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Toyota is taking the absolute Prado with Australia's hand-me-down LandCruiser engine | Opinion

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Toyota is holding the Prado's best back from Australia
Toyota is holding the Prado's best back from Australia

It's not like Toyota to make mistakes when it comes to new model roll-outs. After all, from the Prius to the RAV4 Hybrid, the brand has always had a knack for knowing what Australians want, sometimes before we even know ourselves.

But already the new Toyota LandCruiser Prado feels like a miss-step for the brand in Australia, because while the USA celebrates a mega-powerful and efficient hybrid powertrain, we're stuck with a hand-me-down diesel.

Yep, the brand that pioneered hybrid technology with its Prius – and has spent more than two decades cementing the fuel-saving electrified engines as the powertrain of choice of Australian drivers – has left the Prado's iForce MAX hybrid engine on the cutting room floor for our Prado.

Instead, we get the same engine we've alway had - a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel that still lives in the HiLux. Sure, it now gets 48-volt technology, but even Toyota knows that doesn't really count, with the brand steadfastly refusing to call the powertrain option a "hybrid" in any of its official communications, presumably because the tech can't deliver the fuel savings of its petrol-hybrid products.

Toyota has long advocated for hybrids in Australia, using its position to bat away claims the auto giant is being too sluggish on a shift to EVs.

"Hybrid-electric vehicles are affordable, they’re available in substantial numbers, they’re convenient with no range anxiety, and they’re practical. They make a significant contribution to cutting the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere,” Toyota Australia executives told media just last year.

So how then does a new Prado arrive – one of the brand's mostly hotly anticipated models, equal even with the HiLux and LC300 – arrive with a second-hand diesel engine?

A reminder, the existing 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine also shared by the HiLux, but with the addition of a 48-volt mild hybrid system, will still produce 150kW and 500Nm, with power sent to all four wheels via a new Direct Shift eight-speed automatic.

Toyota hasn't talked fuel use yet, but the outgoing model uses 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle. Don't expect staggering fuel savings in the new Prado.

The most powerful engine option, though, isn't mentioned in Australia's plans, with US-spec Prado's fitted with a 2.4-litre turbo-petrol hybrid that produces an impressive 243kW and 630Nm.

So Australia – long touted as an important market for Prado – looks set to persevere with an old engine that drinks dirtier fuel, which is also more expensive than petrol per litre, makes less power and torque, and will probably produce worse fuel economy.

That doesn't sound right, does it?

And it goes beyond Prado. Every time Toyota touts proper hybrid technology as the answer to Australia's climate woes – and the reason it doesn't have any BEVs in market – we will all surely remember that its three most iconic products, in the HiLux, the Prado and the LandCruiser – don't, or won't, offer it.

Toyota, we implore you, bring the Prado's punchiest engine to Australia, and give your customers a true choice between diesel and petrol-hybrid.

If you don't, you're denying your customers the best Prado.

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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