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Boring and predictable?

WORDS BY ISAAC BOBER, IMAGES BY BRETT HEMMINGS

One of the best-selling vehicles in the country, the Toyota Prado seems to be the default choice for families wanting a comfortable, capable off-roader.

The Toyota Prado has long been regarded as the boring but obvious choice for families after a reliable off-road tourer. In fact, look at the sales in any given month and the Prado is almost always usually a thousand or more sales ahead of its nearest rival.

And when it comes to the best-selling Prado, well, that’s the one we’ve got here, the GXL in automatic trim which lists at $62,990+ORCs. Indeed, it accounts for more than two-thirds of all Prado sales; offering a touch of luxury but missing out on the KDSS and added creature comforts of the VX and Kakadu.

The Prado’s getting long in the tooth, which is what prompted this review. Amid newer arrivals and constantly-tweaked models vying for the same buyer, we wanted to answer the question: is the Toyota Prado still the ‘safe’ choice for tourers?

Got one like it? Insure it here

VEHICLES 2019 Toyota Prado GXL review

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It can tow how much now?
With Ford’s Everest beating the Prado for towing bragging right, the Japanese carmaker literally re-wrote the specifications in 2018. We went to bed one night and the Prado’s maximum braked towing capacity was 2500kg and we woke up the next day and the GVM had been bumped up (2990kg) and the maximum braked towing capacity was, all of a sudden, 3000kg (for the automatic, anyway, manual variants are still limited to 2500kg). The Everest’s bragging rights had gone but with no mechanical or engineering changes to the Prado, plenty of people were left wondering how it had happened.

We didn’t get tow with the Prado when we had it at the office… it didn’t have a towbar or brake controller. So, this is a desktop exercise only. With a kerb weight of 2385kg for the Prado GXL and a GVM of 2990kg, the payload is 665kg. The GCM is 5990kg and despite what some outlets have written, saying the Prado GXL can have a full payload when towing at its maximum 3000kg that’s complete bollocks because they’re not accounting for towball download. That means, if your trailer weighs 3000kg and you’re the download is 300kg, well, your payload is just 365kg for you, your family, luggage and all the accessories fitted to your vehicle. And you still need to add a tank of fuel.

Got one like it? Insure it here
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Is the engine any good?
The V6 petrol was ditched some time ago, leaving just the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel which makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque at 1600-2400rpm (420Nm for manual-equipped models). For those playing at home, this is the same engine as the HiLux which is why both the Prado and HiLux are making headlines for DPF issues. Turns out they, allegedly, have a tendency to prematurely clog.

Copping a class action prompted Toyota to install a manual burn switch in some vehicles, which leads us to ask the question that given the DPF is a consumable with a finite life, encouraging owners to perform a manual burn whenever they want, could that lead to wear out sooner? A topic for another time, perhaps. Maybe not. On the topic of DPFs, though, our Wes has bought himself an N80 HiLux and he’s not had any issues with the DPF; to give him some idea of what’s going on with the thing he’s installed a scan gauge which allows him to see when the DPF is performing a regeneration…that really is a story for another time.

Back to the engine itself. In addition to the GVM and towing capacity increase, it also copped an ECU tweak, but this was more about fuel efficiency than anything else.

Driven empty, the Prado GXL is brisk enough and the six-speed automatic (as tested) is okay, becoming a little clumsy in undulating terrain or at low speeds around town. Throw some weight into the thing and it becomes less urgent in its response. If I’m fair, the engine is okay when compared with the competition but it’s nowhere near as smooth, refined or urgent as the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel in the Ford Everest.

Got one like it? Insure it here

Will I get seasick driving it around?
Yep, there’s a fair chance you will. The soft, long-travel suspension that, if I’m not getting ahead of myself, puts the Prado ahead of the pack off-road dulls the on-road dynamics. Tip into a corner and there’s a lot of bodyroll and plenty of pitching and diving under hard acceleration and braking. Hit a bump in the road and the spongey setup on the Prado means it takes a moment to settle again. Think waterbed. In the same way its engine is outgunned by an Everest, so too is the on-road ride and handling.

