Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2014 Toyota Prado.
Toyota LandCruiser made its name during the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme as a rugged no-nonsense workhorse. While the latest Toyota Prado has its genesis in those vehicles, it is light years ahead.
Updated late last year, frontal styling of the Prado follows a familiar theme, but has a much bolder look than the previous model, adding a sharper edge.
There are not only significant changes to the exterior and interior of the Prado, but also improvements to seating access, handling, suspension and 4WD systems.
As part of the revamp, Toyota has dropped the three-door Prado which managed only modest sales, with buyers clearly preferring the practicality of five doors.
Toyota recognised the limitations of access to the third row of seats and in the new model has increased the forward folding angle of the second row seats by more than 12 per cent, which has created an easier entry and exit for the third row occupants.
Prado now has four models: GX, a five-seater with optional seven seats, the seven-seat GXL and VX, and top of the range Kakadu.
Traditionally GX is favoured by fleet buyers such as mining companies. The GXL has a strong following with private buyers and accounts for around 70 per cent of total Prado sales. While VX and Kakadu appeal to luxury buyers and are specified accordingly.
Engines remain the same with the 202kW and 380Nm 4.0-litre petrol and 127kW/410Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel.
The Prado GX and GXL come standard with a six-speed manual transmission and offer an optional five-speed sequential auto. Prado VX and Kakadu come standard with the automatic transmission.
Fuel consumption is officially rated at 8.5L/100km from the diesel and 11.5L/100km from the petrol.
There is no change to the vital statistics of size or the off-road handling with the turning circle remaining at 11.6 metres while the approach, departure and ramp over angles are also untouched.
Prado has a revised interior with the centre stacker having a new audio panel above the 7-inch full colour screen that shows the reversing camera images. There’s satellite navigation on VX and Kakadu. Prado GX gets manual air conditioning while the others have dual-zone air conditioning.
Australia’s grey-nomad community will be pleased with the addition of trailer sway control.
While the previous model Kakadu had a system that offered off-road settings of rock, mogul, loose rock and mud and sand, the system now has a fifth setting – rock and dirt. This gives more traction control on slippery rocks when ascending hills.
This system works only in low range and the driver simply switches between modes with the selected mode being shown in the instrument cluster on a new 4.2-inch colour information display between the speedo and tachometer.
Prado Kakadu has a forward looking wide angle camera lens with images showing on the 7-inch screen that gives a front-of-bonnet view of what’s ahead. This is useful when topping ridges where the driver is unable to see where the road leads, or what sort of drop-off is faced.
VX and Kakadu models use a different Australian-developed suspension system than GX and GXL. Toyota purchased the rights to use the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System from a Western Australia company.
This new model has an improved version of the technology which benefits handling stability and ride comfort with smoother front-rear weight transfer during cornering. The system enables the stabiliser bars to loosen for off-road work giving longer wheel articulation and then tightens the bars for smoother turning on-road.
Although the Prado GX and GXL have different suspension set ups to VX and Kakadu the differences are only marked when at the extremes: in difficult off-road conditions and cornering on-road.
In ‘normal’ driving both systems cope well with the hefty weight of Prado – the lightest variant is 2205 kg while Kakadu tips the scales at 2435 kg.
Unfortunately due to inclement conditions during our test drive we were unable to really test the off-road wheel travel of the Kakadu, so that will have to wait until we have Kakadu for a week-long test.
On road however, the Kakadu is smoother around the bends than the GXL and seems to sit flatter.
We also like the front mounted wide-angle camera for off-road work, although it does take some getting used to for anyone accustomed to viewing the road ahead in the usual way. It seems to us to be a valuable tool for those who do venture well off the beaten track.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 3.0 litre diesel producing 127kW and 410Nm or 4.0 litre petrol V6 producing 200 kW and 380Nm
Transmission: Five speed auto or six speed manual
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $55,900 to $92,590