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Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L

6 February 2018

The Prado was recently updated, getting some added luxury and safety features. The question is: are these changes enough to keep the SUV on par with other large, luxurious 4x4s?

The facelifted Prado – launched locally late in 2017 – is facing some tough competition. The last few years have seen the launch of some impressive SUVs that have moved the Prado’s segment in a new, high-tech direction. Vehicles like the latest Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, which are traditional rivals of the Prado, have changed so much that they feel as if they are now competing in a different segment altogether. Compared to these SUVs, the Prado can feel old-school and clunky. It simply doesn’t boast the same refinement, straight-line speed and agility.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the Prado too quickly, however. With many manufacturers having vacated the Prado’s segment, it now offers something you can’t easily find anywhere else.

Off-road ready
Most buyers care more about tar performance than gravel or trail ability these days, which is why many vehicles – even ostensible off-roaders – are developing a definite on-road bias. While these SUVs are often still fitted with excellent off-road systems, they also tend to ride on massive rims and low-profile tyres. The focus is on cornering speeds and braking distances, which demands big wheels, fat brake callipers and low-profile rubber. But what happens when you venture off-road? Well, you drive very, very carefully.

The Prado, to its endless credit, doesn’t attempt to be a sports car on stilts. It stays true to the heritage of the Land Cruiser name. The vehicle is fitted with either 18- or 17-inch rims, depending on specification, but you can fit even smaller ones, should you want to go overlanding. The Prado also feels at home on a terrible dirt road or off-road trail. It has all the bells and whistles, of course, but it feels inherently tough. Its slightly lumbering nature, which can make it feel a bit sluggish on tar, provides a great experience on a trail. The throttle response is perfect for slow and determined off-road crawling, and the suspension (which has a lot of travel) smooths out bad gravel surfaces and allows you to traverse a set of axle twisters without even noticing.

On the road
As mentioned, the Prado isn’t the speediest or most responsive on tar. While the Hilux and Fortuner have been fitted with new engines, the Prado still uses the well-known Toyota 3.0-litre D-4D oilburner and 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine. Both come mated to a five-speed automatic shifter. The diesel version, which we tested, offers 120kW of power and 400Nm of torque. These figures are definitely on the low side, especially when you’re talking about a large and heavy luxury SUV like the Prado, but the vehicle delivers a perfectly respectable driving experience. It doesn’t want you to smash the accelerator pedal into the floor, and it doesn’t want you to attack a corner with too much vigour, but drive in a relaxed, sensible fashion, and the Prado performs well. It cruises effortlessly at 120km/h, with enough left over to overtake quickly.

While a newer and more refined engine/gearbox combo would be welcome, the older drivetrain once again positions the Prado as one of very few luxury SUVs capable of venturing north of our border with confidence. This is a tried-and-trusted set-up that has a reputation for reliability, offers decent fuel economy, and doesn’t demand super-clean diesel. The rough and rugged nature of the engine/gearbox combo makes it feel as if the Prado is ready to go overlanding.

Inside the cabin
The cabin is fitted with a long list of impressive features. There’s satellite navigation (on the VX and VX-L models), as well as Toyota’s enhanced surround-view Multi Terrain Monitor camera system, which includes panoramic and overhead view modes. There’s also a 14-speaker infotainment system that’s operated with the aid of a large tablet-like touchscreen. Of course, you get all the other nice-to-haves you’d expect from a luxury SUV. There’s automatic dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, illuminated entry, cruise control, park distance control, keyless entry, three power outlets, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and a reverse camera.

Despite all of this, though, the cabin is starting to feel a bit old. In terms of design, it is definitely showing its age, with the Prado lacking the sort of elegance and minimalism you find in other luxury SUVs. But the inside of the Prado remains a great place to be. Sure, it’s not as modern and luxurious as some other SUVs, but it is quiet and supremely comfortable.

Added safety
VX-L versions of the Prado are equipped with active safety technologies to help prevent accidents, or mitigating the consequences if an impact does occur. The package includes a pre-collision system (PCS) with pedestrian detection function, adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure alert (LDA) and automatic high beam (AHB). The adaptive cruise control system uses radar sensors in the front grille to monitor the distance to the vehicle in front and applies corrective action via both throttle and brake inputs to maintain a specified ‘gap’.
Further driver support is provided in the form of a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert (both VX and VX-L) and an upgraded tyre-pressure warning system. These active safety systems complement the standard seven airbags and comprehensive brake and stability control systems (ABS, EBD, brake assist, VSC, trailer sway control and traction control).

Made for Africa
While we’re eagerly anticipating the release of an all-new Prado, we’re impressed with this updated version. It doesn’t have the panache of some other large luxury SUVs, but it has incredible breadth of capability.

Thanks to its sensible tyre/wheel set-up, this is a 4×4 that truly can go anywhere. It still has that off-road focus that so many vehicles in its class have sadly lost, and that makes us love the Prado very much.

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L
Engine 3.0-litre D4-D turbodiesel (1KD-FTV)
Power 120kW @ 3 400r/min
Torque 400Nm @ 1 600r/min
Transmission Five-speed automatic
Tyres 265/60 R18
Fuel tank 150 litres
Consumption 8.5 litres (claimed)
Price R969 900
Service plan Five-year/90 000km
Warranty Three-year/100 000km