And the steering isn’t much better. Sure, it’s light which makes parking the big thing a breeze, but at speed it lacks weight or feel through the wheel which means it’ll take you a while to get used to how much or how little lock you need to apply. At highway speeds, in the straight-ahead, there’s some slight nibbling at the wheel required to keep it straight but that was probably more because our test vehicle had clearly been flogged.

It’s a similar story when it comes to the pedals in that you’ll need some run-in time to get used to the effort required to get a response. There’s a lot of pedal travel, there’s no feel, and response only occurs towards the end of the pedal’s travel. Meaning, when you’re braking, until you’re used to the action, you’ll find yourself needing more pressure to pull the thing up.

The rough and tumble is where this thing belongs, right?
Well, yes. The Prado is definitely one of the best seven-seat 4X4 wagons when the going gets rough. In low-speed technical stuff, the suspension does a great job of staying in touch with the ground. Indeed, when we had the Prado on test, we also had an Everest and in places where the Everest was picking up a wheel, the Prado had enough reach to keep its wheels on the ground.

But it’s not perfect. The traction control set-up on the Prado is excellent, in that it cuts in early to minimise any wheel spin and barely breaks its stride; and it’s this tune that helps the Prado step ahead of everything else in the segment despite its advancing age. And then there’s the lockable centre diff which means drive is locked 50:50 allowing the thing to claw out even more traction.

Like, say, the Everest and, sort of, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, the Prado is permanent all-wheel drive with high- and low-range. Only the automatic variants get access to the rear differential lock.

There’s product for that, right?
Yep, the Prado has been around for donkeys ages and that means there are accessories galore available to suit it. Oh, and while some of this thing’s competitors run AdBlue, the Prado doesn’t. Sure, the next-generation probably will, but for now it’s just one less thing to worry about. There’s room under the Prado’s bonnet for a second battery and the boot floor is nice and flat, which makes it easy to fit racks and drawers.

That dashboard is a bit cluttered…
While Toyota has tried to tart up the interior, it looks and feels tired and, dare I say it, cheap with its hard, scratchy plastic and ancient-looking infotainment system. There are buttons galore scattered around the cabin and some don’t look like they were designed at the same time as the others and, on the move, it can be hard to work out which one does what. Cluttered and mis-matched is the best way to describe the dashboard but that’s not to say it’s not functional.

While I’ve got the baseball bat out, let’s talk about the infotainment system. It’s got the basics, like sat-nav, Bluetooth and it’ll stream music from your phone nine times out of 10 without an issue. But the graphics are incredibly clumsy looking and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto marks the system as just about average with plenty of room for improvement.

The second-row seats offer enough room for three adults to site comfortable with good head, leg and foot room. Where the Prado scores points with me, is that the second-row seats are a 40:20:40 split which is how all second-row seats should be setup – they also slide fore and aft and the seatbacks can be reclined slightly. And when the two rows are folded down you get a nice flat floor with sturdy tie-downs.

Into the front, and the driving position is nice and high, and the seat is comfortable if not overly supportive when bumping around off-road or when the thing is rolling through a corner on the bitumen. There’s good movement on the seat for drivers of all heights to get comfortable behind the wheel and the steering wheel offers reach and rake adjustment.

General storage in the cabin is pretty good with door bins, deep centre console storage, cup holders and more.

The boot is interesting in that with all three rows in use there’s bugger all room in the boot. You’ll get a couple of shopping bags in there and that would be about it – 120L which sounds bigger than the space looks. Drop the third row down and there’s still only 480 litres of boot space which isn’t very big at all by segment standards

Much room to move?
The Prado offers room for seven across three rows, with the two seats in the third-row a 50:50 split-fold arrangement that can be a real pain to raise and then lower. You should only go for the seven-seats if you absolutely need seven seats, as fitting the third-row raises the boot floor. You don’t lose a lot of functional space but loading and unloading, obviously, becomes trickier for those who are vertically challenged. Indeed, setting up the seats isn’t as easy as it is in, say, a Ford Everest. You’ve got to pull the back of the seat up, with quite a bit of force too, and then slide the base out.

