The Skinny: While cosmetic improvements are thin on the ground in the updated 2016 Toyota Prado range, the all-new diesel engine is a solid winner; it's new-found refinement transforms this capable, hard-working 4X4 SUV.
There is a quietness and smoothness to the new engine that we're unused to in a Toyota diesel. And that refinement comes with the benefit of more power, more torque and more efficiency. It's also more frugal.
There is a downside to this good news: the 2016 Prado will cost you more for the privilege. The V6 petrol remains unchanged, except for a small price rise, but it's a minor player in the showroom.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $52,990 (GX 5-seat manual diesel) to $84,490 (Kakadu 7-seat auto diesel)
- 130kW/450kW 2.8 litre turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp manual or 6sp auto
- 207kW/381Nm 4.0 litre petrol 6cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.9 l/100km (manual diesel), 8.0 l/100km (auto diesel), 11.6 l/100km (auto petrol)| tested: 8.5 l/100km (auto diesel)
Is… is that the new LandCruiser Prado? It’s a bit hard to tell - after all, the box-fresh 2016 model we just spent the day driving is externally identical to the facelifted model that went on sale in late 2013.
But there’s one difference under the skin, and it’s major. While the outgoing model was propelled by a clattery, agricultural 3.0 litre turbodiesel, the 2016 Prado gets Toyota’s new 2.8 litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder with a refinement that’s worlds apart from its predecessor.
Yes, a 4.0 litre petrol V6 remains available in the range, but honestly, why would you choose it when you have a diesel option this smooth?
Only 1.2 percent of Prado sales are for the petrol V6, and we’re willing to bet a few of those petrol Prado shoppers will convert to diesel once they experience the refinement of this new 2.8 litre.
What’s more, the new 2.8 is accompanied by an equally-fresh six-speed automatic, rather than the old-tech five-speed of the outgoing 3.0 diesel. It too is a revelation.
Whether on the highway or on a steep dirt-track, the newfound civility.of this new powertrain takes the Prado to a whole new level.
- Standard features (all models): Cruise control, air-conditioning, rear-view camera, keyless entry and ignition, 220-volt rear power outlet, alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: Bluetooth and USB connectivity, display audio headunit, iPod compatibility, audio controls on steering wheel. Prado GXL (and up) get sat-nav and 7-inch touchscreen display as standard.
Sadly, the revolutionary changes made under the bonnet didn’t have any effect on what’s on the driver's side of the firewall. The interior of the 2016 Prado is much the same as last year’s model.
Unless, of course, you’re driving a GXL. Already the most popular model in the Prado range, the GXL gets sat-nav as standard equipment.
The rest of it is the same. The same trim, same equipment and the same big, comfy seats.
Though it's the smaller sister to the LandCruiser 200 Series, the Prado is a roomy wagon in its own right with plenty of room for seven (or five, if you go for the entry-model GX).
Designed with long-range cruising in mind, the comfort level is appropriately high. The VX and Kakadu in particular are an especially nice environment to soak up the miles in, with leather upholstery and heated first- and second-row seats.
ON THE ROAD
- Diesel: 130kW/450Nm (420Nm manual) 2.8 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Petrol: 207kW/381Nm 4.0 litre naturally-aspirated petrol V6
- Transmission: Six-speed manual (diesel) or six-speed automatic (petrol and diesel), full-time 4x4 with dual-range transfer case
- Suspension: Double-wishbone independent front, live-axle rear. Adjustable dampers on Kakadu, swaybar disconnect on VX and Kakadu
- Steering: Hydraulic power steering, 11.6 metre turning circle
Fire up the Prado’s new 2.8 litre diesel and relish the smoothness, "ah... the serenity" of its outstanding refinement.
While the old 3.0 was properly truck-like, the new 2.8 is far better-behaved as far as sound and vibration are concerned. At idle and at a high-speed cruise, it’s barely any louder and intrusive than a petrol motor.
The benefits don’t stop there. With 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque (420Nm for manuals), the new 1GD diesel makes 3kW and 40Nm more than the old 3.0 litre.
