2009 Toyota Sequoia Review
Pros & Cons
- Huge interior with flexible seating, smooth ride, graceful handling for its size, brisk acceleration, and high towing capacity with the 5.7-liter V8.
- Audio controls are hard to reach while driving, gets very pricey when loaded up with options.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The most refined, user-friendly and versatile choice in the full-size SUV segment, the 2009 Toyota Sequoia is an attractive option for large families who have heavy trailers to tow.
After experiencing 2008's $4-a-gallon-gas wake-up call, those who purchase an imposingly large SUV these days do so at their own risk. Those who take the plunge, though, will hopefully do so because they have a genuine need for the vehicle's massive passenger, cargo and hauling capabilities, and not for something as foolish as "image enhancement." Either way, shoppers looking for one of these burly beasts of burden would be hard-pressed to find a better one than the 2009 Toyota Sequoia.
Last year's complete redesign of the Sequoia (which was based on the current Tundra platform) resulted in — surprise, surprise — larger dimensions. But it also provided more room, stronger performance, more composed road manners and greater seating flexibility. A unique feature that should prove useful for growing families is the Sequoia's versatile second-row seats, which are available as a 40/20/40-split bench or as captain's chairs. Either way, those seats offer a broad range of fore-aft adjustment, allowing them to be positioned to optimize legroom or cargo room as needs dictate. Unlike the Tundra (and GM's full-size SUVs), the Sequoia has an independent rear suspension, which allows the SUV's roomy 60/40-split third-row seat to fold flat. Fold down both the second and third rows for an enormous 120 cubic feet of cargo space.
Under the hood, the Sequoia has one of two V8 engines. Though the older 4.7-liter V8 is still standard on the base SR5 trim, most Sequoias have Toyota's latest 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8. Fitted with the bigger engine, the Sequoia is the quickest rig in the large SUV segment and boasts a massive 9,100-pound towing capacity. Once underway, the Sequoia's chassis tuning provides an ideal balance between highway comfort and back-road agility, while a relatively tight 39-foot turning circle makes the big truck easy to maneuver in parking lots.
As well-rounded as the 2009 Toyota Sequoia is, it's prudent to mention that buyers who don't require its impressive towing capacity might also consider any number of large crossovers, such as the Ford Flex, the GMC Acadia (or its Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/Saturn Outlook relatives) or the Mazda CX-9. These crossovers offer almost as much passenger and cargo space, yet they cost considerably less, handle better and get better fuel economy.
That said, if you need a heavy-duty, full-size SUV, the 2009 Toyota Sequoia is the best choice there is. Yes, this segment also offers the solidly qualified Chevrolet Tahoe-GMC Yukon twins, the Ford Expedition and the Nissan Armada. But when it comes to versatile passenger accommodations, strong overall performance and well-balanced ride and handling dynamics, the Sequoia is most worth the risk.
2009 Toyota Sequoia models
The 2009 Toyota Sequoia is a full-size SUV that seats seven or eight, depending on the configuration. The three trim levels — SR5, Limited and Platinum — are available with two- or four-wheel drive.
Base SR5 models have 18-inch alloy wheels, a 40/20/40-split second-row bench seat, triple-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The Limited adds running boards, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, power front seats, upgraded instrumentation, and an upgraded JBL sound system with a six-CD changer.
The ritzy Sequoia Platinum sizes up to 20-inch wheels while adding load-leveling rear air springs, an adaptive variable suspension, adaptive shock absorbers, a power liftgate, a sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, second-row captain's chairs (dropping capacity to seven), a navigation system, a backup camera, and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Leather upholstery and JBL sound are optional on the SR5, while the rear air springs, sunroof and nav system are available on both the SR5 and the Limited. A sport package dubbed SX is also optional on the SR5, and it includes 20-inch wheels, a color-keyed grille, foglights, a rear spoiler and a power driver seat. Only Platinum offers the adaptive cruise control option. A rear-seat entertainment system is available across the lineup.
Performance & mpg
Standard on the Sequoia SR5 is a 4.7-liter V8 (276 hp and 314 pound-feet of torque) matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the SR5 and standard on all other Sequoias is a 5.7-liter V8 (381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque) paired with a six-speed automatic. As expected, the Sequoia is available with either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. An unusual feature is that the center differential can be locked in both 4-Hi and 4-Lo, thereby providing greater flexibility when driving in snowy conditions. In our testing, a 4WD Sequoia with the 5.7-liter V8 hit 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds.
The Sequoia's fuel economy is slightly better than that of most rivals. The 5.7-liter V8 is less thirsty than the smaller V8 thanks to its dual variable valve timing and more efficient six-speed automatic. A 2WD Sequoia 5.7 rates 15 mpg combined (14 city/19 highway), while the 4.7-liter version rates 15 mpg combined (14 city/17 highway). Properly equipped, this SUV can tow up to 9,100 pounds.
Every 2009 Toyota Sequoia comes with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags. Front and rear parking sensors are standard on the Sequoia Platinum and the Limited and optional on the SR5. A backup camera is available on the Platinum and optional on the SR5 and the Limited. In the government's frontal crash test, the Sequoia earned five stars (out of five) for the driver and four for the passenger.
Even if you don't ordinarily like large SUVs, the 2009 Toyota Sequoia will do its best to warm your heart with its pleasant driving experience. Thanks to the 5.7-liter V8 underhood, low-end torque is abundant, and passing maneuvers come and go in an instant. Plus, the six-speed automatic is always on point with gear selection, even when towing.
Ride comfort ranges from smooth and composed in an SR5 model with optional air springs to downright plush in a Sequoia Platinum with the adaptive suspension. Around corners, the suspension does an excellent job of managing three tons' worth of SUV. The steering is also well-weighted and precise as full-size SUVs go.
There's only one significant shortcoming in the Toyota Sequoia's cabin: It has the same hard-to-reach audio and navigation controls as the Tundra pickup. Otherwise, this interior is a triumph of ergonomics, storage bins and family-friendly conveniences. The second-row seats adjust fore and aft whether your Sequoia has the bench or the captain's chairs. The bench seat's center "20" section also slides farther forward to provide easier access to a child seat. There's also a conversation mirror so you can monitor potential hostilities in the third row. The 60/40-split folding third-row seat in Limited and Platinum models has both a power recline and a power fold feature. With both sets of rear seats folded down, the Sequoia's cargo space tops out at 121 cubic feet.