Toyota Prado Kakadu diesel ($84,490)
Ford Everest Titanium ($76,990)
You can’t keep everyone happy.
Toyota, naturally, won’t be pleased about this comparo. Ford should be thrilled.
But why is Ford so confident and Toyota so gun-shy? Toyota prefers to compare the Ford Everest to its HiLux-based Fortuner, but the price gap between those cars is sizable.
The Everest range, however, sits entirely within the Prado’s price 'footprint'.
Toyota argues the Everest’s Ranger-based underpinnings make it a more natural competitor to the HiLux-based Fortuner, but we disagree.
Both the Prado and Everest are high-feature, large, seven-seat offroaders with a full-time 4WD driveline and fairly similar sizing (the Prado is wider, but once you subtract the Prado’s door-mounted spare wheel it’s shorter than the Everest).
At face value, Ford has good reason to think its Everest has got the specs to challenge the Prado
That said, they’re not exactly identical offerings. The Everest Titanium has a $7500 price advantage on the Prado Kakadu and boasts more power, more torque and 500kg more towing capacity.
It’s got a more modern equipment fit-out too, a carpark-friendly top-hinged tailgate, and more standard safety assistance gear.
But then Prado comes in wielding its trump card: a mammoth 150-litre fuel capacity courtesy of an 87-litre primary and 63-litre auxiliary tank. If you achieve Toyota’s claimed average fuel economy of 8.0 l/100km, that’s enough juice to take you 1875km without refueling.
On that note, Toyota also claims the Prado’s 2.8 litre diesel four is 0.5 l/100km more fuel efficient than the Everest’s 3.2 litre five-cylinder.
Both promise more than a modicum of off-road capability, and both are pitched squarely at those who tow heavy loads. So which one deserves your dollars?
Quality and design: Little tricks like extended soft-finishes on the dash and doors make the Prado feel it fits its circa $85,000 price tag.
By contrast, though the Everest has a unique instrument panel, it shares many of its interior plastics with the Ranger ute, and feels a little less welcoming as a result.
There’s more chrome and glossy trim, but much of it is constructed of coarse-grained hard plastics.
The Everest Titanium’s leather upholstery was also starting to show some signs of wear, while the Prado’s leather looks and feels the higher grade of hide.
On the other hand, the Everest isn’t exactly short on visual pizzaz. The three-panel instrument cluster, with dynamic displays on each side opens up an array of customisation options, and Ford’s Sync infotainment system is easier to use.
Next to the Prado’s ancient switchgear, the Everest simply looks more modern. The Prado’s faux-woodgrain trim also looks pretty naff.
Interior space and comfort: The front seats of both cars offer comparable comfort and an expansive view of the road ahead. The Everest loses a couple of points for having only a rake-adjustable steering column. On the Prado Kakadu, you get a fully-electric column with both reach and rake adjustment.
The major difference comes with the second and third rows.
Though both cars have a sliding second row, the extra body-width and greater seat pitch of the Prado gives it more room, with ample foot, knee and shoulder room in the middle row.
But if you want to regularly put someone in the centre seat, the Everest may be a better choice.
The underside of the Prado’s fold-down centre armrest is very firm, and passengers in the middle seat won’t find it tolerable for long. The more generous padding of the Everest’s second-row bench offers better long-distance comfort.
In the third row, the Everest shines a little brighter. There’s more seat padding in the base and backrest than the Prado, comparable foot clearance with the middle row slid all the way back and more headroom. The Prado has more knee room, but not by a whole lot.
All three rows in both cars get plenty of ventilation, the second and third row getting roof-mounted vents.
Second row passengers in the Prado get their own climate-control console with a dial-a-temperature LCD display (and outboard seat heaters), but the Everest only has manual A/C knobs for the second row.
Getting into and out of the third row is also easier in the Ford thanks to both sides of the 60/40 split second row being able to tumble forward. On the Prado, only the kerbside section tilts and slides forward for third row access.
Furthermore, while both cars have electrically-folding third row seats, only the Everest has a one-touch seat-fold button. The Prado requires you to hold the button down until the seats are fully stowed or fully deployed.
The Prado however is the only one with ISOFIX child seat anchorages - two in the outboard positions of the second row. If the extra convenience of ISOFIX is high on your list, keep that in mind.
On the flipside, the Prado can only take a maximum of three baby-seats, all of them on the second row. The Everest has top-tether anchorages on all seats in the second AND third row, allowing up to five baby-seats to be fitted.
The Everest definitely makes a better baby bus.
Equipment: Both Everest and Prado are packed with gadgets, though there are plenty of areas where one car has more than the other.
The Everest, for example, has a panoramic glass roof that stretches over the first and second row while the Prado only has a small sunroof over the front seats. Then again, the Prado Kakadu sports a roof-mounted DVD entertainment screen, while the Everest has no built-in screens for backseaters.
The Everest claws back an advantage with its powered tailgate and active noise-cancelling system, but the Prado counters with an all-round camera system and built-in fridge in the centre console.
