THE Prado clearly stands out. Its chassis is shared with that of the American Tacoma ute, but its body is unique and larger than most in its class. That said, the Prado has a shorter wheelbase than the MU-X and Everest.
Still, interior space is great, from the adjustable rear seats to the tall roof that increases the sensation of space. That’s something noticeable inside, where there’s plenty of room for a family, especially across the cabin. Three-zone airconditioning is a win, too, allowing those in the rear to adjust temperatures.
But for $61,990, the Prado isn’t spectacularly well-equipped, missing out on trinkets such as smart key entry (increasingly common in this market) and making do with basic seat trim. Yet other touches help justify its price premium, such as the 220V power point in the back.
The extra interior roof height and folding seats meant it was the designated water-carrying car. By the time we’d loaded it up with drums, an extra spare tyre and some camping gear it was close to its 2990kg GVM. That GVM may sound high, but the Prado is no featherweight to start with – 2.3 tonnes – so it’s pretty easy to hit that limit.
As a result, the suspension was quite soft in the rear, making it prone to the occasional under-belly scrape. It was more noticeable on faster sections with big peaks between wheel tracks. Perhaps the 220mm of ground clearance didn’t help (it was at least 5mm less than the claim of its three rivals), although we’ve never had issues with the Prado’s clearance before. This is where the more expensive
Kakadu’s self-levelling rear air suspension may have come in handy, as well as the VX and Kakadu’s KDSS suspension that gives better body control.
Points are made up with the full-time 4WD system. It’s a small thing, but being able to roll into Halls Creek without having to worry about disengaging the front wheels simplifies things. With a decent traction control system it meant we never needed the centre locking diff.
The Prado is beginning to show its age on the inside. Its sizeable slabby dash displays the navigation system close to the driver’s line of sight. That dash disliked the Canning’s unforgiving corrugations, jumping around like a hyperactive two-year-old.
Not that anything ever separated from where it should have been. The Prado is a tough beast and one that dealt admirably with the blows. Importantly, it was comfortable. The chunky steering wheel tops off a decent driving position, too.
Further aft the Prado is one of a rare breed of modern off-roaders with a swingout door, which is both a plus and a minus. The big plus is how easily accessible it makes the spare wheel; although, for quick roadside stops it lacks the sun or rain protection a rising tailgate can provide.
The big change in the Prado, that is otherwise largely unchanged since the 150 Series arrived in 2009, is the engine. Despite its newness, the 2.8-litre is somewhat underwhelming, particularly when paired with the heft of the Prado. It isn’t overloaded with grunt – although the 450Nm is pretty handy and arrives with gusto by 1600rpm, ensuring effortless midrev progress.
Despite having the lowest claimed fuel figure of our quartet, 8.0L/100km, the Prado was the thirstiest in the real world, using 14.9L/100km – at least 15 per cent more than its nearest rival. That said, it was carrying a heavier load.
No complaints with its fuel capacity. At 150 litres it’s the biggest standard tank in a production car (see ‘Fuel for Thought’ sidebar), something that allowed it to travel the entire CSR without anything more than the regular refuel about midway through.
So, you call this a water crossing? Full-time 4WD is handy on red, bumpy tracks.
The rougher it gets, the happier it seems to be.