Same look, new heart: the updated Toyota Land Cruiser Prado now has a new 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine and six-speed gearbox. Next stop, Hilux.
Base price: $99,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.8-litre turbo diesel four, 130kW/450Nm, 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 8.0 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4760mm long, 1890mm high, 2790mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 553-1833 litres (or 104 litres with third row raised), fuel tank 87 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 265/60 tyres.
We like: Vast improvement in refinement, equipment, unashamedly rugged.
We don’t like: Absolutely no styling change from previous model, dated cabin design.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Proof positive that if you wait long enough, things come back into fashion.
In recent years the sports utility vehicle (SUV) world has made a massive swing away from hard-core off-road separate-chassis machines to more tarmac-oriented crossovers. In that context, Toyota’s Land Cruiser Prado has started to seem a bit old-fashioned.
Still, Prado has been rocking along at annual sales of 600-plus units in New Zealand since 2012 and guess what? Suddenly, off-road-capable seven-seaters are making a comeback, with the likes of the Holden Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X and Ford Everest.
Enter Toyota’s upgraded 2015-model Prado. On the surface, not much has changed. Nothing at all, in fact: there’s nothing on the exterior to distinguish this new model from the previous one, which seems odd in what is quite a fashion-conscious segment.
But under the bonnet, there’s an all-new 2.8-litre turbo engine, replacing the previous 3.0-litre. It’s matched to a new six-speed automatic gearbox.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Don’t underestimate the importance of this engine. It’s completely new and despite a drop in capacity compared with the previous model, it has nine percent more torque and is 13 percent more fuel efficient.
It will also be the powerplant of choice for the all-new Hilux, the vehicle charged with returning Toyota to the top of the light-commercial sales race from late this year.
The most notable aspect of the new engine could well be its refinement. The previous powerplant could be described as crude but effective; the new one offers better performance in every respect but is also remarkably quiet at speed. The Prado is still a big old bus (kerb weight 2270kg) and even the new six-speed transmission sometimes struggles to find the right ratio when overtaking or during open-road hill work. But overall, on-road progress is commendably smooth.
The ladder-chassis Prado is never going to be nimble through corners, even with its relatively sophisticated (at least for an off-road vehicle) four-link axle attachment at the rear. But the VX Limited has some extra technology to assist in that regard, with KDSS anti-roll technology (which first appeared on the full-size Land Cruiser 200-series wagon) and air suspension that can be switched between normal and sport modes.
The VX Limited also boasts a few state-of-the-art active safety technologies, including adaptive cruise control with pre-crash sensors and blind-spot/cross-traffic alerts (standard on VX upwards).
But the Prado’s main selling proposition is still its off-road ability. Every version is highly capable, but the VX Limited takes things to higher ground with active height control (via the air suspension), a multi-terrain selector with automatic crawl control and an electronic differential lock at the rear.
Tow rating is 2500kg for all models.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The level of standard equipment in the Prado VX Limited is impressive, particularly when you consider that it’s the only model in the new range to have fallen in price – by a considerable $3140, meaning that you now get change from $100k.
Don’t come around here expecting high style: the Prado’s set-square dashboard and chunky switchgear weren’t exactly fashion-forward when it was launched and the cabin hasn’t aged well. The addition of wood trim in the Limited hasn’t helped – the lesser models with single-colour trim look much less awkward.
But there are plenty of toys to play with, even when you’re not venturing into the back country. The satellite navigation (now standard on all Prado models) screen is large and prominent, there’s a massive refrigerated storage box between the front seats and the rear occupants get a rear-seat entertainment screen with cordless headphones.
Prado remains a capable troop carrier, of course, with three rows of seating and up to seven seats. Luggage space diminishes severely with all chairs occupied, which is always the case with people movers: just 104 litres with the third row in place.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Prado is a very particular type of vehicle for very particular people. But it’s stayed the course due to that Land Cruiser heritage and truly remarkable off-road ability – whether buyers actually need to use it or not.
There’s no doubt Prado will remain a strong seller in the face of newer competition: the Toyota badge and loyal customers (some of whom may be rental companies) will see to that.
The new engine brings a remarkable level of refinement to this model. That’s a great step forwards for the Land Cruiser Prado brand - but perhaps even better for the forthcoming Hilux.
- Blind spot warning: Yes with cross-traffic alert
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Adaptive
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Three-zone climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes front and rear (outer)/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 second row, 50/50 third row