front seats is split into two levels. The top level has a fold-out clipboard and spring-loaded coin slots. The bottom level has a molded, bookshelf-like CD holder to keep up to eight CDs from rattling around, but there's enough room left over to hold a six-pack or a moderately sized purse. The door pockets are narrow, but there are two open bins at the front of the console, lined with rubber and deep enough to keep cell phones or wallets from sliding around. An overhead console holds sunglasses. The driver information center includes a compass, outside temperature gauge, and fuel economy statistics, such as miles until empty and mpg.

The three-passenger second-row seat is big, contoured and comfortable. The seat backs recline over a broad range, and the rear audio and climate controls on Sequoia's so equipped are prominently placed on the rear of the big center console, within easy reach of all three second-row seating positions, as well as those in front. The seat itself splits 60/40 to fold.

The Sequoia is a champ if you have to transport lots of kids on a regular basis. We say kids because they'll have the most energy and agility to hop over the middle-row to get to the third-row seats. Nonetheless, asking full-sized adults to crawl back there isn't likely to cost you a few friends. A lever on the curbside of the second seat releases a spring-loaded mechanism that drops the seatback and flips the entire seat forward. It clears a fairly wide path to the rear, and the middle seat is easy to plop back once passengers are aboard.

The three-place third row is about as good as they get. Legroom is limited compared to the second row, but the seatbacks recline and there's ample headroom. Further, the entire third row also slides fore/aft over a range of eight inches, to adjust for more legroom or more storage behind the seat. With the third seat up and all the way forward, there's room behind for a large suitcase and a couple of carry-on bags.

For more cargo space, the third-row seats are easy to tumble forward, or they can be removed completely with a bit more effort. With them tumbled, we found enough room for a jogging stroller, a baby backpack and all the rest of the gear needed for a day hike. For maximum cargo carrying, you can remove the third-row seats and fold and tumble the second-row seats. Then there's enough space back there to clean out Toys 'R Us during a clearance sale.

Indeed, the Sequoia offers more cargo space in any of its configurations (third seat in place, folded, etc.) than a

Driving Impressions

Piloting the Toyota Sequoia on the open road is a pleasure. We love the powerful V8 engine. It's a marvel of a smoothness and efficiency, with an ultra-low (ULEV) emissions rating. The transmission, too, was impressively smooth, responsive and seamless in operation. With such a long wheelbase and significant overall heft, the Sequoia delivers a comfortable ride on all types of roads, even with its heavy-duty, truck-style solid rear axle.

Sequoia weighs in at a substantial 5300 pounds, and it needs all of the V8's horsepower and 315 pounds-feet of acceleration producing torque. Get-up-and-go is better than adequate in all circumstances, and the Sequoia will cruise comfortably at speeds much higher than the state troopers advise. Yet if towing is a priority, Sequoia comes up just a little short. Its engine has more power and torque than the standard V8 in either the Ford Expedition or Chevy Tahoe, but both of those big SUVs offer more powerful engines optional. Nissan's new Pathfinder Armada tops the class with its standard engine. As a result, all three competitors are rated for heavier towing loads than the Sequoia (a maximum 6200 pounds with four-wheel drive).

While our Sequoia Limited was impressively smooth and almost as luxurious as a Lexus, it wasn't quite as quiet. Wind noise at highway speed wasn't obtrusive, but the cabin wasn't as hushed as a Lexus LS 430 sedan. Of course, we didn't expect it to be, and compared to its big SUV competitors, the Sequoia ranks high at limiting the amount of undesirable noise inside.

The big, ventilated disc brakes work very well. They come with electronic Brake Assist, which detects panic stops and increases brake pressure automatically to help reduce stopping distances. This system works so well, that we feel compelled to offer a word of caution. The overall refinement of Sequoia's ride, handling and braking might allow a driver to loose track of how big this vehicle is, and how much mass and momentum that must be overcome to turn or stop it.

