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Big Tree: The 1st-Gen Toyota Sequioa

Say what you will about millennials, but there’s no doubt that right now, the millennial generation is the one that holds all the economic cards in this country. Finally moving into their late 20s to mid 30s, the generation that grew up before widespread access to dial-up Internet and watched as their lives were intimately changed by the events of 9/11 are now able to buy things.

And what better vehicle to buy than probably the most underrated SUV from the ‘90s — the first generation Toyota Sequoia?

The Sequoia was first introduced for the ‘01 model year, and was based off of the first-generation Tundra pickup. Built at Toyota’s TMMI plant in Princeton, Indiana, the Sequoia was the first time a Japanese entity built a full-size SUV in North America. Toyota Engineering Chief Kaoru Hosegawa designed the Sequoia to compete directly with the Ford Expedition and the Chevy Tahoe.

In 1995, Toyota started down the path of designing a replacement for the T100 truck, and recognized the burgeoning full-size SUV market in America. Toshihiko Shirasawa completed the final artistic design of the Sequoia in 1997 and a patent was filed in April of 1998. The engine, dashboard, sheet metal and chassis are all shared with the Tundra, with the exception of the back 1/3 of the vehicle’s sheet metal, rear disk brakes and a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension with a live axle, instead of the Tundra’s leaf-spring setup.

Powered initially by the 240hp legendary 4.7L V-8 and paired to four-speed automatic transmission, in 2005 the engine was upgraded with Toyota’s VVT-i variable valve timing. Power was bumped up to 282hp, while receiving  the newer five-speed automatic. In 2005, the four-wheel-drive system was also upgraded with a Torsen center differential in the transfer case, replacing the previous open design. The new Torsen center differential split power in full-time mode by sending 40 percent to the front and 60 percent to the rear under normal driving conditions, or up to 53 percent to the front and 71 percent to the rear during slippage.

Why do we love these trucks so much? They are slightly larger than the 100 series Toyota Land Cruiser, share the same bulletproof driveline, and have proven themselves over and over again as incredibly well-engineered and overbuilt in the hands of Tundra-driven contractors across the U.S. Because they were never given much thought outside of soccer moms, the market shows that you can get an excellent and very clean example between $5,000 and $7,500 on Craigslist.

Things to look out for? The 4.7L V-8’s only issue is the need for religious changing of the timing belt every 100,000 miles. The compression is high enough on the 4.7L that if the valve train gets out of sync with the pistons, you can have piston-valve contact and there goes the engine. So make sure that belt is changed, and you’re good to go!

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