Road trips can mean a lot of different things for people. Some folks grew up doing them in a time when flying wasn’t really possible or affordable; others did them because they like the feeling of being in control of their travel. This year, flying has become uncertain, less safe, and all-around more difficult for many of us. When it came to trying to see my family safely and responsibly for Christmas, I wasn’t going to risk flying. So my family and I got negative COVID tests and loaded a 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro down with masks, hand sanitizer, a 150 lb dog, and wrapped gifts, and made the 2,000-mile round trip to Texas to see the rest of our family.
The TRD Pro wasn’t really made for road tripping
The Toyota Racing Division nameplate and spec mean whatever you are in will be serious when it comes to taking the road (trail) less traveled. The various interstates between North Carolina and Texas wouldn’t exactly count as “the road less traveled.” Still, even with the beefy off-road suspension, heavy, knobby tires, and hill-climbing torque, the king of the Toyota SUVs was stable, comfy, and dependable all 2,000 miles.
Mack Hogan of Road & Track pointed out that the Sequoia follows the nearly 10-year streak will no major updates or refinements. I’ll be honest, I liked the Sequoia, but it is hard to recommend. As tested, our rig runs nearly $70k. That is serious money. It turns deadly serious when you compare it to almost anything else.
The interior, while comfy to sit in for 16 hours straight, was sparse and plain. For this much money, you might expect heated and cooled everything, automatic this and that, and maybe even a few fancy details. The Sequoia has none of that. My dad used to drive a 2001 Sequoia, and although his wasn’t hooked up like the TRD Pro and didn’t have Bluetooth, the interior honestly felt really similar. I hesitate to say the same, but…
What engine does the Sequoia have?
If this were 1997 and gas was still around a dollar a gallon, the horrid EPA rating wouldn’t matter all that much for your wallet. As is it not 1997 and gas is double that price in most places, the combined 15 mpg hurts pretty bad. It would be one thing if the Sequoia sported some massive, torquey tire eater for an engine, but that isn’t the case either.
Toyota still has the same old 5.7-liter V8 that in a nearly 6,000 pound SUV doesn’t leave much extra power for passing, much less eating tires. But, what the Sequoia lacks in efficiency and refinement, it more than makes up for in toughness. Toyota doesn’t need me to cape for its motors toughness; just look at the number of them that chewed through 1 million miles and were still hungry for more. That V8 is strong and stubborn. It may well be one of the most reliable motors ever made.
The 2020 Sequoia TRD Pro’s ride might surprise you
As someone who drove a Wrangler for 11 years, I assumed the off-roadyness of the TRD Pro would make for a horrible highway machine. Much to my delight, the ride was easy and smooth. The rear independent suspension made the highway and all its many bumps and quick shifts in the 6,000 pounds a breeze.
It was genuinely a great ride. The front seats are wide and sit up high, giving me and my wife a bird’s eye view of the surrounding traffic. The middle row captain’s chairs were equally accommodating and comfortable. Other interior features like sat-nav, Bluetooth, and infotainment interface were all fine. Connecting Bluetooth is always a bit of drag, but the Sequoia did it without much cursing.
The only feature that annoyed me was the radar-controlled cruise control. It worked fine and all, but if someone cut in front of me or I changed lanes to pass someone but got even within even kind of, sort of close, the brakes would jam in a way that made me embarrassed of the abruptness enough to apologize to the family.
Like many large, new SUVs, the steering was so light that maintaining a straight line in the lane took a good deal of wiggling. If I found myself in a turn of any kind, I kind of felt like someone driving in a TV with my comically active steering. The wheel required a lot of movement to change the direction of my big green beast.
More than anything else, the Sequoia is really easy to spend time in
I ended my combined 30 hours spent driving the Sequoia with some questions about “who might actually spend that kind of money?” and “who this is for?” but I know one thing for sure, I clocked 2,000 miles, and it felt like I did little more than go for a drive. I don’t know if I would buy one, but I surely enjoyed driving it.