The Toyota Prado has been around for over 20 years, and as one of the many rugged stablemates in Toyota’s dynamic 4×4 repertoire, has a veritable fan base in Australia amongst the most die-hard of off-road drivers. A recent trip out to Tamworth is all the proof we needed to see just how much of a loyal following the entire Land Cruiser family has in rural Australia, and a day driving around the latest model is all we needed to see why.
The Land Cruiser range has been famous for decades as the obvious choice for anybody that needs an off-roader; something that can handle literally anything you throw at it. Perhaps the best proof is just how much these vehicles retain their value – 20 years of age and an odometer read that’s getting its second turn around the dash doesn’t faze Toyota 4x4s, they just refuse to fail.
With “rugged elegance” as their defining mantra, Toyota’s design team have refreshed the legendary Prado with a subtle face lift and a raft of addded luxury, tech and safety features to give the vehicle its fighting edge as top-dog in an ever-changing, competitive marketplace.
Safety features include a 5-star ANCAP rating, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitor, radar cruise control, lane departure alert and auto high beam.
The luxury additions are also plentiful, with a leather accented interior, 14 speaker JBL audio with digital radio, rain sensing wipers, heated & ventilated seating, rear seat blu-ray entertainment, refrigerated cooler box, rear 220V AC outlet (so you can fang in a PS4), 3 zone climate controlled air conditioning, multi-terrain monitor, allowing you to push the boundaries of off road driving by allowing you to see the outside and the underside of the car without having to step out of the cabin.
The powerhouse under the bonnet is just as impressive as ever, too, with a 2.8 litre turbo-diesel delivering 130kW of direct-injected power and 450Nm of torque. This is where the Prado really shines, putting the power where it really matters when you really need it. A 3-tonne towing capacity makes it ideal for carting your recreational needs, be it boat or caravan.
But really, you want to get this thing off the beaten track to properly push its limits.
The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System gives an increased articulation when you take it for a drive off road, giving the wheels more freedom to move, but firms up again when you get back on the tarmac. An Adaptive Variable Suspension System (AVS) allows the driver to change between the different suspension settings while in motion, giving a broad range of control depending on the speed and terrain.
Then there’s the really cool technology, that makes it go places you just can’t in lesser 4x4s. Crawl Control will literally crawl the vehicle up or down a hill, and over large rocks in various different conditions, without losing any traction.
What they’ve called their Multi-Terrain Select System regulates traction and stability control to be best suited to the widely varying conditions a 4×4 is expected to traverse: mud, rock & dirt, rock, mogul, loose rock, mud & sand, or an automatic setting. There’s also the ability to select different driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+, which alters the drivetrain, gear shifts and suspension to tailor the experience for the driver.
All of the gadgetry is impressive to say the least, but getting behind the wheel doesn’t feel like an exercise in computer programming. The boffins at Toyota have still managed to retain the feel of a real driving experience, which any Land Cruiser die-hard will attest as being one of their greater selling points.
All of this in a vehicle slightly smaller in size than the Land Cruiser 200, the biggest in the range, makes it a delight to drive off-road, yet still maneuverable in the city.
The technical abilities under the hood and built into the dash may be proof that Toyota are still ahead of the curve for innovation, especially when it comes to off-road performance, but it’s the ability to switch between modes; a vehicle that’s just as comfortable tackling a rocky hill off-road on a Saturday as it is reverse parking at the shops on a Wednesday, that makes the new Prado a truly stellar drive.
Man of Many visited Tamworth as a guest of Toyota