DRIVE: MY18 TOY­OTA PRADO

AUS­TRALIA’S BEST-SELL­ING 4X4 WAGON JUST GOT EVEN BET­TER.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

TOY­OTA has bowed to mar­ket pres­sure and up­graded the tow rat­ing of Prado au­to­matic mod­els from 2500kg to 3000kg, bring­ing it into line with its ma­jor com­peti­tors. Man­ual trans­mis­sion mod­els (only avail­able in GX and GXL) re­main at 2500kg. The up­date is well over­due, as even the Prado’s cheaper sib­ling, the For­tuner, of­fers a 2800kg tow rat­ing, and com­peti­tors like the D-MAX, Ever­est and Trail­blazer of­fer 3000kg. The Pa­jero Sport tops them all with 3100kg.

The tow rat­ing up­grade for Prado comes off the back of a Gross Com­bi­na­tion Mass (GCM) up­grade from 5370kg to 5990kg. The Gross Ve­hi­cle Mass (GVM) re­mains un­changed at 2990kg for all mod­els. There has also been a raft of equip­ment up­grades (see

IT OF­FERS COM­FORT AND RE­FINE­MENT IN AN OLDSCHOOL TOUGH AND OF­FROAD-CA­PA­BLE PACK­AGE

MY18 New Kit break­out on page 28) across the en­tire range but most no­tably with the pop­u­lar GXL and the en­try-level GX.

To sam­ple the changes we drove a GXL auto and a GX man­ual. The GXL was fit­ted with the $3500 pre­mium in­te­rior op­tion that brings elec­tric ad­just­ment, heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion for the front seats, and leather all around. All of which makes you think you could well be in a VX, ex­cept for the fact that the GXL still doesn’t have KDSS (Ki­netic Dy­namic Sus­pen­sion Sys­tem), which is a shame given KDSS takes the Prado to a new level such is its im­pact on both on-road dy­nam­ics and off-road per­for­mance.

Emer­gency au­to­matic brak­ing (now on all au­to­matic mod­els) head­lines the safety up­grade and brings adap­tive cruise con­trol with the com­mon­al­ity of hard­ware (front cam­era, etc.) and even some soft­ware. And while the auto brak­ing is some­thing you don’t wish to sam­ple, adap­tive cruise con­trol is some­thing you’re likely to use if you do any ex­press­way or longdis­tance open-road driv­ing.

The smart thing Toy­ota has done is re­tain man­ual cruise, so the driver can choose ei­ther. Adap­tive cruise can be very good in some driv­ing sit­u­a­tions – the heav­ier the free­way traf­fic, the bet­ter it is – but doesn’t work well all the time. The GXL’S adap­tive cruise is more seam­less and ef­fec­tive in gen­eral op­er­a­tion than some, but it’s still bet­ter to have the op­tion of man­ual cruise in low and medium den­sity ex­press­way traf­fic, where speed dif­fer­en­tials be­tween ve­hi­cles are greater. The GXL also gains lane-de­par­ture warn­ing, which is ei­ther handy or an­noy­ing de­pend­ing on your ap­proach to driv­ing – “am I driv­ing the car or is it driv­ing me”. At least you can switch it off.

The GXL gains a rear locker but ac­ti­vat­ing it can­cels the trac­tion con­trol on the front wheels (and not just the rear wheels), so it’s not re­ally a win-win. This is the same setup as the Hilux. The now dis­con­tin­ued FJ Cruiser re­mains the only Toy­ota 4x4 where you can keep the front trac­tion ac­tive with the rear locker en­gaged.

The GX tested was an en­try-level fiveseat man­ual. In­ter­est­ingly the six-speed man­ual in the Prado isn’t the same as the six-speed now in the Hilux, as the six-speed from the 3.0-litre en­gine was re­tained when the 2.8 en­gine was in­tro­duced. The big dif­fer­ence be­tween the gear­boxes is that the Prado man­ual has a sin­gle over­drive gear (fifth is 1:1), while the Hilux’s six-speed man­ual has two over­drive gears (fourth is 1:1), with sixth be­ing no­tably tall.

The Prado man­ual’s over­all gear­ing is no­tably shorter than the au­to­matic Prado and is bet­ter off for it. The au­to­matic’s gear­ing is too tall at le­gal high­way speeds if the road is at all un­du­lat­ing, which leads to some shuf­fling back and forth be­tween fifth and sixth. In con­trast, at high­way speeds, the lower-geared man­ual car­ries top gear much bet­ter, yet the en­gine never feels busy.

As ever, the Prado of­fers com­fort and sur­pris­ing re­fine­ment in an old-schooltough and off-road-ca­pa­ble pack­age. Af­ter all, the Prado is part of the Land Cruiser fam­ily, and it cer­tainly doesn’t let the fam­ily name down.

The Prado Kakadu in­te­rior in­cludes leather as stan­dard, as well as a neat cen­tre con­sole elec­tric cooler box.

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