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New Prado a real Cruiser?

2009-10-30 12:53
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Toyota
Model Prado
Engine 3l TD, 4l V6
Power 120kW @ 3 400r/min, 202kW @ 5 600r/min
Torque 400Nm @ 1 600r/min, 381Nm @ 4 400r/min
Transmission Five-speed manual
Fuel Tank 150l
Weight 2 335-, 2 435kg
ABS Yes, off-road sensitive
Airbags Seven
Tyres 265/60R18
Front Suspension Double-wishbone
Rear Suspension Multi-link

Lance Branquinho


Toyota’s Prado has always been the stepchild of the company’s off-road product portfolio.

Classed as a Land Cruiser, the 90- and 120-Series Prados sold well locally despite 60-, 80-, 100- and 200-Series owners classing Prado as something of a marketing anomaly.

After seven years of 120-Series the new pseudo-Cruiser has arrived.

This latest Prado will sport four model derivatives when the range is completely rolled out early next year.

Currently only the luxury spec VX models are available, powered by two engine options, a 4l V6 petrol and Hilux-sourced D-4D compression ignition turbo.

Americanised styling

Visually the new Prado could be considered as regressive.

The bolder vertical grille slats are a touch garish and those expressively flared front and rear wheelarches are hardly the last word in proportional detailing. It looks decidedly American.

Rear three-quarter view not the best angle, showing off the massively out of proportion aft wheelarches.

Around the rear Prado’s characteristic light clusters, with their dual-ellipse shaped detailing, have been replaced with decidedly anonymous flat surfaced units.

Dimensionally the new Prado is 45mm longer, 10mm wider yet 20mm shorter. A host of new technological trinkets has added around 250kg of mass to both the petrol and diesel models.

Redressing the balance

Cabin architecture benefits to the tune of 35mm in length and 5mm in width.

Architecturally the cabin has benefited greatly from a neat redesign – something Toyota has accomplished with far greater aplomb than the exterior surfacing changes.

Vastly improved cabin features six-camera live-feed driving display - so no excuses for scratching the new Prado when parking or rock-climbing.

A new steering wheel sees satellite controls move from their odd, Hilux-designated position down the left flank of the wheel boss to a more thumb-friendly grouping.

Engine- and road-speed dials are now neatly recessed units with blue-hued backlighting.

Migration of all Prado’s 4x4 system functionality (transfer case and differential lockability) from between the front seats to a lower centre console position has ushered in the removal of a transfer case lever. An old-school girdle-handle parking brake clutters space between the front seats.

Infotainment is improved appreciably with a high level of digital convergence and seamless interfacing thanks to the HDD integrated SatNav system.

Able to accumulate music from CD, DVD, USB or iPod, the HDD system boasts an accommodating 80Gb harddrive which should store around 2 000 tracks.

Sound is relayed via 14 speakers, meticulously positioned throughout the cabin for the finest acoustic quality.

Accessing Prado’s terrain sensitive traction control system (via a layered menu) not as intuitive Disco 4’s turn dial terrain response system. Prado’s rear diff lock remains securely locked when actuated though, unlike terrain response…

Passenger comfort and entertainment is catered for by optional dual view DVD screens for second row occupants, whilst both second and third rows benefit from independently-serviced climate control.

Accessing the Prado’s third row seating is hardly a chore thanks to walk-through functionality on the second row seats, which feature 135mm slide functionality.

If you’re not keen on utilising the third row seats, they fold flat into the loadbay floor electrically via simple button controls – something Fortuner owners can only dream of…

Prado’s interior safety suite is comprehensive, boasting dual front and side airbags for the first row occupants and full curtain retaining coverage all the way to the third row seating. The driver is protected with a knee level airbag, too.

Prado’s single-piece sway door would be a nightmare to open and close in angled terrain, especially with the full-sized sparewheel. Fortunately it has a clever lockable support strut – typical Toyota lateral thinking.

Proper engines and adjustable suspension – finally

Prado’s basic construction remains body-on-frame, which ensures it retains a high level of chassis strength for robust performance in broken off-road terrain.

Front wheel attachment is fully independent via double-wishbones, with the aft axle wheels tracking a four-link lateral rod suspension set-up.

Although conventional wisdom dictates independent suspension has no place in a vehicle with low-range capability, Prado now boasts Toyota’s KDSS kinetic suspension system and adjustable damping.

Considerably able off-road, as expected. Prado’s 32- degree approach and 24-degree departure angles bested by Disco 4’s 36-degree angle of attack and 29-degree rear bumper escape angle.

The KDSS system is borrowed from the 200 range. 

Operating via manipulation of the hydraulic pressure linkage at each wheel corner it’s able to free up both front and rear stabiliser bars when necessary, yielding optimal wheel travel across broken terrain. 

Travelling at speed on-road (especially around corners) the stabiliser pressure is increased again, dramatically reducing wheel stroke and any rebound discrepancy between the front and rear wheels, effectively quashing body-roll and axle pitch.

Factor in Prado’s adaptive damping (you can select either sport or comfort settings) and body-control at speed is incomparable to the 90- or 120-Series models.

Prado’s engines a marked improvement. Chief rival Disco 4 is between 35- and 50% more powerful though - and only 12% heavier. No prize for guessing which is the swifter SUV…Disco tows 1t more too at 3.5t.

Powering the new Prado is a 202kW version of the double-overhead camshaft geared 4l V6, whilst compression ignition buyers will be positively enraptured to finally have a decent turbodiesel option, the 3l D-4D.

Although the D-4D engine shared with Hilux is not the last word in contemporary common-rail injection technology, it’s robust and thanks to some tuning specifically for the Prado application, infinitely more powerful than the KZ-TE engine it replaces.

Power remains at Hilux D-4D levels (120kW), yet peak rotational force is up by 57 units to 400Nm.

Both petrol and diesel engines drive through a five-speed automatic transmission.

Prado's sand blasting abilities have always been highly regarded. Latest one continues the family tradition, even with multi-terrain traction control enabled.

One of Prado’s most endearing characteristics for long range off-road reconnaissance – the 180l fuel capacity – has been truncated.

It’s still a very capacious 150l though, which should test the patience of fuel forecourt pump attendants.

Toyota estimates the greater efficiency of the new engines should offset the 30l loss in tank capacity, resulting in unchanged operational range.

A proper Cruiser?

Evaluating the new Prado over some of the Western Cape’s more notorious mountain routes (Bains Kloof and the forbidding Gydo Pass) and in the deep sand endurance climbs of the Klein Tafelberg off-road trail, all the technologies fused seamlessly.

Body-roll is dramatically reduced  - which was evident during a particularly brisk run up the Gydo Pass.

Off-road, with the centre and rear diffs locked, and some slick shifting between second and third gear in low range via the auto transmission’s tipshift function, progress in deep sand was effortless.

Prado only available with planetary gearing. Fortunately hill-descent control does a good job of controlling momentum during treacherous downhill navigation.

Novice off-roaders have both hill-descent and Toyota’s Crawl function (limiting vehicle speed at set increments of 1-, 3- or 5km/h off-road without any pedal input) to shore up skill levels off-road.

Toyota says they have 900 backorders for the new Prado, and that is just for the remainder of 2009.

When the GX is launched early next year (estimated to be between R90 000-100 000 cheaper than VX) there will, in reality, be scant justification for splashing out on a 200-Series…


Prado VX Diesel - R637 000
Prado VX Petrol - R650 000

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