Prado
Prado

Toyota Prado: Tanks for the memories

Riley Riley

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What is it?

It seems like an eternity since I drove my first Toyota Prado.

Since the original Prado debuted in 1996, it has clocked up 320,000 sales, making it Australia’s best-selling SUV over the past 19 years.

Now in its fourth generation, the current model was launched back in 2009, a whole 13 years ago, so it is not surprising that it’s starting to show its age.

Prado was last updated in 2020, with more power for the engine and add-ons across the range, but when you get down to it — it’s basically the same old car.

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What’s it cost?

The style hasn’t changed much since they squared it off a few years ago.

Prices start at $60,830 for the five-seat GX. The extra row of seats is a $2550 option.

GXL is $67,530, VX is $77,157 and top of the range Kakadu is $87,807 — all prices before on-road costs.

There’s no three-door, no petrol engine and no manual transmission anymore — the lineup has been rationalised.

As of December 2020, all Prados get a 2.8-litre four cylinder turbo diesel with an automatic transmission.

For grades apart from GX, customers can choose between having the spare mounted on the tailgate or hidden under the rear of the vehicle.

Note, however, that the latter option replaces the second or sub-fuel tank, which reduces the total fuel capacity from 150 to 87 litres.

This won’t be an issue for city dwellers, but could give country folk pause for thought, especially those in outback locations where fuel stops are few and far between.

Our test vehicle, top of the range Kakadu, is very well equipped.

Kakadu features seven seats, leather accented trim, three-zone climate air, keyless entry and start, tint for the rear windows, and a tilt-and-slide sunroof.

There’s also 19-inch alloys, daytime LEDs, auto high beam, auto lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors with rear cross traffic alert, panoramic and multi-terrain monitor, adaptive variable suspension, rear air suspension with auto levelling, rear-seat entertainment, and crawl control and multi-terrain select off-road aids.

A new-generation multimedia system across the range incorporates a larger 9.0-inch touchscreen, enhanced voice recognition, built-in satellite navigation, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and myToyota, which enables third-party apps such as Waze, AccuWeather and Stitcher.

There’s also AM/FM/Digital Radio with premium JBL 14-speaker audio plus a 9.0-inch rear seat entertainment system with three pairs of wireless headphones.

Good luck sporting out who gets the headphones with five in the back.

With seven airbags and five-star safety, the pre-collision safety system includes autonomous emergency braking which can now detect cyclists during the day and pedestrians night and day.

Adaptive cruise control works at high speed while Prado’s lane-departure alert system now offers steering assistance by applying the brakes to one side of the vehicle to help prevent it drifting unintentionally into another lane.

Newly adopted road-sign assist can recognise speed-limit changes and can reset the cruise-control to take a new limit into consideration.

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What’s it go like?

The petrol V6 went bye-byes a while back, no doubt a reflection of the fact 99 per cent of people bought a diesel.

It’s not surprising given its smooth operation and extended driving range.

For example we once drove a GXL all the way from Sydney to the Gold Coast and back again, without having to fill up.

All four grades are powered by the same 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel that produces 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

The diesel is shared with the Toyota Hilux and Hilux-based Fortuner wagon.

It’s paired with a six-speed auto (with paddles shifters in the Kakadu) and drive to all four wheels through a full time four-wheel drive system, with high and low range and a lockable Torsen style centre diff.

The turbo diesel produces 20kW more power and 50Nm more torque than before which is a significant increase, especially the torque.

The extra performance comes from a new ball-bearing turbocharger with a larger turbine and impeller, and improved engine rigidity and cooling.

At the same time it achieves better fuel economy thanks to optimised pistons and piston rings, changes to the cylinder block and head, higher fuel-injection flow rate and the adoption of high-performance materials for the exhaust manifold.

Despite the increase in power, fuel consumption has been shaved from 8.0 to 7.9L/100km and CO2 emissions are down to 209 g/km.

We were getting a very creditable 9.2L/100km after about 400km behind the wheel, but expect around 10.0L/100km.

Fuel capacity is 150 litres with an 87-litre main tank and 63-litre sub tank.

Our test vehicle was optioned with the spare under the back, which means no sub tank.

The tailgate window does however open independently for quick access which is a plus.

It’s also handy because the swing tailgate opens sideways and can be a handful to operate if the vehicle is standing on a hill.

Prado is not a car that likes to be rushed, either on or off road, in a straight line or through corners.

The turbo takes a second or two to spool up, then torque comes on hot and strong with a rush, adding some unpredictability to throttle response.

Importantly, overtaking is still not the easiest of manoeuvres, requiring some planning and spending too much time on the other side of the road.

Ride is cushy, old school, bordering on rolly-polly, thanks to softish suspension and high centre of gravity, although you can adjust the suspension by switching drive modes — with Sport+, Sport, Normal, Eco and Comfort modes from which to choose.

The beige/blonde wood interior trim dates the car, as do the analogue instrument gauges.

Off-road Prado is a force to be reckoned with, able to tackle the rough stuff, without cause for concern.

Kakadu gets the clever, Aussie-designed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and Multi-Terrain Select system (MTS).

When it senses a wheel drop, the system can disengage the stabiliser bars allowing opposing wheels to move independently of each other.

It’s the difference between having a wheel spinning uselessly in the air or that wheel on the ground where it can help to push the vehicle forward.

With crawl control activated, all the driver has to do is steer, even in the roughest conditions.

As capable as it is however the larger Land Cruiser 200 Series, now known as the 300 Series, takes the meaning of off road to a whole new level.

Prado can tow a 3000kg braked trailer, van or boat.

It is covered by a 5-years warranty with 2 years extended engine and driveline coverage.

Capped price servicing is $260 per service up to 3 years, with complimentary map upgrades for 3 years.

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What we like?

  • Comfy
  • Plush interior
  • Real off-roader
  • Centre console cool box

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What we don’t like?

  • Low phone volume
  • No wireless charging
  • Laggy turbo
  • Rolly-polly handling
  • Yucky blonde wood trim
  • Poor rear camera

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The bottom line?

Prado is an ideal vehicle for family adventure, with a braked towing capacity of 3000kg and strong off-road capability.

Fortuitously, we’re preparing to embark soon on an outback adventure, from Broome in Western Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory, along the Gibb River Road.

We’ve been tossing up between renting a Prado or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Personally, I don’t mind the Pajero Sport, but it’s more of a budget focused 4×4.

Prado will cost more, but frankly it’s worth it just for the extra fuel tank capacity, which means if we want to take an unplanned detour  — we won’t need to worry about having enough fuel to get back.

Of course, in the end, it could depend on availability . . .

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Toyota Prado Kakadu, priced from $87,807
  • Looks - 7/10
    7/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
    8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
    8/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
Overall
7.7/10
7.7/10
Riley

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