FLASH AND PRACTICAL
The top-spec Prado Kakadu isn’t just loaded with luxury and convenience kit, it’s also very different mechanically to lesser Prados.
THE Prado Kakadu will set you back $84,490, plus on-road costs. For that price it comes fully loaded with a vast array of luxury, convenience, safety and special mechanical features, with only premium paint an extra cost. Compare that to the Discovery SDV6 SE, which starts at the same price but needs a boot-full of options to come up to what the Kakadu has standard.
The significant mechanical features that set the Kakadu apart from the rest of the Prado range include a rear diff lock, terrain-specific settings for the 4x4 system, height-adjustable rear suspension, variable suspension damping and what Toyota calls ‘Crawl Control’, which is like hill-descent control but works both on flat ground and up hills.
Importantly, the Kakadu has Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) as standard, although this is also found on the VX, which is one spec level down from the Kakadu.
KDSS is a relatively simple (essentially hydro-mechanical) means of varying the sway-bar tension to give both flatter on-road handling and more wheel travel off-road – a best-of-bothworlds outcome.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
THE Kakadu is powered by Toyota’s 2.8litre ‘global’ diesel that is the mainstay of the new-gen Hilux. This new smallercapacity diesel and its attendant sixspeed auto – the only gearbox available with the Kakadu – replaced the outgoing 3.0-litre diesel and five-speed auto in the Prado late last year.
This new diesel brings more torque than the 3.0-litre (450Nm v 410Nm) but an insignificant increase in power (up just 3kw), so the performance improvement isn’t great. Nor does the six-speed gearbox help the overall performance, as it just adds a second and taller overdrive ratio rather than tightening up the ratio gaps in the lower gears.
However, the 2.8-litre engine brings
much-improved refinement, which is better than both the 3.0-litre it replaces and the Titanium’s 3.2, which can be a bit gruff at times in comparison. Still, the 2.8 is no match for the Discovery’s V6 for refinement, and it’s behind both engines in performance – especially the SDV6.
The Kakadu’s new six-speed automatic transmission can’t match the finesse of the Discovery’s eight-speed ZF and doesn’t work as well as the Titanium’s six-speed, even if it matches it in general refinement.
The trouble with the Kakadu is that the sixth gear can be too tall at times on undulating country roads, which has the gearbox changing up and down a bit between fifth and sixth. This doesn’t happen with the Titanium.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
EVEN with KDSS, the Kakadu tails the field in regards to on-road handing, especially with its tendency to understeer when pushed hard through tight corners. It’s not behind by much, mind you, but still the tail-ender. The Kakadu-specific variable damping doesn’t make a worthwhile difference, as ‘Sport’ mode only seems to firm up the ride without reducing understeer.
At least ride quality is very good and generally the best; although, on bumpier roads the Kakadu’s rear live axle can’t match the smoothness or control of the SDV6’S independent rear suspension.
THE Kakadu’s supple, long-travel suspension is also the key to its considerable off-road prowess. To give
The Prado’s 150-litre fuel capacity is nearly double that of the Everest and Discovery
you an idea of the benefit of KDSS, a NON-KDSS Prado has 465mm of rearwheel travel; a Kdss-equipped Prado VX has 565mm, a handy improvement in anyone’s language.
In terms of the off-road-specific Kakadu kit, the rear height adjustment is handy even if it doesn’t jack up the vehicle all that much. The low-range-only ‘Multi Terrain Select’ can also be handy, as there is a difference in the programs. However, in a silly arrangement, when you select low-range (and separately lock the centre diff) you then have to select an MTS program, as there is no default program that automatically activates on low-range selection.
The rear locker also has a downside, as when it’s engaged it cancels the ETC on both axles – not just the rear. The jury is also still out on the benefit of ‘Crawl Control’. All of this means the Kakadu’s ability off-road is more about its Kdssequipped chassis, than all the Kakaduspecific add-ons.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
AS WITH any Prado, the cabin is comfortable, spacious and practical – it may not rate quite as highly in the latter two areas as the SDV6 perhaps, but it either matches or betters the Titanium in most departments. Its electric tiltand-reach steering wheel adjustment is luxurious compared to the Everest, as is the smart-key entry and push-button start. At the other end of the vehicle, the Kakadu’s third row works better than the less roomy equivalent in the Everest.
A BIG win for the Prado is its 150-litre fuel capacity, nearly double that of the Everest and Discovery and a major bonus for remote-area touring.
Practical wheel and tyre spec has always been a Toyota given. Even if you aren’t happy with Kakadu’s 18s, it’s a straightforward swap to 17s (either OEM or aftermarket).
PRADO KAKADU $84,490
It has a 700mm wading depth, but we’d fit an aftermarket snorkel.
Of the three vehicles, the Prado feels bumps the most on rough, dusty roads.