by Brad Leach - 24/08/10
Australians love the Toyota Prado SUV with good reason. Exuding all of Toyota’s quality, 4WD expertise and reliability, the Toyota Prado is nicely packaged and well equipped.
Garnering 19.9 per cent of mid-size SUV sales, the Toyota Prado leads that segment comfortably. Combined with the Kluger (13.1 per cent), Toyota commands one in every three mid-size SUVs sold in Australia.
With 14 variants, including three-door models, the latest Toyota Prado is popular with family buyers and those who tow large trailers – in fact, priced from $55,990 it does just about everything the larger, pricier LandCruiser does.
Car Showroom has just spent a week behind the wheel of a mid-range Toyota Prado GXL five-door wagon powered by Toyota’s 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine and driving through a six-speed manual transmission. Priced at $60,990 it features a handy repertoire of interior luxury features and of course Toyota Prado's excellent off-road credentials.
The GXL introduces seven seats to the Toyota Prado specifications (entry-level GX is a five-seater) and also ramps-up the luxury and driver aids with a standard reversing camera and three-zone climate control air-conditioning amongst the extra kit.
The current fourth generation Toyota Prado scored an upgraded version of Toyota’s venerable 4.0-litre V6 engine with dual VVT-i (variable valve timing) replacing the previous single VVT-i. Maximum power is 202kW at 5,600rpm and peak torque of 381Nm arrives at 4,400rpm, with some 310Nm available from as low as 1,200rpm.
Combined with improved aerodynamics, the new engine has delivered the Toyota Prado a slight improvement in fuel consumption – down to 13.0l/100kms for the manual version as tested. Exhaust emissions are 271g/km.
It’s a modern, all-alloy, quad-camshaft, 60-degree V6 and, in our test vehicle, was matched to a six-speed manual transmission (the auto is a five-speed). Drive is to all four wheels via a lockable Torsen center differential and two-speed transfer case.
Reflecting Prado’s outstanding off-road capability, the electric transfer has a dial to select high or low range and the center differential has a push-button lock for arduous going.
Prado is very popular with those who tow caravans, horse floats and large boats – the rated capacity is 2500kgs for the GXL model as tested.
First up we must mention the colour palette. Why do so many SUV manufacturers stick to dark interior colours?
Our test Toyota Prado was fitted with nice beige cloth trim which provided a much brighter and airy feel to the interior – good work Toyota!
The current generation Toyota Prado brought noticeably more interior space – an extra 30mm between driver and front passenger and an overall gain in interior length of 30mm. The second row seats have slides, which provide extra foot space for third row passengers.
Behind the wheel, drivers will enjoy the height-adjustable drivers’ seat and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel. We do like to sit low in all cars (a habit advocated by advanced driving instructors) but with the Toyota Prado’s steering wheel lowered, we did find the steering column sometimes caught our knees while entering or exiting.
Instrumentation is conventional and the Toyota Prado GXL model as tested gains a center console 4.2-inch colour multi-information display with Toyota’s comprehensive information (including the rear-view camera image), audio and climate control details. If you doubt the significant fuel consumption improvements in country driving, do as we did, and switch to the Prado’s instant fuel consumption readout while in the city and watch its plummet once you hit the open road (we went from Melbourne’s CBD to Phillip Island).
Audio for the Toyota Prado GXL variant is a six-speaker single CD system with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity plus USB and 3.5mm inputs.
Passenger seats offer a 40:20:40 split for the second row and 50:50 for the third row. A handy feature is a kerbside ‘walk-thru’ function for the second row seat, which provides easier access to the third row.
And when not in use, the third row seats fold flat for increased luggage capacity.
Styling for the fourth generation Toyota Prado lineup is an evolution of the previous model in a more contemporary execution that is both aggressive and aerodynamically improved (Cd down to 0.35). It’s also noticeably larger – 80mm longer, 10mm wider and 15mm lower.
At the front, the three-dimensional vertical grille is similar to the previous generation but there are modern, cylindrical reflector-type high-beam headlights and projector-type low beam lights. Like the current LandCruiser, the front indicator lights bulge outwards.
The side profile features a higher beltline, while the rear gains LED lights and a body-colour roof spoiler which houses the rear window wiper and LED high-mounted stop light.
As tested, the Toyota Prado GXL model benefits from front fog lights, roof rails, side steps and wider alloy wheels.
Toyota Prado is one of the larger mid-size SUVs, but with the Toyota Prado GXL’s standard reversing camera, three turns lock-to-lock for the steering and an 11.6-metre turning circle, navigation of our inner city high-rise car park and surrounding laneways was no problem. That shouldn’t surprise, as that sort of maneuverability is required off-road.
Speaking of off-road, Toyota Prado is superbly equipped for tough going with an excellent 32-degree approach angle and all-coil suspension honed after extensive prototype testing right here in Australia. There’s also abundant technology including Active Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select which lets the driver choose the required slip control (Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul and Rock).
On road, Toyota Prado is typically Toyota – solid, good performance and safe. While not as refined as the smaller Kluger, Prado shapes up as an outstanding go-anywhere seven-seater.
Over our high-speed mountain roads loop, the 4.0-litre V6 delivered good response and was matched well to the six-speed manual. Naturally at the limit there was some body roll (as you would expect in a genuine off-roader) but grip levels were high and cornering balance was amongst the best.
Freeway driving was very pleasant and throttle response for overtaking was good – no wonder Toyota Prado is so popular with those who tow big trailers.
Toyota Prado is a serious off-roader and like similar vehicles is a tad compromised at the limit on sealed roads. While performance drivers may like a bit more roll control from the suspension, the fact is Toyota Prado is ideally equipped for the bush and towing.
Like most Toyota vehicles, Toyota Prado succeeds because it’s a great all-rounder. The extra coin to step up to the Toyota Prado GXL model delivers improved creature comforts and for our planned family road trip from Melbourne to Frazer Island, we reckon the Prado GXL would be just about perfect.
Ford’s Territory doesn’t match the Toyota Prado off-road or for interior space, but it’s a sharply-priced and excellent SUV. Same for Holden’s Captiva which is great value.
Mitsubishi’s Pajero definitely shapes up as a contender while Nissan’s Pathfinder is also excellent, but is now only sold with diesel power.
Good looker; handy seven-seat interior; goes anywhere; great for towing
Could do with Kluger-like refinement; low steering column
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