- Alexander Mitich
2021 Toyota Sequoia Nightshade Special Edition - The Best Kind of Brute
Introduced in 2000 and manufactured at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, the Sequoia is the first vehicle from a Japanese brand in the popular large SUV class in North America and derived from its Tundra pickup. Initial planning was done by first-generation Sequoia chief engineer Kaoru Hosegawa aimed the Sequoia directly at the Ford Expedition, also competing with the Chevrolet Tahoe and the later Nissan Armada.
The 2021 Toyota Sequoia comes in six versions. In order from base model to fully loaded, they are: SR5, TRD Sport, Limited, Nightshade Special Edition (our test vehicle), Platinum and TRD Pro. The base model SR5 includes 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, sunroof, power rear window, three-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable driver's seat, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, a USB port, a touchscreen A 6.1-inch, eight-speaker audio system with a satellite and CD player and HD radio. Our Nightshade Special Edition includes 20-inch black split-spoke alloy wheels, black leather trim and second row captain's chairs, magnetic gray metallic paint, and integrated LED fog lights with darkened chrome surround.
A seven-passenger option swaps the second-row bench for two captain's chairs. A 14-speaker JBL premium sound system is optional, as is a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-ray player. The Nightshade Special Edition comes standard with all of the above features, plus an adaptive air suspension, with a load-leveling rear, ventilated front seats, captain's chairs, a second-row center console, and an electrically adjustable steering wheel.
All models come with a 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pounds of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Rear wheel drive is standard, and 4WD all-wheel drive is optional. The 4WD Sequoia Nightshade as our test vehicle can tow up to 7,000 pounds. The cargo capacity of the Sequoia 4WD Platinum is 1,300 pounds.
The first and second row seats are wide without lateral support, but sitting for several hours produced no complaints. The third-row seats are flatter and more shapeless, but that's to be expected given that they have to fold down to carry cargo. The dash and center console have a mosaic of buttons and knobs. Most are easy to decipher. Front passengers will often need to sit upright and bend over to make adjustments.
The second-row seats tilt and slide, making it easy to get into the third row, but getting out requires a deliberate and flexible effort, especially for tall adults who will need to duck to clear the ceiling.
The driver's seat offers surprisingly little downward adjustment, and taller drivers can sit higher than they like.
The power tilt and telescoping steering column is nice, but this SUV also needs a power pedal adjustment to bring those pedals closer to the feet of shorter drivers. The Sequoia's cabin materials are outmatched by rivals in this segment, as Toyota's reluctance to revamp the Sequoia is obvious - not enough customers seem to care.
The knobs, grips, and hard plastic make it feel more like a Tundra pickup and less like a Lexus.
With seats up, it offers 67 cubic feet with only the third row folded down and 19 cubes of grocery space with the third row up. Think of the Sequoia as a Tundra truck with three rows and an SUV roof. The seats offer good comfort over long distances.
At nearly 6,100 pounds, it's not for winding roads. But its wonderful bursts of V8 power are well suited for towing trailers and boats. The powerful 5.7-liter V8 never feels strained, even when summoned to pass slow traffic at highway speeds. The pedal feel is smooth and comfortable, but it stays firm during emergency braking. ABS emergency brake stops are loud and jittery as the steering wheel jerks from side to side as the SUV comes to a stop. Among traditional SUVs, the Sequoia offers a more comfortable ride than many in its class.
You can't expect much given the Sequoia's size, but it does surprise with a decent amount of handling precision. With light steering and a smooth-shifting automatic transmission, the Sequoia is a breeze to drive.
It is capable in true off-road conditions thanks to 10 inches of ground clearance, large approach angle, and low-range transfer case. The driver can lock the center differential from the seat for better traction on loose surfaces. But its large size will keep it off narrow paths. It's also quite capable off-road thanks to its high ground clearance, although this is obviously not a vehicle you want to try to squeeze down a tight, narrow road.
Overall comfort and surprising serenity are the main strengths of the Sequoia. Tire and wind noise levels are well suppressed, and the adjustable suspension helps maintain comfort when hauling heavy loads.
This current generation Sequoia has been around for thirteen years without a redesign. That's an eternity in the auto industry, and it's more than evident in the Sequoia's dated interior design, lack of refinement, and lackluster fuel economy.
It's a tough sell when other large crossover SUVs can provide similar amounts of interior space, but with superior fuel economy and a better combination of ride comfort and safe handling. The Toyota Sequoia is worth a look if your transportation needs call for a heavy-duty three-row SUV. The Sequoia can do just about anything, and if they haven't changed the model in over a decade, it's because customer satisfaction and reliability are so high.
Tank-like presence and capability
Interior spaciousness for all passengers
Spartan, dated interior
Lacking convenience features
Engine: 5.7L iForce V8
Drivetrain: Multi-mode 4WD with locking center differential
Power: 381 hp
Torque: 401 lb/ft
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
Curb Weight: 5,730 lbs
Fuel Economy: 13/14/17
Base Price: $50,100 Price as Tested: $67,955