Toyota Prado: superb off road, but a people mover it’s not


What is it?

Toyota’s Prado has been a staple of the Japanese goliath’s off-road stable for a good couple of decades.

In one respect, it’s changed little. It’s a stubby-bonneted, rear window-kinked, high riding and boofy looking thing, and it’s been that way since it was released.

Yet it never fails to sell in good numbers and it is as off-road capable as its bigger sibling, the Land Cruiser 200 series.

Once powered by either a petrol engine or diesel, the sole option for motorvation these days is a hefty diesel.

At 2.8 litres it’s much larger than those found in most passenger and SUV vehicles. Torque is the winner here, with 450Nm available, while peak power is 130kW.

You get a 6-speed auto or 6-speed manual with the two lower grades, GX and GXL. There’s no manual available with VX or Kakadu. Want more cogs? Go elsewhere.

It’s also a permanent four-wheel drive, with high and low range available. That may go a little to explaining the combined fuel consumption figure of 8.0L/100km.

On a mainly urban test, and with some heavy dirt testing, we finished on a creditable 10.8L/100km. That’s decent from a 2300kg tare weight vehicle.

Towing? 3000kg for the auto.


What’s it cost?

GXL manual is $59,990, while the auto $62,990 — both prices before on roads. Leather adds $3500 and premium paint another $550.

At the time of writing, 2018 plated, pre-August models, however, are going for $62,036 and $68,186 drive-away.

Why pre-August? Well, it’s like this. In August of 2018, a small exterior change was made — but one that makes a big difference in one key area.

They took the spare wheel off the rear door, making it lighter and easier to open and shut.

At least it became a no cost option — on GXL, VX and Kakadu grades.

As a trade off, the secondary fuel tank is sacrificed so the spare can be relocated underneath the rear.

It’s perhaps the price that is a sticking point. Then, there is the age of the Prado to consider.

Why? An interior is generally harder to re-engineer than the exterior, unless it’s combined with a complete overhaul.

The outside has a stronger resemblance to the Land Cruiser 200 than before.

Dunlop supplies the rubber, with 265/60 Grand Trek AT20’s on 17 inch alloys.

Inside, the test car had a couple of options fitted, but it’s clear the wrinkles are starting to come through the makeup.

It’s a boxy look inside, and even some options such as the heating and venting of the front seats, lack the smooth good looks, rounded ergonomics, and more efficient packaging found in more modern designs.

The silver hue to the plastics up front is also well out of date.

Although it packs seven seats, the third row sits uncomfortably close to the rear door. It also cuts down storage space when raised to a less than desirable 120 litres.

Even when folded it’s not great at 480 litres. With second and third rows folded the final figure is 1833 litres.

Centre row passengers have separate aircon controls though, an unusual but welcome feature in a second tier vehicle.

Safety is pretty good too, with the Toyota Safety Sense package that includes Pre-Collision Warning with pedestrian detection, Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, rear camera and rear sensors. There’s no front sensors though.

The simple dash display features two pairs of analogue dials that frame a 3.5 inch LCD screen, with the centre stack carrying the standard Toyota touchscreen.

Audio is AM/FM/Bluetooth but sans DAB.


What’s it go like?

It’s a bit chalk and cheese. There’s some good driving experiences to be had on tarmac where, sadly, it’ll spend most of its life.

It handles moderately well, has slightly rubbery steering, but the body roll is well controlled.

Brakes are also decent enough, with just the right amount of feedback and travel.

But it’s off-road that the Prado’s legendary Toyota heritage shines.

With centre and rear diff locking available, and taken to our favoured off-road test track, the Prado remained as unfazed as a sleeping baby.

Over rock, gravel, and through deep muddy holes, Prado simply steamrolled through everything, exactly as expected.

Hill Descent Control is also fitted and carried the two tonne plus machine down some good slopes without blinking.

A nifty touch, when low range is engaged via the lower centre stack dial, a clinometers, or angle display option comes up in the driver’s dash display. It shows both nose and tail up and down angle, and roll from left or right side perspective.

With peak torque available between 1600rpm and 2400rpm for the auto, the gearing and final drive in low range takes advantage of the 450Nm, and when travelling back up the slopes previously traversed, the approach angle of 30.4 degrees and departure of 23.5 serves the big machine well.


What we like?

  • Excellent off-road
  • Lazy relaxed diesel engine
  • Easier to use rear door


What we don’t like?

  • Showing its age inside, specifically up front
  • Lack of real rear area cargo space when rear seats are up
  • Shouldn’t be considered a people mover considering its price


The bottom line?

If you’re after a people mover then buy a people mover. SUVs should never be considered a people mover option.

The Prado GXL is a superb off-roader and good on-roader that happens to have seven seats — that’s it.

The interior is dating, the exterior does, at least, look more like the family than before — but it’s no people mover.

If you want to go off-road though, this is right up there in terms of ability.

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Toyota Prado GXL, priced from $59,990
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 7/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 6.5/10
  • Tech - 6.5/10
  • Value - 6.5/10

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