It’s also more frugal, with Toyota listing a combined-cycle fuel economy of 7.9 l/100km for the manual and 8.0 l/100km for the auto - a reduction of 0.6 l/100km and 0.8 l/100km respectively. We can attest to its meagre thirst, averaging 8.5 l/100km for the auto.
The new diesel is also EuroV emissions compliant - as is the slightly-revised petrol V6.
We drove both the manual and automatic diesel at the 2016 Prado’s local launch in the ACT, the former in GXL config and the latter in range-topping Kakadu form.
In either flavour, it’s an impressive improvement.
Cruising in sixth at 100km/h the engine is spinning at 2000rpm, right in the meaty part of its torque band. Its variable-geometry turbo builds boost reasonably quickly and turbo lag is minimal and barely noticeable.
That said, it’s not the most alert engine as far as throttle response goes. You tend to feel its weight if trying to accelerate up inclines, particularly in the 2.4-tonne Prado Kakadu.
While it is far less troubled on the flat, and can get out and overtake quickly with a bit of a prod, try to accelerate from 100km/h up a steeper grade, and it is slow to gain speed even with the accelerator floored.
If you tow heavy loads (and many Prado owners do), that's something to take note of if you inhabit a hilly part of the country.
But as a long-distance cruiser, it’s perfect. As quiet and smooth as petrol-power, yet with the frugality and low-end torque of a diesel, this engine will serve the Prado well.
The suspension is ideally suited to that role as well. There are no changes to the Prado's undercarriage for 2016, and feels stable and comfortable at almost any speed.
If you’re keen on venturing deep into the outback, it’ll keep performing.
The variable-geometry turbine can close off its vanes almost completely to enhance engine braking, and the six-speed automatic’s first gear is lower than the old five-speed’s to give it better crawl performance in low range.
Select low-range, and the Prado's trusted 4X4 drivetrain will easily haul the heavy Prado up steep, rocky fire trails. Madder off-roaders though should note that only the top-grade Kakadu gets a locking rear differential from the factory.
One debit though is the clunky and ineffective downhill assist control - it simply lacks the smoothness and progressiveness required to be of use off-road.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.11 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are standard across the Prado range. Dual front, front side and full-length curtain (including third row) airbags are also standard, and all seats are equipped with three-point seat belts.
The flagship Prado Kakadu also benefits from rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring, though the base model only gets a reversing camera and no parking sensors. The GXL adds rear sensors, while the VX gets front and rear sensors as standard.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Prado’s biggest rival is just about to burst onto the scene in the form of the soon-to-be-released Ford Everest. Right now though, the only real match for Toyota’s large SUV in terms of price, size and capability is the Land Rover Discovery.
Toyota is keen to avoid comparisons between the Everest and the Prado (it instead sees the Ford as a Fortuner rival), but it's the pricing that determines the showroom battle, and that makes the Prado the more natural match.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Externally there’s little to report on, but take the 2016 LandCruiser Prado diesel for a drive and you’ll find it’s worlds apart from its predecessor.
Its newfound refinement is a godsend, especially out on the open road. No more rattle, no more diesel knock, this powertrain feels more European than Japanese.
And it’s not at the expense of pulling power or driveability. It’s a real win-win.
The Prado is already a sales success for Toyota, and the new engine is a pearler. Even in its twilight years, this generation Prado is simply getting better with age.
Prado GX 5 seat manual diesel: $52,990
Prado GX 5 seat automatic diesel: $54,990
Prado GX 7 seat manual diesel: $55,490
Prado GX 7 seat automatic diesel: $57,490
Prado GXL 7 seat manual diesel: $59,990
Prado GXL 7 seat automatic diesel: $61,990
Prado GXL 7 seat automatic petrol: $60,990
Prado VX 7 seat automatic diesel: $73,990
Prado VX 7 seat automatic petrol: $72,990
Prado Kakadu 7 seat automatic diesel: $84,490
Prado Kakadu 7 seat automatic petrol: $83,490