By Dick Eussen
The latest Prado has been extensively upgraded with exterior styling and improved handling ability. Whether intended as a shopping car, taking the kids to school, heading bush for the weekend, serious four-wheel-driving or touring Australia, the Toyota Prado ticks all the boxes.
There was a time when the Toyota Prado was deemed an SUV, but that was eons ago, and it’s image of being a small 4WD has truly faded into oblivion. In recent years, I’ve driven various Prado models across Central Arnhem Land as a guide for bird-watching clients of the Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge.
I drove the Prados from Darwin to Maningrida and back and they handled the bitumen of the Arnhem Highway, the dusty corrugated Central Arnhem Road, stone country, bush tracks, river crossings and other conditions, with ease. In fact, they were amazingly capable in the bush.
But as the man says, “wait, there is more”, and the latest model from the Toyota stable is pure thoroughbred in its sleek lines and handling. I truly like this latest beast, not only for it graceful looks, but for the comfort and handling in all conditions that 4WDs are used for.
While I was in Darwin for a couple of weeks, AJ borrowed a new demo Prado from Darwin’s Bridge Toyota, the NT’s premier Toyota dealership. It’s not far to the bush from Darwin and the 4WD handled the traffic and open road conditions en route with aplomb, darting in and out about slower traffic and breaking away from traffic lights with ease. This vehicle took four-wheel-driving on the open highway to a new level as its cruising ability was outstanding. It’s so comfortable that you don’t want to get out of it to stretch the legs, even after a long drive…
We put the vehicle through its paces on some rough bush tracks, still drying out after a relatively unproductive wet season. I would have loved a good set of all-terrain or mud tyres on it, but had to do with the standard road/country Dunlop rubber that the vehicle was fitted with. Still, the Prado made it alright while AJ filmed and photographed the action. We were both impressed with the way the Prado handled the muddy washouts, bumps and sand. Traversing a medium water crossing was like driving through a puddle, though I took it easy as no snorkel is fitted. However, with lots of aftermarket accessories available for Prados, fitting one is simple. The traction control makes driving on corrugated and rough bush tracks simple as it helps to control the vehicle in tight sections.
Traversing a medium water crossing was like driving through a puddle…
I particular loved the automatic gearbox in this model. Having grown up with a gear stick in my hand, the automatic changing of gears on engine torque demand makes it so easy to concentrate on the track ahead and the steering. Also wonderful was the air-conditioning with the climate change controls being a God-send in the tropical humidity of the monsoon’s aftermath. Even better was the sheer seating comfort and vehicle suspension that just soaked up the bumps and washouts encountered on the overgrown bush track.
At day’s end, I wanted to take the Prado home instead of taking the top road with Airnorth back to Cairns. Open road cruising down the Stuart Highway would be a total driving experience…
But wait, there is yet even more!
The latest Prado has been extensively upgraded with new exterior styling and improved handling ability. Exterior changes include a distinctive new deeper front “roo” bar, heritage-styled grill and new alloy wheels.
The standard suspension and the electronically-modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system have certainly changed the way the Prado handles all road conditions by giving it greatly increased ride comfort. The interior has been overhauled and has a new look that reeks of pure comfort, quality and style. This is even more evident when behind the wheel with the convenience and ease of use of the new multi-system audio systems, a new dashboard, climate control, new materials, detailing, and other features.
The standard suspension and the electronically-modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system have certainly changed the way the Prado handles all road conditions by giving it greatly increased ride comfort.
Like it or not, electronics are part of life these days and, for drivers stepping out of the last century into a state-of-the-art vehicle like the Prado, it can be overwhelming at first, with more controls, buttons and lights than older-style 4WDs ever had. But fear not, Toyota has functions that provide driver guidance at all levels, plus technical support that helps owners to drive the Prado to its maximum ability with precision and control when tackling difficult terrain and road conditions. You’ll be up to speed with the on/off-road systems with only a brief period of coaching from a friendly salesperson.
The Prado has other key safety features that include trailer-sway-bar control and an emergency brake light system that comes on automatically if a towed trailer or van requires an emergency stop, and warns other drivers behind you. It will also warn the driver if the tow unit becomes unsettled in high cross winds; eg from a bump or a flat tyre.
The Prado has seven airbags, rear-view camera, stability and traction controls, and lots of other stuff that makes this an outstanding 4WD for town and country use.
The new Prado handles like a thoroughbred. In traffic, it wants to be unleashed and rush to the front and it has plenty of power to do so in both diesel and petrol configurations. Both the well-respected 127kW 3.0 litre turbo diesel and the 201kW V6 petrol engines have an abundance of torque that won’t find you wanting.
There is plenty of room for the family in the five-door model Prado with the GX models having five seats (with an optional two more), while the GXL, VX and the top of the range Kakadu models have seven seats. All models have 17-inch six-spoke wheels or 18-inch 12-spoke wheels. Two new exterior colours have been added to the existing range: Dynamic Blue and Liquid Bronze.
Inside the comfortable cabin are new interior trims and ornamentations that combined have created a more elegant feel and look with double stitching that has improved tactile appeal and perceived quality. The forward angle of the second row seats has been increased by some 12-degrees, making for improved ease of entry and exit for third row occupants, while in the VX and the Kakadu models, the second row seats can be heated independently. All models have full climate controls to ensure that your favourite air-conditioning can be set at any level you desire.
There is a choice of eight models in both manual or auto in the turbo-diesel and three models in the nippy V-6 petrol model which is only available in auto. The price ranges from $55,990 for the basic GX manual turbo-diesel to the super luxury Kakadu model available in both diesel and petrol at $92,000.
Make no mistake the new Prado is a fair chunk of 4WD but in reality it handles like a medium-sized car in the city. In slow traffic, it is nippy and responsive on demand, but on the open road it unleashes awesome power when in full cruise mode.
There is a choice of eight models in both manual or auto in the turbo-diesel and three models in the nippy V-6 petrol model which is only available in auto.
As mentioned, it has has long outpaced its SUV title and it feels as big as the aging 80-series Landcruiser, but it handles like the modern car – which it is. Even when driven on rough bush tracks, the vehicle is extremely bush capable; while towing a van, camper or boat trailer is no problem at all as it has weight and power to match.
It matters little if you want to use it as a shopping car, take the kids to school, head bush for the weekend, or take a drive around Australia, the Toyota Prado is well worth a look if you are in the market for a 4WD with impeccable lineage.
Toyota Prado D-4D Turbo GXL provided by Bridge Toyota Darwin. 1 Stuart Highway. Phone 08 89460000.