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You’ll want this baby Toyota Prado

2018-02-06 08:05

Lance Branquinho

Image: Supplied

Cape Town - The new Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, introduced late last year, has proven predictably popular with South African buyers.

On the Wheels24 monthly sales ranking for luxury SUVs, Prado usually places first or second and if you have ever tried to buy a pre-owned one, you’ll be aware of Prado’s depreciation proof residuals.

There’s only one problem with Prado. You can’t get one in true Safari specification anymore. Even the lower-grade TX model has alloy wheels, which never take kindly to thousands of kilometres of gravel travel or punishing grade 5 obstacles. What many desire, is the new Prado everyone has forgotten about: the shorty.

Image: Supplied 

It’s called the Land Cruiser Prado Utility and true to that naming convention it rolls on 17-inch steel wheels. The specification isn’t completely utilitarian with front fog lights, air-conditioning, auto headlights, cruise control, smart entry, six-speaker infotainment, Bluetooth, a collection of USB ports and five airbags all standard.

Powering the short wheelbase ‘Cruiser is Toyota’s proven 2.8 GD turbodiesel, similar to what is available locally in Fortuner. It boosts to 130kW/420Nm and there are both six-speed manual and automatic transmission options. If you gave most couples keen on trying to drive Cape Town to London a dream sheet specification, it would be this.

Any uncompromising African adventurer will lecture you that a short wheelbase vehicle can go places others can’t. Why would you want one, though? They have the inconvenience of only two-doors, making it a chore for rear-seat passengers to get aboard and debus, whilst overall luggage space is reduced too.

Beyond their dinky proportions, short wheelbase off-roaders are hugely capable because of superior straddle angles and a reduced turning circle compared to any five-door SUV. When you are trying to get over technical terrain a short wheelbase 4x4 wagon is less likely to snag and navigating around impossibly tight corners, you hardly ever have to three-point turn them. And if you are on the edge of a potentially crumbling rock-strewn mountain pass, the last challenge you wish is executing a three-point turn.

Image: Supplied 

There hasn’t been a short wheelbase Prado on sale in South Africa with the current J150-series. And that’s been a slight tragedy for the last decade. South Africans don’t have many full-sized short wheelbase 4x4 options left anymore. The Defender 90 has retired and Suzuki’s Jimny is way too small for consideration. It’s only Mitsubishi, with its three-door Pajero, that caters to the dedicated short wheelbase off-road adventurer market.

In the form of its new Utility short wheelbase wagon, Toyota has the perfect Prado for committed adventurers, and best of all, it’s available in righthand drive too. Curiously, only our British friends appear to have a supply of the new Prado Utilities accessible for purchase.

For ourselves and the Australians, both righthand drive markets with a much greater appreciation of all things Prado, 2018 will be a tantalising game of wait and see. But there can be no argument that local introduction of the Prado shorty has massive potential, it would effectively nullify Pajero and certainly become the ‘Japanese Defender 90’ for African adventurers.

Image: Supplied 

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