TOYOTA PRADO REVIEW
What’s hot: Proven performance, comfortable on-road, brilliant off it.
What’s not: There is too much moulded interior plastic for a car in this class.
X-FACTOR: It will tow your Collins Class sub to the Gulf and back without raising a bead of sweat.
Vehicle style: Large 4WD SUV Wagon
Price: $55,990 - $92,590
Engine/trans: 3.0 litre diesel, 4.0 litre petrol V6 | 5spd auto, 6spd man
Power/torque: 127kW/410Nm diesel; 202kW/381Nm petrol
Fuel consumption diesel, listed: 8.5 l/100km tested: 12.1 l/100km
Fuel consumption petrol, listed: 11.5 l/100km tested: 13.4 l/100km
Toyota’s updated Prado is what Toyota - the brand - is all about. It’s sensible, solid, conservative and immensely capable.
There are few things to point at in the Prado that can be described as cutting-edge. Perhaps the KDSS suspension, but little else.
But that’s a Toyota thing: it rarely sits at the edge of the blade, more often at its solid centre.
And this is where the Prado sits. It is Prado, not Prada, and it is neither the last word in style nor in on-road dynamics.
But it is a very compelling purchase. It’s hard to imagine any Prado buyer being disappointed. That said, there are, nonetheless, a few debits that take the sheen off things.
So what about this updated model?
It’s little changed from the model it replaces; it is mostly just ‘a new look’. It sports a new face, revised taillights and some suspension refinements. Nothing changed here for the sake of change alone.
After all, it’s the best-selling four-wheel-drive wagon in the country; so why mess with it?
We drove most variants of the updated Prado at launch (there are 11 variants in all). Here’s our report.
Again little changed, but certainly a snug, comfortable and robust fit-out. The seats are good, upright and a little flat, but rightly comfortable and with good under-thigh support for long-distance driving.
The wheel falls nicely to hand (electrically adjustable in the VX and Kakadu), and there is a real ‘command’ position from the captain’s chair.
Importantly, in seven-seat models (only the GX misses out), access to the rear third row is really good. Even with a dodgy back I could get in and out easily.
The instruments are clear and legible, and controls are well laid out and with a ‘solid to the touch’ feel.
On the downside, the painted silver faux-metal highlighting looks a bit naff, and there is too much plastic moulding for my liking, especially in the top-spec Kakadu.
When you’re spending the best part of 100-large ($91,590), you might be looking for a dash of leather; somewhere on the doors, for instance.
It’s not such a disappointment on the lower-specced and vastly less-expensive GX and GXL models, of course, which are trimmed as you’d expect.
That aside, there is a soft quality-feel to all plastics, especially on touchpoints like the dashboard, armrest and door grab-handles.
The biggest interior styling flaw is the ghetto-blaster emerging from the top of the dash.
It is unusually clunky, looks incredibly cheap and is a real design gaffe. God alone knows what it’s doing there, and why it was carried over from the previous model.
It holds the air-con outlets, audio and heater controls and large screen display. It’s certainly easy to reference when driving, but it really mars what is an otherwise mostly appealing interior.
It’s the feature-list though that appeals most in here. Even lower down the model range, the GX and GXL are pretty well-kitted.
Standard across the range is cruise control, smart entry and smart start, 220-volt rear accessory socket, Bluetooth, USB aux-in, iPod connectivity, multi-function steering wheel, side mirror-mounted indicators, UV glass and conversation mirror. Automatic models also get hill-start control and downhill assist.
The GXL adds third-row seats and a third-row side curtain-airbag, climate-control three-zone air-con, rear parking sensors privacy glass, two additional cup holders, heated and power-retractable exterior mirrors, plus alarm system, roof rails, side steps and other dress-up bits.
It starts getting serious in the Prado VX, which adds rain-sensing wipers, leather-accented seats (heated front and second-rows), power adjusting tilt and telescopic steering, power-folding third-row seat, parking sensors, auto LED headlamps, 17-speaker premium JBL audio with DAB+ radio, touch-screen sat-nav and multi-info display.
It also adds the ‘biggie’, the incredibly capable Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) suspension.
