WORLD OF WHEELS

Fresh ap­peal for Toy­ota’s Prado

The Herald (South Africa) - - LEISURE -

SINCE its launch in 2009, Toy­ota’s cur­rent gen­er­a­tion Land Cruiser Prado has con­sis­tently sold about 90 units a month in South Africa, an in­di­ca­tion of its pop­u­lar­ity, but it is some­thing to be­hold when you con­sider where the model is priced rel­a­tive to its ri­vals.

The model was given a few cos­metic and in­te­rior up­dates in 2013 to re­main rel­e­vant among com­peti­tors such as the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, which has re­cently launched in its fifth in­car­na­tion. So, it comes as no sur­prise that the Prado has again gone un­der the knife to try to keep it fresh.

Sub­tle cos­metic changes in­clude new, elon­gated head­lights re­plete with day­time run­ning lights flank­ing a spruced-up grille.

The front valance has been jazzed up and in­cludes new fog light hous­ings, while the over­all look is a nod to­wards the larger and plusher Land Cruiser 200. The side pro­file has es­sen­tially re­mained the same with a sim­i­lar 18-inch al­loy wheel de­sign. The rear has up­dated 3D tail lights with C-shaped (for Cruiser) brake lights.

While the ba­sic TX spec­i­fi­ca­tion re­mains, there is a new flag­ship trim level in­tro­duced in the form of the VX-L, which takes the al­ready com­pre­hen­sive VX trim and beefs it up with ex­tra kit.

This in­cludes fea­tures such as a moon­roof (sun­roof in Toy­ota par­lance) and sev­eral safety nets in­clud­ing a Pre-Crash sys­tem that warns you of your ap­proach­ing speed should the ve­hi­cle ahead sud­denly re­duce speed.

There is Lane Keep As­sist and auto high beam head­lights that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just for ap­proach­ing vehicles.

Hop into the cabin, par­tic­u­larly the VX-L vari­ants which we drove at the model’s launch in KwaZulu-Natal, and there’s a marked dif­fer­ence from the out­go­ing model. This in­cludes a new drop-down fas­cia, re­plete with a ro­tary dial set­ting for the Multi Ter­rain Se­lect to al­ter driving modes.

An en­hanced sur­round-view cam­era is use­ful for park­ing and off-road driving.

The in­te­rior has been re­vised, in­clud­ing new wood trim op­tions.

The third row of seats still pro­vides a rea­son­able amount of space for oc­ca­sional use. Pric­ing starts at a com­pet­i­tive R821 700 for the 3.0D TX model, plateau­ing at R969 600 for the 3.0D VX-L.

In­ter­est­ingly, Toy­ota Aus­tralia has slashed prices on its up­dated Prado mod­els, in sim­i­lar fash­ion to what we re­ported pre­vi­ously in the in­stance of the re­cently up­graded For­tuner and Hilux mod­els. But South Africa will get no such price cuts.

Mo­ti­va­tion still comes in two en­gine op­tions – the 4.0l V6 petrol with 202kW and 381Nm and the 3.0l tur­bod­iesel vari­ant with 120kW and 400Nm.

The former is paired to a six-speed au­to­matic, while the lat­ter makes do with an an­ti­quated five-speed auto box. It is in this area that the model seems to lose com­pet­i­tive edge. Both these en­gines have been car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous For­tuner mod­els and it is the diesel in par­tic­u­lar that falls short.

While Toy­ota SA ad­mits it has the lat­est Euro 6 2.8l tur­bod­iesel en­gine avail­able in other mar­kets, it will not be of­fered in South Africa as it will re­quire the en­gine to be cal­i­brated for Euro 3 emis­sion stan­dards and this coun­try is ap­par­ently too small a mar­ket for the com­pany to make those adap­ta­tions.

That’s a pity as the en­gine em­ployed is de­cid­edly un­der­pow­ered for open-road use as it re­quires ev­ery ounce of throt­tle in­put to sling­shot past long trucks.

Then there is the lack of re­fine­ment which, at this price level, seems out of char­ac­ter for a ve­hi­cle of this stature.

One of my big­gest crit­i­cisms of the pre-facelift model was its wal­low­ing dis­po­si­tion when go­ing around bends and even that seems to have been di­alled down in this model, which is a good thing. This has been done with­out the ex­pense of ride qual­ity, which re­mains one of the model’s fortes, par­tic­u­larly off the beaten track. To put the Prado’s 215mm ground clear­ance to the test, we sub­jected the ve­hi­cle to one of the most chal­leng­ing ter­rains in south­ern Africa – the tor­tur­ous Sani Pass which winds up the Drak­ens­berg into Lesotho from KwaZulu-Natal.

The ve­hi­cle scaled the gru­elling pass with rel­a­tive ease thanks to low-range and that gen­er­ous ground clear­ance.

It is ar­guably un­der these con­di­tions that the Prado’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties shine through.

JAZZED UP: De­sign changes are minor, aimed at giv­ing the Prado a look to com­pete with fresher ri­vals

Pic­tures: MOTORPRESS

BACK VIEW: The rear gets new lights fea­tur­ing a C-shape

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