Toyota and its large Sequoia SUV is a yearly success story, but Chevrolet has recently released an all-new Tahoe and it’s aiming to snatch away sales.
These two SUVs have been around for a long while and they’ve remained at the top of their field through continual innovation and improvement. Sometimes though, pushing to innovate too far too fast can easily end in failure. That’s the question before us today. GM has recently redesigned the Tahoe along with the other SUVs in its stable, while Toyota has continued to craft the current Sequoia now in its (checks notes) 13th year of production after a mid-cycle refresh in 2018. The question is, which one is selling the better package in 2021?
On paper, these two 3-ton SUVs look incredibly similar. Let’s consider just some of those statistics. Horsepower for the Toyota rings in at 381, while the vast majority of Tahoes will be sold with the 5.3L V8 pumping out 355hp. The Sequoia tips the scales at some 6,100 lbs and the Tahoe is just shy of 5,900 lbs. Both feature a full third row that can easily fit normal sized human adults. Both are built on what is at its core a truck platform. They’re both well known to be reliable brutes that can handle going where the road runs out. Then at the base level, a 2021 Toyota Sequoia will cost you $50,100 and the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe starts at a marginally competitive $49,000.
Just looking at these core ingredients, it would be easy to imagine that the end results would be like two steaks that simply have different seasoning. However, it might shock you to find out just how wrong that ends up being as we delve into the deeper facets of each large SUV. Both Toyota and Chevrolet have built reasonable offerings with these vehicles, but one is considerably further ahead of the other at the end of the day.
Truck chassis based vehicles have never been known for a supple and athletic driving experience, but in 2021 it’s amazing how far they’ve come. The 5.7L V8 under the hood of the 2021 Toyota Sequoia is as tried and true as it gets on the market today. The 6-speed automatic it’s paired to is a bit old-school, but it helps the Sequoia reach 60 mph more than a second faster than the 5.3L V8 and 10-speed automatic equipped 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. A lighter, more efficient Tahoe should do much better than that, but the Sequoia simply has too much power. That power comes at a cost though, as the Sequoia suffers a low combined mpg rating of just 14 mpg. The 5.3L equipped Tahoe gets 18 mpg combined.
Steering and braking also takes a step further with more communicative feedback and responsiveness. Where broken pavement would cause the steering wheel to shake in the Sequoia, the Tahoe tracks true without wavering. For those who truly have the need for a different power plant, Chevrolet offers two more engine options. First, there’s a diesel for the first time in the Tahoe which provides 460 lb-ft of torque and then of course there’s a 6.2L V8 closely related to the outgoing Corvette engine. It packs the same torque as the diesel, but with a range topping 420 horsepower. That’s good enough to best the Sequoia.
Both vehicles are available with rear-wheel-drive standard, but can be equipped with 4WD and off-roading packages that make them sincerely capable on trails. While most owners won’t submit their pretty new SUVs to this kind of abuse, it’s nice to know that the few who will can do it safely and confidently.
The Sequoia in many ways pioneered a third row that adults could fit in and overall it provides an excellent space throughout the cabin. What it misses out on is the more modern and advanced styling of the Tahoe. Controls are very functional and easy to use in the 2021 Toyota Sequoia, but they look dated in comparison to the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe.
The Tahoe used to feature a third row that felt more like a medieval torture device for adults, but thankfully in 2021 it’s much larger. Plus, thanks to a second row that can slide forward, it’s easier to comfortably sit people in both rows. The interior is as GM as anything ever was, but features the best combination of quality materials and modern layout we’ve ever seen in a Tahoe.
In terms of handling and driving manners, the Sequoia does pretty well for having such a dated suspension. It’s fairly comfortable and responsive at higher speeds, but when trundling around town its flaws start to show. The suspension struggles to soak up larger bumps and the steering wheel seems to be injected with Novocain. Towing is limited to 7,400 lbs and while that’s a solid figure, the Tahoe beats it by an extra 1,000 lbs.
The Tahoe continues to beat out the Toyota throughout the rest of the driving experience aside from stop-light to stop-light runs. More on that in a moment. The more nuanced and modern suspension combines air-springs and magnetic shocks which dramatically calm the quarrel we have with the Sequoia. It’s not that this is as capable of soaking up bumps as a large German SUV would be, but it’s noticeably better than its competition here today.
The 2021 Toyota Sequoia comes in 6 different trim levels each of which can be had in RWD or 4WD. The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe also comes in 6 trim levels with the Z71 package being the only one of the bunch that cannot be had in rear-wheel-drive guise. In this segment, the Sequoia actually has a few features that we like more than what can be had in the Tahoe. The premium sound system in the Sequoia is better and we prefer the dynamic navigation available too. The added Alexa integration is cool too.
Of course the other side of the coin is that the Tahoe offers a heads up display where the Sequoia doesn’t. It also features a larger and more vibrant 10.1 touchscreen than the 7-inch unit found in the Sequoia. Rear seat passengers of the Chevy also can enjoy optional 12.6-inch screens mounted behind the headrests of the front seats.
Complimentary maintenance is exceptional when it comes to Toyota, the first two years or 25,000 miles are covered by Toyota and in terms of standard safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automated braking, the Tahoe can’t keep up. Chevrolet offers each of those features too, but they’re not all standard. In terms of Chevrolet maintenance, it’s almost pointless as only your first service visit is covered. Warranties are identical otherwise for these two large SUVs.
For all the good that Toyota does with the Sequoia, the Tahoe simply can’t be outdone in a fair fight. Sure if you pick your battles you can argue that Toyota can be the better buy, but the case is a small one. The Tahoe is more fuel efficient, it’s as capable off-road, it’s more spacious, it can tow and haul more, it’s more advanced inside, and feels more modern. Don’t get us wrong, the Toyota is still a great vehicle and many will buy them up happily, but if it’s our $50,000, it’s going to GM.