2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia. Click image to enlarge
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Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Sequoia
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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Toyota Sequoia

Windsor, Ontario – Out in the forest, one of the biggest trees is the Sequoia. And when you’re standing next to the Toyota version, it’s easy to see where the company got its inspiration for the name. Look up, way up at the Sequoia, and you could be forgiven for wondering if this is really the company that makes the Prius.

For 2008, the Sequoia is all-new, following the redesign of the Toyota Tundra pickup truck upon which it’s based. As is usual for a makeover, the Sequoia grows in almost all directions: the wheelbase is stretched by 100 mm, and it’s 30 mm longer overall and 25 mm wider. But it’s the weight gain that’s mind-boggling: depending on the trim line, the Sequoia bulks up by 272 to 308 kg over the 2007 model-year version.

Toyota recently announced pricing for the Sequoia; the starting MSRP is $44,675, the lowest this model has been in Canada since 2001, and a considerable drop over the $65,100 asked for the last-generation model in 2007.

One number that increases to the good is the Sequoia’s towing capacity; from the previous 2,812 kg (6,200 lbs), the new model is able to pull from between 3,400 kg (7,495 lbs) and 4,125 kg (9,095 lbs), depending on the powertrain. The extra weight does mean the payload decreases accordingly, though, from 590 kg (1,300 lbs) to a range of 550 kg (1,220 lbs) to 575 kg (1,275 lbs). Given that the few I see on the road usually have only one passenger, this shouldn’t present a hardship for most owners.

2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia. Click image to enlarge

Following in the Tundra’s footsteps means that the Sequoia now offers two engines. In addition to the 4.7-litre V8 carried over from 2007 in the SR5, there’s also a 5.7-litre V8 in the Limited and Platinum editions. While the 4.7-litre retains its five-speed automatic, the 5.7-litre hooks to a six-speed autobox. Thanks to that, and to the 5.7-litre’s application of variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust, the bigger engine is more powerful but returns better combined fuel economy than the 4.7-litre. The transmission contains a cooler, but it also has a warmer, which helps bring it up to optimum operating temperature faster for better emissions control.

While a two-wheel drive version is available to American buyers, Canadians get only four-wheel drive. That’s understandable, given the Sequoia’s low profile; only some 300 of them go out the door each year.

While the Tundra is built in Texas, the Sequoia is put together in Indiana, with its engines shipped in from Alabama. Like the Tundra, it’s a body-on-frame, but it’s fully boxed front to rear, and unlike the pickup truck it features a new, four-wheel independent suspension, with double wishbones front and back. The adaptive shock system can be set for firm or comfort settings, depending on one’s preference.

2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia. Click image to enlarge

The overall result is a truck that doesn’t ride like a truck. Climb into the Sequoia – a task made easier by big assist handles at every door – and you feel like you’ve gotten into a luxury sedan. What’s very surprising is that, given the Sequoia’s massive bulk, it rides and drives like a much smaller vehicle. “Nimble” isn’t really a word I’d apply to something this size, but it really is: the turning circle is very tight, and the steering is light and quick, but with enough feel left for confidence. That’s helped by a new variable-flow power steering pump, a first for Sequoia; there’s also a cooler for the power steering fluid, to reduce the heat build-up that can occur when towing.

The four-wheel drive system switches easily and quickly from two- to four-wheel, and then into 4Low when necessary, via a dial on the centre stack. The normal 40/60 torque distribution in four-wheel can vary from 30/70 to 50/50, and the centre differential can be locked into that equal torque mode when necessary. It was more than enough to get me through an off-road trek set up as part of the vehicle’s launch, even when a confusing turn took me completely off the prescribed course and into some serious mud. Once I realized my error and got the truck straightened out, it pulled itself back out. Should your hobbies include that sort of activity on a regular basis, the roll-sensing curtain airbags can be temporary switched off for aggressive off-road angles.

2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia
2008 Toyota Sequoia. Click image to enlarge

Outside, the Sequoia shares the Tundra’s bold front styling, while the rear end stays fairly close to the 2007 Sequoia’s appearance. Inside, the dash, centre stack and front console are lifted straight from the Tundra, for better and worse. It’s an extremely attractive design, with large, simple dials and buttons, but they’re spread across a very wide area, and smaller drivers (read: me) can find it difficult to reach the heater and stereo buttons on the far right-hand side.

In keeping with the Sequoia’s upscale place in the Toyota line-up, the seats are extremely comfortable. Second-row passengers enjoy similar comfort and considerable legroom, although the third row best enjoyed on shorter trips. The second and third rows fold easily, but if you opt for the Platinum trim level with its second-row captain’s chairs, the centre console sticks up above the flat-folded seats.

All models come well-equipped, with the base SR5 including front and rear climate control, leather seats, power tailgate window, clearance and backup sensors and headlamp sensors among its long list of standard features. Move past the Limited and up to the Platinum model, and you’ve got heated and cooled seats, rear-seat nine-inch LCD entertainment screen, navigation system, backup camera and laser cruise control. That system maintains a specified distance between your vehicle and the one in front, and will slow down or even apply the brakes if you get too close; for those not fond of it (read: me), it can be turned off in favour of conventional cruise control.

Given that many buyers are downsizing their automobiles, it’s always surprising to see a manufacturer super-sizing one, especially to the extent that the Sequoia has grown. Still, it seems that no segment must go untapped when a competitor has a vehicle already installed there, and since the Nissan Armada, Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition are players in the game, Toyota has suited up as well. As far as comfort, ride, handling and capability go, this one’s a winner. Just be sure to check the backup camera so you don’t hit the Prius that’s hiding below the liftgate.

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