Leave them for pre-teens and you’ll be fine.

Safety ain’t amazing…
Sure, the Prado gets a five-star ANCAP rating but that’s a carry-over from the 2010 test. That said, if it was to be tested today it’s likely it would retain its five-star rating. The entire Prado range offers, as standard, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning but not assistance, and automatic high beam. If you plump for the VX you get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Prado, of course, runs permanent four-wheel drive, traction and stability controls, seven airbags with curtain airbags that’ll reach into the third-row, keyless entry and start, and an engine immobiliser, as well as ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats in the second row.

Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.

So, should you buy one?
This might be a bit of a letdown, but I’m going to have to give the same answer I’d have given last year, the year before, the year before that, and the year before that… if you want a large, reliable (cough, DPF issues aside) 4X4 that you can drive into the outback and back again, then the Prado is still hard to go past. Sure, it feels old and cheap inside, it’s not all that nice to drive on the road, and the boot isn’t very big and nor is the engine the gruntiest in the segment. But, there’s still enough to recommend the Prado and even if I’d said it was garbage it would still continue to sell in the thousands, such is its magical hold on the market.

2019 Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL Specifications
PRICE $62,990+ORC (automatic)
WARRANTY Three-years, 100,000km
SAFETY Five-star ANCAP (2010)
ENGINE 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
POWER 130kW at 3400rpm
TORQUE 450Nm at 1600rpm (420Nm for the manual)
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic as tested
DRIVE Four-wheel drive (with low-range)
DIMENSIONS 4995mm (L) 1885mm (W) 1890mm (H) 2790mm (WB)
ANGLES 30.4-degrees (A) 23.5-degrees (D) 21.1-degrees (BO)
GROUND CLEARANCE 219mm (measured)
SEATS
Seven as tested
BOOT SPACE 480 litres
WEIGHT 2240kg
TOWING 3000kg braked
FUEL TANK 87 litres
SPARE Full-size
THIRST 8.0L/100km claimed combined

Got one like it? Insure it here

VEHICLES 2019 Toyota Prado GXL review

Boring and predictable?

One of the best-selling vehicles in the country, the Toyota Prado seems to be the default choice for families wanting a comfortable, capable off-roader.

WORDS BY ISAAC BOBER, IMAGES BY BRETT HEMMINGS

The Toyota Prado has long been regarded as the boring but obvious choice for families after a reliable off-road tourer. In fact, look at the sales in any given month and the Prado is almost always usually a thousand or more sales ahead of its nearest rival.

And when it comes to the best-selling Prado, well, that’s the one we’ve got here, the GXL in automatic trim which lists at $62,990+ORCs. Indeed, it accounts for more than two-thirds of all Prado sales; offering a touch of luxury but missing out on the KDSS and added creature comforts of the VX and Kakadu.

The Prado’s getting long in the tooth, which is what prompted this review. Amid newer arrivals and constantly-tweaked models vying for the same buyer, we wanted to answer the question: is the Toyota Prado still the ‘safe’ choice for tourers?

Got one like it? Insure it here

It can tow how much now?
With Ford’s Everest beating the Prado for towing bragging right, the Japanese carmaker literally re-wrote the specifications in 2018. We went to bed one night and the Prado’s maximum braked towing capacity was 2500kg and we woke up the next day and the GVM had been bumped up (2990kg) and the maximum braked towing capacity was, all of a sudden, 3000kg (for the automatic, anyway, manual variants are still limited to 2500kg). The Everest’s bragging rights had gone but with no mechanical or engineering changes to the Prado, plenty of people were left wondering how it had happened.

We didn’t get tow with the Prado when we had it at the office… it didn’t have a towbar or brake controller. So, this is a desktop exercise only. With a kerb weight of 2385kg for the Prado GXL and a GVM of 2990kg, the payload is 665kg. The GCM is 5990kg and despite what some outlets have written, saying the Prado GXL can have a full payload when towing at its maximum 3000kg that’s complete bollocks because they’re not accounting for towball download. That means, if your trailer weighs 3000kg and you’re the download is 300kg, well, your payload is just 365kg for you, your family, luggage and all the accessories fitted to your vehicle. And you still need to add a tank of fuel.

