Toyota's perennial golden goose continues to dominate the sales charts, amongst plenty of updated competition. Is it still the smart choice?
Toyota’s LandCruiser Prado has been around the traps for a while. Ten years, in fact, for the 150 Series that we have here today. There have been a couple of major updates along the way, granted, including the 2.8-litre driveline in 2015 and facelift in 2018. Make no bones about it, however, the Prado is an old platform.
An oldie but a goodie for our little slice of the planet. Despite no shortage of new competitive metal landing over the years, the LandCruiser Prado has been a golden egg for Toyota Australia. It sold 18,553 units in 2018, making it the top-selling large SUV in Australia by a country mile. And while numbers have shrunk slightly in 2019, it’s still Prado first and daylight second.
We have the volume-selling mid-range model here, the 2019 Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL. Its list price is $63,690 with the automatic transmission, sitting above the GX but below VX and Kakadu. Along with premium paint ($600), our test vehicle also has the premium interior pack ($3463) that gives you leather trimming, heated/vented and electric front row, and heated second row. Total price: $67,753.
At that price, you’re getting cruise control, smart key with smart entry, seven seats, three-zone climate control, ‘premium’ steering wheel, gearstick and handbrake, privacy glass and rear parking sensors. Recent updates now include Bi-LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights and updated instrument binnacle.
There’s also more safety gear these days: a pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane-departure alert and auto high beam.
Our tester also has the ‘flat tailgate pack’, which moves the spare wheel from the back door to an underslung position. It’s a no-cost option, making the boot much lighter and easier to handle, as well as looking a little more sleek. The rear glass can open separate to the door, but you do forgo the 63L auxiliary fuel tank in order to fit the spare underneath: fuel capacity drops from a massive 150L to a more normal 87L.
The interior is another hint to the LandCruiser Prado’s age. It’s more old Camry than new Camry: well made and practical, but has aged like a doily at a bush doof. The infotainment is old, as well, lacking the phone mirroring and modern aesthetics of newer systems. There is native navigation, however.
Ergonomically, the Prado is very comfortable. The spacious cabin has stacks of storage and adjustability, leaving it as a good candidate for those long kilometre-crushing runs. It’s not a bad operator around town, too – visibility is good, and the amount of available space is ripe for soaking up families.
The second row is plenty spacious, and flexible with its sliding seat base. The third row is more cut out for children and smaller adults, but is still serviced by air vents and cupholders. For a family vehicle and occasional seven-seater, the Prado does a fine job.
There’s 620L of storage space available with the third row ensconced into the floor, and shrinks down to 120L with room for seven. That's not particularly big, but enough for a couple of small bags.
There is no Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) in this GXL. That’s reserved for the notably more expensive VX and Kakadu specifications, which means there’s no shortage of body roll and fore/aft pitching with this LandCruiser Prado. It’s an old-school experience, which has missed the memo that all 4WDs and SUVs are meant to mimic sedans with their driving experience.
If you want something with an edge of dynamic kudos, run far away. If you are happy to pilot the Prado like a wallowing but comfortable 4x4, then you’ll be rewarded with a soft ride that soaks up bumps nicely. It’s not hugely controlled; the body sways around somewhat as the wheels jump about.
Hydraulic steering is also old school in feel and response, without any hint of car-like or dynamic nature. Something like a Ford Everest is more polished in this regard, although I found myself enjoying the cushy, relaxed experience of the Prado from behind the wheel.
What is shared across the Prado range, along with the HiLux, Fortuner, HiAce and Granvia, is the engine: a 2.8-litre turbo diesel that makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm at 1600–2400rpm. It’s more refined than rough and feels responsive around town, but ultimately lacks the kind of power that some of the competition makes. Ford’s Everest, especially in BiTurbo format, feels much punchier. In fact, only the much cheaper Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport feel similar in terms of straight-line performance. More engine under the bonnet would undoubtedly transform this Prado into something much more compelling. Maybe a hybrid will do that?
One plus-side of the modest engine is modest fuel consumption: our numbers were between 8.5 and 9.5 litres per hundred kilometres, depending on our split between city and town driving. For a big seven-seat 4X4, that's a good number.
The drivetrain feels grunty and controllable for off-roading, which is helped by the 2.566:1 transfer case reduction. Overall ground clearance around the differentials and body is quite good, helped no doubt by the rear end’s good articulation. It’s not mind-blowing, but is supple and in plentiful enough supply to give you a bit of confidence behind the wheel.
What’s best for the everyday off-roader, however, is the off-road traction control. It's one of the best of its kind, allowing the Prado to have a real point-and-shoot nature about it. While it still hasn’t shaken off that beige-cardigan persona, the LandCruiser Prado is very, very good off-road.
For building up a touring 4WD, the problems of an aged interior and a lack of dynamic prowess fall to the back of your mind. You’d love the Prado to have a bit more power for overtaking road trains on the Sturt Highway, but the comfortable interior and smooth ride become real strengths. The amount of interior space is great, too, lending the Prado well to loading up with people and gear. And, naturally, there is a veritable ton of aftermarket gear available to pimp out the interior, exterior and mechanicals.
The engine is a problem for those looking to tow anything bigger than a couple of jet skis or loaded box trailer. While the towing capacity has increased from 2500kg to 3000kg with the automatic gearbox, the same 130kW and 450Nm isn’t enough for relaxed and confident towing of more than two tonnes. Three tonnes would be positively glacial.
Toyota’s five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty is a good one, and there is seven years' worth of drivetrain cover if you stick to scheduled servicing at the dealership.
Servicing is set at every 10,000km or six months, costing $240 per visit for the first three years. From then, prices start to really shoot up. The 80,000km service, for example, is $829.25 and the 120,000km visit is $945.35.
Many will write off the new Prado as too boring, like a Camry with a transfer case. The new Camry isn’t that boring anymore, but the adage still stings. Those who own one, and the tens of thousands eyeing one off for a family car and/or touring 4x4, will have something old and dated, but also something definitely good at its core roles. When you consider ‘fit for purpose’, this Prado does more hitting than missing.
You’ll have to reconcile with those shortcomings, which many of the (more road-oriented) competitors are not so blighted by. If you’re happy to admit that you’re never going off-road, then you’re best off looking at the myriad more adroit large-SUV competition.
This article has been republished with approval from its original source and author at caradvice.com.au.
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