Toyota’s big Sequoia is getting a complete makeover for 2023, and it’s one badass vehicle. Just ask Toyota, which spelled that out — in Morse code — on the base of the new SUV’s windshield.
The 2023 Toyota Sequoia has plenty to justify that claim, including the new iForce Max hybrid powertrain and a towing capacity of up to 9,520 pounds.
A wave washes over the windshield of my 2023 Toyota Sequoia as I splash through a water hazard. At least it washes away most of the dust that’s caked onto the truck as I take it for an off-road run in cattle country an hour west of Dallas.
The third-generation Sequoia is now the biggest and most capable SUV in the Toyota lineup — with the departure of the old Land Cruiser. And I headed down to Texas to get a feeling for what it’s able to deliver.
First Drive: 2023 Toyota Sequoia
More, More, More
Starting at $58,300 in base SR5 4×2 trim, it’s a big jump up from the outgoing truck that starts at $50,500 — both numbers excluding delivery fees. But you’ll get a lot more for the money (or so Toyota boasts), more power, more luxury features, more safety gear, and lots more technology.
Coming at you, you might initially mistake the new Sequoia for the latest-generation Toyota Tundra — and for good reason. They not only share the same underlying platform, but much of their sheet metal, including doors, front quarter panels, and hood.
Power to the Max
But where pickup buyers have the option of two different powertrains, all 2023 Sequoia trims share the automaker’s newest and most powerful package, the new iForce Max. That makes the SUV the fourth model in the Toyota family to only be offered with a hybrid.
Paired with a 10-speed automatic, the 3.5L V6 hybrid pushes out 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque, something I quickly came to appreciate both on road and off.
It effortlessly merged into the fast-moving traffic on Texas freeways, easily executing passes at speeds approaching 90 mph. Out in cattle country, it proved more than adept at climbing over obstacles, especially the robust TRD Pro package.
Depending upon trim, the new Sequoia can also haul as much as a 9,520-pound trailer. That’s about 500 pounds heavier than the outgoing model could achieve.
The one downside was a surprising amount of trailer sway when I hitched a Limited model up to a 5,000-pound Airstream trailer. I might be a little nervous hauling such a big rig on a windy day. Though the Sequoia does offer an anti-sway setting, as well as a variety of cameras and other features designed to make it easy for even a novice to handle a trailer.
The decision to make a hybrid the powertrain of choice took some truckers by surprise when Toyota revealed the Tundra last year. By now, word of mouth has made it clear that the iForce Max is up to the job. It not only adds more muscle to the equation but delivers better fuel economy, as well – something full-size SUV buyers are likely to appreciate as gas surges to new record highs seemingly every other day.
The outgoing SUV managed a mere 13 mpg city, 17 highway and 14 combined, according to the EPA. Final numbers haven’t been released yet for the 2023 Sequoia, but expectations are a 20 mpg combined figure, in line with what the Tundra delivers. I averaged a bit over 19 during my time in a four-wheel-drive Tundra with Capstone package — excluding the off-road portion of the journey — and I have a far heavier foot than the typical government test pilot.
The new Sequoia is offered in both rear and four-wheel-drive — the 4×4 configuration adding $3,000 to all models but the four-wheel-drive-only TRD Pro, where it’s included.
Buyers also get the option of a seven- or eight-passenger configuration, the latter package trading twin captain’s chairs for a mid-row bench. On all models, the rear bench can slide forward or back up to 6 inches.
Plenty of Room for Cargo
One of the biggest complaints about the outgoing Sequoia focused on its marginal cargo capacity. That now grows to 22.3 cubic feet behind the third row — and can jump to 86.9 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded over. One of the trick features is a new, adjustable shelf that allows you to stack cargo to take advantage of Sequoia’s high roof.
Capping the Lineup
As with the Tundra, Toyota adds a new trim line for the 2023 Sequoia. The new Capstone edition is for those who want the best of a luxury sedan in the form of a full-size SUV. It adds 22-inch wheels and tires, power running boards, and acoustic glass. The cabin features open-pore American walnut veneer, semi-aniline leather seats, and other luxury touches.
The $75,300 Capstone also comes exclusively with a digital gauge cluster, a 10-inch heads-up display, and a 14-inch infotainment screen. That’s an option on some lower trim packages where an 8-inch touchscreen is standard.
The 14-inch display is powered by Toyota’s new multimedia software that features an Amazon Alexa-style voice assistant. It’s not quite as savvy, but it can program a route or handle pretty much any other vehicle function simply by speaking a plain English command.
Oddly, you can’t split-screen as you can with most newer infotainment systems. So, you have to flip-flop between screens to check the name of a song if you’re running the navigation system. If you want to multitask, switch either to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro
For those who might want to get back to nature, the TRD Pro is the likely choice. It adds underbody protection, as well as an electronically controlled, limited-slip differential.
The TRD package boasts a 23-degree approach angle and a 20-degree departure angle. Where ground clearance is 8.6 inches on 4×2 versions of the 2023 Toyota Sequoia, and 8.7 inches on most 4×4 models, It jumps to 9.1 inches here with the TRD Pro.
While that’s short of the 1.5 inches of added lift offered on the Tundra TRD Pro, the Sequoia version still handled everything I threw at it. That included some modest rock crawling and a water fording exercise. (Toyota hasn’t released water fording or breakover numbers just yet.)
The e-LSD proved especially adept when I flogged the truck around a tight dirt course. Even when I took a corner too fast, the limited-slip system and suspension quickly brought things under control.
On pavement, even the TRD Pro package proved comfortable and far more refined than the outgoing Sequoia. It’s the sort of big cruiser I could imagine taking on a long journey, and the switch to the hybrid iForce Max powertrain helps take at least some of the sting out of the current price of gas.
2023 Toyota Sequoia: Autumn On-Sale Date
While there’s plenty of competition from products like the Chevrolet Suburban, the Ford Expedition, and the new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, Toyota is confident enough to predict sales should triple for the new SUV — albeit from a small base. I’m betting the brand is right.
Look for the 2023 Toyota Sequoia to reach U.S. showrooms by autumn — though with the ongoing semiconductor shortage supply could be tight for the rest of the year.