For the Kakadu add Optitron dials (with multi-information display), blind-spot monitor, radar cruise control, Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system, five-mode CRAWL control, four-camera terrain monitor, Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) traction-control switch, moonroof, cool box, electronic rear diff-lock, and height-adjustable rear air-suspension, among a longer list of premium features.
Kakadu gets a pre-crash safety system but all models get seven airbags, vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) and emergency brake signal.
The big-ticket safety item for those who tow is trailer sway control, now standard across the range.
ON THE ROAD
There is little to report here if you’re familiar with the previous model.
The engines, petrol and diesel, and transmissions are the same: the 127kW/410Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine or the 202kW/381Nm V6 petrol engine with variable valve timing.
That diesel’s peak torque is on tap from a very wide 1600 to 2800rpm.
For towing, there’s nothing quite like a wide torque band for ‘settled’ driving. It also feels stronger than a peakier diesel; in other words, it does more with less.
But both engines are easily up to the task. The Prado V6 can show a very rapid turn of speed if asked, and both are effortless cruisers.
Prado GX and GXL models offer the choice of a six-speed manual, otherwise, a five-speed auto sits across the range.
We didn’t drive the manual, but the auto slinks crisply between gears, downshifting for corners and downhill inclines.
The Kakadu we drove in fact downshifted and held gears too long on some descents (could have had a mapping glitch); we resorted to the shift lever to upshift a couple of times.
All models are pretty impressive on road. The VX and Kakadu are slightly better ‘anchored’ at the front-end thanks to the KDSS system operating on the stabiliser bars, but all models have a bit of body roll.
On bitumen, the Prado is ‘taut’ down below - there is a firm elasticity to the suspension feel - but the ride is very good. It’s not up to Range Rover standards, but it soaks away bumps and broken tarmac effortlessly.
Even on dirt and gravel, the Prado is untroubled by ruts and corrugations and can thump through washouts and gullies without getting anywhere near the bump stops.
We found each model a tad noisier than expected. While wind noise is quite low (the Prado has a drag co-efficient of 0.35), mechanical noise can intrude, especially from the diesel. Not loud, but ‘there’.
Point it off the tarmac and the Prado really shines. You get a sense it will scale almost anything.
Down below is a full-time four-wheel drive system with a lockable Torsen centre differential and two-speed transfer case. (The Kakadu boasts rear diff locks and ‘crawl-control’ as standard.)
On a cobbled-together route, it challenged barely part of the Prado’s off-road traction and suspension technologies.
There is a dial (rather than a lever) to control the high/low transfer case and there’s a button to activate the centre Torsen diff lock.
We tried the hill-start assist on a 30 degree slope, no problem. The descent control - feet ‘off everything’ - similarly, no problem.
For traction control in the rough, all models come with Toyota’s multi-terrain select system (MTS). With it, you can select via a rotary dial ‘rock’, ‘loose rock’, ‘mud and sand’, and ‘moguls’ modes.
It provides electronic assistance to keep things moving if the beaten track disappears.
If you get stuck in a Prado, you’ve driven off the end of a pier.
In the top-tier Kakadu, there is also a forward camera to show the road down below, and the positioning of the wheels, when the nose is pointing at the sky. It is, as an understatement, very useful.
Lastly, it will tow 2.5 tonne (braked capacity).
With the Prado you pay most for what you don’t see: robust engineering and the deserved reputation that goes with it.
The fact that this Toyota does so many things capably and without fuss, is the secret to its success.
You’ll never see a Prado with its tongue hanging out by the side of the road, with a caravan in tow. You can thank the safety margins engineered into engines, drivetrains and tow ratings for that.
If you’re thinking of ‘the big trek’, or thinking of towing something big to somewhere else, there can be few safer bets than the Prado.
For what it can do, on road and off, for its reputation and the high trade-in values that come with it, it’s a blue-chip buy.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- GX 5 manual - $55,990 ($0 change)
- GX 5 auto - $58,690 (up $436)
- GX 7 manual - $58,490 (up $236)
- GX 7 auto - $61,190 (up $1,013)
- GXL manual - $61,490 (up $355)
- GXL auto - $64,190 (up $555)
- VX auto - $78,990 (up $1,355)
- KAKADU auto - $92,590 (up $1,455)
- GXL auto - $63,190 (up $555)
- VX auto - $77,990 (up $1,355)
- KAKADU auto - $91,590 (up $1,455)