Durban - If you check the dictionary for the definition of the word ‘ubiquitous’, you’ll probably find a picture of a Land Cruiser. In more than 190 countries worldwide, it’s Toyota’s most widely sold model.

But time stands still for no car, and Toyota’s big beetle-crusher has had a comprehensive update with more robust exterior styling, more luxury inside and more user-friendly features. However, one important thing about the new Land Cruiser Prado, released in South Africa this week, has not changed.

It’s now the only big SUV on the market that still has a separate ladder chassis - more expensive to build than a monocoque body-shell but more durable, more resistant to twisting and, surprisingly, more comfortable on rough terrain, since the body can be insulated from the suspension’s bangs and bumps.

Looking tough

Previous Prados came in two trim levels - TX and VX;  now a third grade has been added to the line-up - VX-L - basically a VX with a power-operated tilt-and-slide moonroof and a new driver assistance package.

The front one of the new Prado has been reshaped to improve downward visibility in the centre, while the top edges corners of the wings have been raised so you see exactly where the corners of the vehicle are, and the headlights’ main beams are now inboard to protect them from marauding tree-branches.

TX models have halogen headlights, VXs and VXLs get LED projectors, and all of them come with LED daytime running lights, and foglights in the lower bumpers. The TX has new 17 alloy rims, the VX and VX-L 18 inchers; ground clearance is 215mm, with 31 degree approach, 25 degree departure and 22 degree ramp break-over angles.

The most important thing about off-road driving is being able to see where you’re going, so the top of the centre stack has been moved 25mm downwards, and now houses a new 20cm multimedia screen, with the driving and infotainment functions in separate panels, including the new heating and ventilation switches for the front seats.

The flight deck gets a four-gauge lay-out with backlit dials on either side of a 10.7cm colour trip data display panel, controlled from switches on a new multifunction wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel. Two interior colour schemes are available - black with matte-finish walnut trim, or beige with blonde wood trim.

The popular coolbox feature in the centre console is now standard across the range, as is seat ventilation for the driver and front passengers. VX and VX-L models come satnav and an improved surround-view camera system with panoramic and overhead view modes.

Dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, parking sensors with reverse camera and three 12V sockets are standards across the range; VXs and VX-Ls also have a memory function for the driver’s seat, a 14 speaker audio system with a woofer, automatic windscreen wipers and power-operated third-row seats.

Power house

The new Prado retains the 120kW/400Nm 3.0 D-4D turbodiesel with five speed automatic transmission and and 202kW/381Nm petrol V6 with six-speed auto ‘box of the previous edition, mated as before to active traction control, that selectively brakes any wheel that starts to spin, sending torque to the wheels with the best grip.

As always, low range and push-button centre and rear differential locks are standard issue, but the VX and VX-L also get a rotary multi-terrain select knob with five preset modes - Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt and Rock, as well as hill descent control.

Four-litre petrol Prados also have five drive modes - Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Normal and Eco - to tailor engine and drivetrain responses to the mission at hand.

VX-L versions also have a safety package that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection function, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and automatic high beams.

LAND CRUISER 200

At the same time, the bigger Land Cruiser 200 has had a power upgrade; its 4.5-litre turbodiesel V8 has been boosted by 22kW to 195kW at 3400 revs, and 35Nm to 650Nm from 1600-2600rpm.

Entry-level GX models now have roof rails, a coolbox in the centre console, rear parking control and a rear tonneau cover, while the up-specced VX trim, now renamed VX-R also get roof rails, power-folding side mirrors and an integrated tow hitch.

PRICES - Land Cruiser Prado

Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D TX120kW/400NmR821 700
Land Cruiser Prado 4.0 V6 VX202kW/381NmR930 000
Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX 120kW/400NmR932 400
Land Cruiser Prado 4.0 V6 VX-L202kW/381NmR967 200
Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L120kW/400NmR969 600

Land Cruiser 200

Land Cruiser 200 GX195kW/650NmR999 900
Land Cruiser 200 VX-R195kW/650NmR1 345 000

Prices include a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 90 000km service plan.

IOL Motoring