More of the same: Toyota Prado

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VIEWS

Toyota’s Prado is a strong, capable, bodyon- frame mid-size SUV with all the trimmings, for families who don’t want or need the immense Land Cruiser 200 Series in their driveway. The fourth-generation J150 has now come in for a mid-life refresh that has ushered in plenty of neat upgrades and changes, but not the one every previous Prado owner has been hoping for.

In other markets, for some time, it’s been gifted the 2.8-litre GD-6 turbodiesel allied to a sixspeed automatic transmission; but here, a combination of factors including the low quality of fuel in Africa, the cost or time penalty of changing the catalysts to match said fuel, and the sheer hassle given the volumes that reach SA (still a respectable few hundred each month) mean that (you guessed it) the Prado is still shipped with a five-speed auto and the old 3.0-litre D4-D. It was a wonder at launch in 2005, but its 120kW and 400Nm is now lacking in the fireworks department. A 0-100km/h amble in 11.7 seconds is behind the rivals, and the lack of overtaking grunt, requiring a hustle down through the gears, leads to a few eye-widening moments. It is also available with the 4.0-litre V6 petrol, offering 202kW/381Nm, but with a fuel-bill to match the extra oomph.

Land cruiser Prado

Land cruiser Prado

That said, for the price, this is probably a segment best-buy for its off-road ability, level of advanced technology on offer, interior quality and space, and reliability. So, what’s new?

First off, a super-spec VX-L grade (which adds safety features and a panoramic sunroof) has been added to the VX and baseline TX grades – the latter being the model that overlanders choose for the simple coil spring suspension and absence of techy infotainment and driverassistance features.

External changes include an extra 60mm in length (now 4840mm), and bring the Prado more in line aesthetically with the Land Cruiser 200. These include a new vertical slatted grille, centre-dished bonnet, revised fenders, and headlights that don’t look like a spoof of a Great Dane with its head out the window at speed. TX models get halogens, higher models get bright LEDs, and all models feature fogs and daytime running lights. A neat double-C tail light is an appealing feature, and the side-profile and underfront- bumper angles have been aligned, raised and tidied up for a more integrated, less bulbous, look.

New interior colours are black with walnut-look trim, or ‘Neutral Beige’ and blonde wood trim. Darker is better. Also new is the redesigned dash top – plus cleaner lines, a better integrated centre stack and an 8-inch multimedia screen with a grouped panel for off-road functions. A new instrument panel features four Optitron-lit gauges, a central 4.2-inch TFT function screen in the centre on higher models, and a new steering wheel. TX models now get the armrest coolbox, while seat heating and venting is across the range; there is also satnav, and for the top dogs, an enhanced Multi-Terrain Monitor camera system giving panoramic and overhead view modes: all useful when offroading and parking in tight spots.

There’s a raft of other stuff: 14-speaker sound, dual-zone climate control, power tiltand- reach steering adjustment, powered third-row seats, cruise control, park-distance control, Bluetooth, and three power outlets. They’ve gone the whole nine yards, including traction control, ABS, seven airbags, and trailer sway control across the range, and then thrown more safety kit at the VX-L: adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, auto high beam, precollision system, blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert…

PRICES

Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D TX R 821 700
Land Cruiser Prado 4.0 V6 VX R 930 000
Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX R 932 400
Land Cruiser Prado 4.0 V6 VX-L R 967 200
Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L R 969 600

All models use Toyota’s Active Traction Control (A-Trac) which actively sends torque to the wheel needing traction, in addition to using braking pressure on faster-spinning wheels. Low-range gearing is added to with user-selected centre and rear diff locks and Hill Assist Control, plus variablespeed Crawl Control. Dib in extra for the VX or VX-L, and you get Downhill Assist Control and Multi-Terrain Select, which calibrates throttle, traction and gearbox inputs to deal with five different terrains: rock, dirt & rock, mogul, loose rock, mud & sand. Sorry if you bought the TX, which misses out on this and the bird’s-eye camera views. That model also loses out on the KDSS system: basically, the sway bars are each connected to a hydraulic cylinder, and pressure is balanced front and rear on tar to control roll, and varied when off-roading to allow more inter-axle flex and wheel travel. Top models also feature rear air springs and adaptive variable suspension with a comfort and sport setting.

So, there’s potentially lots of tech, allied to a strong chassis and plenty of driver and passenger comforts for up to seven occupants, with a 5-year/90 000km service plan and pretty keen pricing that ranges from R821 700 to R969 600. The Prado is plenty capable off the tar, which is its natural home, and a decent cruiser on it. The TX model in particular is perfect for African conditions – just don’t expect class-leading performance.

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