Too tough for town

It’s built rugged for the bush but the new Prado will spend more time on city roads

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

GREY no­mads dream about the Toy­ota Prado. It’s big and tough and has a rock-solid rep­u­ta­tion.

Me? Not so much. I’m not a car­a­van man and I’m not big on a crawl­ing 4WD ad­ven­ture into the un­known. The peo­ple who like to tow and who like bogs, beaches and out­ra­geous climbs, think the Prado is per­fect.

Now it must be more per­fect, be­cause it’s just had a tickle with a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box, a new turbo diesel that’s cleaner, thriftier and with more torque.

The top-line Kakadu now has rear cross-traf­fic alert in its safety pack­age and adds leather seats and rear DVD screens.

But do the dream­ers re­ally want to drop $85,000 on the Prado Kakadu that’s just left my drive­way? And will they set­tle for some­thing rated to tow only 2.5 tonnes, pre­dictably lower than the flag­ship LandCruiser but also well be­hind a lot of 4WD utes in­clud­ing the new HiLux?

The Kakadu is far more likely to be spot­ted on a sub­ur­ban school run than deep into the name­sake na­tional park in the Top End.

But I’m get­ting ahead of my­self, and the new Prado. The up­date is a sig­nif­i­cant change as Toy­ota rat­tles through its SUV line-up — now with seven mod­els from RAV4 to LandCruiser — with a wave of changes and ad­di­tions.

The HiLux is now new, and more like an SUV than a ute for a lot more peo­ple who want a flex­i­ble four-door fam­ily con­veyance. There is also the HiLux-based For­tuner, which is most likely to pinch Prado buy­ers, with out­back tough­ness at a more-af­ford­able price.

I check with the neigh­bours, Ja­son and Cherise, for their take as former Prado own­ers who now have an Audi Q5 in the drive­way. They re­ally like the plush­ness of the Kakadu over their dearly de­parted GXL and can feel the im­prove­ments to

the en­gine and the cushi­ness of the sus­pen­sion.

They also like safety gear in­clud­ing radar cruise con­trol and blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing and the rear-view cam­era, as well as the moon­roof and re­frig­er­ated cool box. If it was up to them, the Prado would def­i­nitely get The Tick.

But it’s my turn and my vote, ... on a ve­hi­cle that I strug­gled ini­tially to like.

I can feel the plush­ness and wheel con­trol in the sus­pen­sion, which I know will work any­where thanks to rear air con­trol and vari­able set­tings, and it’s com­pletely un­ruf­fled on my rough­est test road. Steer­ing and seats are fine, while the sixyear-old is lov­ing the DVD player and his per­sonal head­phones.

The Prado has nearly 10 per cent more torque and claimed fuel econ­omy of about 8.0L/100km — though not when tow­ing or crawl­ing — yet it still feels slow and slug­gish. It’s very slow off the mark, is not great for over­tak­ing and needs push­ing to hold at 110km/h on the free­way. And it feels, well, old. “That’s be­cause it’s a proper four-wheel drive. It’s body-on­frame, re­mem­ber,” says Toy­ota spokesman Mike Breen.

But the world has changed and it’s a re­al­ity that the vast ma­jor­ity of 4WDs, even Pra­dos, do not go off-road. So a lot of the gear in the car — from the low-range su­per-grip trans­mis­sion to the gi­ant wheels and heavy­weight tyres — is wasted as ex­tra mass.

There’s the con­trast and con­flict in the Prado.

There is, equally, sense in look­ing at the lesser Prado mod­els, which now start at $52,990 for the five-seater GX man­ual diesel. It adds $2000 for an auto, while the diesel has a $1000 premium over the equiv­a­lent petrol V6 petrol.

There were price cuts ear­lier this year when the im­port duty dropped so over­all the up­date brings price in­creases of 0.5 to 2.6 per cent. Toy­ota trum­pets its capped-price ser­vic­ing at $220 a visit.

The Prado (like the larger LandCruiser that pro­vides most of its build­ing) is usu­ally one of the most ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles to run in Aus­tralia, from the pur­chase price and (lower now) thirst, to re­plac­ing tyres.

Still torn, I put the num­bers aside and go for one last drive to try to think like a Prado owner.

I can’t re­sist com­par­ing it with other SUVs re­cently in the Cars­guide garage .

There’s the ex­cel­lent Kia Sorento that’s my choice for a sub­ur­ban seven-seater. The Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport can match the big Toy­ota of­froad, is much more mod­ern in ev­ery way though it rates even lower for tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

So there are SUVs that are cheaper, and more mod­ern, and are far more fam­ily friendly in the real world where the out­back he­roes re­ally live.

The neigh­bours might like a new Prado in­stead of their Q5 but I can’t see the Audi leav­ing any time soon. They have come to love the qual­ity and re­fine­ment, they like week­ends away but don’t have a big car­a­van and they’re def­i­nitely nei­ther grey nor no­mads.

TICK OR NO TICK

So it comes back to me. I can’t see what’s so spe­cial about the Prado in 2015. No Tick.

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