DRIVE: MY18 TOYOTA PRADO
AUSTRALIA’S BEST-SELLING 4X4 WAGON JUST GOT EVEN BETTER.
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.