Honda and Toyota are beginning to recognize that many of us buy SUVs because we like to travel on some unpaved roads. An SUV is perfect for getting into the wilderness because you can outfit one with four-wheel drive, a high suspension, and of course, you can bring several friends and camping gear. Now, there’s the new 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport and the seven-seater Toyota Sequoia TRD Off-Road Pro. But are these new SUV packages the real deal or just a set of off-road tires?
Honda Pilot or Toyota Sequoia: which costs more?
Let’s get the price out of the way first. The 2023 Sequoia TRD Pro is $76,000, before options. That’s a lot of scratch for an SUV. The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport at $48,350 seems like a steal by comparison. Again, that’s before the options. Fortunately, these two off-road SUVs come with most of the features you’ll already want, like heated seats and wireless connectivity. Both SUVs are all-new for 2023.
In basic off-road trim, the Sequoia TRD Pro costs $28,000 more than the Pilot TrailSport, and for that money, you could buy a two-year-old Jeep Wrangler if you really want to hit the road. But these two SUVs are much more refined than a Wrangler and will make your commute much easier.
What does tuned off-road mean on the Honda Pilot and Toyota Sequoia?
Honda says the TrailSport has suspension tuned for off-road use. That is, it has a factory elevator. In the case of the TrailSport, that means it has around 8.27 inches of ground clearance. That extra height will certainly help you get over big rocks and ruts.
The Sequoia is slightly taller, with 9.1 inches of headroom. But it also has FOX-branded coil-over shocks that include a remote reservoir, so they rebound faster and keep the wheels firm during high-speed riding. Both SUVs also have skid plates under the engine.
In addition, the TrailSport has new 18-inch wheels with inserted spokes. The wheel bowl should keep rocks and other debris from denting its black finish. The Sequoia also has similar off-road design wheels. Both have knobs that set these SUVs to different modes. The Toyota, however, adds Crawl Control that uses on-board computers to get you out of the stickiest of situations.
Mall crawler or rock crawler?
There are two basic, but important differences in these two SUVs that can be important when driving off-road. The Honda is a unibody, so it’s built like a car, which means the roof is part of the frame. The 2023 Toyota Sequoia has a traditional body-on-frame design and is based on the giant Tundra pickup. That means its frame, under the SUV, can be made stronger. That translates to more towing capacity and a different frame to modify it for off-road duty.
The Honda has all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive systems spin all four tires, but they are made for inclement weather and light off-road work. The Sequoia has a four-wheel-drive system that has a locking rear differential and a low-speed gear for overcoming obstacles. Sure, not all of us need those extra goodies to go camping, and car and driver says the TrailSport is more capable than the specs suggest. However, the Toyota has more off-road capability on paper.
Is the Sequoia worth $28,000 more than the TrailSport?
Sequoia with TRD Pro trim is a serious off-road machine, designed to take on the wild like a larger 4Runner. The TRD package, like the one on the Tundra truck, adds several key off-road features that are key in the woods or cruising around town.
But for most of us who only hit the road off-road occasionally or never tackle the tough stuff but still want the option, the TrailSport could be a great fit. Both SUVs seat seven, have plenty of safety systems, and both look perfect. But the Toyota is likely to be more capable.