Luxurious Prado a truly capable beast

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IOL mot pic may2 Toyota Prado 1 . Toyota Land Cruiser Prado is a superb off-roader and pretty good on tar too. Picture: Marc Bow

ROAD (AND SAND) TEST: Toyota Land Cruiser Prodo 4.0 VX Auto

Johannesburg - Listen carefully. It’s Prado, not Prada. This is a Land Cruiser, not something the devil wears. For some reason, nearly everybody I encountered while road testing Toyota’s recently revamped SUV, mispronounced this 4x4’s name to sound like a pair of Italian shoes.

I’m glad that’s off my chest. Now, about that revamp ...

Late last year the Land Cruiser... ahem, Prado was given a significant overhaul, not only in terms of styling inside and out, but also in off-road gadgetry. Top VX models, such as the one reviewed here, gained a host of four-wheel-drive functionality and the dashboard now looks even more like an aircraft flight deck than it did before.

I must admit the number of buttons, dials and levers strewn across the fascia can be intimidating on first encounter.

Where old timers might remember engaging low range and a diff-lock or two when faced with certain off-road situations, modern trekkers need to know which complicated sequence to input to crack particular bundu codes. From the comfort of a leather helm, the driver can not only engage low-range and diff-locks, but also adjust the ride height, stiffen or harden suspension damping, and choose between five throttle and brake-optimising Multi-Terrain settings (rocks and dirt, rock, loose rock, mud and sand, and moguls).

IOL mot pic may2 Toyota Prado 2 Road test Prado VX has four-litre petrol V6 engine pushing 381Nm. Picture: Marc Bow

The Prado now also comes with a Crawl Control function, first introduced in the FJ Cruiser in 2013, that works like an extremely slow speed cruise-control system when traversing extreme obstacles.

A centrally-mounted and console-dominating control knob allows for speed adjustment ranging anywhere between snail’s pace and galloping tortoise, and when active the cabin’s filled with the obtrusive and unusual sound of an antilock braking system pump in full swing.

Imagine a boerbull-sized bumblebee buzzing in rhythmic bursts under the bonnet.

A little intimidating maybe, but effective for those occasions when required throttle inputs are just too sensitive for human touch.

I dabbled in a bit of mud-plugging with the big SUV, but came nowhere near reaching its off-roading limits. In fact, I’m not sure if this vehicle has any off-road limitations. The Prado is a truly capable beast even if most will live permanently within the confines of tarred suburbia. And it performs admirably in this environment too.

It’s a hulking piece of equipment this, and it hogs most of a lane, but once you’re accustomed to its dimensions it’s as comfortable as a velvet bear hug.

IOL mot pic may2 Toyota Prado 3 Dashboard has a button for everything. Picture: Marc Bow

The Land Cruiser Prado is an SUV in its purest form.

It doesn’t double as a sports-car, as other crossover type SUVs often claim. There are no coupé lines melded into its exterior. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but the big, boxy softy it is.

Even on its firmest suspension setting, the Prado’s body pitches and rolls at the slightest provocation, which means it’s absolutely terrible at taking high-speed corners but absolutely wonderful at absorbing bumps.

Road ripples are soaked up with hovercraft-like fluency and most potholes are dismissed with the slightest of suspension judders. It might be old fashioned in the chassis department, but this Land Cruiser is a pleasure to drive as long as you don’t drive fast.

Our test unit featured Toyota’s tried and tested four-litre petrol V6.

However,this engine is beginning to fall by the wayside compared to more powerful items in European rivals. Even with outputs pumped up to 202kW and 381Nm from the Hilux-spec 175 and 376, the petrol Prado feels quite asthmatic when puffing loudly across its five long gear ratios.

IOL mot pic may2 Toyota Prado 4 Prado does not pretend to be anything but the big, boxy softy it is. Picture: Marc Bow

It’s also thirsty, as we returned almost 16 litres per 100km fuel consumption over our test period. Get the three-litre turbodiesel version if fuel spendage is a concern. It’s important to note that fuel tank size is a tremendous 150 litres, so be prepared to cough at the pumps.

Toyota’s done a good job at modernising the Prado’s infotainment system.

The 110mm colour touch screen is a necessity in an expensive luxury car such as this but, that said, the navigation system is dreadful in comparison to other factory-fitted and portable units on the market. Simple letter inputs take more than a couple of seconds each, so loading simple street names is way too time consuming.

Starting and cancelling route guidance is also way too complicated, and I preferred using my cell phone’s navigation over the Prado’s built-in unit.

VERDICT

A purebred SUV that’s as luxurious as it is capable in the bush. At R750 000 it’s competitively priced against German competitors, but perhaps lacking in engine tech and power. It’s supremely comfortable too, just don’t go attacking any bends. And please pronounce it correctly. It’s Prado, not Prada. - Star Motoring

FACTS

Citroën C4 Aircross HDi 115 Seduction

Engine: Four-litre petrol V6

Gearbox: Five-speed auto

Power: 202kW @ 5600rpm

Torque: 381Nm @ 4400rpm

Top speed (claimed): 180km/h

Consumption (claimed): 11.3 litres per 100km

Price: R750 000

Warranty: Three-year/100 000km

Service plan: Five-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Audi Q7 3.0T quattro (245kW/440Nm) - R818 000

BMW X5 xDrive35i (225kW/400Nm) - R824 900

Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6L Overland (210kW/347Nm) - R742 990

Land Rover Discovery SCV6 (250kW/400Nm) - R836 629

Mercedes-Benz ML400 (245kW/480Nm) - R849 252

Volkswagen Touareg V6 (206kW/360Nm) - R662 200

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