Cinderella Cruiser

Words by Grant Spolander Words by Grant Spolander Pictures by Grant Spolander and Andrew Middleton.

Many Land Cruiser fans regard the Prado as a Barbie Cruiser – a Cinderella mocked for her soft nature and tenderness. This reputation came about when the original Prado 90 Series was launched. That model featured independent suspension up front, when, at the time, every other Cruiser had a solid front axle (SFA).

Unfortunately, despite the fact that a number of modern Land Cruisers now sport independent suspension (LC 200 and the FJ Cruiser), the Prado never shook off its status as a Barbie Cruiser, and is still considered a fair cousin to the bold Land Cruiser name.

The Prado’s history in SA began when the 90 Series ran production in the late 1990s; then the Prado 120 Series came on the scene between 2002 and 2009, and, finally, the 150 Series (current shape) has been with us for roughly five years, most recently undergoing its first minor facelift.

In December last year, Toyota released an updated Prado model with added cabin features, which included Blind Spot Monitoring, Tyre Inflation Warning system, Trailer Sway Control, and a few other nice-to-haves.

The VX model also gets a Multi-Terrain Monitor, which affords drivers additional guidance when negotiating off-road obstacles by relaying video imagery via four cameras located at the front, rear and sides of the vehicle.

Toyota describes the Prado’s exterior styling as a “drastic new look,” but, in my humble opinion, it still looks like a bulbous blob.

Continuing with the exterior: a quick look at the Prado’s undercarriage reveals a bona fide 4x4, not to be taken flippantly. Here you’ll find a sturdy ladder-frame chassis, beefy control arms and a robust-looking solid axle at the rear. There’s also extensive steel-plated underbody protection and two generous fuel tanks that hint at the Prado’s bias for overland travel.

Thanks to its tailgate-mounted spare wheel, the Prado’s undercarriage is free to house an OE fitted auxiliary fuel tank (63-litres). This takes the Prado’s total fuel-carrying capacity to a highly respectable 150-litres; which, when combined with the 4.0-litre V6’s consumption figure of 11.5 l/100 km, means that you can expect 1 300 km from a full tank.

However, the above-mentioned economy figure is quoted by the manufacturer; you’re far more likely to get 13.5 to 14.5 l/100 km in a real-life consumption test. The latter total will give you a driving range of 1 035 km.

Back to the subject of the Prado’s 4.0-litre V6 engine: previously, in our October ’11 issue, we tested the Prado TX 3.0 D-4D. In that review, we criticised the diesel motor’s sluggish performance when coupled with the Prado’s 2 414 kg tare weight. The Prado’s D-4D engine is an uprated unit from the one used in the Hilux and Fortuner, but, in the Prado’s case, it feels out of place in an upmarket SUV. These days, buyers are accustomed to sports-car-like performance in the premium SUV sector.

This brings us back to the subject of the petrol-powered V6: a nippy engine that’s far better suited to the Prado’s executive standing, but, even so, not a terrific match.

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