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While we wait for an EV that can function as a legitimate off-roader, there's plenty going on in terms of tech advancements.
There are a stack of new models coming our way as well as new versions of much-loved off-roaders, and, even more importantly, there are exciting changes afoot under the metal in these upcoming vehicles.
Forget about the 2024 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series, one of the most exciting vehicles on its way here this year is the new-generation Prado because it has some notable tech advancements onboard that are aimed at making your time off-road more safe, enjoyable and action-packed.
While few experienced 4WDers and vehicle-based adventure travellers regard any EVs available at the moment as viable off-road tourers, the Prado is among one of the few hybrids that have really piqued everyone's interest.
The 2024 Toyota LandCruiser Prado is set to land in Australia in mid-2024.
It's the first all-new Prado in 14 years and it looks set to rattle the market cage for all the right reasons.
For the first time in a long time, it seems that Toyota has done much more to a new vehicle than merely the bare minimum.
The Prado – or the 250 Series as it's known elsewhere – has Toyota's latest-generation TNGA-F body-on-frame platform, which is shared with the 300 Series, new Lexus GX and LX. So, cutting-edged tech right there in terms of vehicle construction.
The new-gen line-up will feature five powertrains globally, however, Australia will only get a 48-volt version of the current model's 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (150kW and 500Nm), with identical power and torque outputs as the existing engine.
We miss out on other powertrains being offered onboard the Prado elsewhere, including a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (207kW/430Nm), a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid (243kW/630Nm), a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (150kW/500Nm) without the mild-hybrid system, and a 2.7-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine (120kW/246Nm).
So some interesting hybrid set-ups for off-roading there.
The 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid set-up (243kW/630Nm) with its integrated 36kW electric motor, is particularly intriguing and while Toyota Australia remains reluctant to commit, the company hasn't said it'll never arrive here. So there's that...
At least the engine we'll get from launch, shared with the upcoming HiLux, has decent outputs and will hopefully yield positives in terms of fuel consumption. The new hybrid engine will be matched to a new eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
Sure, all we get is a 'mild-hybrid' diesel arrangement, although Toyota does not refer to it as such, unlike some of its rivals with similar systems. And a full hybrid option is still on the cards.
The new Prado will have full-time all-wheel drive, a low-range transfer case, a centre diff lock, and an electronic locking rear diff.
But the big tech news is that an electronic front swaybar disconnect function will be fitted to the new Prado – it's the first time such a bit of tech has been engineered into a Toyota. This button-operated swaybar disconnect system – not Toyota's signature hydraulically-operated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) – is aimed at improving wheel travel while you're 4WDing.
The electronic swaybar disconnect function is a similar principle and methodology to the swaybar disconnect in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and that's a system which works supremely well during hardcore off-roading.
A Prado with extra rock-crawling ability? I'd like to see that.
What's more, the new Prado will also make use of a recalibrated off-road traction control system, pushing it ahead of its rivals.
But it doesn't matter how well dialled-in driver-assist systems are if the vehicle is not built for purpose, which is off-roading in this case, of course. In relation to that, the new Prado is tipped to have 210mm of ground clearance as well as approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 31 degrees, 21 degrees and 25 degrees respectively, and those figures are about normal for 4WD wagons of this size.
Inside, the Prado has ditched the old 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system and 4.2-inch driver display with analogue controls and replaced them with a 12.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system and a 12.3-inch driver display. So easier to read and operate as you bounce around on rough terrain, so safer and more user-friendly all-round. Fancy.
The order books are full, cash deposits have been made across the nation and new Prado buyers now eagerly await the arrival of their beloved.
Tech for tech's sake is the wrong side of useless, but when applied properly in the 4WDing world, it can mean the difference between a safe, stress-free trip and an unfair amount of strife.
The upcoming Prado looks like it's an interesting mix of old-school mechanicals, retro styling, but most of all the effective application of new off-road-focussed technology baked into a purpose-built off-road machine engineered to uphold the grand tradition of the LandCruiser brand.