Is the 2023 Toyota Sequoia the Land Cruiser we didn't get? And why that doesn't matter.

Is the 2023 Toyota Sequoia the Land Cruiser we didn't get? And why that doesn't matter.

by Patrick Rich

2022 Land Cruiser 300

Land Cruiser fans, myself included, were heartbroken to learn that the Land Cruiser story here in North America was coming to an end for the 2022 model year. The Land Cruiser nameplate is not only irrevocably tied to off-road adventure the world over, but the heart of Toyota’s North American story. Toyota's oldest nameplate was what gave the company its foothold in the US market and it was, until recently, the 2nd longest continuously running nameplate in the US.

While hope still remains that the Land Cruiser name will return in some form to this market, there is some consolation in the recently announced Toyota Sequoia. The 2023 Sequoia, now in its 3rd generation, is Toyota’s answer to the 1st longest lived nameplate in the US, the Chevrolet Suburban, or more accurately on its smaller platform mate the Tahoe.  Other rivals include the Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada as well as newcomers like the Wagoneer from Jeep. The Sequoia competes in the full size family hauling SUV space, not dedicated overland and off-road space that the Land Cruiser leaves vacant, but does that mean it is not fit for the trail? 

Historically, Toyota has been relatively selfish with the Land Cruiser and while its technology and know-how has made its way into other Toyota's, its platform was never directly shared across the organization. The last generation Sequoia was partially based on the 200 series Land Cruiser frame and it shared much of its driveline but it differed in key areas. It was a similar story with the 2nd generation Tundra as well - close but not the same.  

TNGA-F

For this current generation, Toyota has decided that all new trucks [and SUV’s] will be built on a common platform, called TNGA-F, or Toyota New Generation Architecture - F platform.  What this means is that for the 1st time, a Sequoia, a Tundra and a Land cruiser will be based on a common platform.  Because of this, many people are asking if the Sequoia is Toyota’s answer to the hole left by the Land Cruiser in North America. The short answer, in this author’s opinion, is no. That being said, it’s a lot of vehicle and it has good bones.

So let’s take a close look at the new Sequoia and get the long answer and maybe discover if this not-a-Land Cruiser could actually make for the right overland vehicle for you.

First, give me a chance to explain why I feel this isn’t a Land Cruiser Substitute. In a word?

Size

Land Cruiser 300 vs Sequoia

The difference between Land Cruiser (red) and Sequoia is plain to see.

Yes, the Sequoia is based on the same TNGA-F platform as the Land Cruiser, LX600 and Tundra, but they are all very different dimensionally.  The last Sequoia, for example, was quite a bit longer, and wider than the last Land Cruiser despite having a lot of frame commonality. We don’t actually have the dimensions of the 2023 Sequoia at the time of this writing but I was able to make a few comparatives and take a guess. Based on my math, the new Sequoia (except TRD pro) should be between around 205 inches in length, 80 inches in width, and 77 inches tall. Curb weight for the Sequoia should be around 5800 lbs. Compare this to the Land Cruiser 300 series which is 194.9 inches, 78.3 wide, 76.7 inches tall, and curb weight of 5400 lbs.  If you judged them by how big a shadow they cast on the ground, the 2023 Sequoia would be about 7% bigger.  That doesn’t sound like a ton, but if you compare a 2021 4Runner and a 2021 Land Cruiser, the difference in shadows cast is even smaller at 5.5%. The point is, the Sequoia is longer, wider, and heavier and by a noticeable margin compared to a Land Cruiser. If you travel on only moderate trails or where room on the trail isn’t a premium this won't be an issue, but if you are running tight or difficult trails the width and wheelbase are going to be problems.  

80+ inches wide

We know for certain that the TRD Pro Sequoia, for example, will be over 80 inches wide because it will be required to have amber clearance lights just like the other wide boys like the Raptor and TRX. It’s going to be a lot of truck, for better or for worse.  If you have a lot of people coming on your adventures, or you need to tow a trailer, then the Sequoia is going to be a great ally, but a Land Cruiser it isn’t, at least dimensionally. 

From here I want to continue to compare it to the new Land Cruiser, but only as a reference and how these differences make it a potentially better or worse overland rig.

4x4 systems

4x4

The LC 300, like the 200 series features a solid rear axle of semi-floating design with a 9.5 inch ring gear. In the front is an aluminum 9 inch differential with heavy tripod style CV’s. 

The Transfer case is full time 4 wheel drive with a torsen type-C center differential with a 40/60 nominal torque split and electronic locking function. The modes available are locked or unlocked in high or low range. A welcome return to the Land Cruiser lineup with the 300 series, in the GR sport spec at least, is the optional front and rear lockers. An LSD is also an option on some trims of the Land Cruiser.

The new Sequoia differs from the 300 in a few key places. Because of the added torque of the standard iForce MAX powertrain, the rear axle gets upsized to a 10.5 ring gear, while the front remains 9 inches.  As a reference most half-ton rear axles are between 8.6 and 9.25 inches and HD axles are around 11.5 inches.

