Introducing my 2011 Toyota Sequoia! Most of the details of the build can be found here. In this post, I’ll go over some of the reasons why I got it and what the plans for the car are.
My specific desire for a second gen Sequoia started in 2012, evidenced from notes I had been keeping. The reasons for a Sequoia centered around 3-row seating, towing, and overall comfort of the car. Over time, the desires shifted to more mid-size 3-row cars, such as the Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride. Those cars doubled down on the comfort and 3-row utility of the car, with the added benefit of much improved fuel economy. The trade-off, however, was their tow ratings around 5,000lbs. While I still believe all of this will satisfy our needs, this was the right time to get a Sequoia.
The most recent stirring began right after my first track day in the Golf R. I got the Golf R to be my stand-in track toy for the Evo – to be a proxy for the car without risking the Evo in standard HPDEs. I figured with some modification & tuning, the Golf R would fit that role nicely, as a similarly sized and proportioned car, with 350hp and modest suspension tuning. I was wrong. The car felt horrible on track, and jumping to the Evo afterwards was frankly dangerous due to how much more responsive and loose the Evo was.
Thus, the desire shifted to, rather than having a proxy for the Evo, I would get a tow car that could transport the Evo from track to track, without racking up mileage on the car and risking it on the street (not to mention the Evo’s lack of cruise control). While this was always the ultimate plan, the worthlessness of the Golf for my needs expedited the move, and I began searching for an affordable Sequoia. Given that I have been working from home since March and will be work from home for the foreseeable future, the poor fuel consumption of the Sequoia became much, much less of an issue.
After some research, I decided that the Platinum trim with FFV and 4wd would best suit my needs. The Platinum trim for niceties such as ventilated front seats, adaptive shocks, and an auto-leveling ride height system in the rear to compensate for towing. The FFV would allow me (if ever necessary) to dump remaining E85 from the Evo into the tank, if I so chose.
I had been in contact with a number of dealerships within the vicinity but had yet to agree on a price and trade-in for the Golf with any of these dealers. On August 30th, a dealer from Cincinnati reached out to let me know that they could do the price I wanted if I would be able to arrive the next day to purchase the vehicle.
This dealership was already at the top of my list due to having the best price gap – 15.5k for the Sequoia, and 14k trade in for the Golf. The Sequoia was the spec I wanted, a Platinum with FFV and 4WD. It was Magnetic Gray Metallic and overall very clean, despite have 223,000 miles (yes – that is a LOT, even for a Toyota). There was a catch, however – they had been sitting on fixing the transfer-case, which had apparently gone bad.
I agreed to make the trip out to buy the car on August 31st, assuming they could get the transfer case in, and early Monday morning I drove out to Cincinnati with the Golf R to trade. I arrived around 2pm eastern and proceeded to test drive the car. Overall, the car was in surprisingly good condition for something with 223k miles – aside from one thing – the car had a pretty good shimmy after hitting high speed bumps. I assumed this was likely the shocks, and later proved to be correct. Additionally, because they were adaptive electronic shocks, they were somewhat pricier than expected, including more than some solid aftermarket choices.
After arriving at the lot after the highway drive, I figured it was a good time to test the 4wd system and make sure everything worked properly, since the transfer case had just been replaced. It was quite finicky to operate. I had never experienced a 4×4 before, and while I had drove one at a dealer back home, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Crucially, I didn’t know two things about the 4wd system: 1, that to engage 4Hi, I needed to be moving forward in a straight-line, under 62mph, and 2, to engage 4Lo, I needed to first be in 4Hi, then put the car in Neutral for 4Lo to engage. Also, when the 4wd hasn’t been engaged in a while, it can be particularly finicky to engage.
Believing the transfer case to still be bad, I asked the dealer if the transfer case was installed properly, and sure enough – it wasn’t installed at all. The dealer made all kinds of offers in order to get me to buy the car that day. I called a trusted dealer back home and asked how much it would cost to replace a transfer case, and they said it would be at least $4k. After some pitiful offers, I said forget it and started walking out the door, and they made one final offer: either I could buy the car now for $11.5k, or they would fix it for $13.5k if I came back at a later date. I agreed to the $13.5k, and this is when things went from bad to worse.
The dealer said it would take 5-7 days to source a transfer case, at which point I could come back and they could install it in 3 hours. Ok – if they didn’t even have a transfer case on hand, how were the planning to install it when they made the offer to me on Sunday, the day before? Stereotypical used-car shadiness. As I didn’t want to deal with problem, I said ok – $13.5k and I’ll come back and we’ll get it done. They proceeded to write-up the docs and came back to me – with the original $15.5k. I told them they had made a mistake, at which point the sales manager had come to yell at me on the showroom floor about how I agreed to $15.5k with a new transfer case, which is what I was going to get, and he had never even offered me $13.5k plus the t-case – lying straight to my face.
After some back-and-forth I said screw it – I’ll do the $11.5k as-is, which the sales manager could not deny offering. I figured I could live with RWD only until at least the winter. I worked up the rest of the paperwork, said goodbye to my Golf R, and got the hell out of there.
On the drive home, it was apparent that the something in the suspension was in bad shape – most likely the shocks. Every minor bump on the highway almost seemed to have an aftershock. Obviously, I was not expecting a new car and had no problem with minor fix-ups, especially given that I had just cut $4 grand off of what I was about to pay. I called up my dealership near me, and scheduled an appointment for a multipoint inspection for the following day.
With their inspection, it was confirmed that the shocks were indeed leaking. There were a few maintenance items and various other things the car was due for, and I asked them to just provide the list, as I would handle most of the car’s maintenance myself. Doing some digging online, it turned out the shocks were going to be extremely expensive – due to the electronics in the rear suspension as well as the airbag springs – finding the best prices I could online, all-in was still going to be over $2k. On a huge positive note however, it turned out that the transfer case was fine. The 4WD mode on the Sequoias and Tundras is indeed a little finicky, but it just needs to be engaged once a month or so to make sure everything is lubricated and doesn’t seize up. Given how the dealership treated me, I think this is fair – especially since the shocks needed to be replaced anyway.
Despite the experience at the dealer, I’m extremely happy with the car. The Magnetic Gray Metallic has an awesome flake to it, and I spent the day yesterday detailing the exterior. The car absolutely does have some rust and wear, but the condition is fantastic for the mileage. It was a one-owner no accident car, and it’s clear the previous owner did some towing with this rig. It was probably traded in either because they thought something was up with the t-case or they received a crazy quote for the full replacement of the shocks (my dealer quoted nearly $5 grand). Since I can get most of the work done for much cheaper, this overall worked out to my advantage.
I’ve got Uhauls rented for the next several events, and as I sit here I’m waiting for all the parts to arrive to get the car tow-ready by next Friday for Road America. As it always is with racing, half the race is in getting everything ready to go for the event. Upcoming plans include the front and rear shocks, new rear air springs, and will replace the brakes. I’ve ordered Centric blanks which are vented, and some heavy duty Power Stop pads (Z36) built for towing. I’ve got Motul RBF660 that I never used left over from the Golf R, so the Sequoia will have a solid brake setup here for the towing, which will be crucial if I ever travel through any mountainous areas.