At home everywhere
BRIAN BASSETT takes to the hills to discover why the Prado can still take on all newcomers
THE problem with driving an icon is that you expect a great deal from it. Since 1951, when the original Land Cruiser was launched it has become synonymous with endurance, durability and reliability.
Turn on your TV and you will see the Land Cruiser Prado marked with the lettering of the United Nations in North Africa and with the markings of the Red Cross in war zones around the world.
The Land Cruiser Prado has been on Arctic expeditions carrying supplies to the white wasteland at the top of the world and into the Amazon jungles bringing relief to isolated expeditions.
Like all iconic vehicles everyone seems to have a story about the Prado. Mine concerns a friend who has a Land Cruiser Prado which is now some 10 years old.
He has to go to Zambia regularly on family business and has been there four times this year.
To date the Prado has done some 400 000 kilometres and he tells me he has no plans to retire the vehicle.
The Prado has a dynamic and aggressive front end dominated by a heavy grill and centrally placed Toyota badge, flanked by adaptive headlights and fog lamps built into the bumper.
The high sides of the Prado are molded to produce flared wheel arches and colour- coded electrically- operated heated side mirrors. The rear is largely taken up by the rear door with its attached spare wheel and rear lighting.
Despite the fact that the Prado is quietly styled and has not changed much over the years, it is nonetheless distinctive and stands out in any parking lot.
The Prado has a luxurious interior of the highest quality.
The vehicle I drove was finished in leather and soft plastics. The electrically- operated seats were comfortable and supportive, with built in memory so you do not have to hunt for your favourite seating position.
The fully- adjustable, multifunction leather and wood steering wheel takes care of the fine multi- speaker sound system as well as the audio Bluetooth function and multi terrain monitor, information display and voice recognition function and speed control.
The central stack is dominated by a screen operated by a large knob, which displays a range of functions like the radio and GPS.
The high driving position is comfortable and the controls are easily viewed and operated.
The gear lever for the auto box is finished in leather and wood, and is particularly tactile.
In five- seat format the Prado takes five adults easily and offers a huge boot space behind the second row of seats.
Just inside the rear door is a button which raises and lowers two additional seats, which are easy to access and even for a large chap like me, make for comfortable long- distance seating. Even with seven seats in place the boot is still large enough for a family’s weekend luggage, or if you are off to the bush, for your tent and mountain bikes.
Safety and security
The Prado is built to undertake missions anywhere in the world in safety and comfort.
Whether it is collecting you family from school, or working for an international organisation in North Africa or Afghanistan, the Land Cruiser Prado is equipped to do the job.
The Prado is all- wheel drive and has just about every safety device you can think of.
There is the usual ABS with EBD, Vehicle Stability Control, Active Traction Control, Multi Terrain Select, PDC and rear camera, Hill Start Assist, Downhill Assist and eight airbags, which surround passengers in an emergency. The diff lock can be engaged for front or rear and there is a crawl function which takes care of boulder- strewn surfaces. A button raises the vehicle to accommodate particularly bad terrain and two settings make even the worst terrain fairly easy to negotiate.
The Prado has a 700 mm wade depth, an inclination angle of around 45 degrees and a tilt angle of 42 degrees.
The vehicle has a reinforced passenger cabin and chassis.
Performance and handling
The Prado has a three- litre VX diesel engine, putting out 120 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque.
The Common Rail Diesel engine is turbo- charged and intercooled and a powerful pleasure to drive.
In town the Prado will do everything required of a spacious, well mannered vehicle and cart your family about in safety.
On the national road you have to watch the speed, which is inclined to creep upwards.
The D- roads in the Midlands provide no challenge at all and the only real test we could think of for the vehicle was to drive it upwards towards Hilton on the hillsides above the city, which often have no roads at all.
We commenced by engaging the rear diff and driving up one of the steepest slopes in the city, which is deeply rutted and covered with smooth, slippery sand.
The Prado flattened the slope without a problem. The same can be said of the other rough forestry tracks we drove, which eventually brought us to Hilton.
The best compliment for the Prado, however came from the back- seat driver with the bad back, who commented she felt no difference in the Prado’s smooth ride on tar or over the bumps.
Even though you will not buy this remarkable vehicle for its speed, 0- 100 km/ h takes about 12,5 seconds and top speed is around 175 km/ h. Fuel consumption is entirely terrain dependent but you should get around 11,5l per 100 km in normal driving.
Costs and the competition
The Prado 3.0 ODT VX comes in at about R800 000 and you get a three- year/ 100 000 km warranty, as well as a fiveyear/ 90 000 km service plan. Both are upgradable. You also get to leave this car to your children and grandchildren, but you should also look at the Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW X5, Ford Everest and Mercedes Benz GLE.
The 2015 Land Cruiser 200 builds upon the rock solid foundation of its predecessors and adds a host of technological advancements, which Toyota states makes this the best and most capable Land Cruiser yet. The roots of the Toyota Land Cruiser, the 1951 Type 25 BJ Land Cruiser modelled on the WW2 Jeep.