Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser Prado - 5-dr wagon range
Good ride and refinement for a hardcore off-roader, cabin quality and ergonomics, trick off-road modes and front camera
Room for improvement
More expensive than before, towing capacity still lower than rivals, fussy five-speed auto
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17 Nov 2014
THE Prado remains Australia’s top-selling large SUV, but only by the skin of its figurative teeth. The question is, can this mild mid-life update keep at bay a ravening horde of rivals led by Jeep’s booming Grand Cherokee, which is close to overtaking the Toyota in the sales race this year.
Notwithstanding that particularly remarkable statistic, the Prado equation remains much as before: it’s built to a formula a little different to the rest, in various ways, and therefore stands alone for a large horde of buyers.
For instance, cars such as the Ford Territory offer the same seven-seat capacity, but can’t touch the Prado off the beaten path. The Grand Cherokee has the off-road chops but only five seats. The ute-based Colorado 7 or Isuzu MU-X are just as rugged but lack refinement. Mitsubishi’s Pajero and Nissan’s Y61 Patrol are as old as Methuselah.
Toyota’s offering remains a compromise car, and that’s why you see so many both traversing the outback and transporting the kids to their suburban schoolyards.
Toyota’s vast service network and the rusted-on buyers that help it thrive help no end as well.
But it also remains a pricey beast, and this new one is between $236 and $1455 more than before (with the exception of the unchanged base model, which starts at $55,990 plus on-road costs). The GXL favoured by 75 per cent of buyers kicks off from $61,490, while the VX and Kakadu versions cost at least $77,990 and $91,590 respectively – that’s many thousands more than all rivals.
If you’re just looking at a Prado for the school-run, it’s hard to justify the extra spend over the excellent Ford or Jeep, frankly. But if you want to tackle the bush, the Prado steps into its own.
First up, those looks. The new grille is a polariser, with some of our contingent finding it somewhat ostentatious. But it’s all subjective.
Under the skin, Toyota doesn’t mess with the formula. The unchanged 4.0-litre quad-cam V6 petrol engine still makes 202kW of power and 380Nm of torque through a five-speed automatic transmission that can also be used with the sequential shift function. Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is a claimed 11.5 litres per 100km.
However, 95 per cent of sales are the 127kW/410Nm (between 1600 and 2800rpm) 3.0-litre turbo-diesel matched to either six-speed manual or five-speed auto transmissions (VX and Kakadu are auto-only). Consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km (8.8 for the manual).
Both transmissions are matched to a full-time four-wheel drive system with a lockable Torsen centre differential and two-speed transfer case.
A strong and refined unit it may be, but its 2500kg towing capacity falls short of the 3000kg-plus figure of many ute-based rivals, and even Ford’s 2700kg turbo-diesel Territory.
The automatic diesel combination is the most popular of all, and while the five-speed unit has proven itself reliable, it retains a propensity to hunt around for the perfect ratio, with an especial tendency to hold too-low a gear on a decline.
The more upmarket dashboard design lifts the look inside, and a standard reversing camera is a welcome addition. There remains a plethora of soft-touch surfaces, and the quality feels bombproof.
The redesigned rear seat helps access to the third-row seat, and legroom in the middle row remains vast, but the tailgate-mounted spare wheel makes opening the door (from a side hinge, not a split one) a chore.
Time spent on an off-road course shows the Prado still means business, with the long-travel front independent/ live rear axle suspension copping a workout.
Upmarket versions get a five-mode traction control system that adjusts torque delivery depending on the nature of the surface being driven.
The frontal camera on higher-end versions is also handy, considering the big slab-like bonnet impinges on vision.
The addition as standard of trailer sway control - which helps prevent ‘jack-knifing’ when undergoing a swerve with a trailer - and an emergency brake signal to the range are both very welcome and overdue, while the Kakadu also gains a blind-spot monitor and pre-crash auto brakes as standard fare.
Underneath the VX and Kakadu is an improved version of the Australian-developed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), featuring an increased front-cylinder rod diameter and rear-cylinder piston diameter. GX and GXL versions miss out.
These changes have increased input force by improving the performance of the front and rear cylinders, meaning tweaks to the front stabiliser bar diameter and thickness, front stabiliser bar bush inner diameter, front lower-arm stabiliser bracket thickness and the frame KDSS bracket thickness.
Toyota also claims the power-assisted steering has been ‘recalibrated’ to increase build-up feeling off centre and provide a “better connection to the road”. The Kakadu has the added features of Adaptive Variable Suspension front and rear and height-adjustable rear air suspension.
The Prado still rides as if it’s floating on air, and its refinement is on par with car-like rivals, and a mile ahead of its cheaper, ute-based contemporaries. The steering remains vague, and there’s still evident bodyroll, but these features are a trade-off for the excellent off-road ability. You can’t really have it both ways.
Additional specifications to each variant over the old model are as follows: the GX gets a rear-view camera, newly designed 17-inch six-spoke alloy wheels, audio controls on the steering wheel, an LCD central display and new six-speaker display audio system (with a seven-inch central screen).
This in addition to standard equipment such as cruise control push-button start, 220-volt accessory socket, and USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary connections.
The volume-selling GXL includes the new six-speaker display audio, the 17-inch alloy wheels, plus heated and power-retractable exterior mirrors in return for price hikes between $355 and $555.
Additional equipment found in the VX over the GX includes climate-control, rear parking sensors, roof rails and side steps, fog lights, a leather steering wheel and seven seats as standard.
There are also newly designed 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlamps with daytime running lights, while the cabin gets a 17-speaker JBL multimedia audio system and DAB+ digital radio, as well as a full-colour display, heated second-row seats and a new control panel for the various rear-seat functions.
Upgrades to top-of-the-range Kakadu ($1455 more expensive, to $91,590 for the petrol/$92.590 for the diesel) include the adoption of a Blu-ray player for the rear-seat nine-inch entertainment system.
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