A big change in this generation is a change from independent rear suspension to 5 link coil spring solid rear axle. Optional load leveling air suspension is optional this year as well, allowing for better towing and load performance.

The transfer case on the Sequoia is a Borg Warner part time unit with 2wd, High range 4 wheel drive and low range 4 wheel drive. Toyota says their customers don't want full time 4wd functionality. In return, the Sequoia will be able to run in fuel saving 2wd, something the Land Cruiser lacks. Toyota makes a big deal to note that the transfer case chain is the widest and strongest available, good news for those on big tires with a heavy right foot.  A welcome, long overdue addition in the Sequoia is a locking rear differential. Available with the TRD Off-Road package, or as standard on the TRD Pro, you also get Toyota’s MTS (multi-terrain select), and CRAWL control functionality. This hardware and software package brings a massive improvement to the Sequoia’s capability. It should be noted that all Sequoia’s, except the TRD Pro, can be optioned as 2wd.

Powertrain

iForce V35A-FTS 3.4 liter twin turbo V6

Both the Sequoia and Land Cruiser are paired with Toyota’s 10 speed direct shift automatic, and 3.5 liter (really closer to 3.4 liter) Twin Turbo V6 dubbed the V35A-FTS. The Sequoia takes things one step further and comes standard with the iForce MAX version of this powertrain which uses an electric motor in place of the 10-speed’s torque converter and a relatively small Ni-Mh battery to bump the power from 305 hp and 479 lbs-ft to 437 hp and 583 lbs-ft. Despite its extra heft over the Land Cruiser, the Sequoia will surely MOVE when asked. More importantly, the Sequoia will be the better choice if your version of overlanding means taking one of the newer big off-road travel trailers with you. Its longer wheelbase and additional power will certainly come in handy.  

One of the things that has been a failing of the previous generation Tundra, Sequoia and Land Cruiser was undoubtedly fuel economy. With the standard 3.5TT V6, people are finally reporting that to be a thing of the past and in fact, some outlets are reporting best in class real world economy for the Tundra. We have yet to see the iForce MAX powertrain in real hands, so we can only speculate, but even though Toyota insists the hybrid powertrain was done for capability not economy, it is hard to imagine it will hurt economy.  

Suspension

Suspension

Suspension is one area where Land Cruiser, Tundra and  Sequoia will all have a lot in common.  They will all share the same front and rear suspension design with a few tweaks. The Sequoia will have coil springs on 4 corners as standard,  but will come with optional air springs in the back as well as optional AVS (Adaptive Variable Suspension) automatically adjusting shocks. This layout is extremely similar to the current Lexus GX460. One thing the North American trucks will get that other markets will miss out on will be the TRD Pro Package on both the Tundra and Sequoia. This package has large diameter internal bypass [check out suspension demystified to learn more about internal bypass] Fox Shocks with a small lift. It also included forged 18 inch wheels with AT tires and a wider stance as well as a thick aluminum skid plate that is an upgrade from the ballistic nylon stock shields.  

As is the case with the Tacoma and the 4Runner, the sweet spot is usually in TRD off-road package available which is available on most trims and give you the locker, MTS, CRAWL control and better tires, but stops short of the extra suspension, wider stance, forged wheels and Fox Shocks.  

Off-road geometry

Sadly, one area where the Sequoia will likely disappoint will be in its off-road angles. Not that it will be any worse than its rivals in the big off-roader space, but with an estimated 10 inches of extra wheelbase, and length it won't be an agile rockhound.  We can expect similar approach and departure angles to the Tundra 4x4 at 21/24 respectively. Ground clearance will likely be around 9 inches which respectable. 

Aftermarket

Aftermarket support will definitely be a wildcard for the new Sequoia, and the platform hasn’t been historically well supported.  However the high degree of platform sharing with the other trucks should mean that at least some aftermarket support will exist or can be adapted. I would suspect that it won't be long until suspension kits and armor will be available at the very least.  

3-inch TRD lift for the 2022 Tundra

TRD, Toyota’s aftermarket arm, already has a 3 inch lift for the 2022 Tundra that should bolt up to the Sequoia without much trouble.  This lift bumps the Tundra's ground clearance 2.6 inches (at the front differential), increases approach angle by 5 degrees, departure by 1 degree and breakover by 2 degrees.

Conclusion 

I'm disappointed that Toyota has decided to kill its flagship vehicle for the 2022/23 model year. As a Land Cruiser fanatic, there will be nothing that will take the place of the beloved cruiser in my heart. However, as Toyota taketh away, Toyota giveth something that is far more than a token effort at filling that hole in the market.  

No, it's not a Land Cruiser, and it never will be, but as far as big off-road family haulers go, it is not far off.  The biggest thing it has going against it is, well, its bigness. However it is worth noting that it’s next most close competitor, the Nissan Armada, is just as wide and even longer and still has proven itself to be a competent touring machine in Australia and other markets as the Nissan Patrol Y62. 

With solid bones, a great powertrain, and real off-road hardware, including a locking differential (finally!) the 2023 Sequoia, especially in TRD off-road and TRD Pro trims, looks to be a solid overland choice for big needs.


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