2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro First Drive Review: Stiff Riff on the New Full-Size SUV

For 2023, Toyota’s Sequoia full-size SUV has gone from a long-neglected back-of-the-pack entry to being all-new. The 2023 Sequoia snatches the Tundra pickup’s powerful hybridized V-6 engine as well as its bodywork and headlights forward of the windshield pillars, plops it atop a version of the Tundra frame shared with the global Land Cruiser and Lexus LX SUVs, and backs it up with a roomy three-row cabin. Having driven the entire lineup—you can read the broader lineup review here—here’s a closer peek at the off-road-prepped Sequoia TRD Pro.

Why It’s Important

The iconic Land Cruiser 4×4 is no longer sold in America. Mechanically, the new Sequoia is the next closest thing (along with the LX) to the latest global Land Cruiser. That alone puts some weight on its shoulders to uphold Toyota’s legendary off-road reputation in the full-size SUV space. In this most rugged incarnation, the Sequoia also has some fresh competitors in the new GMC Yukon AT4 and Ford Expedition Timberline.

Forget the previous-gen Sequoia TRD Pro, which reached for the same muddy glory but was based on old bones and didn’t share any lineage with the Land Cruiser. Every ’23 Sequoia is modernized by way of a hybridized twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 producing 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque, mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission. TRD Pros get standard four-wheel drive, which is optional on the SR5 up to the Limited, Platinum, and range-topping Capstone, which come standard with rear drive. Also on board? A locking rear differential, special trail cameras, 2.5-inch Fox internal-bypass shocks with remote reservoirs on the rears, a TRD front anti-roll bar, Multi-Terrain Select traction modes, crawl control, a smattering of TRD-branded parts inside, a quarter-inch-thick aluminum front skidplate, and 18-inch TRD wheels with 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires. Versus non-TRD Pro Sequoias, it all adds up to a better approach angle (23, up by 8 degrees) and an extra 0.5 inch of ground clearance (9.1 inches total).

Pros: What We Like

The Sequoia TRD Pro looks the absolute business, with its gnarly tires, chunky body armor, and cool roof rack/platform. We also dig that it comes so thoroughly prepped for duty in the dirt, right from the factory, just like Toyota’s Tacoma, 4Runner, and Tundra TRD Pro models. As on other Sequoias, the new hybrid engine delivers satisfying torque and punchy overall performance, no matter what-wheel-drive you’re in.

Despite the Sequoia’s sheer size, its squared-off body is easy to place, a boon on tighter trails. We briefly scooted around an off-road course carved out of a hilly cow pasture in Texas, cycling through some alternating humps that lifted a wheel or two in the air, plus a steep rocky climb, and faster-paced rocky dirt track, and places where our visibility ran out. Through it all, the onboard Multi Terrain Monitor cameras picked things up, showing us a view forward from the grille, plus angled views of each front wheel from the side mirrors, allowing us to “see” over the tops of steep hills and directly ahead of each front wheel. The TRD Pro handled everything we threw at it—admittedly on a relatively sterile off-road course—with ease.

Cons: What We Don’t Like

For as much visual value as the TRD Pro upgrades add, most of the hardware is available on lesser models via the TRD Off Road package. And the stuff that isn’t, namely the Fox shocks and 33-inch tires, drag down the driving experience on paved roads. Wind noise, an issue in all of the 2023 Sequoias we’ve driven, is joined here by notable tire sizzle from the all-terrain rubber, plus constant droning from the TRD Pro-specific exhaust. When the hybrid engine wakes up after napping at a stoplight to save fuel, you’ll hear it, whereas the same action is much quieter and goes nearly unnoticed in other Sequoias.

Another potential source of noise? The rugged roof platform the TRD Pro comes standard with. We’re only assuming it’d add to the cabin wind whoosh, however, because Toyota had either preemptively removed or failed to install the platform on the TRD Pros it made available to us to drive, though one was fitted to an example on static display.

The ride is much firmer, thanks to those Fox shocks. Those dampers worked well during our time on the faster dirt rally stage we ran the rig on, smoothing out harsher ride motions from rock impacts and ruts, but on pavement, smaller-amplitude washboard surfaces, and everyday expansion joints and cracks, the shocks are less successful. We noted a lot more head toss and a much stiffer ride on the freeway yet only a minor improvement in the Sequoia’s body control while turning or stopping. The smidge of smoosh in the regular Sequoia’s ride is far more comfortable yet hardly discombobulated when you steer it into a corner or brake hard, even on those equipped with the TRD Off Road package.

If you just gotta have the TRD Pro look—plus its nice features—and plan to spend more time off-road than on, and can stomach the $78,395 price tag (only the luxurious Capstone costs more), go for it. Otherwise, most of the same hardware and capability can be had with fewer compromises in any lesser Sequoia optioned with the TRD Off Road kit.

The Bottom Line

Born for the rough stuff, the Sequoia TRD Pro handles un-rough driving scenarios roughly.

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