The Toyota LandCruiser Prado as we know it is largely the same basic vehicle that launched in late 2009, but rather than rest on its laurels, Toyota has rolled out a series of incremental changes over the intervening years.
The latest change represents a visual nip and tuck with a more formal front-end treatment and minor tail light tweaks coupled with the arrival of added safety equipment across the range.
While the inclusion of standard safety systems like autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian detection and lane departure warning show Toyota is moving with the times, even without the extra safety tech the company sold more Prados in 2017 than it did the previous year.
It may be getting on in years, but as the best-seller in the large SUV segment it seems the Prado can do no wrong.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $62,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.0 l/100km | Tested: 9.5 l/100km
As part of the Prado’s changes, Toyota has given the previous petrol V6 version the flick due to slowing sales. Instead, the entire Prado range is powered by a carry-over version of the 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine from before.
The four-variant range starts with the GX five-seater (seven seats are optional) and steps up to the mid-range GXL that adds seven seats as standard, before the more luxurious VX and top-line Kakadu variants.
Not overpriced from $62,990 (plus on-road costs) with six-speed auto and enough features to be comfortable and convenient, the GXL is the family favourite that strikes the right balance of serious off-road ability with versatility and convenience bundled in.
New infotainment should keep most buyers happy though native smartphone connectivity, like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, is still missing but crucially the addition of autonomous emergency braking (which has become something of a buzz-phrase in Australia) adds an extra layer of driver assistance for added peace of mind.
- Standard Equipment: Velour seat trim, seven-seat capacity, three-zone climate control, rear air vents, proximity key with push-button start, LED fog lights, cooled centre console, roof rails, side steps, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: AM/FM/CD player, satellite navigation, Aux and USB input, Bluetooth connectivity, nine-speaker audio
- Options Fitted: Premium interior (leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, electric front seat adjustment) $3500, metallic paint $550
- Cargo Volume: 120 litre to third row, 480 litres to second row
The Prado is a big car that will fill most car parks and garages thanks to its ample dimensions, but the real payoff here is an interior that’s equally generous.
Up front, drivers of all shapes and sizes will find the right fit and second row passengers will be equally as comfortable too in big broad seats with decent long-range comfort.
Third row passengers may not find quite as much space, particularly long-legged ones, but the back-back is still a genuinely usable proposition and when the rearmost seats aren’t required they can be flat-stowed into the boot floor, although lack the ability to be removed for added space.
There’s none of the chintzy fake wood of higher-spec models in the GXL either, but tick the option box for leather trim and the mid-grade model carries a suitably upmarket feel, with heated and cooled seats for front occupants included with the premium interior upgrade.
Toyota has also given the centre stack a redesign, with new climate controls and a less fussy layout for the infotainment surround. There’s also a less truck-like steering wheel and changes to the instrument cluster for a more contemporary look.
Crucially for a seven-passenger vehicle all three rows have access to air conditioning outlets, with roof mounted outlets in the second and third rows, plus a cooled centre console (though not a full-scale in-car fridge) to keep drinks and snacks chilled on the go.
Boot access might still pose a problem for some, with a side-hinged tailgate that carries the spare wheel requiring a hearty shove to open and close, and while cargo space with all three rows up is limited, there's ample room with the folding seats stowed.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 130kW @ 3400rpm, 450Nm @ 1600rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, dual-range permanent 4x4
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, rigid axle coil-spring rear
- Brakes: 338mm ventilated front discs, 312mm ventilated rear discs
- Steering: 11.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 3000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
It’s a case of 'steady as she goes' for the 2018 Prado’s mechanical package, with the same 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel and six-speed automatic (or six-speed manual if you prefer) as before.
Outputs have been kept at 130kw and 450Nm, but the GXL automatic now comes with a rear diff lock as standard, and towing capacity has been given an official step-up to 3000kg, 500kg more than before.
The engine is the same as you’ll find in a HiLux, but thanks to extra sound deadening in the Prado overall refinement is improved with lower noise levels under load and greatly reduced vibrations from the engine.
Even with 450Nm the Prado is quite a lumbering behemoth, and although the engine does its best to shrug off the vehicle’s weight, acceleration is more gradual than you might expect from high-tech European diesel engines.
That’s fine though, in Toyota’s case the sturdy Prado feel less encumbered with a full payload, and while its slow steering and wallowy ride amplify the ponderous feel, away from town the Prado comes into its own.
Open road ride is a little loose until some weight is added in (be it passengers or cargo) but it settles into a cushy mile-eater once loaded up. There are a few minor rattles in the rear from the folding seats, but otherwise wind and road noise are well managed.
Head off the beaten track and the Prado has all the off-road capability you could need built in, with ‘traditional’ 4x4 features including an electronically engaged low range and locking centre and rear differentials, though the GXL gets by without the advanced Multi-Terrain Select system of the high-end Kakadu model.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Toyota Prado scored 35.11 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2010, this result carries over for subsequent updated versions.
Safety Features: As part of the Prado’s recent update all models now come with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane departure warning and auto high beam. Other standard safety features include electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes, seven airbags (dual front, driver’s knee, front seat side, full-length curtain including third row), front seat belt pretensioners,
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Toyota holds onto a conservative six-month service schedule but allows up to 10,000km between visits. Capped price servicing is a low $240 per visit for the first three years or 60,000km (check with your Toyota dealer for full terms and conditions) making it one of the cheapest vehicles to maintain in its class.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Ford Everest has positioned itself as a prime Prado rival, though in some areas the big Ford lacks the same interior polish, but counters with a bit of extra tech. More grunt under the bonnet is also sure to be a lure for some buyers.
The current Mitsubishi Pajero first surfaced in 2006 (though elements of its underpinnings are even older), and despite updates over the years its age is starting to show. Value is certainly on its side though, with a fully-loaded Pajero Exceed costing just a touch more than the Prado GXL, or a mid-spec GLS offering decent savings with no loss in space, comfort, or off-road ability.
The most basic version of the Land Rover Discovery dips into the Prado's pricing field, but with a 2.0-litre engine that’s down just slightly on torque the Disovery TD4 has to work hard, and adding even a few simple options will soon drive the price up. And although there’s a reasonable equipment list and decent refinement built in, proper off-road hardware is an option.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Toyota Prado has never tried to be all things to all people. It’s a dedicated off-road machine with room for a family and plenty of comfort, but in no way does it pretend to be an ideal urban companion, a car-like handler, or any kind of pace-setter.
Toyota’s strength in Australia means a three-model large SUV range including Kluger and Fortuner covers everything from the civilized to the utilitarian, with Prado offering a balance of both that rural buyers, caravaners, and off-roaders are sure to treasure.
With LandCruiser heritage, minus the bulk, expense, and running costs of the latest generation 200 Series Cruiser, the 2018 Prado seems very likely to hold onto its position as Australia’s most popular large SUV.
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Toyota LandCruiser Prado - Prices, Features, and Specifications