Back to the Wild cont'd.

Oct 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

2001 Toyota Sequoia Limited 4X4



THE ROAD WAS washboarded and deeply cratered from recent rain. Long, thick tufts of grass sprouted from the center. It was less a road than a two-track, running south across high, lonely rangeland in south-central Colorado, the perfect place to put the mammoth Sequoia Limited through a real off-road drama.

We came prepared: The vehicle was loaded down with two mountain bikes, a 75-pound Labrador, and an absurd amount of camping and fly-fishing gear (including, God knows why, an inflatable bed and a splitting maul). The Sequoia kept its cool as we wound deeper into the Gunnison National Forest. No jarring, no jouncing, no squealing tires—nothing to distinguish between the pavement and the dirt, nothing to suggest there was ground beneath us at all. Brazenly, I passed up the ten available cup holders and left my half-full can of Coke on the fine, wide dash. Not a drop spilled. The Sequoia, still in two-wheel drive, seemed thoroughly indomitable.

And so it was, until the next day, when we followed the forest road to Cochetopa Pass. The Sequoia cleared the 10,067-foot summit with aplomb. Admittedly, we were disappointed. Could nothing stop this behemoth? Then we caught sight of a narrow, twisting jeep road descending steeply through a stand of aspens—and we took it without hesitation. Now, things got exciting: A grinding, bottoming-out noise from the underside despite the Sequoia's 10.6-inch clearance, tree branches slapping the windows, a series of insistent beeps from the Vehicle Skid Control system alerting us to a loss of traction, a dizzying tilt sideways. "Throw 'er into four-wheel!" my boyfriend bellowed, happily, at long last. It was easy: A push of the "4WD" button and the steadfast SUV was transformed into a full-blown off-road stalker. The 16-inch tires gripped the dirt and wouldn't let go; gravel flew left and right. We rumbled downslope for another five miles, rolling easily over roots and small boulders and marshy puddles. My boyfriend just smirked and opened another Coke. —Katie Arnold

240-horsepower V-8 engine; full- and part-time four-wheel drive; 128 cubic feet cargo capacity; 8 passengers; 14 mpg city, 17 mpg highway; $44,875 (as tested);

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