Sometimes, new and improved isn't. Improved, that is.
The 2020 Toyota Sequoia isn't new — but that's because it doesn't need much improving. Toyota has been selling it the same way since 2008 because ... it sells.
And you don't risk improving on that.
What It Is
The Sequoia is Toyota's full-size SUV with three rows of seats, body-on-frame construction and the largest standard V-8 engine in the class.
Prices start at $49,980 for the base SR5 trim.
A top of the line Platinum four-wheel-drive trim — which includes a load-leveling suspension and a power-folding third row — stickers for $69,245.
The TRD Pro gets Fox heavy-duty off-road shocks, beefier front and rear sway bars, running boards, a tubular roof rack coated with the same no-slip material used for the bedliner in the Tundra pickup (which is the Sequoia's sheetrock-carrying fraternal twin), and a pair of Rigid LED fog lights built into the far corners of the front bumper.
Toyota hasn't improved what doesn't need to be improved.
There's much more cargo room than others in the class.
It has the strongest standard engine in the class.
What's Not So Good
The tow rating isn't as high as some of its rivals.
It's a bit more expensive than some of its rivals.
It could use a larger gas tank.
Under the Hood
All Sequoias come standard with the same 5.7-liter V-8 engine that Sequoias have been coming with since 2008.
It makes 381 horsepower — the highest in the class.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard — versus the new-and-improved eight- and ten-speed automatics in the competition.
Also available is part-time four-wheel drive.
Unlike the new and improved, you can drive a four-wheel-drive Sequoia in two-wheel drive — engaging the four-wheel drive as you like.
In rivals, the four-wheel drive is engaged automatically. As the computer likes.
There is reason not to like this — the first being the loss of control over the four-wheel-drive system. Part of the enjoyment of owning a car with four-wheel drive is being able to decide when to use the four-wheel drive.
But there is another reason to like the part-time system: wear and tear, of which there will likely be less if you use the four-wheel drive less often. There is also the potential problem of the automatic four-wheel-drive system coming on when it doesn't need to be — and not coming on when you need it to.
On the Road
The big V-8 engine has not only power but also sound. On this score, there is no replacement for displacement — irrespective of appetite. Nothing else sounds like a big V-8, no matter how powerful — and a big V-8 is arguably as vital to a big four-wheel-drive SUV's appeal as cheese on nachos.
Interestingly — because it's far from being the newest kid on the block — the Sequoia has a tighter turning circle (38.1 feet) than the new-and-improved Tahoe (39 feet), and a much tighter turning circle than the Expedition (41 feet).
This is no small difference when attempting to U-turn (or park) a vehicle that is 205.1 inches long.
At the Curb
All the SUVs in the full-size class offer three rows of seats, but the Sequoia has more space behind its third set of sets — 18.9 cubic feet of cargo space — than the Tahoe (15.3 cubic feet) and much more total space — 120.1 cubic feet — than either that Tahoe (94.7 cubic feet) or the Expedition (104.6 cubic feet).
There is also more hidden storage capacity in this Toyota, including discreet lidded compartments built into the door panels and a stash place in the center console adjacent to the gear shifter and covered by a panel that doesn't appear to be covering anything. It's an ideal place to store items out of sight.
One of the few functional deficits of this Sequoia is its maximum tow rating — which ranges from 7,000-7,400 pounds, depending on the configuration. This is significantly less than the towing capacity of the Tahoe, which Chevy says can pull as much as 8,400 pounds.
On the other hand, Ford claims only 6,400 pounds for the Expedition — which isn't far removed from what many crossover SUVs can tow.
But the main sell here is that the Sequoia is the oldest new SUV of its type on the market.
With the new-and-improved, you're always taking a risk — because there's no track record. How will the Tahoe's direct-injected engine and 10-speed transmission hold up over the next 12 years? How will the Expedition's twice-turbocharged V-6 engine and ten-speed transmission hold up over the same time period?
We have a good idea how well the Sequoia's V-8 (and the rest of it) will hold up over the next 12 years because we can refer to the previous 12 years.
The 2020 Sequoia has been on the market since 2008 — and if it had any design weaknesses, they'd be known by now.
They're not known — so you can rest easy about not taking much of a risk.
The Bottom Line
If the Sequoia needed improvement, Toyota would have improved it.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.