Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser Prado - Kakadu 3.0 TD 5-dr wagon
Interior space and quality, touring range, blend of off-road ability and family wagon convenience
Room for improvement
Ageing engine lacks low-rpm zest, no leap forward from the previous generation, heavier than before.
1 Oct 2010
By PHILIP LORD
NOT many SUVs have struck a chord so consistently with Australian buyers as well as the Toyota Prado has over the past 14 years.
Almost always at on the top end of the sales charts since the Prado 90 series arrived here in 1996, we have now reached the third-generation of Prado for the Australian market, the 150 series.
Some of the specs are not flattering for the latest Prado – it has lost fuel capacity (down from 180 litres to 150 litres) and reduced seating capacity (down from eight seats to seven) yet it is still heavier than the model it replaces – by about 200kg.
Mind you, if you read the Kakadu’s standard list of new high-tech off-road features, it goes some way to explain why the Prado has put on a bit of beef.
Crawl control (which allows the driver to select pre-determined set speeds for off-road driving), four-camera Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM) (giving a wide-angle view of the area immediately surrounding the vehicle from the central screen), rear diff lock, adjustable front and rear dampers plus air rear suspension and Multi-Terrain Select, which allows the driver to select from different settings for off-road driving, similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response modes.
The rest of the Kakadu’s equipment list is as you would expect for a $90k-plus vehicle: sunroof, touch-screen Satnav, 14-speaker Pioneer audio with DVD multi-changer, ceiling-mounted rear DVD screen and so on.
Although Toyota’s reputation for gold-plated quality has become tarnished of late, there is no evidence of poor workmanship with the premium Prado.
The paint, panels and interior fittings looking like they were applied properly and made of good quality materials.
The Toyota Prado has what the car-company marketing departments call ‘command driving position’ down pat. You are perched up there like a commander of a boat looking out to sea. The analogy is a little unfortunate with SUVs, because many of them handle like a boat and are most likely to be seen stuck in a sea of traffic.
So the driver will find the Prado easy to see out of to the front and sides – and with large side mirrors, to the rear but there is little point looking out the back window when backing up – except to orientate yourself – because you won’t see anything remotely close.
Lucky then that the Kakadu has a rear-vision camera as standard, taking out the guess work of reverse parking.
The front seats are comfortable, although covered in slippery, smooth-texture leather and with a flat seat base. Yet the seatback has ample lateral support and you can cover long distances in the Kakadu’s pews before you start to shift uncomfortably in your seat.
Space in the second row seat area is generous with the seat slide set back and while a little flat in the cushion it will accommodate three adults with a fair degree of comfort. For pre-teen children there is ample room for three child seats, and anchor points are well positioned in the cargo floor.
Getting into the third row involves some gymnastics for adults – not unusual for this class of vehicle – but kids will have no problems getting in.
The cargo area is a useful, squared off space but Toyota’s continued use of ‘military style’ spare wheel fitment on a side-swinging tailgate is fast becoming old fashioned. Sorry Toyota, but the SUV world has well and truly moved on to horizontal split or lift-up one piece tailgates.
The 1KD-FTV 3.0-litre turbo-diesel is smooth and subdued once warmed up, lacking the gravelly timbre of some diesels.
Around the suburbs, the 3.0-litre is unremarkable. However, while the initial launch feel is crisp when taking off at a relaxed pace, it does not really get much better if you are in a hurry and make full use of the accelerator until around 2000rpm. Typical turbo lag, but there are other SUVs that mask this trait far better.
The Prado’s mid-range torque is good, especially at low to middling speeds. Up a long freeway hill while laden, the diesel does not feel quite so strong.
The five-speed automatic is much the same as in the 120 series, in that it has assertive if not smooth gearshifts, but the calibration appears to have changed in the 150 series to improve fuel consumption. The torque converter locks up too readily and this leads to a frustrating gearshift shuffle if cruising in terrain that would not occur in the 120 series.
The Prado doesn’t handle quite as well as some of its luxury SUV competitors such as the Volkswagen Touareg or Land Rover Discovery 4.
Despite the Kakadu’s adjustable damper settings and air rear springs, it doesn’t have the focus of its competitors and its live rear axle while beneficial for off-roading and towing – does not help on-road ride quality.
Steering is light and it is reasonably direct – in that it won’t wander within a given lane – but without much feedback during cornering. Loads of understeer is the order of the day with Prado
Fuel consumption stayed below 9.0L/100km on a freeway cruise and reached 11.3L/100km during around-town driving.
We can’t help but feel that Toyota saw what Land Rover had done with electronic off-road aids in Discovery 3 and decided to better it when they drew up the development brief for the 150 series.
This may well have been achieved – the jury is still out on that one – but if so it has come at the cost of any real advancement in powertrain or chassis development. It’s a step forward for Prado, but not a step forward for SUV development overall.
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