Toyota Sequoia

Whether you're headed to the duck blind with a few buddies or off on a camping trip with the family, space and onboard storage capacity are wonderful things to have in a vehicle. Toyota's Sequoia supplies both, along with comfort and good looks, to keep long rides to your favorite outdoor spots a pleasure, not a pain, to drive.

This summer, our family made our annual pilgrimage to the Adirondacks in the new four-door Sequoia LTD. We've used smaller SUVs before, and while they're adequate, the Sequoia offers a lot more room and enough storage for a family of four to take all their gear without having to stack the rear storage area to the headliner.

When we head to the mountains, we always have our canoe on top, our mountain bikes on the back and a couple of tackle boxes on board, along with the usual sleeping bags, cooler, duffels and supplies. It's a lot to haul, but the Sequoia swallowed it all easily. Even with my ultra-quick packing job, the gear rose only to the top of the rear seats, so I still had full vision out the rear window. On top, the sturdy roof rack adjusted easily to accommodate our canoe, while out back, the beefy rear hitch handled our Thule rack insert and four bikes with ease.

I'll admit to having been a tad skeptical of the fuel-economy information that came with our test vehicle (15 city mpg; 17 highway mpg), but averages over several tanks of gas put us right at 17.46 mpg (for a combination of city and highway driving). Considering that we had a canoe on top and bikes on the back, which greatly increases drag, I was pleasantly surprised.

Inside, the Sequoia feels wide and roomy. Our kids loved having the extra space across the back seats and quickly turned the fold-down armrest into a game board. Up front the controls are well engineered, with great detail paid to ergonomics and drivability. Gauges are easy to read, and all controls are easily accessible to the driver.

LOADS OF FEATURES

Standard features on the Sequoia include all of the usual amenities: antilock brakes; vehicle stability control and traction control on both two- and four-wheel-drive models; multimode four-wheel drive with locking center differential; and a wonderful array of cup holders, storage compartments and places to stash maps. I really liked the power-remote-control outside mirrors, which fold back at the touch of a button. This made loading the canoe from the side a lot easier. Simply fold them back and heave the canoe on top.

Our LTD model had a number of additional features, such as leather trim, power-tilt moon roof, JBL premium sound system, adjustable roof rack and Class III towing receiver with a seven-pin connector for trailering. The Sequoia comes equipped with an automatic transmission and a 4.7-liter V-8 engine, which provided plenty of pickup for easy merging on the interstate with gas mileage that was a genuine surprise--particularly when gas prices were nearing $3 a gallon.

Sure, pickups can haul more and smaller SUVs may save you a few bucks at the pump, but what you gain in the added room and styling of the Sequoia really makes this vehicle worth a look. It's great if you're in the market for an SUV that can get you and your buddies to your favorite lake, with enough room to carry half the soccer team at home.

TOYOTA SEQUOIA 4×4 LTD

AVAILABLE ENGINES: 4.7-liter V-8

MAX. PAYLOAD: 1,495 lb.

MAX. TOWING CAPACITY: 6,200 lb.

MIN. 4×4 GROUND CLEARANCE: 10.6 in.

PRICE: $47,772 (as tested)