The perennially popular Toyota Prado is back and brand spanking new for 2014. It has been my first experience of the model, and having driven its rivals, and cars from within its stable, I was excited to fetch a small stepladder and climb aboard.
It looks good. Big, bold, intimidating, with strong shoulders. My test unit was “liquid bronze” – shiny brown to you and me – and with that giant grill up front, it looked like a boulder with teeth. An angry boulder. With shiny teeth.
2014 Toyota Prado interior and featuresThe interior is dominated by a massive central stack of aircon vents, a touch screen, aircon control and then a giant knob. And I mean giant. It’s like a microwave timer built for The Hulk. More on this later.
The leather is plush, even the doors on this model are leather lined (standard in the VX). But there are little plastic buttons everywhere, for all sorts of things, borrowed from various models in the Lexus and Toyota range.
That said, it is exceptionally well kitted. Electric seats, heated and cooled, electric steering wheel, SatNav, an impressive sound system, touch screen interface, and a centre screen between the two dials with all the trip and consumption figures you’d wish to know. I don’t know if the execution is as finessed as rivals like the Land Rover Discovery 4, but it is certainly matched for equipment.
Rear-seat party pieceAll the seats fold completely flat in the Prado to offer a massive load space, but you’d be forgiven for thinking there isn’t a third row of seats. However, at the touch of a button, two independent seats rise electrically out of the boot, folding cleverly into position to offer decent seating for children and Danny De Vito.
Toyota has been clever about this too, the buttons to control the seats are positioned in the boot, as well as on the interior of the rear wheel arch so that you can control them from either behind or either side of the car. If I was an 8 year old, I would never get tired of this feature. In fact, I’m 28 and I still grinned like a kid every time I showed someone how they work.
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado drive and handlingTurn the key and the hearty quadcam 4.0-litre V6 gently growls to life. Fitted to an automatic 5-speed ‘box, 202 kW and 381 Nm are available, and the Prado can certainly get its hurry on. It drives in Eco mode by default, requiring barely a flex of your big toe to cruise around town. This is very nice. It has a claimed fuel consumption of 11.5 litres/100km. My test unit was averaging 15.5 litres/100km, however that was almost exclusively urban driving. There's also a 3.0 litre 4-pot turbo diesel, with 120kW and 400 Nm and improved fuel economy available.
But if you’re late for a flight or a cattle sale, then putting your foot down results in acceleration that is slightly disconcerting in a car this size.
Offroad capability of the 2014 Toyota PradoToyota is very proud of its offroad heritage and the Prado has been fitted with just about every modern assistance system you could care to think of. The transmission is matched to a full-time four-wheel drive system with a lockable Torsen centre differential and two-speed transfer case.
VX versions additionally feature a rear differential lock and CRAWL control - Toyota's low-speed off-road cruise-control system. What’s particularly impressive here is all the 4x4 controls are either simple dials or switches – no iron-age levers here. However, there is a good old-fashioned manual handbrake.
Offroad systems on the new PradoSimilar to its key rival, the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado also features adjustable-height air-suspension, as well as KDSS, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. This debuted in 2009 but is now fully electronic, helping keep the car stable during cornering by ensuring smoother weight transfer.
And you can feel it. There are two settings, Comfort and Sport. In Comfort, the car feels very much like sitting on one of those gym balls. I found it hilarious, but it is very, very good at dealing with road imperfections. It gives the ride an incredibly refined feel. At a flick of a switch, the system will run in Sport mode, which I preferred. It sharpens up the handling significantly, making the car feel more agile and nimble, and less like a jumping castle I once organised for a friend’s 21st birthday.
That giant Hulk Knob I mentioned earlier is standard on VX models. It controls the Multi-Terrain Select which is an automated terrain response system, now with an added fifth mode to help negotiate a combination rocks and dirt, which has been added to the previous rock, loose rock, mud and sand, and moguls (middelmannetjie) modes.
The system works by regulating engine output and breaking input, and regulates wheel spin by utilising Multi-Terrain ABS, to help scramble over just about everything planet Earth can throw at you.
Cruiser ConclusionToyota has brought the Prado right up to date with this generation, and I can’t think of a feature it doesn’t have. While the interior is not was well executed as the Land Rover Discovery, its key rival in almost every aspect, this is a lot of car for your money. I have a feeling the new looks, particular up front are more Pilates Studio chic rather than Gravel Road couture, which might alienate fans of the model. But the Prado remains a handsome Japanese alternative that looks good getting dirty or sparkling in a wine estate’s parking lot.
I hesitate to compare the Prado to anything else as most of the German SUVs are decidedly more road-biased than this and the Disco. While the Disco edges the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado slightly for on-road manners, I think I’d be more willing to take the Prado to the middle of nowhere.
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado pricing in South AfricaThe range starts at R642 000 for the base diesel. The model reviewed here was the top of the range petrol V6 VX spec, which retails at R738 200.
2014 Toyota Prado 4.0 V6 VX specifications
|Engine||4.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol V6|
|Power||202 kW @ 5600rpm|
|Torque||381 Nm @ 4400rpm|
|0-100km/h (Claimed)||9.2 seconds (claimed)|
|Fuel economy||11.5l/100km (claimed on the combined cycle)|
|As tested||15.5l/100km (majority urban driving)|
|Fuel capacity||87 litres (main), 63 litres (reserve)|
|Approach angle||32 degrees|
|Departure angle||24 degrees|
|Towing capacity||2500kg (braked) 750kg (unbraked)|
We dislike . Plasticky feel to some of the switchgear . Engine note at high revs . Blingy chrome front grille