Got one like it? Insure it here
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Is the engine any good?
The V6 petrol was ditched some time ago, leaving just the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel which makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque at 1600-2400rpm (420Nm for manual-equipped models). For those playing at home, this is the same engine as the HiLux which is why both the Prado and HiLux are making headlines for DPF issues. Turns out they, allegedly, have a tendency to prematurely clog.

Copping a class action prompted Toyota to install a manual burn switch in some vehicles, which leads us to ask the question that given the DPF is a consumable with a finite life, encouraging owners to perform a manual burn whenever they want, could that lead to wear out sooner? A topic for another time, perhaps. Maybe not. On the topic of DPFs, though, our Wes has bought himself an N80 HiLux and he’s not had any issues with the DPF; to give him some idea of what’s going on with the thing he’s installed a scan gauge which allows him to see when the DPF is performing a regeneration…that really is a story for another time.

Back to the engine itself. In addition to the GVM and towing capacity increase, it also copped an ECU tweak, but this was more about fuel efficiency than anything else.

Driven empty, the Prado GXL is brisk enough and the six-speed automatic (as tested) is okay, becoming a little clumsy in undulating terrain or at low speeds around town. Throw some weight into the thing and it becomes less urgent in its response. If I’m fair, the engine is okay when compared with the competition but it’s nowhere near as smooth, refined or urgent as the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel in the Ford Everest.

Got one like it? Insure it here

Will I get seasick driving it around?
Yep, there’s a fair chance you will. The soft, long-travel suspension that, if I’m not getting ahead of myself, puts the Prado ahead of the pack off-road dulls the on-road dynamics. Tip into a corner and there’s a lot of bodyroll and plenty of pitching and diving under hard acceleration and braking. Hit a bump in the road and the spongey setup on the Prado means it takes a moment to settle again. Think waterbed. In the same way its engine is outgunned by an Everest, so too is the on-road ride and handling.

And the steering isn’t much better. Sure, it’s light which makes parking the big thing a breeze, but at speed it lacks weight or feel through the wheel which means it’ll take you a while to get used to how much or how little lock you need to apply. At highway speeds, in the straight-ahead, there’s some slight nibbling at the wheel required to keep it straight but that was probably more because our test vehicle had clearly been flogged.

It’s a similar story when it comes to the pedals in that you’ll need some run-in time to get used to the effort required to get a response. There’s a lot of pedal travel, there’s no feel, and response only occurs towards the end of the pedal’s travel. Meaning, when you’re braking, until you’re used to the action, you’ll find yourself needing more pressure to pull the thing up.

Got one like it? Insure it here

The rough and tumble is where this thing belongs, right?
Well, yes. The Prado is definitely one of the best seven-seat 4X4 wagons when the going gets rough. In low-speed technical stuff, the suspension does a great job of staying in touch with the ground. Indeed, when we had the Prado on test, we also had an Everest and in places where the Everest was picking up a wheel, the Prado had enough reach to keep its wheels on the ground.

But it’s not perfect. The traction control set-up on the Prado is excellent, in that it cuts in early to minimise any wheel spin and barely breaks its stride; and it’s this tune that helps the Prado step ahead of everything else in the segment despite its advancing age. And then there’s the lockable centre diff which means drive is locked 50:50 allowing the thing to claw out even more traction.

Like, say, the Everest and, sort of, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, the Prado is permanent all-wheel drive with high- and low-range. Only the automatic variants get access to the rear differential lock.

Got one like it? Insure it here

There’s product for that, right?
Yep, the Prado has been around for donkeys ages and that means there are accessories galore available to suit it. Oh, and while some of this thing’s competitors run AdBlue, the Prado doesn’t. Sure, the next-generation probably will, but for now it’s just one less thing to worry about. There’s room under the Prado’s bonnet for a second battery and the boot floor is nice and flat, which makes it easy to fit racks and drawers.

