Fam­ily Value

THE PRADO IS AUSTRALIA’S BEST-SELL­ING 4X4 WAGON FOR GOOD REA­SON.

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

THE 150 Series Land Cruiser, bet­ter known as a Prado, ar­rived in Australia in 2009 and was heav­ily based on the 120 Series that dates back to 2002; so there’s no es­cap­ing the fact that, at its core, the Prado is an age­ing de­sign. How­ever, much of the Prado is new, with the 2.8-litre diesel en­gine and six-speed au­to­matic gear­box only ar­riv­ing in late 2015, re­plac­ing the pre­vi­ous 3.0-litre diesel and five-speed au­to­matic. The en­gine change was driven by ever-tougher emis­sions stan­dards, as the 3.0-litre only met the pre­vi­ous Euro 4 stan­dard whereas the 2.8 meets cur­rent Euro 5 and won’t need much to meet the up­com­ing Euro 6 stan­dard. The six-speed au­to­matic was in­tro­duced to help fuel econ­omy.

A re­freshed Prado, which will pri­mar­ily bring styling and equip­ment changes, is on the way; al­though, there’s a good pos­si­bil­ity it will bring a tow­ing ca­pac­ity (and GCM) up­grade to make it more com­pet­i­tive against the likes of Ever­est, Pa­jero Sport, MU-X and Trail­blazer. This new Prado won’t be of­fered with the slow-sell­ing 4.0-litre petrol V6.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

DE­SPITE be­ing smaller in ca­pac­ity and run­ning a much lower com­pres­sion ra­tio, the Prado’s 2.8-litre four bet­ters the old 3.0-litre in both power and torque. You can put that down to im­proved ther­mal ef­fi­ciency, while the lower com­pres­sion ra­tio helps with emis­sions and gen­eral run­ning re­fine­ment. The fact that the ca­pac­ity has been re­duced also makes for a smoother run­ning en­gine, as smaller in­line fours have less in­her­ent vi­bra­tion than larger ones; al­though, the 2.8 still em­ploys counter-ro­tat­ing bal­ance shafts to smooth things out fur­ther. In­ter­est­ingly, the oth­er­wise iden­ti­cal en­gine in the Hilux doesn’t em­ploy bal­ance shafts.

The up­side of all this is that the 2.8 is smooth, quiet and gen­er­ally re­fined. The down­side is that the 2.8’s pedal-tothe metal per­for­mance isn’t no­tice­ably im­proved over the 3.0-litre given the power out­put has only jumped 4kw (now 130kw), even if the 2.8 is more flex­i­ble thanks to a 40Nm jump in max­i­mum torque (now 450Nm).

In this com­pany the Prado is a very dis­tant third in get-upand-go; its 130kw tail­ing be­hind the 177kw of the Dis­cov­ery and the 200kw of the ad­mit­tedly much heav­ier Land Cruiser 200. The Prado’s over­all per­for­mance isn’t helped by its tall over­all gear­ing and the fact that both fifth and sixth are over­drive gears.

Still, the Prado lopes along in an ef­fort­less and re­laxed man­ner and is no­tably more eco­nom­i­cal than the 200; al­though, that’s prob­a­bly more to do with the 200’s ex­tra weight. And, while the Prado’s 2.8 isn’t espe­cially brisk, it’s still flex­i­ble at low revs and will­ing to rev hard if asked. For its part, the six-speed auto of­fers smooth and de­ci­sive shifts, but it’s not par­tic­u­larly sporty or proac­tive in terms of its shift pro­to­cols.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

THE lim­ited-edi­tion Prado Al­ti­tude runs 18s like the VX rather than the 17s of the vol­ume-sell­ing GXL, but like the GXL it misses out on KDSS sus­pen­sion. Un­for­tu­nately KDSS isn’t avail­able as an op­tion on the GXL and, there­fore, the Al­ti­tude. If you want KDSS you have to move up to the VX; al­though, this could be ad­dressed with the im­mi­nent Prado re­fresh.

Why the fuss? Well, KDSS (Ki­netic Dy­namic Sus­pen­sion Sys­tem) is a bril­liantly sim­ple and ro­bust sys­tem that pro­vides no­tice­ably flat­ter han­dling and sharper steer­ing with­out com­pro­mis­ing ride qual­ity. It does so by au­to­mat­i­cally vary­ing the ten­sion of the anti-roll bars depend­ing on whether the ve­hi­cle is trav­el­ling in a straight line or cor­ner­ing. With­out KDSS the Prado doesn’t han­dle badly, but at the same time it doesn’t like to be pushed hard into and through cor­ners even if it’s far more ag­ile than the much heav­ier 200.

What you’ll like about the Prado is its sup­ple and quiet ride on all road surfaces. It’s cer­tainly less jar­ring on the big bumps and pot­holes than the Dis­cov­ery, and it’s not far short of the very plush-rid­ing 200 for sus­pen­sion com­fort.

OFF-ROAD

THE lack of KDSS plays its part in what the Prado can and can’t do off-road. In this com­pany, and in sit­u­a­tions when wheel travel and trac­tion are at a pre­mium, the Prado needs it to be more com­pet­i­tive. As it was, the Prado strug­gled on gnarly climbs and could have done with the ex­tra 100mm of rear wheel travel – and the ad­di­tional front travel – pro­vided by KDSS.

Away from ex­treme climbs, and away from try­ing to match the other two here, the Prado, even with­out KDSS, is a su­pe­rior of­froad per­former to most other mid-sized wag­ons in­clud­ing Pa­jero Sport, MU-X and Trail­blazer and, out of the box, it’s still one of the most off-road ca­pa­ble 4x4s you can buy with or with­out KDSS. Of this trio it also performed best on the sand.

CABIN, AC­COM­MO­DA­TION AND SAFETY

PRADO’S nicely fin­ished cabin, while spa­cious, is no­tably smaller than the other two, espe­cially the 200. The driver gets a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion with tilt-and-reach steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment, and the front pas­sen­ger will be more than happy; though, three adults aren’t as com­fort­able across the back seat as in the 200 or the Dis­cov­ery due to tight third-row seats. All Pra­dos have five-star ANCAP safety, but only the Kakadu has ad­vanced safety fea­tures be­yond the usual mul­ti­ple airbags and Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, which is manda­tory any­way.

PRAC­TI­CAL­I­TIES

IT’S HARD to go past the Prado for prac­ti­cal­ity; al­though, in this com­pany, it plays sec­ond-di­vi­sion for tow­ing given its 2500kg max ca­pac­ity is a full 1000kg short of the other two. That’s re­flected in its 5370kg GCM, which is more than 1400kg shy of the 200 and nearly 1300kg shy of the Dis­cov­ery.

On the other hand, the Prado has the long­est fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel ca­pac­ity (not in the Al­ti­tude) and thrifty en­gine. Its wheel and tyre package (17s fit all vari­ants) is also as prac­ti­cal as it comes, there’s a mountain of af­ter­mar­ket ac­ces­sories in ad­di­tion to the fac­tory range and, last but not least, there’s the back-up of Toy­ota’s ex­ten­sive dealer net­work.

The Prado has the long­est fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel ca­pac­ity and thrifty en­gine

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