“Tows Great, Less (Ful)Filling” – 2019 Toyota Sequoia Limited Towing Test

Photo: Jake Thiewes

Take a look around and seven-passenger crossovers are seemingly everywhere. They offer comfortable rides, enough versatility, and are easy to drive and park. The one thing most crossovers cannot do – well – is tow a large trailer. Some may offer a tow capacity of 3,500 or 5,000 lbs, which works in the context of smaller campers and perhaps an open car trailer. But what do you do if you have an enclosed trailer and want to bring your family or friends along to the races? Body-on-frame SUVs like the 2019 Toyota Sequoia are here to help.

Toyota wanted me to drive this 2019 Sequoia Limited so badly that when I asked for one as a follow-up to May’s 2019 Tundra Platinum review, they sent it over with a full tank of gas.

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After taking the month of June to celebrate Pride, both near and far, I found myself staring down a hot weekend outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My home Mid-Atlantic region of the National Auto Sport Association partners with the Great Lakes region every July to host an event at the newly-renovated Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

I’d tested the 2019 Toyota Tundra in May for Hyperfest, and found it to be an effective, if old-school, towing companion. My follow-up test focused on what happened when Toyota took that same Tundra chassis and cut about 20 inches out of the wheelbase, then called it Sequoia.

That formula, more or less, is how all body-on-frame SUVs are crafted. They are shorter variants of half-ton pickups, with a bed cap and third row of seats fitted to the rear. The Sequoia also substitutes the Tundra’s leaf spring rear suspension for an independent rear design with coil springs, which provides a smoother ride.

Photo: Jake Thiewes
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What Is It?

This is a 2019 Toyota Sequoia Limited. There’s one more trim level – Platinum – above the Limited, which adds a few more niceties like quilted leather and ventilated front seats. All Sequoias come with the same drivetrain as Tundra, a 5.7L V8 engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Sequoias run as rear-wheel-drive until you twist the dash-mounted knob to engage 4 High or 4 Low.

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As with Tundra, the 2019 Sequoia is not new. While Tundra got a somewhat heavy refresh for the 2014 model year, Sequoia did not. The same design has soldiered on since 2008, inside and out, with mild updates made for 2018 (headlights, grille, instrument panel, Toyota Safety Sense).

That said, the 2019 Sequoia Limited is well-equipped on paper. LED headlights, heated seats, JBL audio, power tailgate, a sunroof, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P driver aids help fill out the options list.

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Although Toyota offers a trailer brake controller on the Tundra, it is absent from the options list on Sequoia. I relied on a Tekonsha Prodigy RF wireless brake controller, which allowed functional trailer brakes without splicing in to any of the Toyota’s wiring.

Let’s Talk Towing

As with any other race weekend, we pulled my CargoPro 20′ enclosed trailer to Pitt Race. The trailer has a 20′ box and 4′ V-nose, coming in around 27′ total length and 6,500 lbs loaded.

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My biggest concern with the 2019 Sequoia’s towing abilities was stability. When pulling a trailer, especially an enclosed trailer, tow vehicle wheelbase is your friend. The trailer acts as a sail in the wind, and the truck needs enough wheelbase to combat any side-to-side motion.

Loaded up, ready to head to Pitt Race
Photo: Jake Thiewes
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Although my trailer was under the Sequoia’s maximum tow rating of 7,400 lbs, the rear suspension compressed significantly with the trailer on the hitch. I did employ weight distribution bars to help shift some of that load forward, but we still saw a bit of sag. The suspension did have travel, but the appearance was disconcerting.

No matter the “squat factor,” the 2019 Sequoia handled the trailer admirably. I was cautious at first, wondering when I’d get some sway. I figured the steering may want to wander given the rear end squat. As I made my way out of the DC metro area, though, my confidence in the Sequoia increased with the speed limits. We were able to pull the trailer at posted speed limits of 65-70 mph with zero drama. Even on the trip home, through some heavy winds and driving rain, we only encountered one wind gust large enough to push the trailer and require a bit of steering input to correct. Some appearances, apparently, can be deceiving.

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Enough About Towing, What About The Rest?

Discussing “everything that isn’t towing” is where my admiration for the 2019 Sequoia sours a bit.

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The interior is very clearly from a simpler era. The Entune infotainment system was hard to navigate on a small touchscreen – a screen with low enough resolution that I had someone help me hook up to my trailer when leaving the racetrack, as it was easier than staring at a Nintendo 64-resolution camera feed. My complaint with the 2019 Tundra’s JBL sound system persists in Sequoia – the sound stage is in front of the passengers and volume is lacking.

My other big issue was with the front seats. They are different from the (pretty comfortable) thrones in the Tundra, and they quickly become uncomfortable after a few hours on the road. The driver’s seat did not lower much, and I found myself with only an inch or so of headroom at its lowest. And no matter the seat position, everything in the center stack is a far reach. Want to hit “Seek” on the radio to skip a song? Just use the steering wheel buttons, you can’t reach “Seek” anyway.

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Toyota sent me a loaner painted in Shoreline Blue Pearl, paired to Graphite leather. This shade of gray adorned the seats and door panels, and was a bit odd in both color and texture. It most reminded me of the aftermarket gray vinyl seats you find in New York taxi cabs. Toyota also offers Sand Beige leather with some paint colors, which may appear a bit more premium.

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The biggest challenge the 2019 Sequoia faces is the sticker price. Mine – which, remember, was not a fully-loaded Platinum – stickered around $65,500. Going MSRP-for-MSRP, buyers can cross-shop a new Expedition Limited or Tahoe LT-with-options, both of which feel a bit newer and more premium inside (especially in the Ford’s case). Toyota is offering a $4,000 rebate on Sequoia, but that still doesn’t undercut the domestic offerings by much.

As with the 2019 Tundra, the 2019 Toyota Sequoia is an excellent tow vehicle. I don’t think I can adequately express how impressed I was with its abilities and stabilities in that regard. It just falls a bit flat otherwise. We know a new Tundra is in the works, and I’d hope to see a new Sequoia come along shortly after.

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Storms rolling in as we rolled out...
Photo: Jake Thiewes

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