The 2010, fourth generation Landcruiser Prado represents Toyota's spearhead into the Australian WD and SUV market.
Prados have always been well equipped, easy to drive and very capable off road, but given Toyota's reputation for product enhancement it comes as no surprise to find the Prado has undergone a complete makeover in virtually every area.
More safety features, even better equipment and greater fuel efficiency are highlighted by Toyota, as is the fact that the Prado now comes in three door and five door variants. The five-door model offers seven seats in lieu of the previous eight-seat configuration.
Over all there are a total of nine models; from the SX and ZR three door vehicles through to the five door GX, GXL, VX and top of line Kakadu, which comes with every bell, whistle and convenience Toyota can pack into or onto it.
In appearance the new Landcruiser Prado is longer, wider and lower than it's predecessor. It’s also heavier by some 200kg or so.
There are many changes in suspension, engine and other components that will go unnoticed at first, but the external styling changes are dramatically apparent.
The family resemblance to the 200 series Landcruiser is certainly there and while the rear of the Prado remains fairly bland, it's the frontal treatment, particularly the stand out grille, which really catches the eye.
The overall result is a more aerodynamic shape, with a drag coefficient down from 0.37 to 0.35 thanks also to the cleaner lines.
The shiny black V6 petrol Kakadu, as reviewed, incorporated a terrific range of features. Engine power of the carry over 4.0L V6 is up 13% to 202kW at 5,000rpm. Torque, that all-important twisting power that equates to sheer pulling ability in a 4WD, is up to 381Nm at 4,400 rpm. Fuel consumption for the V6 is claimed to be in the vicinity of 11.5L per 100km (which I was not able to match) and my test drive turned up a 12.6L per 100km figure, which is not that bad given the weight of the beast. Remember too that the Prado is equipped with a 150L fuel tank that should see the petrol model covering around 1,200-1,300km between top ups.
As the driver presses the button to start the engine with the required transponder being nearby, the steering column and leather seat move to comply with the settings stored in the computer's memory.
With 12 speakers for the sound system, front and rear view cameras and rain sensing wipers just to start naming luxury items it must be remembered that the Kakadu is a true luxury vehicle in every sense of the word. With a price around the $90,000 mark it competes directly with likes of the Land Rover Discovery, BMW X5and Audi Q7; the good news for buyers is that the luxury items on the Prado are standard, while the other makers charge a premium for them.
Consider the entertainment package. There's a DVD screen in the rear with three sets of headphones to keep rear seat and third row passengers entertained on long trips. When not in use the DVD screen also shows satellite navigation information.
A power point in the rear cargo area will allow kids to plug in hand-held video games and the like. Nothing wrong with using it for the fridge, of course, as I did!
Other handy items for the up market traveller include three zone climate control air conditioning, USB and I-pod input jacks, Bluetooth, a central cool box (it holds several cans), the ambience of plush leather and deep floor carpet matched to plenty of shiny wood grain, and then there's the sun roof, plus all electric operation for virtually everything.
The driver is pampered further with a very well made leather and alloy look steering wheel with ample button controls for most need-to-use items including cruise control. The Prado's brilliant headlights are also height adaptive to cater for solid loads.
A very wide array of parking sensors keep the driver fully aware of any nearby threats to the premium paint work which includes a pair of cameras on the grille which can sneak a look past parked cars when nosing into the traffic flow.
As luxurious as it is the seven seat Prado Kakadu is, it’s also a very practical vehicle. The touch screen for the navigation and sound systems is very user friendly and all major controls are conveniently placed. On the road the ride is very passenger car like, while off road it suffers very little if at all. The V6 engine/five speed auto unit of the Kakadu was responsive but inclined to work hard at times.
At the flick of the selector one can have manual changes in the rough stuff, which is where the Prado, new styling and refinements all round, still shines thanks to stability control plus down hill and hill start assist and electronic rear diff lock, just to name a couple of standard safety features.
Surprisingly, I found the Prado's steering to be a little less than sharp given the obvious quality and refinement of the vehicle.
Ride quality is enhanced via three-way adaptive suspension. The driver can choose between comfort, normal, and sports. With normal selected I maintained excellent highway speed on bumpy back roads then took the vehicle thoroughly off road without upsetting passengers thanks to the compliant and comfortable ride, plus easy low range travel over harsh surfaces. With low range in lieu of the usual all wheel drive, which is activated via a dash-mounted selector, and crawl selected, the Prado's coil spring based suspension and ample wheel travel took care of any obstacle induced jarring.
Additional safety features include an advanced stability control, downhill descent and hill start assist, plus the all new Multi–Terrain Monitor keeping driver's informed of their immediate surrounds.
In all, the 2010 Prado is going to impress potential buyers with the mix of on and off capability. It's sheer practical nature and host of features will appeal to many potential buyers. It will certainly tow a boat or camper with a 3 tonne (braked) capacity. Unfortunately it's more expensive than previous models with the popular GXL five door, seven seater selling (without on road costs) for around the $62,000 mark. The top of the line Kakadu will be available for around $87,990.Reads: 2912