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Toyota Sequoia: Bigger, more capable than ever

        The '08 Toyota Sequoia is bigger, roomier and more powerful than ever now that it's platform provider, the Tundra pickup, has been upsized.

        It can carry eight people, tow a whopping 10,000 pounds, and its optional 5.7-liter V-8 puts out more than 400 foot-pounds of torque. Plenty of SUV, one might think, to move a college-graduate daughter out of her sorority house.

Sequoia3         Then again, "one'' has not met my daughter, who seems bewildered when I tell her one foot locker accommodated all my college stuff in the '70s. Don't get me wrong; the Sequoia is plenty capable and did what it was asked to do. It was just no match for my daughter. It took another one-and-a-half SUVs to get the job done.

        Loading the Sequoia, however, was a pleasure, with a wider cabin this year (wider and longer and taller than the previous generation) and fold-flat seats. Access is made easier with sliding second-row seats. Third-row seats recline and can be folded flat to open up the cargo area even more.

        Access from the rear is easier, too, with doors that open wider and require less effort to open.

        Perhaps even more than cargo capacities, the living room-like Sequoia is about carrying eight adults in luxurious manner. Seats are wider than last year and comfortable, with big armrests and plenty of legroom and headroom. Even adults can travel in the third row, where legroom is as good as the second row. The third row is among the most comfortable of all the SUVs. 

       For long hauls, an optional rear entertainment system keeps younger passengers occupied -- and quiet. And at least 16 cupholders, eight of them for extra-large cups. Don't know why so many -- bring drinks for your friends, I don't know.

        My back handled the trip easily -- with the welcome help of lumbar adjustment that is standard on all Sequoias.

        The Sequoia was introduced in 2000 but came up short with the competition when it came to power and cargo capacity. The second-generation Sequoia now easily keeps up with rivals like the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition.

        The standard engine is the old 4.7-liter 276-hp V-8 but many looking for more power will opt for the 5.7-liter V-8 that's in the new Tundra pickup. It puts out 381 horses and a peak of 401 foot-pounds of torque.

   This big boy is actually more fuel-conscious since it has dual variable-valve timing. The two-wheel-drive is rated at 14 mpg city, 19 highway, and the 4x4 gets only one mpg less on both figures.

        Sequoia's ride can be described in one word: elegant. Its smooth, big car-like handling offers confident driving on the highway as well as on off-ramp curves. Steering is responsive and easy to the touch, even when negotiating a sharp turn (turning radius is an impressive 19 feet).

        Independent suspension in the front and rear contribute to the ride comfort, and an adjustable suspension system is available with the premium Platinum Edition.

        An electronically controlled six-speed transmission (with the 5.7-liter) takes it through the gears smoothly and effortlessly.

        Sequoia's base SR5 has plenty of decent features, like power windows and locks and eight-speaker sound system. But the Limited adds leather trim 10-way seats, roof rack and fog lamps. Move up to Platinum and you get the big engine and 20-inch wheels, memory seats and navigation system.

        If you truly need a big SUV with great hauling power, and can live with the price of gas these days, the Sequoia is an exceptional full-size SUV. With the comfort, ride and rear-seat entertainment system, passengers may just forget they're in an SUV.

       But if you have a college girl, better bring two.

       Entry price: $34,150

       Platinum Edition 4x4: $55,600



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