I’ve spent a fair chunk of time in what could comfortably be described as Toyota country, otherwise known as Central Queensland. Up there, amongst the tireless enthusiasm of the Toyota faithful, the Prado has had to work hard for acceptance and credibility.
Owners of the Prado are generally mocked by those fortunate enough to own the full-size LandCruiser. If you drive a Prado, you are instantly categorised as a tight arse for not spending the extra dosh, or berated for not having the available cash to splash on the car you really wanted. Comments such as ‘Do they make those for men?’ can be heard echoing through the streets in an attempt to shame Prado drivers.
This experience got me thinking, is the Prado a genuine alternative to the LandCruiser 200?
To find out Toyota handed over the keys to a 2017 Prado Altitude, a special edition based on the popular GXL variant.
Toyota claims the Altitude carries an additional $10,000 worth of features and equipment over the GXL, for an extra cost of $5000.
The Altitude is differentiated by new 18-inch alloy wheels, a tilt-and-slide moonroof, auto-levelling LED headlamps and chrome side mouldings. There is also a premium JBL 14-speaker audio system that incorporates DAB+ radio.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the Altitude’s extra kit is the ceiling-mounted 9-inch screen with Blu-ray/DVD and 5.1-channel surround sound that will entertain kids on long journeys. With three pairs of wireless headphones included, this alone justifies the price premium to step into a Prado Altitude.
Speaking of the price, the Altitude variant comes in at $68,230 before on-roads are added. It is good value when compared to the Prado GXL which starts at $63,230 plus on-roads.
Unfortunately, there is a compromise to be made. The spare wheel comes off the tailgate, it’s now stored underneath the car. As a consequence, the Altitude loses the 63-litre auxiliary fuel tank. This might be an issue for those doing some long distance touring in remote areas, but urban dwellers will find the single tank set up more than adequate.
The first thing to note about the Prado is it’s big. It’s a full-size SUV in its own right, the size of the Prado will only look suspect when parked next to its big brother.
Despite a few arguments to the contrary, the Prado’s exterior hasn’t changed a great deal over the last decade or so. A little bit of cosmetic surgery here and there is about it. I guess Toyota draws some direction from the old ‘if it ain't broke’ line. In all fairness, the outside looks the part and will appeal to Toyota diehards.
It’s the inside where the Prado struggles to disguise the ravages of age. The dash and console are in need of more than a makeover, in its current configuration the word utilitarian comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, everything works and the typical Toyota build quality is on display, but the design feels out of place in a car that costs the best part of 70k in 2017.
Case in point, the old school display that sits in the centre of the instrument cluster between the two large dials. It has well and truly passed its use by date. Toyota has a much nicer full-colour display in its parts bin, it’s mystifying why it hasn’t been deployed here.
On a positive note, the third-row seats fold away neatly into the boot floor. Hopefully, this packaging solution for the rear most pews will find its way into the Fortuner.
I was reminded by a few Toyota fanboys during my week with the Prado that people don’t buy them for the interior presentation. They buy it because it’s comfortable, capable, durable and reliable when conditions suggest you would be better off on the couch in front of the heater.
Power comes from Toyota’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, it’s good for 130kW and 450Nm. Performance is an area where the Prado is well sorted, Toyota diesel engines never disappoint, torque delivery is immediate and there’s no noticeable lag. This is an engine with plenty of low down grunt, peak torque is accessible from only 1600rpm. The Prado will happily hammer along without ever feeling stressed.
Our test Prado was equipped with a very competent six-speed automatic that directs power to all four wheels. The Prado is the real deal, and as such utilises a constant four-wheel drive system.
Driving around town, the Prado can’t escape its size, it’s only after driving the enormous LandCruiser 200 that it feels relatively athletic. This is where the Prado holds an advantage over its larger stablemate. Due to its smaller dimensions, it’s much nicer to drive in town. If the Prado’s duties are going to be largely confined to city driving, it’s a better option.
To justify purchasing an SUV like this, you’ve got to find some wide open spaces. On the open road, the Prado is a long distance cruiser that allows occupants to effortlessly conquer large sections of the highway while enjoying high levels of refinement. In this regard, the car is faultless.
The Prado’s greatest strength is its off-road ability. Unfortunately, most of those who buy a Prado are unlikely to ever properly test its capabilities off the bitumen. All the Prados I noticed during this test had one thing in common, the conspicuous absence of dirt. Nevertheless, we took the Prado to the banks of the Goulburn River near Bunbartha to put it to the test.
Using a lockable Torsen centre differential with two-speed transfer case, the Prado is extremely capable on dirt and sand, even in the hands of inexperienced off-road drivers. The level of composure over uneven terrain inspires plenty of confidence. Most notable is its ability to climb and descend challenging slopes.
So the Prado possess the ability to deliver both on and off-road in Toyota’s usual no-nonsense way.
An area where the Prado may come up short for many a buyer is towing. The diesel Prado is only rated to pull 2500kg, it sounds like a reasonable number, but not when it’s compared to some of its competitors or the latest dual cab utes, most of which can now tow 3500kg.
After a week behind the wheel of the Prado, we were able to return a consumption figure of 10.2L/100km. Although it’s a higher number than the official 8.0L/100km, we felt this was a very reasonable figure given the size of the car and the mix of driving conditions this test covered.
On the surface, Toyota continues to deliver low service costs. Prado owners will enjoy capped pricing for the first six visits to the service bay. At $240 a visit, it’s good value. Where the gloss starts coming off is the setting of maintenance intervals at 6 months/10,000km. The majority of the market has adopted 12 month/15,000km intervals, Toyota should do the same.
Toyota’s short (by today’s standards) warranty becomes more obvious in the context of its more expensive vehicles. An offering of three years/100,000km doesn’t really cut it anymore. It becomes harder to swallow when you consider our cousins in the mother land enjoy a five-year package.
After a week with the Prado, it’s easy to see why it’s popular. It is a legitimate choice in its own right, it’s not just a poor man’s LandCruiser. It brings the usual Toyota build quality and off-road credentials to a package that’s far more enjoyable to use as a daily driver when compared to the big dog. As a very capable all-rounder, the Prado represents strong value that is only enhanced in Altitude specification.
2017 Toyota Prado GXL Altitude Specifications
Price from $68,230, plus on-road costs Engine 2.8L In-line four-cylinder, turbo-diesel Power 130kW @ 3,400rpm Torque 450Nm @ 1,600rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 8.0L/100km Tank Capacity 87L Length 4,930mm Width 1,885mm Height 1,890mm Wheelbase 2,790mm Kerb Weight 2,315kg Ground Clearance 220mm Turning circle 11.6m Wading depth 700mm Service Intervals 6-months/10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
Let’s start a Car Conversation, is the Prado a desirable option or is the LandCruiser 200 the only way to go if price isn’t an option?
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