THE PRADO IS AUSTRALIA’S BEST-SELLING 4X4 WAGON FOR GOOD REASON.
THE 150 Series Land Cruiser, better known as a Prado, arrived in Australia in 2009 and was heavily based on the 120 Series that dates back to 2002; so there’s no escaping the fact that, at its core, the Prado is an ageing design. However, much of the Prado is new, with the 2.8-litre diesel engine and six-speed automatic gearbox only arriving in late 2015, replacing the previous 3.0-litre diesel and five-speed automatic. The engine change was driven by ever-tougher emissions standards, as the 3.0-litre only met the previous Euro 4 standard whereas the 2.8 meets current Euro 5 and won’t need much to meet the upcoming Euro 6 standard. The six-speed automatic was introduced to help fuel economy.
A refreshed Prado, which will primarily bring styling and equipment changes, is on the way; although, there’s a good possibility it will bring a towing capacity (and GCM) upgrade to make it more competitive against the likes of Everest, Pajero Sport, MU-X and Trailblazer. This new Prado won’t be offered with the slow-selling 4.0-litre petrol V6.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
DESPITE being smaller in capacity and running a much lower compression ratio, the Prado’s 2.8-litre four betters the old 3.0-litre in both power and torque. You can put that down to improved thermal efficiency, while the lower compression ratio helps with emissions and general running refinement. The fact that the capacity has been reduced also makes for a smoother running engine, as smaller inline fours have less inherent vibration than larger ones; although, the 2.8 still employs counter-rotating balance shafts to smooth things out further. Interestingly, the otherwise identical engine in the Hilux doesn’t employ balance shafts.
The upside of all this is that the 2.8 is smooth, quiet and generally refined. The downside is that the 2.8’s pedal-tothe metal performance isn’t noticeably improved over the 3.0-litre given the power output has only jumped 4kw (now 130kw), even if the 2.8 is more flexible thanks to a 40Nm jump in maximum torque (now 450Nm).
In this company the Prado is a very distant third in get-upand-go; its 130kw tailing behind the 177kw of the Discovery and the 200kw of the admittedly much heavier Land Cruiser 200. The Prado’s overall performance isn’t helped by its tall overall gearing and the fact that both fifth and sixth are overdrive gears.
Still, the Prado lopes along in an effortless and relaxed manner and is notably more economical than the 200; although, that’s probably more to do with the 200’s extra weight. And, while the Prado’s 2.8 isn’t especially brisk, it’s still flexible at low revs and willing to rev hard if asked. For its part, the six-speed auto offers smooth and decisive shifts, but it’s not particularly sporty or proactive in terms of its shift protocols.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
THE limited-edition Prado Altitude runs 18s like the VX rather than the 17s of the volume-selling GXL, but like the GXL it misses out on KDSS suspension. Unfortunately KDSS isn’t available as an option on the GXL and, therefore, the Altitude. If you want KDSS you have to move up to the VX; although, this could be addressed with the imminent Prado refresh.
Why the fuss? Well, KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) is a brilliantly simple and robust system that provides noticeably flatter handling and sharper steering without compromising ride quality. It does so by automatically varying the tension of the anti-roll bars depending on whether the vehicle is travelling in a straight line or cornering. Without KDSS the Prado doesn’t handle badly, but at the same time it doesn’t like to be pushed hard into and through corners even if it’s far more agile than the much heavier 200.
What you’ll like about the Prado is its supple and quiet ride on all road surfaces. It’s certainly less jarring on the big bumps and potholes than the Discovery, and it’s not far short of the very plush-riding 200 for suspension comfort.
THE lack of KDSS plays its part in what the Prado can and can’t do off-road. In this company, and in situations when wheel travel and traction are at a premium, the Prado needs it to be more competitive. As it was, the Prado struggled on gnarly climbs and could have done with the extra 100mm of rear wheel travel – and the additional front travel – provided by KDSS.
Away from extreme climbs, and away from trying to match the other two here, the Prado, even without KDSS, is a superior offroad performer to most other mid-sized wagons including Pajero Sport, MU-X and Trailblazer and, out of the box, it’s still one of the most off-road capable 4x4s you can buy with or without KDSS. Of this trio it also performed best on the sand.
CABIN, ACCOMMODATION AND SAFETY
PRADO’S nicely finished cabin, while spacious, is notably smaller than the other two, especially the 200. The driver gets a comfortable driving position with tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, and the front passenger will be more than happy; though, three adults aren’t as comfortable across the back seat as in the 200 or the Discovery due to tight third-row seats. All Prados have five-star ANCAP safety, but only the Kakadu has advanced safety features beyond the usual multiple airbags and Electronic Stability Control, which is mandatory anyway.
IT’S HARD to go past the Prado for practicality; although, in this company, it plays second-division for towing given its 2500kg max capacity is a full 1000kg short of the other two. That’s reflected in its 5370kg GCM, which is more than 1400kg shy of the 200 and nearly 1300kg shy of the Discovery.
On the other hand, the Prado has the longest fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel capacity (not in the Altitude) and thrifty engine. Its wheel and tyre package (17s fit all variants) is also as practical as it comes, there’s a mountain of aftermarket accessories in addition to the factory range and, last but not least, there’s the back-up of Toyota’s extensive dealer network.
The Prado has the longest fuel range thanks to its 150-litre fuel capacity and thrifty engine