Test Drive: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Limited--Second Look

I went back this morning to test drive a 2008 Toyota Sequoia Limited. On Monday, I had driven the top-line Platinum trim level and wanted to see if there was any difference in the ride quality. The Limited offers an 8th seat in the second row, but lacks the front and rear Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that allows you to choose between Sport, Normal, or Comfort settings that the Platinum has....

When I drove the Platinum, I was quite impressed and stepped out of the driver's seat feeling that I had been behind the wheel of something much smaller. Somehow the Sequoia's massive size was hidden and it didn't ride or handle like the huge truck it was.

I brought my 3 oldest girls along so that they could all sit in the 2nd row, booster seats and all. This time we brought the back-less booster seats because they have a wider base than our Britax Parkways. There was no problem fitting the two boosters side-by-side and then having our oldest child sitting next to them. Neither encroached into the other's personal space and everyone was happy.

On the other hand, I was a little more puzzled. I drove the same route I did earlier in the week, but today this Sequoia did not feel the same. I didn't feel that it was sporty at all. The ride was comfortable enough but it just seemed to lack the firmness that allowed me to forget how big the Sequoia was. There was just enough body roll to remind me that I was driving a huge truck.

Throttle response didn't seem as quick either. I don't know why. Both trim levels have the same 5.7L V8 381 HP engine and the same six-speed transmission with Sport mode. I paid more attention to Sport mode and I discovered that it basically puts the Sequoia into 4th gear all the time. It does not downshift when you come to a stop and it does not upshift as you gain speed. There was enough torque so that pulling away starting in 4th gear was no problem at all. Fifth and 6th gears were just over drive gears so even when I got up to 80 km/h (50 mph) the engine was not reving too hard in 4th. It just didn't seem to have the instant response I thought it had the first time I tried it.

I tried manually shifting myself, starting in 1st and going up the gears but that didn't seem to improve things. That mode seemed more suited for heavy towing. I also noticed that it didn't seem as quiet as I remembered. When I accelerated to do a 40 km/h to 70 km/h pass, I could clearly hear the roar of the engine as I sped up.

For the last test, I took the Sequoia into a big-box strip mall to see how it handled parking lots. Here in Canada, I find that the average size of our parking spaces are much smaller than parking spaces we encountered across the USA. One of things I grew tired of our old 2003 Sequoia, was its size in shopping mall parking lots. I found a wide spot between two cars and was able to get the Sequoia in there OK, but it definitely felt tight. The Limited trim level does not come with a back-up camera and it was really missed. Backing out of the parking spot was difficult because despite the parking sensors, it was really hard to tell how much clearance I had in the back. I'm sure it's just a matter of learning the Sequoia's dimensions, but it really wasn't fun and the usual reverse-and-drive-away that I would do in the Odyssey, in the Sequoia became: reverse-forward-reverse-forward-reverse-and-drive-away.

I found out that a backup camera accessory is available for the Limited trim level. Because there is no Navigation screen, a small auxiliary screen is mounted on the overhead console to display the rear view. The screen looks bigger than the screen that's built in to the 2009 Honda Pilot's rear-view mirror, but I'm worried about it being too small, too.

So, now what? It seems like I'm going to have to test drive another Sequoia Platinum again to make sure my first impressions were not wrong. I called another dealership to see if they had any Sequoias and they said they would not be getting any more for another 3 or 4 months and that it would probably be a 2009 model. The salesperson mentioned, too, that one of the changes for 2009 was that the SR5 would be available with the 5.7L engine. I left my number and told him to give me a call when he got a Sequoia Platinum in for me to test drive.


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