The first thing you notice about the new Prado is the bling. It is by far the flashiest Land Cruiser in the history of Toyota, including the retro-styled FJ Cruiser.
The front is decorated with more flashy chrome than you’d find in the average bachelor’s kitchen. The big, curvy headlamps grab your attention, while an oversized badge, found smack bang in the middle of all the fly decorative features, lets you know exactly which manufacturer made it.
Toyota is obviously proud of this car and rightly so. It is, in my humble opinion, the best interpretation of a luxury off-roader on sale in SA.
My opinion is based on the Prado’s off-road prowess. We spent an entire day testing the various off-road technologies and came away astounded by what you can achieve in this car.
We started the day by taking it through a series of wicked axle-twisters. These things wouldn’t have looked out of place in Mordor, but the Prado inched through them as if they were nothing more than ant holes. Boromir could have easily driven straight through those infamous gates if he one of these at his disposal.
I firmly believe in simplicity being one of the ultimate luxuries, which is one of the main reasons I’m so smitten with the Prado. A complete amateur could drive this car through some pretty serious obstacles without breaking a sweat. I know this for a fact, because we put a noob behind the wheel and he did the exact same obstacle mentioned above without breaking a sweat.
This ease of use comes courtesy of a rotary dial on the centre console, which sets the car up for whatever terrain you find yourself on. The driver need only glance out the window and turn the dial until the right setting comes up. Then it’s merely a case of aiming the car where you want it to go.
This left GG any myself feeling slightly removed from the off-roading process, but our noob felt like a hero. He was fully aware that the car was doing all the work and yet he felt like the unbeatable intergalactic lord of overlanding. I suspect most people will feel that way while off-roading a Prado. It does all the work so you can take all the glory.
That’s one part of the luxury off-roader recipe sorted. It’s sensational when you take it bundu-bashing, but how does it fare when you just want to drive it to the shops to go buy some milk and bread?
As a daily drive the Prado is less impressive. It felt slightly underpowered, but the real issue is fuel consumption. We averaged around 17,6 l/100km, which is a figure you’d normally associate with an engine that has at least two more cylinders. It does at least have a massive fuel tank (150 litres) so you won’t have to pull over once every five minutes to refuel it.
On the other hand, it is a dependable engine. It’s the same 4,0-litre petrol V6 as found in the Hilux and Land Cruiser bakkie, but in the Prado it produces 202kW and 381Nm of torque.
It’s been around for ages and it’s proven itself to be reliable when the going gets tough. If I had to choose a vehicle to use for a tough trip up into Africa, I’d have the Prado at the top of my list for this very reason.
I also like the decent helping of Lexus luxury and quality on the inside. Even the most basic model comes equipped with all the necessary everyday luxuries, plus a few you wouldn’t expect in this price range. If you’re willing to splurge on a top-of-the-line VX Auto, the price includes navigation, a powerful sound system and heated seats for the driver and all the passengers.
There are a few minor niggles as far as the interior are concerned. I don’t like the fact that some of the interior parts are shared with lesser models in Toyota’s range and I find myself yearning for a more premium clock than the current digital display, but there’s nothing in there I’d call a deal breaker.
These niggles and the horrendous fuel consumption are the only flaws on an otherwise magnificent machine. In my opinion, Toyota has set a new benchmark for off-roading in the luxury off-roader segment. If you’re serious about bundu-bashing and you have around R700 000 to spend, this is the car for you.