Both have sat-nav, trip computers, auto headlamps and wipers, Bluetooth, active cruise control, blind spot monitoring and digital radio tuners. The Kakadu’s 14-speaker audio system sounds better than the Everest’s 10-speaker setup, though the Everest’s SYNC2 infotainment system is a slicker interface.
Both cars also have active cruise control, but the Prado’s system reacts abruptly to traffic. The Everest’s cruise control radar is calibrated better.
Storage: The Ford has the upper hand when it comes to seats-up storage, with a generous area behind the third row that's far more capacious than the thin slot you'll find in the Prado when all seats are up.
Direct comparisons between luggage numbers aren't quite possible though.
Ford quotes SAE figures of 450 litres behind the third row and 1050 litres behind the second row, while Toyota uses the VDA methodology to give 150 litres behind the Prado's third row and 480 litres behind its second row.
But get the two side-by-side, and the difference is obvious. The Everest will swallow more stuff, and its top-hinged (and powered) tailgate is easier to deal with in crowded carparks.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Everest wins this section, no doubt about it. With 143kW and 470Nm coming from its 3.2 litre inline five it has 13kW more power and 20Nm more torque than the Prado’s 2.8 litre four-cylinder, plus it has a more generous bottom-end torque curve.
As a result it feels a lot more relaxed. You rarely need to summon high revs to get the Everest moving, and, though it’s a real heavyweight (2.5 tonnes empty), it’s a lot more lively than the Prado.
If you tow, the Everest makes better sense. Not only is its 3.0-tonne maximum tow rating 500kg greater than the Prado’s, but its better torque output means it’ll barely break a sweat towing a heavy trailer.
Give it a long enough rope, and it’ll tug the Titanic right out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Not only that, but the Everest is quieter under load and boasts a more intelligent transmission calibration for its six-speed automatic. That’s not to say the Prado lacks refinement in those areas - it’s actually a lot quieter and better behaved than ever before - it’s just that the Everest is a few steps ahead.
Ride and Handling: Once rolling, the Everest really bolts to the fore. Suspension that’s better engineered to cope with on-road conditions makes the Everest the passenger’s choice too.
Where the Prado can bob and rock like a boat on a windy lake, the Everest has a far more car-like feel to it - a sensation further enhanced by the more flexible engine of the Everest.
Body movements are better controlled than they are in the Toyota.
However, in Kakadu spec, the Prado has a key advantage over the Everest - a self-levelling air-suspension that can compensate for heavy towball loads and also provide a tauter feel on winding roads.
As for steering, the Everest’s light steering at low speeds agreed with us more, particularly when parking this behemoth in an average-sized car space.
Off-road, the Prado Kakadu's disconnecting swaybar and height-adjustable suspension gives it an advantage when the going gets really tough. Though both cars are very capable, it could make the difference between getting beached and getting home.
The Prado thrives in marginal conditions and feels the more sure-footed option; it also offers a greater range of off-road modes in low range. The Everest only has 'rock mode' available in low range, with the 'sand', 'mud' and 'snow' modes only usable with the transfer case in high range.
Efficiency: Toyota claims the Prado sips 8.0 l/100km on the combined cycle, but our real-world test (which incorporated urban, highway and off-road conditions) returned an average of 11.8 l/100km for the big Toyota.
That’s not bad considering its heft, but the larger-engined Everest bested it with an 11.3 l/100km average.
The tables turn on a pure highway stint though, where the Prado’s engine is under less duress and can use its lower displacement to its advantage.
On this kind of cycle the Prado averaged 9.4 l/100km and the Everest 9.5 l/100km.
Which one is easier to live with, better value, nicer to drive and makes for a better towing rig? The Everest, no question.
But the Prado has the runs on the board, and, at a glance, it offers a better presented interior. It also manages to distance itself from its commercial origins a little better.
Its reputation as a dependable long-distance cruiser doesn’t hurt its appeal, nor, if you're thinking of tackling the great expanse of the Aussie outback, will its gigantic fuel tank.
Out in the real world they are both incredibly close.
On paper and in practice, however, the newer Everest holds an advantage in several objective categories like power, torque, towing and cargo capacity. Safety features are also balanced in the Everest’s favour: lane departure warning, fatigue detection, and forward collision alert are all handy features if you're planning to spend long hours on the road.
In terms of servicing costs, the Prado’s capped price servicing scheme covers the first three years or six services, with 6 month or 10,000km intervals, at $220 per service ($440 per year).
On the other hand Everest only requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, but the annual cost is marginally higher - on the other hand, Ford’s capped price servicing covers the life of the vehicle, not just the first six services..
For us, the winner is Ford's new Everest. It is quieter, swifter, feels stronger, offers more useful equipment, and feels the more modern. Its $7500 price advantage is considerable too.
But neither of these two capable vehicles is a poor choice.
(And that's not the end of the story; we’ll be putting the Everest up against the newly-arrived Toyota Fortuner in due course.)