Motoharu Araya, chief engineer of the Toyota Sequoia, doesnt need convincing about Americas big roads and driving habits. The Sequoias goal is comfortable travel for as much as 1,000 miles a day. After months of testing, Araya says: I get the size thing. I get the power thing. I get the secure-feeling thing. And I get the comfort thing.
Araya spoke to Automotive News Los Angeles Bureau Chief Mark Rechtin at the media introduction of the redesigned Sequoia.
What were your benchmarks redesigning the Sequoia?
All the Big 3 sport-utility vehicles, and the Mercedes G Class and Range Rover as well. We considered the vehicles purpose in the United States. First, we wanted to be able to carry many people in a comfortable condition, so we had the idea to make the interior wider and longer. This is the first vehicle that an American 95th-percentile male can sit in all three rows of seats.
We have a longer heel point to hip point, which adds two inches with the reclining third-row seat. With many competitors, getting into the third row is very complicated. You have to pull this handle or that lever. Tumble seats dont work properly once you are seated in the third row. We wanted it different.
Did you modify the Tundra drivetrain for this vehicle?
The powertrain is the same as the Tundra. Its our first SUV that can tow more than 10,000 pounds. But we also think it has the best fuel economy in the segment. There were many efforts to reduce the coefficient of drag, as well as reduce the frictions in the drivetrain, including the characteristics of the transmission and differential oils.
Does making a larger Sequoia put Toyota in competition for a different buyer?
We hope the luxury customer who has a Navigator or an Escalade will look here.
How do you engineer such a large vehicle with such a small turning radius?
We changed the layout of the front stabilizer bar, from the back side to the front side of the front suspension. The steering rack movement is longer. Theres a larger wheel cutout. The tire tread is wider, too.