That dashboard is a bit cluttered…
While Toyota has tried to tart up the interior, it looks and feels tired and, dare I say it, cheap with its hard, scratchy plastic and ancient-looking infotainment system. There are buttons galore scattered around the cabin and some don’t look like they were designed at the same time as the others and, on the move, it can be hard to work out which one does what. Cluttered and mis-matched is the best way to describe the dashboard but that’s not to say it’s not functional.

While I’ve got the baseball bat out, let’s talk about the infotainment system. It’s got the basics, like sat-nav, Bluetooth and it’ll stream music from your phone nine times out of 10 without an issue. But the graphics are incredibly clumsy looking and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto marks the system as just about average with plenty of room for improvement.

Got one like it? Insure it here

Much room to move?
The Prado offers room for seven across three rows, with the two seats in the third-row a 50:50 split-fold arrangement that can be a real pain to raise and then lower. You should only go for the seven-seats if you absolutely need seven seats, as fitting the third-row raises the boot floor. You don’t lose a lot of functional space but loading and unloading, obviously, becomes trickier for those who are vertically challenged. Indeed, setting up the seats isn’t as easy as it is in, say, a Ford Everest. You’ve got to pull the back of the seat up, with quite a bit of force too, and then slide the base out.

Leave them for pre-teens and you’ll be fine.

The second-row seats offer enough room for three adults to site comfortable with good head, leg and foot room. Where the Prado scores points with me, is that the second-row seats are a 40:20:40 split which is how all second-row seats should be setup – they also slide fore and aft and the seatbacks can be reclined slightly. And when the two rows are folded down you get a nice flat floor with sturdy tie-downs.

Into the front, and the driving position is nice and high, and the seat is comfortable if not overly supportive when bumping around off-road or when the thing is rolling through a corner on the bitumen. There’s good movement on the seat for drivers of all heights to get comfortable behind the wheel and the steering wheel offers reach and rake adjustment.

General storage in the cabin is pretty good with door bins, deep centre console storage, cup holders and more.

The boot is interesting in that with all three rows in use there’s bugger all room in the boot. You’ll get a couple of shopping bags in there and that would be about it – 120L which sounds bigger than the space looks. Drop the third row down and there’s still only 480 litres of boot space which isn’t very big at all by segment standards

Got one like it? Insure it here

Safety ain’t amazing…
Sure, the Prado gets a five-star ANCAP rating but that’s a carry-over from the 2010 test. That said, if it was to be tested today it’s likely it would retain its five-star rating. The entire Prado range offers, as standard, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning but not assistance, and automatic high beam. If you plump for the VX you get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Prado, of course, runs permanent four-wheel drive, traction and stability controls, seven airbags with curtain airbags that’ll reach into the third-row, keyless entry and start, and an engine immobiliser, as well as ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats in the second row.

Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.
Got one like it? Insure it here

So, should you buy one?
This might be a bit of a letdown, but I’m going to have to give the same answer I’d have given last year, the year before, the year before that, and the year before that… if you want a large, reliable (cough, DPF issues aside) 4X4 that you can drive into the outback and back again, then the Prado is still hard to go past. Sure, it feels old and cheap inside, it’s not all that nice to drive on the road, and the boot isn’t very big and nor is the engine the gruntiest in the segment. But, there’s still enough to recommend the Prado and even if I’d said it was garbage it would still continue to sell in the thousands, such is its magical hold on the market.

2019 Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL Specifications
PRICE $62,990+ORC (automatic)
WARRANTY Three-years, 100,000km
SAFETY Five-star ANCAP (2010)
ENGINE 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
POWER 130kW at 3400rpm
TORQUE 450Nm at 1600rpm (420Nm for the manual)
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic as tested
DRIVE Four-wheel drive (with low-range)
DIMENSIONS 4995mm (L) 1885mm (W) 1890mm (H) 2790mm (WB)
ANGLES 30.4-degrees (A) 23.5-degrees (D) 21.1-degrees (BO)
GROUND CLEARANCE 219mm (measured)
SEATS
Seven as tested
BOOT SPACE 480 litres
WEIGHT 2240kg
TOWING 3000kg braked
FUEL TANK 87 litres
SPARE Full-size
THIRST 8.0L/100km claimed combined

Got one like it? Insure it here