Can I tell you something? I really like Toyota’s big SUVs. The Land Cruiser, first and foremost, has been my favorite for generations now. Is there a better SUV? Not really. Even if I’m wrong, so what? I love the thing.
However the Lexus GX might be. Known in other parts of the world as the Toyota Prado, you can best think of the GX as Land Cruiser Junior. Sales of the GX are indeed slow, and Lexus feels the need (sadly) to have a more conventional 3-row uni-body luxury SUV to compete with the high-dollar and high-volume Audi Q7s and Mercedes-Benz GLSs of the world. Instead of the Prado, Toyota has been selling us American types the 4Runner for over 30 years. Fun fact: 5.2 percent of all vehicles in the world with over 200,000 miles on them are 4Runners. Back to it: all of the above SUVs are wicked good on dirt and rocks and mud and all that stuff. As a result, I like all of them. It should come as no surprise then, that I also totally dig the 2017 Sequoia.
Yup, the biggest Toyota, fittingly named after the world’s biggest tree—redwoods are taller but Sequoiadendron giganteum are the largest living things on earth—the Sequoia is the only SUV that contains all the vowels. Think about it. The Sequoia might as well contain all the consonants, too, because it is truly massive, tipping the scales at 6,081 pounds. For a little perspective, the last Chevrolet Tahoe we tested, a 2015 4WD LTZ model, weighed in at 5,744 pounds. We also happened to weigh a same vintage Chevy Suburban 4WD LTZ and the longer American undercut the bulging Japanese people hauler by 129 pounds, coming in at 5,952 pounds.
Luckily, Toyota outfitted their big girl with a proper engine, the family 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8, which for Sequoia duty makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. All that power is enough to muscle the Sequoia to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The quarter-mile happens in 15.2 seconds at 91 mph. That’s quick enough to smoke the 5.3-liter, 355 hp Chevys, with the Tahoe needing 7 seconds and the Suburban requiring 7.3 to hit 60 mph. Same story in the quarter-mile, with the Tahoe taking 15.4 seconds at 90.6 mph, and the big Suburban needing 15.7 seconds and only trapping at 88.6 miles per hour. Above are the numbers, and they tell part of the story.
However I drove this Sequoia from Escalante, Utah in the dead of winter to Las Vegas, Nevada before heading home to Los Angeles, and I think that’s the more important part. Allow me to tell you that she is one of the finest road tripping machines I’ve driven in some time. First of all, the front seats are massive. Like, quite possibly the largest thrones in the industry.
My other big road trip gripe is the cruise control. I’ve long been a believer that every car has a speed it’s most comfortable going. To keep it in the Toyota family, the new Lexus IS 200t is happiest at 85mph. Go figure. The Sequoia, with it’s big, angry-sounding V-8 loves to go about 70 mph. And, you know, hey, that’s a fine speed. Unless you’re in Utah, where the speed limit is 80 mph. OK, so, you set the radar cruise control at 85 mph, kick back, relax, and before you know it, your watching your speed fall. Huh? Well, the first problem is, as my director Anthony Esposito pointed out, “There’s no BMW mode.” Meaning, even when assigned to the closest setting, you’re still what feels like 500 feet from the car in front of you. I want to be on someone’s bumper.
All that said, my gripes with the Sequoia (pitiful fuel economy—13.6 miles per gallon observed on the freeway uphill, 13.7 mpg downhill) are few, while the things I enjoyed about it are many. Starting with that lovely V-8, which will soon be replaced by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, how many full-size SUVs can you think of that sound so good? Basically, only the 6.2-liter versions of GM’s big boys make such sweet music.