Toyota LandCruiser Prado 2014 Review

words - Bruce Newton
Popular Toyota four-wheel drive keeps on keeping on with modest but worthwhile update

Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
Road Test

When it first launched the Prado, Toyota appended the LandCruiser badge to its name to add some credibility to its new offering from the best known, most respected offroader in the land. These days, Prado clearly outsells its bigger brother and stands clear of the pack as the most popular of the truly capable four-wheel drives sold in Australia. This latest update is unlikely to deviate it from that course.

Australians love the Toyota Prado. In fact it’s the fourth most popular SUV on the market. So when you’re on a good thing… that’s right… you evolve.

For this mid-life update the 150-series LandCruiser Prado – to give it its full name – has dramatic new headlights and more prominent grille, some suspension tuning, interior upgrades and price rises. But the fundamentals remain the same.

So that means a ladder frame chassis bolted to a seven seat body and underpinned by permanent four-wheel drive, including low-range gearing.

That combination of wheel articulation and crawling ability means Prado can clamber up and down slopes at walking pace – and take plenty of people along for the ride. A 2500kg braked towing capacity means it can drag a sizeable trailer along as well.

But the reality is that many Prados never see serious offroading and no matter how much Toyota dresses up this vehicle for urban duties and finesses its suspension and steering, its weight, size and unwieldiness mean it is not an ideal choice.

Nor is it particularly affordable; not when you look around at the SUVs on offer and the prices they come at. Very few of them offer the Prado’s offroad ability but lots of them are tens of thousands of dollars cheaper and make much more driving sense around town.

The Ford Territory and Hyundai Santa Fe immediately spring to mind in that regard. Their car-based monocoque frames make them much nicer on-road drives.

If you are after a true offroader rival then think of the likes of the Land Rover Discovery 4, Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Patrol and even the Toyota LandCruiser, from which Prado derives part of its name.

What we are testing is the very top specification Prado, the Kakadu 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel mated with a five-speed automatic transmission. It now commands a $92,590 price tag (plus on-roads), a climb of $1455 over its predecessor.

The other models in the range, starting from the bottom, are the GX, GXL and VX. The upper three levels also get the choice of a 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol V6 and the lower two grades have the option of a manual gearbox for the diesel. Prices rise for every model bar the entry-level $55,990 GX diesel manual five-seater.

New gear for the Kakadu includes a Blu-Ray compatible rear-seat entertainment system and blind spot monitoring. Adaptive variable suspension, height-adjustable rear air suspension, an electronic rear diff lock, moonroof, cool box, driver’s seat memory, four-camera multi-terrain monitor and five-mode CRAWL control are also exclusives.

Like the rest of the range the Kakadu adds trailer sway control. Other safety features include seven airbags, stability control and a reversing camera. All passengers in all rows get three-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests. A pre-crash safety system and radar cruise control are Kakadu exclusives.

That’s all on top of an upgraded interior design that includes new switchgear and focuses on grouping the controls for the drive systems closer together. Central to this is a large dial that allows a simpler choice of terrain and speed modes for offroading.

The interior is undoubtedly well built and spacious, bar a tendency for knees up seating position in row two – and especially the electrically folding row three (which is for kids) – because of the separate chassis construction. Access to row three is improved by canting the folding second row seats further forward.

Luggage capacity is miniscule with all three seat rows in place but massive with rows two and three folded. In that configuration the Kakadu swallows mountain bikes and riding gear with disdain.

That is not really new news, but the quietness of the cabin is. The diesel engine has never been the most ruly of companions, but in the cabin it’s now less audible than before. It’s not a pin-drop experience, but it is a significant leap forward from the pre-update Prado, let alone its 120-series predecessor.

There have been attempts to refine the hydraulic steering and the suspension, specifically the Australian-developed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that is standard for the Kakadu and the VX. KDSS disconnects the front and rear anti-roll bars off road for better articulation and re-engages them on-road.

The improvement is detectable. The Prado steers with more accuracy and has better body control in corners. But having said that it is still a lumberer. Sway is noticeable, steering is approximate and the feeling is of disconnection. The brakes – disc all-round of course – feel like they are being fully utilised retarding the 2435kg Kakadu.

But one positive the Prado does deliver better than almost any vehicle on the road is a feeling of supreme solidity. The sheer weight plays a role in that obviously, but it’s also the materials Toyota uses and the way it bolts them together. Rightly or wrongly, there is a primal feeling of security and fortification delivered as you ride high in this vehicle.

The turbo-diesel engine and five-speed auto remain unchanged. That equates to 127kW and 410Nm and a fuel consumption claim of 8.5L/100km. The best we saw was 10.7L/100km. Performance is … pedestrian. But you do get where you have to go eventually, and a 150-litre fuel tank ensures you won’t have to make many stops along the way.

So this Prado update isn’t dramatic, although it is worthwhile. If you have serious offroad plans it’s worth considering, otherwise there are many other options. Most of them more affordable.

Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu price and spec:

Price: $92,590 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Output: 127kW/410Nm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel: 8.5L/100km (auto.)
CO2: 225g/km (auto.)
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP

What we liked:Not so much:
>> Offroad ability>> Big, heavy and unwieldy on the road
>> Improved cabin quietness>> Costly
>> Interior space>> Thirsty

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Published : Thursday, 23 January 2014
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