Weekend Courier - - Driveway - Joshua Dowl­ing

TOY­OTA’S lat­est facelift for the Prado re­places the ver­ti­cal ‘ele­phant ears’ head­light de­sign with more con­ven­tional, hor­i­zon­tal head­lamps, tougher look­ing grille, new bumper and dark ac­cented tail­lights.

Most vari­ants gain au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing but not man­u­als (such as the one we tested, the GX five-seater from $58,450 drive-away, the cheap­est ticket into a Prado). Auto lifts the price to $61,600 and the auto-only seven seat GX is $64,200 drive-away.

The au­dio touch­screen is big­ger, nav­i­ga­tion and CD player are stan­dard, though there’s still no Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto. The base model gets a con­ve­nient sen­sor key with push but­ton start but not auto head­lights.

The war­ranty is only three years/100,000km, service in­ter­vals are short at six months/10,000km but the first six ser­vices are just $220 each.

The GX is a com­fort­able place to be. The qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als is ex­cel­lent, the seats are su­per com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, and there is am­ple stor­age in the doors, glove­box and a gi­ant, deep cen­tre con­sole. There’s no short­age of room front or back.

The Prado is sur­pris­ingly re­fined. It’s a quiet and smooth op­er­a­tor with plenty of sound dead­en­ing be­tween the cabin and diesel en­gine. The off-road tyres are quiet, too. Seven airbags and the Prado re­tains its ear­lier five-star ANCAP rating; if tested to cur­rent stan­dards, the lack of au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing (AEB) would make it in­el­i­gi­ble for a five-star score.

A rear camera is stan­dard but the dis­play is not as clear or as sharp as in other cars, or other Toy­otas.

The guid­ing lines still don’t turn with the steer­ing and rear park­ing sen­sors are not stan­dard on the GX.

The 2.8-litre turbo diesel can’t match the power of some ri­vals but it’s a smooth and ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tor.

The six-speed man­ual is a gem, work­ing well with the en­gine’s torque, but tow­ing ca­pac­ity is 2500kg; the auto can haul 3000kg.

Ride com­fort is ex­cel­lent thanks to the cushy off-road tyres but they don’t turn as sharply as road-bi­ased rub­ber, so you need to take it easy in round­abouts and tight turns, es­pe­cially in the wet. Other mod­els get a dig­i­tal speedo. Long range fuel tanks mean you can get more than 1100km be­tween re­fills.

Ver­dict: Save some money, don’t worry about the chrome bits. The Prado GX tops my list as a se­ri­ously ca­pa­ble off-road wagon that doesn’t cost the earth.

The Toy­ota Prado GX.

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