It was perplexing; it had leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, multizone heating and cooling, satellite radio and plenty of room for the kids - this must be an SUV. I turned the key in the ignition and got a deep, growling VROOOOM from the engine. Wait, maybe it's a truck? One thing's for certain: The Toyota Sequoia will fit your family ... and your kids' friends ... and their friends' friends.

I found the Sequoia awe-inspiring. I've never, ever, ever been in a SUV of these proportions. Standing next to Bessy (sorry, but that's what my kids named her), I admired the height of her hood and the sheer size of her doors. Wow! Each door had to be the size of our dining room table.

From the interior, she's just as impressive. Everyone has plenty of room for a comfortable ride - even those in the middle seats. The Sequoia certainly had plenty of cargo room. Even with the third row seats up, I still had ample room for the groceries. Later, we swapped out the groceries for suitcases and sleeping bags for a trip to enjoy the fall colors.

The Sequoia proved to be the perfect ride for a family to cruise through the countryside. It was as though we were enjoying the picturesque views not from an SUV or a truck, but rather from the deck of a cruise ship!

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

SENSE AND STYLE Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove on): Some

An SUV of gargantuan proportions, the Sequoia forced me recognize what a marvel of engineering she was. It's amazing how Toyota's engineers were able to design these large chunks of metal into smooth, swooping and even pretty pieces of an automobile. Impressive.

Even though the doors are twice the size of an average-sized sedan door, they weren't cumbersome or bulky to use. They were heavy, but not too difficult to pull closed. Two steps, one on the outside of the SUV and one in the interior, help passengers hop into the vehicle; the Sequoia has great ground clearance combined with fairly easy entry and exit.

Large headlights and an equally large grille define the Sequoia's presence as a sturdy, strong and dependable piece of machinery. I'm tempted to call it intimidating, but I can't. Even though it's large enough to grab your attention, Sequoia's family-friendliness keeps it out of the automobile version of the World Wrestling Entertainment.

espite Toyota's obvious efforts to make the Sequoia as luxurious and cozy as possible, all the leather and pretty lights in the world won't help me reach the stereo's volume-control knob (my kids got quite a kick out of watching me try though!). This forced me to use the steering-wheel controls, which is better anyway, since we like to keep our hands on the wheel at all times, right ladies?

But I did love the roominess of the Sequoia. At one point, my two boys and I were all moving about the cabin area in front of the second row of seats. Miraculously, no one got stepped on or shoved out of the way. With all that space, I thought there was no way my 6-year-old could stretch out and kick my seat, but he figured it out (picture him stretching his legs out until his toes were pointed like a ballerina's).

The Sequoia offered multizone heating and cooling for the driver, front passenger and rear passengers. Each seat was as comfortable as a living room recliner, with the added bonus of several cupholders for each passenger. The Sequoia also has a huge rear window that opens and closes with the touch of a button near the steering column.

For me, the Sequoia's ease of use was key to making this SUV work. The third row could be easily folded down by pushing a button near the second row or in the rear cargo area in case you needed to drop the seats from behind. The second-row seats themselves had easy-to-tug levers that quickly folded the seats up and drew them forward. I, however, would recommend that Toyota add this same simplicity to both the navigation system and closing the rear liftgate (if you're short like me you'll have to jump to reach it when it's opened).

As our party departed from my dad's house for our trip, we began to fuss over the nav system. Mind you, my dad and I never bothered to read the manual. We tried to get it to direct us with voice commands, but Bessy wasn't having it. We fiddled with the touch-screen, and she practically balked at us. After we finally gave up and decided to enjoy the ride, Miss Computer Voice decided to start directing us to an undisclosed location. And then we couldn't get her to stop, which had the kids in hysterics.

Eventually there was a happy ending; we figured out how to turn off the voice-guided system, and I later learned how to work the nav system. Bessy taught me one thing: I'm technologically disadvantaged.

Bessy loves kids - my kids, your kids, the entire neighborhood's kids - and she wants to keep 'em safe. The Toyota Sequoia offers three, yes three, sets of Latch connectors. In most cars, Latch connectors can be found in the outboard seats in the second row, but the center seat is often neglected. Because the Sequoia is so big, the center seat is just as roomy as the outboard seats and can handle a third child-safety seat in the second row. In the third row, there's a tether anchor in the center position. The Sequoia really should be used as a school bus, don't you think?

Additionally, Toyota threw in all the other "must-have" safety features like antilock brakes, traction control, skid control and side curtain airbags in all three rows of seats. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!