Toyota Australia has taken its latest Prado 4WD back to where it all started, the Snowy Mountains, for the launch of a mid-life upgrade of this top-selling model. Toyota LandCruiser made its name during the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme in the late 1950s and the latest Prado returned to some of the mountain tracks developed during the building of the huge hydro-electric project.
There are not only significant changes to the exterior and interior of the Prado, but also improvements to seating access, handling, suspension and 4WD systems. As part of the revamp, Toyota has dropped the three-door Prado which managed sales of around just ten a month with buyers clearly preferring the practicality of five doors.
Explore the 2014 Toyota Landcruiser Prado Range
Toyota recognised the limitations of access to the third row of seats and in the new model has increased the forward folding angle of the second row seats by more than 12 per cent which has created an easier entry and exit for the third row occupants.
RANGE AND FEATURES
Prado now has four models: GX, a five-seater with optional seven seats, the seven-seat GXL and VX, and top of the range Kakadu. Traditionally GX is favoured by fleet buyers such as Australia's mining industry. The volume seller in the range is the GXL which has a strong following with private buyers and accounts for around 70 per cent of Prado sales. VX and Kakadu appeal to luxury buyers and are specified accordingly.
Prices start from $55,990 for the GX rising to $91,590 for Kakadu. The Prado GX and GXL are distinctly different vehicles from the VX and Kakadu with different suspensions and 4WD systems.
Prado VX and Kakadu get LED headlights and daytime running lights. The tail light clusters have also been re-designed. The Prado GX and GXL models get 17-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels while VX and Kakadu get 18-inch 12-spoke alloys. The towing rate stays at 2500 kg, which many say is Prado's weak point -- although that's not reflected in sales figures.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Engines remain the same with the 202 kW 4.0-litre petrol, and 127 kW/410 Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel. The Prado GX and GXL come standard with a six-speed manual transmission and offer an optional five-speed sequential auto. Prado VX and Kakadu come standard with the automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is officially rated at 8.5 litres per 100 km from the diesel and 11.5 L/100 km from the petrol.
The latest Toyota Prado has a bolder front, courtesy of a five-bar grille atop an oversized bumper. The grille stands out because the fitting has no base with the five bars embedded on the top of the bumper. The grille and restyled headlamp clusters sit higher on the vehicle and are further from harms way when off-road.
There is no change to the vital statistics of size or the off-road handling with the turning circle remaining at 11.6 metres while the approach, departure and ramp over angles are also untouched.
Prado has a revised interior with the centre stacker having a new audio panel above the 7-inch full colour screen that shows the reversing camera images. There’s satellite navigation on VX and Kakadu. Prado GX gets manual air conditioning while the others have dual-zone air conditioning.
Australia's grey-nomad community will be pleased with the addition of trailer sway control. This intervenes to assist the driver if a towed vehicle such as a caravan becomes unsettled by crosswinds, sharp change of direction or bumpy roads.
Prado has seven airbags, stability and traction control, an emergency brake signal that automatically flashes the stop lights to warn other motorists and a rear view camera.
While the previous model Kakadu had a system that offered off-road settings of rock, mogul, loose rock and mud and sand, the system now has a fifth setting - rock and dirt. This gives more traction control on slippery rocks when ascending hills. This system works only in low range and the driver simply switches between modes with the selected mode being shown in the instrument cluster on a new 4.2-inch colour information display between the speedo and tachometer.
Prado Kakadu has a forward looking wide angle camera lens with images showing on the 7-inch screen that gives a front-of-bonnet view of what's ahead. This is useful when topping ridges where the driver is unable to see where the road leads, or what sort of drop-off is faced.
VX and Kakadu models use a different Australian-developed suspension system than GX and GXL. Toyota purchased the rights to use the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System from a Western Australia company.
This new model has an improved version of the technology which benefits handling stability and ride comfort with smoother front-rear weight transfer during cornering. The system enables the stabiliser bars to loosen for off-road work giving longer wheel articulation and then tightens the bars for smoother turning on-road.
Although the Prado GX and GXL have different suspension set ups to VX and Kakadu the differences are only marked when at the extremes: in difficult off-road conditions and cornering on-road. In ‘normal’ driving both systems cope well with the hefty weight of Prado – the lightest variant is 2205 kg while Kakadu tips the scales at 2435 kg.
Unfortunately due to inclement conditions during our test drive we were unable to really test the off-road wheel travel of the Kakadu, so that will have to wait until we have Kakadu for a week-long test.
On road however, the Kakadu is smoother around the bends than the GXL and seems to sit flatter. We also like the front mounted wide-angle camera for off-road work, although it does take some getting used to for anyone accustomed to viewing the road ahead in the usual way. It seems to us to be a valuable tool for those who do venture well off the beaten track.