Is the TRD Package on This Toyota SUV Just a Gimmick?

The Toyota Sequoia is as reliable, safe, and well-made as they come. And although it hasn’t been updated for some time, it’s still a high-quality full-size SUV.

But now, Toyota is offering a TRD Pro version of the 2020 Sequoia, and fans on Reddit are skeptical. This popular offroad package suits the trail-loving 4Runner perfectly. Yet, these fans aren’t convinced that it’s enough to make the aging Sequoia truly off-road-worthy.

Does the Toyota TRD package rejuvenate the Sequoia and transform it into a real offroad SUV? Or is Toyota just pulling a marketing stunt?

The 2020 Sequoia: basically unchanged 10 years in

The last time that Toyota made any significant changes to this SUV was in 2010. As a result, its critics’ biggest complaint is that the Sequoia is a bit outdated, both inside and out. And a starting price of $51,230 seems pricey for an SUV that hasn’t been significantly freshened up for a solid decade.

Its exterior styling has changed little since the beginning of the Obama administration, and its interior is outmoded and characterized by hard plastics and huge shiny knobs and dials.

At this price point, the Toyota Sequoia doesn’t offer some of the contemporary features that other full-size SUVs do either like a heads-up display or a heated steering wheel. It does, however, have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Another downside is that it lacks the driving refinement of other truck-based SUVs such as rivals like the Ford Expedition and the Chevy Tahoe. The Sequoia, according to Car and Driver, still drives and handles like the full-size Tundra pickup that it’s based on. Buyers can decide between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

This Toyota SUV has the same 5.7-liter V8 of a decade past, paired with a six-speed automatic. There are no other engine options.

Despite all this, the Sequoia is roomy. It comfortably seats seven or eight passengers, depending on the trim level. It also features 18.9 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats up and an amazing 120.1 cubic feet with all rear seats folded.

Another plus is that Toyota was savvy enough to make its Safety Sense-P system standard equipment on the Sequoia. Advanced safety features included in this package include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning. So, at least the Sequoia does as well as or better than its competition in this area.

Adding a TRD Pro trim level to the mix

This year, the Sequoia joins its siblings the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra in making a TRD Pro version available. This model starts at $65,355, just $1,915 less than the top-tier Platinum trim.

To get a little perspective on the Sequoia TRD Pro, we’ll look at the lower-trim TRD Sport, which the former builds on. The TRD Sport has Bilstein dampers and stiff front and rear anti-roll bars to handle rugged terrain. The TRD badging, a black grille insert, and black roof racks also are part of this package.

For the TRD Pro, Toyota adds multi-mode 4WD with Torsen limited-slip center differential with a locking feature. Its off-road capability is boosted thanks to a front and rear coil-spring independent double-wishbone suspension with TRD-tuned Fox shocks. A TRD black cat-back exhaust is available.

The TRD Pro version also has LED foglights, running boards, 18-inch black forged-aluminum alloy wheels, Michelin all-terrain tires, and a front skid plate. Inside, there are black leather-trim heated front seats for comfort plus a TRD shifter knob. The TRD Pro trim seats seven.

This version is touted as having 10 inches of ground clearance, which is a respectable enough number in the off-roading world. But then again, all trim levels that are equipped with four-wheel drive have it, too.

Similarly, the TRD Pro is advertised as having approach and departure angles of 27 degrees and 21 degrees respectively. Yet other 4X4 Sequoia models share the same off-highway angles.

It does seem as if Toyota is marketing the fire out of this model by calling out the very same specs that other Sequoia models have and proclaiming them as new and different.

Were the Reddit commenters right?

The new Toyota Sequoia is unveiled during the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles
The Toyota Sequoia | GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

We agree with the fans on Reddit. Toyota appears to be slapping TRD features on its old-fashioned Sequoia in an attempt to modernize it. But doing this doesn’t automatically turn it into a contemporary off-road beast, even if it performs solidly enough off the pavement without those bells and whistles.

If buyers want a large SUV that can hit the trails, they might consider a Land Cruiser. They’ll pay almost $20,000 more for a new model, though, and they won’t have the coveted Toyota TRD trimmings.

Or, if they want a smaller Toyota SUV that has bona fide off-road capability, the midsize 4Runner TRD Pro might be a better option. It’s almost as old-school as the Sequoia, but it does have proven off-highway chops. 

Toyota‘s effort to distract buyers from the Sequoia’s staleness by offering the TRD Pro trim sure looks like a gimmick for bolstering slipping sales on this model. Maybe the automaker should consider bringing this SUV into the 2020s by focusing on major refreshes instead.