And we didn’t only get to drive it on tar, but were able to get it stuck (and unstuck) in sand, clamber over rocks, and use the new off-road technology on a variety of terrains.
It is this new technology that is the biggest change from the previous generation Prado. It is also this new technology that follows in the footsteps of the Prado’s biggest competitor, the Land Rover Discovery 4. It is called Multi-terrain Select (MTS), and makes off-roading much, much easier for the driver.
MTS has four different modes – loose rock, moguls, rock, and sand and mud – that control wheelspin and wheel lock-up to give the maximum amount of traction for any off-road scenario. Acceleration dynamics are regulated, and traction control is altered depending on the terrain mode selected. Moguls, by the way, are “small hard mounds, typically found on compacted snow or sand”, which create axle-twisters.
We used the “sand and mud” mode in the soft sand of Klein Tafelberg 4×4 trail, a picturesque and challenging trail near Redelinghuys in the Western Cape, and it certainly does make life a bit easier. It doesn’t take away all the skill needed in sand though, and some of us still managed to get stuck on the trickier inclines.
MTS is accessed via a menu that pops up on a screen between the speedo and tachometer, by pressing a button on the steering wheel. It’s a bit fiddly, but easy to get used to.
In addition to the MTS system, the Prado also has low range, a centre diff-lock, a rear diff-lock, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that is said to aid wheel articulation, ground clearance of 220mm and Crawl Control. Crawl Control is for very slow driving where control is needed, and has been adopted from the system first seen on the Cruiser 200. This is used to regulate the speed, and can be set for 1 km/h, 3 km/h, or 5 km/h. The Prado, then, is very well equipped for off-road driving.
Unfortunately, and ironically, the MTS, KDSS and Crawl Control features, as well as the rear diff-lock, are only available on the more expensive VX models (both petrol and diesel), which are less likely to ever be taken off-roading. The entry-level TX models (which will only be available in January 2010) have to make do without all this technology, and will therefore be very different to drive off-road.
On tar the Prado is just as good, and the KDSS again comes to the fore, ensuring very good handing. The 4,0-litre V6 petrol model remains in the line-up, with 202 kW and 381 Nm on hand. The turbodiesel model is new to the Prado, using the familiar 3,0-litre D-4D engine as found in the Hilux and Fortuner. This means peak torque of 400 Nm, and maximum power of 120 kW. Both engines are sufficiently powerful, but can’t compare directly with the Discovery 4 (the TDV6 produces 180 kW and 600 Nm), as Toyota admits. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.
The interior is spacious and comfortable, and has all of the required comfort features, and more. Obviously the VX models that we drove were far more luxurious than the TX models will be when they arrive, although Toyota says that the new TX will be equivalently specced to the outgoing VX model.
Overall the Prado seems an excellent vehicle for all conditions, although it is unfortunate that the majority of the new technology is limited to the VX models. The styling is handsome, if not devastatingly good-looking, and the interior is a notch better than the predecessor. One niggle that we had with both the petrol and the diesel was very light steering, devoid of real feel and road feedback, but that’s about all we could think of.
Land Cruiser Prado 3.0 VX Diesel R637 900
Land Cruiser Prado 4.0 VX Petrol R650 000
A five-year/90 000km ToyotaCare service plan is included in the price.
For more details see the December issue of Leisure Wheels.