There are two controls to activate the optional four-wheel-drive system. The first is a simple button, located fairly low in the center of the dashboard. Pressing it will put the vehicle in 4 Hi, good for driving on snow-covered roads or muddy terrain. It can be engaged on the fly without having to stop the vehicle. A traditional-looking shift lever between the front seats activates 4 Lo, a creeper gear used for extreme off-road use, such as descending a very steep hill.

Speaking of steep hills, Sequoia's active four-wheel traction control (TRAC), which comes standard on four-wheel-drive models, made it easy for us to drive straight up a set of moguls on a dry, gravel-covered ski slope at Big Sky, Montana. Instead of modulating the throttle, we simply held the gas down, and the Sequoia walked right up the hill, transferring power to the tires with the best grip and limiting power whenever wheelspin was detected. Drop it into 4 Lo, and the system automatically locks the center differential for go-anywhere capability. Two-wheel-drive Sequoias come standard with rear-wheel traction control, though, obviously, they won't offer the mogul-climbing abilities of the four-wheel-drive models.

Electronic stability control, which comes standard, helps the Sequoia maintain stability should it lose traction and begin to slid sideways. This electronic stability program selectively applies braking force to individual wheels to stop a skid, and it can really help you avoid an accident.

All in all, this big SUV is very drivable, exceptionally comfortable and luxurious. Of course, Sequoia's luxury and comfort come with a price at the gas pump. The EPA says to expect only 14 mpg in city driving and a paltry 17 mpg on the highway. The 2WD versions up the highway figure to 18 mpg. And as you'd imagine from a vehicle of this size, with a large turning radius, the Sequoia is not easy to park. Parallel pa

Summary

Toyota Sequoia has seating for up to eight (or five and lots of room to bring the dogs). It delivers a smooth, comfortable ride. It comes with lots of safety equipment, including traction and skid control, available front side-impact and head-level airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, available on-demand four-wheel drive, and the secure feeling that comes with driving a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds.

The Sequoia's strengths versus its full-size competition include its overall smoothness, outstanding build quality and finish, impressive interior accommodations and space. Its weaknesses are few, confined to the lack of an optional engine and lower towing capacity. It can pull a 6200-pound trailer.

Overall, the Sequoia is a marvelous truck. It's not the best family taxi for daily use in congested, urban areas, but it's unbeatable for family road trips.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Toyota Sequoia SR5 2WD ($31,625); SR5 4WD ($35,155); Limited 2WD ($40,900); Limited 4WD ($44,220)
Engines:240-hp 4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Transmissions:4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard):dual airbags, ABS, brake assist, skid and traction control, three-point seatbelts in all seating positions, front seatbelt pretensioners
Safety equipment (optional):front side-impact and head-protection airbags
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Princeton, Indiana
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Toyota Sequoia Limited 4WD ($44,220)
Standard equipment:automatic dual-zone climate control, power windows, mirrors and door locks, power tilt and slide moonroof, Premium JBL AM/FM/cassette/CD with 10 speakers; leather seating surfaces, power-adjustable heated front seats, running boards, fog lights, rear privacy glass, remote keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels
Options as tested (MSPR):in-dash CD changer ($200); front side-impact and head-protection airbags ($500); rear load-leveling suspension ($360), carpeted floor mats with door-sill protectors ($258)
Destination charge:$540
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$46078
Layout:four-wheel drive
Engine:4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):240 @ 4800
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):315 @ 3400
Transmission:4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:14/17 mpg
Wheelbase:118.1 in.
Length/width/height:203.9/76.0/76.2 in.
Track, f/r:65.9/66.1 in.
Turning circle:42.3 ft.
Seating Capacity:8
Head/hip/leg room, f:41.1/59.7/41.6 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:40.6/58.3/38.4 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r:36.8/50.3/29.8 in.
Cargo volume:127.9 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:6200 Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent
Suspension, r:live axle
Ground clearance:10.6 in.
Curb weigth:5295 lbs.
Tires:P265/65R17
Brakes, f/r:vented disc/vented disc, with ABS and brake assist
Fuel capacity:26.1 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of June 16, 2005.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-GO-TOYOTA - www.toyota.com