The top-spec Prado Kakadu isn’t just loaded with lux­ury and con­ve­nience kit, it’s also very dif­fer­ent me­chan­i­cally to lesser Pra­dos.

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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.


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.


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.


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).



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.

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