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Taming the Namib in new Prado

2013-12-08 08:22

DOING THE DESERT IN STYLE: There isn't a desert tougher and older than the Namib in south-western Africa but that doesn't mean you can't cross it in luxury. Image: MARC BOW


Toyota’s redoubtable Land Cruiser will benefit from styling changes throughout. What’s more, those attending the 2013 Johannesburg motor show will be able to experience the new model when it makes its South African debut!


Here’s a conundrum for you: It’s widely believed that respect has to be earned – but what do you call it when classifying an inanimate article such as a luxury 4x4?

Various degrees of admiration, I suppose.

Wheels24 has just been privy to the launch of the latest Toyota Land Cruiser Prado in and around Swakopmund in Namibia where lawn-mower suppliers do poorly but 4x4 vehicle showrooms excel, what with all the soft sand, rocky trails and salt-encrusted main roads the country possesses.


Now let me state here and now hard-core 4x4 driving is not for the faint-hearted among us. It requires a fair degree of in-depth (if you’ll excuse the pun) driving skill to keep you safe from harm traversing the wonderful dunes found in the area. Dune 7 and Namibia-style* beach driving a case in point.

Image gallery: Land Cruiser Prado

Apart from one’s own advanced driving skills it comes in really handy when your vehicle of choice is seriously kitted out with the a centre diff-lock, rear-diff lock, hub locks, et al as well as a long list of safety features – some of which I’ll enlarge upon further down this article – but all to be found in Toyota’s very capable 2014 model-year Prado.

Gerhard Groenewald, he of Klipbokkop the 4x4 Academy fame outside Worcester in the Western Cape, was the team leader and guide on this particular trip to Namibia, a country he obviously knows very well – thank heavens. It’s incredibly easy to get lost there - after all, one dune looks a lot like another doesn’t it?

After a morning of beach driving and dodging Cape fur seals, mostly alive but an awful lot of them dead and rotting, with carcasses seemingly everywhere, just metres from the shoreline – the stench dreadful, pervading the air for many kilometres inland.

If you, dear reader, were wondering more about this phenomena that occurs south of Swakopmund and right up to Hentjies Bay in the north some 75km away, what we have here is a huge breeding ground for these “lions of the sea” from time immemorial.

Suffice to say, and according to a local travel guide to whom I spoke, the current problem is largely due to the “tree-huggers of this world” who have put a stop to the culling of these mammals (similar to that done to elephants in the Kruger National Park from time to time); trouble is, there’s now believed to be more than two million seals all trying to feed and survive but breeding at an alarming rate.

At one time there were two “seal processing factories handling the export of seal skins and other by-products, mainly to Canada” out of Hentjies Bay, but closed some time ago to the detriment of the local workforce, thanks to Greenpeace regulations.

But something has gone horribly wrong, hasn’t it?


Perhaps in a less sombre frame of mind let’s rather return to the Prado reveal, a vehicle that Toyota reckons has undergone something of a metamorphosis with visually bolder styling and a more refined interior, along with even better handling capabilities.

Calvyn Hamman, Toyota SA Motors senior vice-president of sales and marketing, believes the upgrades will reaffirm the Land Cruiser Prado as one of the world’s most technically advanced but still easy-to-use AWD vehicles.

"Land Cruiser Prado has become renowned in the AWD market for its blend of rugged performance and premium features,” he claimed. “The latest improvements will enhance Prado's rock-solid reputation as one of the world's toughest and most reliable of 4x4’s while offering the cachet, comfort and on-tar performance that are important to today’s customer.”

There are six models in TX (entry level) and VX (top spec) derivation; with a choice of two power tains - a four-litre quad-cam petrol V6 (202kW/381Nm) and a three-litre turbodiesel (120kW/400Nm) with prices starting at R632 200 for the former rising to R742 400 for the flagship VX 3.0 DT a/t.


4x4 enthusiasts and potential customers will appreciate the turning circle (11.6m) and approach (32°), departure (25°) and ramp-over (22°) angles, adding to the Prado's agility, manoeuvrability and advanced levels of off-road capability. I’m not ashamed to admit I did get stuck occasionally but always due to my inability to read the impending sand hazard correctly and no fault of the vehicle.

Friendly advice from Groenewald, listened to and heeded, ensured such inconveniences were kept to a minimum that day.

Other driving  aids include a Multi-Terrain monitor that gives drivers additional guidance when negotiating off-road obstacles by relaying video imagery via four cameras located at the front, rear and sides of the vehicle.

Multi-Terrain Select is another. This feature automatically controls power output and braking input to provide the swiftest progress over a variety of surfaces. The main change is that this feature is simply operated by the twist of a dial.

The driver can select the appropriate mode according to terrain. Multi-Terrain Select regulates wheel-spin, while Multi-Terrain ABS regulates lock-up to maximise traction in any off-road scenario. Multi-Terrain Select is an evolution of Toyota's A-TRAC (active traction control system) and incorporates All-Terrain anti-lock brakes, thereby offering a wider range of slip control. A fifth mode, to help negotiate a combination rocks and dirt, has been added to the previous rock, loose rock, mud and sand, and moguls (middelmannetjies to us South Africans) modes.

HAPPY ON 500ppm

Fuel economy figures weren’t recorded on the trip but depending how you drive and the terrain, would average out at around 11.6 litres/100 km, according to Toyota. I would say this could well apply to the diesel but possibly good luck to you in the petrol counterpart. Still, with the an approximately 150-litre fuel capacity (two tanks, 83/63 litres), travelling distances without refill could be considerable.

Interestingly, and perhaps a little surprisingly, the diesel derivative is quite happy running on 500ppm, should that be the only fuel available to you on your more out-of-the way travels.

*Beach driving is indeed permitted in Namibia unlike South Africa – but heavily controlled, much respected and most definitely policed. The fine for non-compliance is hefty and instant!

PRICES (all a/t, inc. VAT)
Land Cruiser Prado TX 4.0 V6 - R632 200
Land Cruiser Prado TX 3.0 DT - R642 000
Land Cruiser Prado VX 4.0 V6 - R728 200
Land Cruiser Prado VX 3.0 DT - R732 400
Land Cruiser Prado VX 4.0 V6 - sunroof R738 200
Land Cruiser Prado VX 3.0 DT - sunroof R742 400

All Prado customers will receive a three-year or 100 000km warranty along with a standard five-year or 90 000km service plan. All the above Prado models listed will be supported by Toyota Care’s roadside assistance programme.

Read more on:    toyota  |  vehicle launch  |  land cruiser

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