Development of a full-size SUV alongside a T100 replacement began in the mid-1990s, with a design freeze in 1997 (styled by Toshihiko Shirasawa) and design patent filing of the production design on April 4, 1998 at the Japan Patent Office (JPO) under #1054583. After the introduction of the Toyota Tundra in 1999, speculation started that Toyota intended to compete in the full-size market with a Tundra-based SUV called the Highlander. However, the Highlander name was used on a midsize Camry-based crossover and the Tundra-based SUV was introduced on January 11, 2000 at the North American Auto Show as the Toyota Sequoia, with full production starting in September 2000 for the 2001 model year.
For the 2005 model year, the Sequoia received a mild facelift. A new engine equipped with VVT-i was new for 2005, as well as a 5-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous 4-speed. 4 wheel drive models got a Torsen center differential, replacing the previous open differential, that splits power in full-time mode 40% front and 60% rear under normal driving, and can send up to 53% to the front and 71% to the rear during slip. The grill was redesigned, and the orange lamps were removed from the taillights.
Toyota unveiled the 2008 Toyota Sequoia at the November 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, with sales beginning that following December. Like the original Sequoia, the new model is based on the new Tundra. However major differences with the Tundra include a fully boxed frame, a rear independent suspension featuring double wishbones with coil springs for improved ride comfort and room, and a locking center differential on 4-wheel drive models. The new suspension helps give the Sequoia a tighter turning radius of 19 ft (5.8 m) and allows for a fold-flat rear seat. Toyota stated the new frame is 70 percent more resistant to bending flex with torsional rigidity up 30 percent However, the new model weighs 500 lb (227 kg) more than the previous Sequoia. The drag coefficient has been reduced to 0.35.
Improvements include an optional ULEV-II compliant 381 horsepower 5.7 L 3UR-FE V8, mated to a 6-speed automatic.
The 2008 Sequoia comes in three trim lines: the SR5 and Limited, and new Platinum. Pricing ranges from about $34,000 to $55,000 depending upon the trim line and configuration.
The base engine is the previous ULEV compliant 4.7 L 2UZ-FE 276 hp (206 kW) V8 featured from the previous generation. The 4.7 L is standard on the SR5, while the Limited and Platinum models come standard with a 5.7 L V8 engine. Four-wheel drive is available on all models.
The interior of the 2008 Sequoia features the same dash as the new Tundra. Standard features include a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows and doors, dual sun visors, and a keyless entry. Options include DVD based navigation with backup camera and 7" screen, a rear DVD entertainment system, a 14-speaker JBL audio system, and heated seats with ventilated coolers in the front row and warmers in the second row, available in Platinum trim. The Limited trim includes audio, climate, and hands-free Bluetooth mobile phone system controls, an improved JBL audio system, electroluminescent Optitron gauges, and an electrochromicauto-dimming rear-view mirror and side view mirrors with a HomeLink transceiver. The Platinum model includes a standard DVD navigation with a backup camera, a rear air suspension which can lower for easy loading, and Dynamic Laser Cruise Control.
Seating arrangements are for seven or eight passengers, eight for SR5 and Limited models and seven for Platinum models. Power folding 60/40 split third row seats are available on the Platinum. The Sequoia has a maximum towing capacity of 7,400 lb (3,357 kg) with the 5.7 L V8 in 2WD SR5 form or 7,100 lb (3,221 kg) in the 4WD SR5 trim. For complete trailer & weight capacities, see Toyota's website.
Exterior differences include door handle colors (color-keyed for the SR5; chrome for the Limited and Platinum), diamond-cut 20 in (508 mm) aluminum alloy wheels for the Platinum trim, and varying power-heated remote-controlled side mirrors.
The 2009 model year adds E85 flex fuel capability for the 5.7 L V8 sold in certain states.
For the 2010 model year the 4.7 L V8 is replaced by an all-new 4.6 L 1UR-FE engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The SR5 and Platinum trims become mono-spec and the Limited grade offers three stand alone options (navigation system, rear-seat entertainment and seven-passenger seating). Front driver and passenger knee airbags were added as a standard feature. Platinum models get wood trim on the steering wheel and shift gear, and Bluetooth and audio controls are standard on the SR5 trim. The Timberland Mica exterior color gets replaced with the new Camry's Spruce Mica. All audio systems have USB connectivity with iPod integration, and the rear-view mirror on the Limited trim has a built-in rear-view camera.
For the 2012 model year, Toyota's Entune System was added as a standard on SR5, while an upgraded version featuring navigation became an optional feature on Limited and standard on the Platinum trim.
For the 2014 model year, a Blu-ray DVD player became an optional feature on Limited and standard in Platinum.
No major changes were made for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 model years.
On February 9, 2017, Toyota unveiled a refreshed Sequoia for the 2018 model year, featuring new standard LED headlights, daytime running lights and foglights, (note: 2001-07 models have this system too, but not the basic model), and three new exterior colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Shoreline Blue Pearl and Toasted Walnut Pearl. Each trim level also gets its own specific grille design. It also added a TRD level trim to its returning SR5, Limited, and Platinum trims, an upgraded instrumentation panel, automotive emergency braking and the Toyota Safety Sense feature.
The 2020 model year Sequoia was updated with a new TRD Pro package designed for off-road capabilities, featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Toyota Safety Sense-P, aluminum-bodied internal bypass Fox shock absorbers, and a more enhanced grille in line with the TRD Pro branding.Toyota Safety Sense-P includes forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
In a 2008 Motor Trend comparison the Sequoia took first place.
The Sequoia is the top car in the US that is most likely to last 200,000 miles according to a 2019 study from iSeeCars.
The 2008-2010 Sequoias were part of one of the 2009-2010 Toyota recalls that required the installation of a small shim to relieve unwanted friction and restore fluidity to the accelerator pedal. Early 2003 Sequoias were recalled to reprogram the Vehicle Stability Control system due to the possibility of poor acceleration at certain low speeds. The 2002-3 Sequoia model years also had a defect in the front ball joints. 2004 Toyota Sequoias were subject to the Takata Airbag recall done for free by Toyota dealerships. Recently, the Sequoia, along with the Tacoma and Tundra, have another recall due to the frame prematurely rusting. If there is a 10 mm perforation found on the frame, the vehicle frame will be replaced, if the service is done within 12 years of vehicle purchase or 1 year after recall became official. For those vehicles without 10 mm perforation and located in a cold weather state, Toyota will perform an undercoating service to prevent future rust from forming.
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