4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

OTHER than a short pe­riod back in 2014 when Jeep Grand Chero­kee sales were peak­ing, the Prado has long been Aus­tralia’s best-sell­ing 4x4 wagon. Be­fore the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of 4x4 utes it was Aus­tralia’s best-sell­ing 4x4 over­all. The Prado is now the de­fault Land Cruiser, given the 200’s ritzy pric­ing (and pos­si­bly larger size) is not to ev­ery­one’s lik­ing. In many ways, not least in size, the Prado is to­day’s 80 or 100 Se­ries – in their day the most pop­u­lar 4x4s.

The Prado is a proper Land Cruiser, a 150 Se­ries to be pre­cise. That’s some­thing of­ten not ac­knowl­edged and even de­nied – just be­cause it’s smaller than a 200 doesn’t mean it’s a lesser ve­hi­cle.

The big ques­tion is: What Prado from the nine-model range is the pick? Dis­count­ing the three petrol mod­els, there are two ways to go with the diesel. If you’re plan­ning on build­ing a bush tourer then the five-seat GX, prob­a­bly in man­ual, is the only way to go. How­ever, if you want more of a gen­eral-du­ties, day-to-day fam­ily 4x4, then we think it’s worth by­pass­ing the pop­u­lar GXL auto and go­ing for a VX.

Trou­ble is the VX is an ad­di­tional $12K over and above the $61,990 GXL auto, which seems like a lot un­til you drive the two back-to-back. The VX of­fers far sportier and flat­ter on-road hand­ing and bet­ter of­froad per­for­mance, thanks to longer and more sup­ple wheel travel. The dif­fer­ence is the VX’S Kinetic Dy­namic Sus­pen­sion Sys­tem (KDSS), a bril­liantly sim­ple hy­drome­chan­i­cal sys­tem that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs the ten­sion on the sus­pen­sion’s sway bars. KDSS is standard on the VX but un­for­tu­nately un­avail­able on the GXL, even as an op­tion.

The VX also ups the ante with leather, heated front- and sec­ond-row seats, elec­tric seat and steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment, pow­er­fold third-row seat­ing, auto head­lights and wipers, a 17-speaker premium au­dio sys­tem and front park­ing sen­sors. You also get 18s in­stead of 17s, but the tyre spec is still very bush-friendly.

Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous 3.0-litre diesel, the new 2.8-litre diesel is no­tice­ably qui­eter, smoother and more flex­i­ble, but it doesn’t of­fer a sig­nif­i­cant jump in out­right per­for­mance.

As ever, the Prado cabin is com­fort­able, roomy and nicely de­tailed, es­pe­cially at the VX spec. Prac­ti­cal fea­tures, such as the 150-litre fuel tank, are all sup­ported by an ex­ten­sive dealer net­work. Plus there’s a vast ar­ray of af­ter­mar­ket en­hance­ments avail­able.

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