2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro Off-Road Review: Not a Land Cruiser, But Still a Blast

This is what happens when Toyota asks your inner child how to build a three-row family hauler.

byStef Schrader| PUBLISHED Jun 10, 2022 12:58 PM
2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro Off-Road Review: Not a Land Cruiser, But Still a Blast
Robert Guio
Share

It's a truth we've all known since we were little kids: playing in the dirt is fun. Fortunately, it's also what the 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro was designed for, and we're happy to report that Toyota nailed it. The Sequoia itself may be a three-row kid-haulin' SUV that’s larger than the new Land Cruiser, but a quick rip around a muddy field is enough to make the driver wonder if they're the kid this vehicle was really intended for.

Toyota laid out an off-road course for us to test the Sequoia TRD Pro, so we couldn't resist the opportunity to see if the spec sheet stats translate into real world capability. For the first time, the TRD Pro offers a standard selectable locking rear differential, which is great for getting out of big trouble where one wheel has traction and the other doesn't. That’s definitely a nice tool to have since I see more Sequoias getting filthy on remote trails as opposed to heavily-trafficked off-road parks.

Aside from the TRD Pro-specific visual mods like "technical camo" seat patterns, a dual TRD Pro exhaust tip and a grille that houses a tiny light bar, you get a pretty functional short list of other upgrades. There’s a quarter-inch aluminum front skid plate under the oily bits up front, TRD-tuned Fox internal bypass shocks, increased offset 18-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels wearing 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires, and black technical camo overfenders to cover the wider stance. The controls for the electronically controlled two-speed transfer case are pretty easy to use, too—no finicky levers here. The top of the steering wheel is even marked with a little red loop to help with wheel placement when you're crawling around.

2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro Specs

  • Base TRD Pro price: $78,395 (including destination)
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid | 10-speed automatic | four-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 437 hp @ 5,200 rpm
  • Torque: 583 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 7
  • Wheelbase: 122 inches
  • Cargo volume: 86.9 cubic feet (max) | 49 cubic feet (behind second row with third row down) | 22.3-11.5 cubic feet (behind third row, depending on how seat is adjusted)
  • Max towing capacity: 9,020 pounds
  • Off-road angles: 23° approach, 20° departure (TRD Pro)
  • Ground clearance: 9.1 inches (TRD Pro)
  • Curb weight: 6,150 pounds
  • Fuel economy: TBA
  • Quick Take: The TRD Pro is enough to make even zeros feel like heroes off-road in spite of its gargantuan size.
  • Score: 7/10
Robert Guio

Toyota's test course started off with dirt elements that were meant to showcase some of the Sequoia’s skills on steep grades and large bumps. Nothing on the course was so extreme that we needed to disconnect the sway bar—which you have to do manually, unlike on the Land Cruiser—but the TRD Pro still had plenty of articulation. This was where some of the rig’s off-road tech really got a chance to shine.

The Sequoia TRD Pro has the updated Crawl Control and Downhill Assist Control that we've previously tested on the current-gen Tundra; they're pretty slick, acting as a sort of cruise control for off-road situations. Various sensors judge the conditions ahead and can control acceleration and braking for each wheel as needed—down to only braking one wheel if need be. I used Crawl Control on these fairly easy obstacles, where it smoothly kept the Sequoia truckin' along at a set speed. You can choose from five different crawl speeds depending on the obstacle at hand, but it's particularly helpful on bumpy terrain that sends a truck bouncing around every which-a-way and makes it difficult to hold your foot steady on the throttle.

There's also Multi-Terrain Select, which lets you adjust the truck's traction control and other systems' behavior to work appropriately in different off- and on-road situations, some of which will need to allow for a bit more wheelspin than others. The TRD Pro's Multi-Terrain Monitor—a camera view that displays what's around the truck at low speeds—also helped navigate through obstacles where the hood was blocking my view.

Multi-Terrain Monitor on the center screen staring up at the rocky incline section of the course.

Yet as I soon found out, Crawl Control can be outsmarted sometimes, as I managed to get it stuck on a rock-covered incline during the wettest part of the storm. According to the instructor leading us through that element of the storm, Crawl Control can be a bit pulse-y even though it feels pretty smooth behind the wheel, which hindered its ability to adjust for completely slick rocks underneath. As you can see in the video below, the Sequoia's wheels slipped too much, and it was unable to keep its momentum going up the hill.

So, we turned Crawl Control off, and the Sequoia showed itself to be more than capable of clawing itself up the hill with my manual inputs. The 33-inch stock tires are plenty grippy and while I'm not as smooth as a computerized system, the Sequoia was plenty responsive to my inputs. This is the one time I actually wished there was a little more feel in the steering—it's there, and Toyota's electronic power steering box is very good—but a bit more feedback at lower speeds off-road would be awesome.

Of course, where the Sequoia TRD Pro really shines is straight-up, ripping-around-a-field hooning. The last section of the test course was an open dirt path where we could send the big beast along at whatever speed we wanted to. There were a couple little jumps to unload and re-load the suspension, some banked turns and a whole lot of laughter.

Here, I have to credit the Sequoia's drivetrain for being an absolute gem to drive. It's got a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 mated to a hybrid system that gives it a substantial bump in power and torque (435 hp and 583 lb-ft!) over the closest vehicle to the Land Cruiser we get here, the Lexus LX 600. Frankly, it's so good that I'm surprised that it didn't make it into the more upmarket LX. If your goal is to have some fun off-road, why pay more for less power?

If anyone asks, you can say you have a quick, practical, three-row Toyota hybrid SUV with a straight face. It's not the most efficient SUV in the world—EPA figures aren't out yet, but our road tests of various Sequoia trims saw average fuel economy in the high teens, max, across both highway and city miles—but given the extra bulk you're carrying around in a 6,150-pound SUV, it makes sense. That's the only big downside, though. While you can't force it to wheel in EV-only mode like you can with the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, that hybrid system still does a nice job of filling in ample low-range torque for whatever you need to do. Plus, having the weight of the battery low-down in the middle of the truck means it's pretty stable when you're messing around, whether that's on odd inclines or sliding around in the mud.

The TRD Pro's Fox shocks and off-road-tuned suspension do make for a bumpier ride on the road than the other Sequoia trims without it, although it's still not terrible. The progress trucks have made in on-road manners since my dad's K5 Blazer in the '80s and even his '94 Explorer never ceases to amaze me. Out on the muddy "speed course," this off-road suspension absolutely shined as a true highlight of the TRD Pro trim. Admittedly, I wasn't at full send on a course that was new to me in weather that made the mud extra-slick, but it made for a soft landing after the lumps and an easy to control ride off-pavement no matter how much I tried to throw it around. Traction control did come on a couple of times and it will kill your slide if you're intentionally trying to drift it around, but as Ken Munkelt, Toyota's senior product education planner and my oh-so-forgiving passenger pointed out, that's all working as intended.

There are aspects of the Sequoia TRD Pro I'd like to spend more time with if given the chance. "A big muddy field for shenanigans, possibly with traction control off" is absolutely one of them. It's like some engineer at Toyota asked your inner child for advice on what to do with a big family SUV. The whole package eggs you on to take more risks, try to get sideways and drag that brake pedal into turns like you're gunning for max angle—in other words, drive it like a $300 Subaru that belongs to someone else. It wants to go faster and do sillier things in a way that belies its big size.

Got any tips? Questions? Muddy fields to rip through? Contact the author: stef@thedrive.com