Giant sequoias can live for more than 3000 years and grow taller than 300 feet. The Toyota Sequoia can go more than 12 years without a redesign and weigh more than 6000 pounds. Giant sequoias rely on fire for regeneration, while Toyota Sequoias rely on special editions to stay relevant. That’s why there’s now a TRD Pro model. Do not cut this hulking SUV in half to find out how old it is. It’s a 2020 model.
Toyota’s full-size SUV debuted for the 2008 model year as a three-row cousin to the then-new Tundra pickup. Its key hardware was ambitious enough—381-hp V-8, independent rear suspension—that its specs don’t seem too dated now, except perhaps where transmission gear count and fuel economy are concerned. Six gear ratios and a 14-mpg combined EPA estimate are very 2008.
The TRD Pro model, however, capitalizes on the current mania for overland off-roading with some very of-the-moment upgrades, including Rigid fog lights, Fox suspension components, and a prominent front skid plate. Black aluminum TRD running boards guard the rocker panels. Because you must have armor when you’re breaking trail. TRD Pro Sequoias are available in an exclusive color, Army Green, which looks like a few thousand toy army men were melted in a vat and sprayed on in the paint booth.
The front suspension features standard 2.5-inch internal-bypass Fox coil-over dampers with spring rates that are actually softer than the non-TRD Sequoia’s. The Fox 2.0-inch monotube rear dampers are also upsized from the standard items. Although there’s no suspension lift, the front end does gain 0.7 inch of additional rebound travel. The ride feels a little cushier than a standard Sequoia’s, but you still wouldn’t want to enter a King of the Hammers off-road race.
The TRD Pro features a standard four-wheel-drive system that is optional on other Sequoia trim levels. Your options are 2WD, 4HI, and 4LO. Convention says that if you have a center differential that can apportion torque fore and aft on the fly, you call one of those 4WD Auto to denote dry-pavement capability. With the Sequoia, Toyota includes a separate button to lock the Torsen limited-slip center differential. Thus, 4HI is really 4WD Auto until you lock the diff, which makes it 4HI. Got it? In any of the four-wheel-drive modes, there’s plenty of traction from the 32-inch-tall Michelin LTX all-terrain tires, which are mounted on forged 18-inch BBS wheels. If those wheels look like the same design as the bronze-colored ones from the Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition, that’s because they are.
The Sequoia’s interior is functional and very trucklike, with simple controls and outsized knobs and buttons. There’s a lot of hard plastic, but it’s refreshing to be able to adjust the cabin temperature or stereo volume without taking your eyes off the road. And there are some modern electronics baked into its vintage design, including automated forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The front seats are deceptively comfortable, including an adjustment that extends and raises the forward edge of the bottom cushion. Maybe you never realized that the back of your knees needed more support. Ours did. While other Sequoias are available in an eight-passenger configuration, all TRD Pros get a seven-seat setup with second-row captain’s chairs. Your total passenger count may increase if you include a dog, who will undoubtedly enjoy the roll-down rear window in the liftgate. Of the 10,000 to 13,000 Sequoias that Toyota sells in a given year, we’d guess a few thousand are sold on that nifty feature alone.
Twelve years into its run, the Sequoia is treading toward Nissan Frontier status: plenty old, but people keep buying it, so Toyota will keep building it. Surely one reason for the Sequoia’s consistent appeal has to do with its base price: $51,305, which looks quite reasonable, considering that you can option a Chevy Tahoe with a 5.3-liter V-8 beyond $80K. Even the TRD Pro’s starting point of $65,430 undercuts that substantially. And until big body-on-frame SUVs go electric, there’s really not much fundamental difference between an older design such as the Sequoia and the latest and greatest models. They’re all roomy, comfy, versatile, and thirsty. And, in the case of the TRD Pro, they’re capable of tackling tough off-road trails—provided you can find one that’s wide enough.