Toy­ota’s Prado GXL looks big, but it sure doesn’t drive big.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - WITH CAM WARD

LARGE SUVs can be an ac­quired taste, but that is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. In the case of Toy­ota, the Prado has ac­tu­ally proved a very pop­u­lar taste and a key part of its sta­ble.

Prado is Aus­tralia’s best-selling large SUV, so clearly there’s a de­cent mar­ket for a ve­hi­cle with the ca­pac­ity to seat seven, be ro­bust enough to head off road with con­fi­dence but not look out of place around town.

And the new ver­sion re­leased this month should do noth­ing to lessen that ap­peal.

It may look the same as the ver­sion re­leased about two years ago, but it is a dif­fer­ent story un­der the hood, where there is now the choice of a new turbo-diesel en­gine, a re­vised petrol V6 and new six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Cars­guide had the chance to get be­hind the wheel of the mid­dle-of-the-range GXL the day af­ter it was de­liv­ered in Gee­long. As with its pre­de­ces­sor, it is likely to prove a pop­u­lar choice here; the GXL ac­counts for more than three-quar­ters of all Prado sales.

The first thing to strike the un­ac­cus­tomed is the driv­ing po­si­tion. It feels like I’ve never sat as high above the road in a pas­sen­ger car (the side step should have been an in­di­ca­tion of what was to come).

But that slightly dis­con­cert­ing per­spec­tive soon dis­ap­pears as the Prado swings out into traf­fic. It looks big but doesn’t “drive big”. The new 2.8-litre four-cylin­der diesel is smaller than its pre­de­ces­sor, yet out­put has been in­creased (up to 450Nm of torque) while both fuel use and emis­sions are down, thanks in part to a par­tic­u­late fil­ter.

It’s a sim­i­lar story with the 4.0-litre V6 petrol en­gine, which gains new in­jec­tors for im­proved fuel flow and atom­i­sa­tion.

Both en­gines are euro 5 com­pli­ant for emis­sions for the first time in Aus­tralia.

Mean­while, the new six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion marks the first use in a Toy­ota of tech­nol­ogy that mon­i­tors ac­cel­er­a­tion and other driv­ing con­di­tions to se­lect the most ef­fec­tive use of high-speed gears.

Toy­ota claims fuel ef­fi­ciency of 8.0 litres/100km (com­bined cy­cle) for the au­to­matic and 7.9 litres for the man­ual — rep­re­sent­ing a 13 per cent fuel econ­omy gain for the man­ual and 8.5 per cent for the auto.

What all that means is nav­i­gat­ing West Fyans St is as easy as pick­ing your way through deep ruts down by Lake Con­newarre.

Im­me­di­ate im­pres­sions are of a big fam­ily ve­hi­cle with an em­pha­sis very much on prac­ti­cal­ity as op­posed to lux­ury.

There are grab han­dles to help the ver­ti­cally chal­lenged clam­ber up on to the cloth-trimmed seats (although leather is avail­able as an op­tion on the range-top­ping Kakadu).

The lib­eral use of hard-wear­ing plas­tic on the in­te­rior will be a lot eas­ier to clean when the great out­doors are in­vari­ably tracked in­side the Prado.

Tow­ing ca­pac­ity when you and the tribe go in search of the great out­doors is 2500kg (max­i­mum). Not that you’re ex­actly slum­ming it. There is a nine-speaker sound sys­tem (up from six in the old model), Blue­tooth, USB in­put and iPod con­trol, au­dio and phone con­trols on the steer­ing wheel, hill-start as­sist con­trol and down­hill as­sist con­trol.

Sat­nav is now stan­dard on the GXL, as is cli­mate-con­trol three-zone airconditioning, rear park­ing sen­sors, roof rails, two ad­di­tional cup hold­ers (al­ways a bonus for larger fam­i­lies) and heated and pow­er­re­tractable ex­te­rior mir­rors

The Kakadu also gains rear cross-traf­fic alert, which warns of ap­proach­ing traf­fic when you’re re­vers­ing.

The only thing to be mind­ful of is that the tailgate is hinged like a door, mean­ing you need to al­low plenty of space when open­ing it. But the full-size spare at­tached to the tailgate should serve as a handy re­minder.

On the plus side, the tailgate also serves as a handy stor­age place for the ba­sic tool kit and there is a 220-volt ac­ces­sory socket in the rear.

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