In the context of the fullsize SUV segment, the new '08 Sequoia is a good progression of Toyota Motor Corp.'s family hauler, with increased interior space, a tight turning radius and the auto maker's brawny 5.7L V-8 under the hood.

But with fuel prices ballooning and the lumps coming from environmental groups that once unwaveringly loved Toyota, there couldn't be a worse time to launch a fullsize SUV in the U.S.

As expected, the new Sequoia is heavily influenced by the fullsize Tundra pickup, with which it shares a platform and the abundantly torquey “iForce” V-8.

It boasts many of Tundra's styling cues, specifically the in-your-face grille and the mixed-media instrument panel that features various silver-painted, glossy black and matte black finishes.

In drawing from the Tundra chassis, the Sequoia gains 3.9 ins. (9.9 cm) in wheelbase and 1.2 ins. (3.0 cm) in length, boosting interior volumes. The switch to an independent rear suspension from the current Sequoia's live axle creates additional wiggle room for third-row passengers.

Coupled with the newly designed double wishbone front suspension, the '08 Sequoia chassis belies its body-on-frame setup. However, the just-poured roads near Raleigh-Durham, NC, create a skewed sense of suspension plushness.

Unlike other large SUVs, many of which struggle to navigate parking lots, the Sequoia proves surprisingly nimble when our group must perform a U-turn.

Thanks to a tight, 39-ft. (12-m) turning circle and a new Variable Flow Control power-steering system, the maneuver is simple.

Estimated city fuel economy is 14 mpg (16.8 L/100 km) for 2-wheel-drive Sequoias and 13 mpg (18.1 L/100 km) for 4-wheel-drive models, no matter the engine (a 4.7L V-8 also is available).

On the highway, the 2WD Sequoia equipped with the 5.7L V-8 is expected to get the best rating, 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km), while the 2WD with the 4.7L achieves 17 mpg (13.8 L/100 km), Toyota says.

Observed fuel economy in a Platinum-trim Sequoia with 4WD and the 5.7L averages 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km).

By comparison, the Chevy Tahoe gets an estimated 14 mpg city (4×2 and 4×4 models) and 19/20 mpg (12.4-11.8 L/100 km) highway (4×2/4×4) when equipped with a 5.3L V-8. Unlike the Tahoe, there is no hybrid-electric version available, but an E85-compatible Sequoia will bow sometime in the next year.

The roomy interior is well appointed, with some nicer materials (including a soft, sweater-type headliner) than seen in other Toyotas of late. However, the busy dash could stand to be toned down to just a couple finishes.

When Sequoia debuted in 2000, Toyota envisioned taking a sizable chunk of the market from General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. But that hasn't happened.

With a market share of 1.2% in the January-September period, the Toyota is far from overtaking the segment-leading Chevy Tahoe (7.5% share) anytime soon, Ward's data shows.

Still, Toyota wants to double the current Sequoia's annual volume to 65,000-66,000 units with the new model, a level it hasn't reached in several years.

Roomy Thirstier than minivan
Tight turning circle Busy dash design
On par for segment Hurts “green” image

Toyota Sequoia Platinum 4×4 SUV

Vehicle: Front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 4-door SUV

Engine: 5.7L DOHC V-8, aluminum heads, block

Power (SAE net): 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 401 lb.-ft. (544 Nm) @ 3,600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase:122 ins. (310 cm)

Overall length: 205.1 ins. (521 cm)

Overall width: 79.9 ins. (203 cm)

Curb weight: 6,000 lbs./2,722 kg

Fuel economy: 13/18 mpg (18.1/13.1 L/100 km)

Competition: Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada